High Wych Windmill

Hertfordshire University Press just published an interesting book about the history of windmills in  our county.   Entitled ” Wind , Water and Steam” it was written by Hugh  Howes.  It is, as they say, available through all good bookshops and I can thoroughly recommend it.  If you are interested, you can find more information on :   http://www.herts.ac.uk/uhpress/books-content/wind,-water-and-steam

1870-high-wych-windmill003It reminded me of my first foray in the subject of local history when, in 2009, I helped my mother in law write and publish an article about the windmill that once stood on the corner of Broadfields and High Wych Road.  My rewrite will take into account information from Hugh Howes’s book as well as an article written by Gary Thorp in the early nineties.  Watch this space!

Meanwhile why not buy a copy of “Wind, Water and Steam”.

The Sawbridgeworth Local History Society

Many people coming to this site do so in search of local history to do with Sawbridgeworth, the next town to High Wych. Indeed,  yours truly, the High Wych village historian was and is very much involved with a local history group in Sawbridgeworth.  Until recently that group operated under the umbrella of U3A.

For a variety of reasons that proved unworkable and it was decided to seek independence. That process is now finished. As from 27th October 2016 we are  a society with officers and all. Yours truly was appointedchair person. We also drew up a constitution. According to this our aim is:                                                                                                                   to research, collect, record and preserve the history of Sawbridgeworth and its surrounding area and share it through public meetings, and in printed and/or electronic formats.

Eventually there will be a website where we will publish the results of our research and members can work on projects. Please be patient whilst that is set up. For the moment watch this space  for news about the Sawbridgeworth Local History Society.

Talk to you soon,     Theo


Hadrian at the Manor of Groves

Recently I started research on the Manor of Groves. History of that estate goes back to the middle ages. The Manor of Groves was the place where local vips such as the Barnards, the Buxtons and the Egertons resided. As always I will appreciate help from all who think they have a story, a picture or any other information.

I can already show you one picture. It was given to me by Douglas Scott. The Scotts were the last private occupants of the Manor before it became a hotel.  The photograph shows Hadrian the Bull on what had until then had been a cricket field.  Shortly afterwards, in 1987, the Scotts left for Gloucestershire where they still live and are engaged in raising pedigree South Devon cattle.hadrian-sIsn’t Hadrian beautiful?

A tribute to John Sapsford and Rivers Orchard

2008 john sapsford in his later years sHello,

Currently I am preparing the second of two articles about John Sapsford (1922 – 2010) a local history luminary who wrote about Sawbridgeworth and High Wych.

In his later years John was active in promoting the Rivers Orchard Project.  The importance locally of Rivers Nursery (1725 – 1987) cannot be underestimated.  John Sapsford  collaborated intensely with Elizabeth Waugh, author of “THE ART OF PRACTICAL POMOLOGY, THE HISTORY OF RIVERS NURSERY, a book I cannot recommend enough.                                                                                                  Elizabeth came up with the below tribute:

For a number of years, I enjoyed working with John afternoons in his bright sitting room. I was attempting to pull together the facts that would form the basis for writing of the rise and fall of Rivers Nursery, one of the most important in terms of employment and prestige and certainly the longest surviving of local businesses. John was a fount of local knowledge in the best possible sense: he gloried in the accurate recording of events, having a positive attitude to assembling mundane facts in chronological order, in bearing witness to his times from his place in them. Unlike many writers he did not choose to aggrandise himself. He seemed to take pleasure from paying attention in an intelligent manner and noting what he observed.

Although he focused on several other subjects too, his relation to the Rivers Nursery is a good example of his skills. His father was one of the long-term employees of the company which at its height in the early 20th century employed up to 300 people – but one who rose to be manager. John never worked for Rivers but in addition to being a good archivist of his father’s documents, he was quietly collecting information as he grew up and went to work for other employers. As John witnessed the prosperous times and the decline of the business as well as the eventual rebirth of Rivers Orchard as a local heritage, he was there at a crucial period. In his later years, he found time in his industrious way to make notes and take pictures and to share them with all who were interested.

His efforts can be valued for being comprehensive and his own modesty allowed him to see the people and events he walked through without bias. His quiet achievements and accurate knowledge certainly underpinned the efforts to preserve the memory of Rivers Nursery, in its way the embodiment of the rural Sawbridgeworth that is so quickly disappearing.

Elizabeth Waugh

The below picture, taken on 1st September 2016 shows Rivers Orchard in its full glory.  It is good the Orchard has been saved!


John Sapsford, the Sapsfords, the Burys and the Birds

Currently I am preparing publication of an article based on the writings of John Sapsford.  As some of you may know already, John Sapsford (1922 – 2010)  wrote extensively about the history of High Wych and Sawbridgeworth.  I received a lot of help from John’s daughter, Wendy Oxborough who supplied me with some lovely photographs. Amongst those is the below  picture taken in 1907 at the wedding of Alice Sapsford and Walter Bird. Perhaps some of your ancestors are in it as well!

1907 wedding of alice sapsford to walter bird

According to John Sapsford’s writings the people in the above photograph are:

Backrow left to right: Frank Bury, Susanna Thurgood, Percy Saban, Harry Tucker, William Bird, George Childs, Emma Thurgood, Nellie Thurgood, William Sapsford, Jim Eaton, Bertha Rickett, Minnie Rickett.

Middle row left to right: Lilian Bury, May Tucker, Louisa Sapsford, Walter Bird, Alice Bird, Alfred Sapsford, Liza Saban.

Bottom row left to right: Leonard Thurgood, Harold Thurgood, William Bury, George Rickett, Emily Tucker, Arthur Sapsford, William Rickett.

Talk to you soon. Best regards,  Theo

Grace Dunn

hw 65 grace dunnThose of you who have read my articles may have noticed mention of this lady.  A lifelong villager she wrote her reminiscences and also a short history of our village.      It is my intention to write an article about her. Meanwhile it might be a good idea to to make her writings directly available. Had she been alive whilst the internet came about, I am sure that is what she would have wanted.

Click here for Grace Dunn’s history of High Wych.

Click here for Grace Dunn’s personal recollections.

Thanks to Chris Finch for making these nice handwritten versions available.




The Sawbridgeworth U3A Local History Group

On Thursday 28th April the first meeting was held of the new U3A Sawbridgeworth Local History Group. Last year, the activities of a World War 1 commemoration committee resulted in a very successful exhibition which drew hundreds of interested locals. Truly infected by the history research bug some committee members then wanted to branch out into more general local history and joined up with members of the recently formed U3A group in Sawbridgeworth. It would of course have been silly had there been two groups?

The Local History Group intends to have monthly meetings. Members are expected to join U3A and to actively embark on new projects, not just to sit back and applaud others. And while the name just refers to Sawbridgeworth, the group will not be exclusive or parochial. This is shown by the fact that the first co-ordinator is the undersigned your very own High Wych village historian.

One aim being mentioned during the meeting was publication. Whether, where and how that will happen is not clear. First the group will have to set some priorities. Helpful in that respect will be  good links with Hertfordshire Archive and Library Services (HALS) and with Stortford Museum. An outing to Hertford will be the first activity.

Look out for more news soon.

Walter Richard Webb – Finally some more details

It has been a while since I did anything about first world war research. The internet   being what it is however people contact you out of the blue with questions and with help. That was the case when Gareth Hughes of St. Albans contacted me. Sadly I could not help him with the questions he asked me but the help he gave me set me on the way to finally find out more.

It appears that Walter ended up in Mesopotamia, present day  Iraq where he served with the military police until his death in 1921.

baghdad northgate cemetery

Walter Webb was buried at the Northgate cemetery in Baghdad, I have not been able to find out the exact co-ordinates of his grave.

Having found out all this I amended the list of High Wych WW1 fallen soldiers. You can download it by clicking on the below link.

The first world war in High Wych – The soldiers that did not come back



Jane Lydia Bird

hw un dated high wych green reducedin the centre of our village are two rows of cottages. One is still referred to as the Helmer & Dyer officeds although that company moved out quite a while ago. The other are known by some as the “pink cottages” although only one of them is now a pinkish white. In the middle is the green where between 1865 and 1919 a pump stood.  The picture above was taken around 1911-12. We know that because at HALS a postcard version was found with a date stamp from 19 13. The woman in the picture was Jane Lydia Bird. The boys in the front mst probably her sons.

hw 25 or so jane lydia bird

The second picture  was taken some 10-15 years later and shows the same Jane Lydia Bird in front of her cottage which was the one on the right.