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Recorder's Annual Reports 2008



The original deeds for The Parish Hall, aka The Studio, were loaned by Mr S. Pearson who had purchased the site for redevelopment from Essex County Council. These proved to be a complete run of original conveyances and titles for the site and subsequent developments which passed into the hands of Essex County Council during WW2. The documents were abstracted and a commentary prepared using additional information gleaned from Newport News. These newly accessible documents shed new light on this complex and sometimes controversial building in the early part of the 20th century. A copy of the report has been retained and will become part of the LHG collection. Since that study was made the redevelopment has been completed and the new owners have taken occupation of a substantial residence now known as the Reading Rooms, the first name of the building built by public subscription.

As a result of the Newport Neighbours series in Newport News the deeds of two of the houses at the west end of Wicken Rd. have been loaned. These run from the time of purchase of part of Frambury Field from the Quendon Hall Estate by Mr Luther Mitchell. These have been collated and copies made for the LHG collection prior to return of the originals.

A range of files of relating to Newport have been received, notably from the late Imogen Mollet and recently from Joy Pugh and several others. These contain useful working research documents and copies of useful publications, maps etc and have been catalogued for easy future reference.

At the beginning of the year the principal focus was collating the card collection and completing the catalogue. This was extended to include the cards in the Bygones Collection and subsequently the copies of cards sent by the Patmore family. To date the catalogue covers 250 cards, providing details of the images, messages and postal information.

During 2008 the Recorders re-launched their web site and this has made a significant impact. Each of the villages has its own page containing much information of interest in the local history context. Newport was among the first to participate and the Newport pages include details of the LHG programme. A considerable amount of time was spent adapting Terry Searle’s Bygones catalogue to a web friendly format which is accessible to all. Thanks are due to Newport News for releasing the Registers which will be loaded on the website by January 2009. Planning has begun to form a local history archive of Newport News which will be a huge project.

The new web-site has attracted a significant number of enquiries many of which are family related. This year, enquiries relating to the Bush, Patmore, Reynolds, Bradbury and Gayler families were answered mainly by reference to Newport News and the Parish Registers - truly I stand on the shoulders of giants! In many cases the feedback has been good.

A particularly interesting enquiry was received from the Plymouth City Museum concerning Sir John St Aubyn who leased/rented Shortgrove Hall from W. C. Smith around 1830. St Aubyn was an eminent scientific gentleman and a large landowner in the Devenport area. He donated part of his substantial collection of minerals to the Saffron Walden Museum. The Plymouth museum is undertaking a major project on him and hope, resources allowing, to have a road show that will visit Saffron Walden. Our interchanges have provided many insights into his life and his stay at Newport.

Research on Shortgrove Estate has continued. The dynastic relationships between the Howard Earls of Suffolk, the O’Brien Earls of Thomond, the Percy-Seymours of Petworth and their Wyndham successors is now much more clear. Each of these families had a significant impact on the development of Shortgrove Estate and the new hall overlooking the Cam built by Giles Dent. A potential new source of information on Shortgrove has been identified. It includes several box files of letters and documents on the Smith family owned by a direct descendant of Joseph Smith. It is hoped to inspect these papers during 2009.

Recently we were fortunate to receive an original document from a resident of Radwinter. This is a part of the Court Roll of Widdington concerning a pasture known as ‘Langhams’ in Newport, subsequently called ‘The Vicar’s Acre’ as a legacy of Giles Dent.

A number of visits were made to the site of a lime pit and kiln on the Shortgrove estate. The site has been partially cleared of vegetation and recorded. The kiln is of considerable interest but has been infiltrated by trees and is in an advanced state of decay. It is on private land and regarded as dangerous and should on no account be visited without permission of the owner and an escort. The pit is being progressively filled and it’s future is uncertain. English Heritage has been copied with the preliminary report but after nearly 12 months no response has been made.

Overall a very busy year with time available only for items of high priority.

On the Village scene little has changed during the year. Traffic congestion at rush hours has grown and parking issues remain. The railway service franchise has changed to National Express with little impact on the service other than a new livery, though a long awaited improvement to the car park is welcome.

The Village Hall renewal programme has proceeded rapidly and will continue supported by an approximately £50,000 award from Biffa. Unfortunately an application to the Lottery fund was recently rejected at the last hurdle.

A small number of in-fill housing projects have been undertaken in the village. A committee has been formed by the Parish Council to prepare a Newport Village Development plan. Meanwhile the Uttlesford Council housing plan remains in the consideration phase. All the options under consideration envisage a significant number of new houses to be built in Newport. The former council highways yard has been cleared ready for construction of about 20 houses. A project has been announced to build affordable housing near the primary school off Frambury Lane.

Commercial projects remain at a low level with closure of a furniture outlet and the Television and Electrical shop. After a long period vacant, the Brown House reopened as the Village Pharmacy, a controversial development since it has resulted in all villagers being excluded from access to the dispensary at the village surgery. Brown House also offers office space which has been taken by a consultancy.

David Evans; Newport Village Recorder;

January 2009