Talking with Elaine Graham of the Rochford Hundred Historical Society (January 18th 2011)
Rochford Life: Elaine, how long have you been in this area?
Elaine: I first moved into Ashingdon about thirty years ago. Both my children went to the school at the bottom of Ashingdon hill, and then on to Greensward.
RL: So what about the Historical Society?
Elaine: Well the Historical Society will be having its forty-fourth anniversary this week and we have approximately between 160 and 170 members. We have a programme card which I put out all around the district, for we have members from Wakering, Pagglesham, Canewdon, Thorpe Bay, Shoebury, from all round. I’ve been a member probably somewhere about 25 or 26 years. I was on the Committee years ago, then because of working full-time I gave up being on the Committee but I went back on to it about ten or twelve years ago as Membership Secretary and have done that ever since.
RL: What got you interested in it? Was history something you liked at school?
Elaine: Yes, and I’ve always liked history. Years ago, going back again thirty years, up until say twenty years ago, there used to be a lady called Mrs. Jerram-Burrows, who worked for Rochford Council and she was also a member of the Royal Society of Historians and she started the Society with two others (who are still members of the Society – Mark and Rosemary Roberts – although they have moved to St. Osyth’s and come back from time to time). She used to give evening classes in Greensward school on local history, and I went to one of them and through her joined the Historical Society. In its peak there were over two hundred members.
RL: And you meet in the WI Hall in Rochford?
Elaine: That’s right, but become some people can come to one meeting and others to another, our average is probably about eighty people at each meeting. We meet this Friday actually and the talk is ‘The History of Fingerprints’. It’s £2 entrance for non-members. We also publish a magazine, three times a year, one being due out next month, and it’s all written by members
RL: And does it cost to be a member?
Elaine: Yes, it’s £15 a year for one person or £25 for two people at one address. We also do a number of publications, many over the years. These you buy. They are mainly out of print now and are quite hard to buy. I have a few myself: the History of South Fambridge, then the Whispering Court which is now King’s Hill in the Centre of Rochford, then there’s South Shoebury, North Shoebury, Little Stambridge, Great Stambridge, Canewdon, and these booklets are each written by individuals in the Society who have researched the area. Obviously there are not many people who do that; Mark and Rosemary Roberts have written quite a few books on Paglesham. Ann Boulter, another member, she’s written at least two I think it is. But to research and write a book you’ve got to be dedicated. Many of these were written by Mrs. Jerram-Burrows, but she moved away eventually and went to Lincolnshire I think. People still maintain an interest even though they have moved away, especially if they grew up round here.
RL: So you produce these publications, but you also have monthly talks?
Elaine: Yes, I would say the life blood of the society is the talks. We do have some excellent speakers and sometimes they come from quite a long way away. We have a separate Talks Committee to arrange for speakers to come. They do it for a year in advance so next year’s speakers are all booked.
RL: Looking at the subjects on the programme, they appear to be general history subjects, so it isn’t just the history of Rochford and district?
Elaine: No, that’s right. If we can, we try and get local speakers but that’s often not possible. We also do other things as well. We have outings, and every year we have a Carol Service and try and do it in different churches in the area. It’s not just Rochford; it’s the Rochford Hundred Historical Society, so it’s all the parishes as well.
In February we have ‘Rayleigh through the Looking Glass’ by Mike Davies who is the chairman of the Rayleigh Historical Society. In March it is ‘Downstairs at Hyland House’ and that is about Chelmsford. In April ‘The Shaas of Rochford’ is about a family of Rochford, and that is by our Chairman, Roger Hill, but that will only be short, because that is our AGM. In May, ‘The ‘ Rochford Hundred Lecture’ will be held at Hawkwell Village Hall because it’s so much bigger. There are four historical societies in the area: Rochford, Rayleigh, Benfleet and Canvey Island and we take it in turn to hold the Rochford Hundred Lecture each year. We do lots of things. We also have a Ramblers group that goes out and about, and we try to have an historical element to it if possible. We don’t do it in December or January but we do it all the other months. We have one in February, the 14th I think it is, ten o’clock in Hullbridge, but to come on the rambles, you don’t have to be a member, you can just come
RL: Well thank you for all of that Elaine; that sounds a great group with lots happening. Thank you for your time.
Those who are interested in local history may be interested in the web-site
which is focused on a new book by Martin E.Ingall entitled “Gummy’s Story - A History of the Rankin Family”.