Thursday, 30 June 2016

Owners of Little Coates

The Essex County Record Office holds a set of papers indexed as ‘The Little Coates Estate 1759-1938’.  I finally got down to Chelmsford last week to read them.

I already knew that the estate was held at the beginning of the period by a Robert Newton from Sixhills, Lincolnshire.  North East Lincolnshire’s archive holds a large and beautiful mid-eighteenth century map of the whole parish which shows each field colour coded to indicate the surname of each of his tenants (Codd & Marshall, Jackson, Marshall, Neville and Sheardown – the earliest surviving gravestones in the churchyard from fifty or so years later are for Nevilles and Sheardowns). 

The field names are evocative.  In the north, Far Marsh, Little Marsh and Great Marsh lie just west of what is still today called the West Marsh of the neighbouring parish of Grimsby.  In the south, West Platt, Middle Platt and East Platt lie just east of what is still today called Cottagers Plot (but was still Cottagers Plat in early twentieth century OS maps)  in the neighbouring parish of Laceby.  I once tried to copy them across onto a contemporary street map.

I also already knew that the estate was held at the end of the period by two successive Sir Walter Gilbeys of Elsenham Hall, Essex - which is obviously why the papers have ended up in the Essex Record Office rather than at the Lincolnshire one.  Again, it is in North East Lincolnshire’s own archive that I have seen one of many surviving copies of the map of the Estate divided up into lots and offered for auction in 1927.

My wildest hope was that the Essex set of papers would provide a trail of ownership and sale showing clearly how the Manor and Estate passed from the Hildyards (who held it in Tudor times) directly or through others to the Newtons, and then on from them through others (I knew of some Tennyson and Yarborough involvement and then of Angerstein ownership through most of the nineteenth century) to the Gilbeys.

It doesn’t.  It contains just two small clusters of papers from 1758-60 and then some further sale papers beginning 1898, with nothing in between.

First, there appears to have been some financial obligation on the owner of Little Coates to make a payments to the owner of neighbouring Laceby (on both 1st May and Michaelmas Day each year).  .  I think the spelling 'Warnal Rent' is clear at the head of this post in the picture of a scrap of paper (it may need clicking on to enlarge it).  I’d dearly like to know what that is; I assumed putting the term into a search engine would reveal all, but it doesn’t.

The signature is that of twenty-five year old Sir Cecil Wray of Fillingham who seems to have been enforcing this in 1758 to cover a period which goes back to a short while before his father’s death, so he might have been putting neglected pieces of business in order; he spells Michaelmas as Micklemas, which is as it is pronounced. 

There are two further annual receipts (4th July 1759 and 9th May 1760) and then a major legal document dated 10th May 1760 (the day after the final payment) in which Wray releases Newton from the obligation in return for a payment of £25 5/10.

Secondly, at about the same time (30th April 1759), there is what is largely an exchange of land between Newton and John Sutton of Carleton, Nottinghamshire, who I take to be a member of the Sutton family which has consistently owned (much of) Great Coates since the seventeenth century.

Sutton takes some equally evocatively named Great Coates fields (Millholme, Mr Grantham’s field, Edward Gilliat’s Field, Bibon Field, Old Mill Causeway and North East Carr), which presumably consolidated his holding west of the Freshney.  These are farmed by Edward Phillipson (again, the surname occurs on an early surviving 1816 gravestone at St Nicolas’) or his under tenants.

Newton gets fields called The Ings and The Carr in Little Coates (West Ings and a number of Carrs are both names on the map), which presumably consolidated his holding east of the Freshney.  He also gets (or perhaps Sutton is simply surrendering) two ‘colt gates’ in the Great Marsh, which is defined as the right to pasture two colts there between 12th May and 12th August.

Most tantalising to me is that this is said to ‘release’ (that is, I take it, end any rights or obligations) not only Newton but also Christopher Hildyard, late of Kelstern, Lincolnshire, deceased.  This can only mean that Newton’s title to the land has come to him from the Hildyards - whether by purchase or inheritance I still do not know.

Anyway, sixty-six years later, in 1825, I already knew that the Executors of the fabulously rich Russian born London banker and art collector John Julius Angerstein invested by buying the estate.  I haven’t yet pinned down from whom they did so (as I have said, there are both Tennyson and Yarborough references; the Tennysons might  just have inherited rather than purchased from the Newtons, and Yarborough owned the neighbouring Grimsby land).

The Angersteins held it for seventy-two years until John Julius’s grandson William died in 1897, and this is where the papers resume.   The Gilbey purchase the following year was from the Norwich Union, the documentation saying that William Angerstein’s life interest had fallen in on his death.  What this means is that John Julius’s family had mortgaged away the Little Coates estate (as well as most of the rest of his vast inheritance - I’ve found references to Norwich Union also taking possession of the family home at Weeting Hall in Norfolk) which must have been quite a spending achievement.

The few papers here are in the most part sales of land, in particular the sites of what will be Little Coates Primary School and of Dixon’s Paper Mill.  At this time Gilbey was developing all the housing next to these sites, as the Gilbey Road, Elsenham Road and other Essex related road names in the immediate area give away.  

All this property stands today on the old Marsh fields of Little Coates and are now assumed by most people (including those who moved the Little Coates First World War Memorial from next to the school to the grounds of the West Marsh Community Centre) simply to be part of the West Marsh of Grimsby.

One of the transfers of land was to extend the churchyard, and the second of the pictures at the top of this post comes from the relevant document.  My next task might be to try to map this against the present churchyard.  My estimate is that at least the north-eastern corner of the church built 1913-15 stands on a bit of the Gilbey-given land outside the original churchyard.  

The churchyard has, of course, twice been extended further, first on the south (what was the Mountain family Private Burial Ground) and then on the north (in the 1940s).  And the line of the road is that of the present lay-by orphaned by the straightening of Great Coates Road in the 1950s.

To complete the picture, at first the land south of the Haven remained rural.  In the 1920s, Little Coates as a Civil Parish was incorporated into the Borough of Grimsby and some land was sold (principally to Grimsby Golf Club) until the second younger Sir Walter Gilbey, as I have already mentioned, divided the rest of the Estate into lots and auctioned these off.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

A second mo(u)rning

I can’t orientate myself around what has happened. 

Of course, at one level, I do get it.  A sliver more than half those who voted (38% of the electorate, which is indeed impressively more than the 24% which I’ve noted before voted for the present Government) have chosen the option to leave the EU, and, as a result, the first domino has been pushed and all the predicted economic, political and social consequences (including much the Vote Leave campaign successfully dubbed ‘Project Fear’) are beginning to fall over in turn, beginning with the fall in value of markets on the first night and the promise of a shift to a more right-wing Prime Minister on the first morning.

My disorientation is probably simply that I live in a world in which greater consensus is demanded before radical change takes place.  The Church of England doesn’t move unless more than two thirds of the Bishops, clergy and laity in the General Synod voting separately say it should.  The Government itself has been legislating to insist that industrial action is not taken if it isn’t explicitly supported by more than half the workers entitled to vote.  I see a protest that a threshold of a majority of more than 60% on a turnout of more than 75% had been set for this sort of political change, although that level of turnout is probably unachievable across any national poll. 

Or it may be my disbelief is how few are saying that the UK has bought a false prospectus.  The Vote Leave leaflet which arrived here the day before voting was still leading with the claim that an imaginary large number of billions will become available to spend on the NHS and other UK priorities, when we all know that that money simply doesn’t exist and the initial market ‘instability’ and any longer term even slight international marginalisation of London as a financial centre will actually make the grip of ‘austerity’ much tighter.     

Perhaps my discomfort is particularly that I live and minister in an area which has voted most eurosceptically – 47% of the electorate in North East Lincolnshire turned out and voted Leave (and down the coast 58% did so in Boston, where turnout impressively did exceed 75%) at least in part in the belief which I cannot share that things like the historic decline of the fishing industry and the current dependence of labour intensive harvesting on migrant labour would somehow all have been avoidable had the EU not existed.

And all the things I’d love to have explored instead being regarded as marginal, eccentric, irrelevant and over intellectual: the fact that the ‘British values’ the Government now requires promoting in schools (democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance) are ones we share with all our EU partners and many others, and that the tap roots of our culture are in the shared soil of Europe and of the Jewish and Arabian cultures within and  neighbouring it.

Perhaps this will all seem normal  in a few months time, as the majority of those under 45 across the UK who voting Remain watch their elders slowly negotiate the way out for them.

The picture comes from the church at Deddington in Oxfordshire where we passed by recently.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Judges 9

Far away in the East, things were growing in great profusion and confusion.  The trees were worried.  They thought this should be better organised.  They weren’t sure what that would mean, but they thought it nonetheless.  They decided they needed someone to be in charge.  Everything would be better that way.

So they went to the olive tree and said ‘Please be King over us’.  ‘No,’ said the olive tree, ‘I’ve got quite enough to do producing the oil people need to burn in their lamps and lubricate their cooking pots.  Anyway, why do you need a tree taller than other trees?  Where there is light, what need is there for another King?’

So they went to the fig tree and said ‘Please be King over us’.  ‘No,’ said the fig tree, ‘I’ve got quite enough to do producing the fruit people need to have flavour in their months and sustenance in their stomachs.  Anyway, why do you need a tree taller than other trees?  Where there is sweetness, what need is there for another King?’  

So they went to the vine and said ‘Please be King over us’.  ‘No,’ said the vine, ‘I’ve got quite enough to do producing the wine which people need to brings laughter to their tables and conviviality to their meetings.  Anyway, why do you need a tree taller than other trees?  Where there is joy, what need is there for another King?’

So they went to the bramble and said ‘Please be King over us’.  ‘Yes,’ said the bramble ‘that was my plan all along.  Come, dear ones, I will grow more than any of you; rest in my protection and in my shadow’. 

He began to entangle their branches, until their orchards grew dark.  He began to thread around their hedges, until anyone who tried to come in went away bitterly pierced.  He began to smother their paths until nobody could skip along and they grew sorrowful.  In the end, it was all bramble.  And bramble it would remain until the next wildfire comes. 

But the smothered olive tree did not forget the light.  It dreamt of a day its fresh shoots would reach out of the ash for the sun.  The entwined fig tree did not forget sweetness.  It dreamt of the day its new roots would reach down beneath the ash into ground refreshed by the rain.  The overgrown vine did not forget joy.  It dreamt of the day its fragile stalks would grow above the ash and dance in the wind.  And each the same height as each other.

The piece appears in today's Cleethorpes Chronicle.  The pictures of a local tree were taken recently.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

At Sabeel again

On Saturday, for a third year since our return from our Sabbatical in Israel and Palestine at the end of 2013, we were at the annual Conference in Oxford of the Friends of Sabeel UK, following through our interest in the Palestinian Liberation Theology centre which begun in work at the Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem when it was clear that Palestinian Christians needed to articulate what it felt like to be Christians under an occupation which many read as being God’s purpose.

Once again we heard an impressive Palestinian advocate of non-violence; this time it was Sami Awad, who we had wanted to hear again ever since we came across his profound reflection on the Beatitudes.  It was, of course, a significant week in which to hear such a person; the Mayor of Tel Aviv had responded to Palestinian deadly shootings there by saying, without condoning or justifying violence in any way, that the occupation must be a factor.

At the end of the day, a questioner asked him what single thing we could do – a Friends organisation is always caught between the dangers of doing too little or even nothing and doing what might be the wrong thing or even something for the sake of it.  His answer came at the question slant: ‘we are sorrowful at the silence of the church’.  In the small bubbles in which I live, the word is always about the danger and even perceived bias of going on about all this too much – but I have touched before on the way that the need to oppose genuine anti-Semitism can have the side effect of keeping the church hierarchy quiet and Palestinian Christians feeling abandoned.

Actually the most striking recent comments have had a British governmental origin and these shed a light on some of the thinking behind things like the restrictions on local government rights to engage in any boycott movement in their procurement or investment policies.  Michael Gove gave a speech in March in which he said

...worse than libelling the state of Israel, the BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] campaign, by calling for the deliberate boycott of goods manufactured by Jewish people, by calling for the shunning of the Jewish state, and the rejection of Jewish commerce and Jewish thought, actually commits a crime worse than apartheid – it reintroduces into our world and into our society a prejudice against Jews collectively that should have vanished from the earth generations ago...

It is important to note that this isn’t the leader of an extreme settler group speaking but the British Justice Minister.  Most of those who advocate or oppose boycotts as a non-violent option could join together in recognising that many of the goods involved are manufactured by Palestinians in the West Bank, some of those advocating the boycott are Jewish themselves, and almost all in their domestic life would not think to enquire whether other goods they purchase were associated with manufacturers who happen to be Jewish (anymore than whether they happen to be Arab, black, Christian, disabled, European, foreign or gay, to name just the historic prejudices at the beginning of the alphabet).  That the British Justice Minister so strongly elides in his own mind boycotting the occupation with anti-Jewish agitation and prejudice may be really very significant.

And it will therefore be interesting to learn what tone his Government proposes for the announced British celebrations of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration – the 1917 policy statement that

His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

David Cameron’s address to the Knesset may have spoken out against the promoters of boycotts and  of UN resolutions, but it did also support both a halt to settlement activity and the creation of a Palestinian state.

Is there a “dual narrative” which can exhibit awareness at the same time of ‘the moment when the State of Israel went from a dream to a plan - Britain has played a proud and vital role in helping to secure Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people’ (David Cameron’s characterisation of the Balfour Declaration in his Knesset speech) and ‘perhaps the only country in the world holding another nation under occupation without civil rights’ (the Mayor of Tel Aviv’s characterisation of the situation in the West Bank, for which 2017 will also be the fiftieth anniversary)? 

If not, we are lost.  Sami Awad’s line has always been ‘Please don’t just pick a side but join the peace-loving people on both sides and help us make peace’ - any boycotts should be boycotts of the support of occupation allied with proactive investment.

Meanwhile, I took the picture the previous day as a continued part of our fascination with the tiny fossils which can be seen in ordinary ironstone walls.