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About us

Here are some members of the committee after a recent meeting.

Here are some members of the committee after a recent meeting.

The Friends of Historic Essex is a county-wide organisation and a registered charity. We were set up in 1954 to support the Essex Record Office (ERO) and to encourage the people of Essex to learn about the history of their county. The ERO houses the 'raw materials' of the county's history in a state of the art building in Chelmsford, and makes them available to members of the public without charge. The archives stored there include parish records of all kinds, records of county estates and families, court records, maps and illustrations. There is also a large reference library of books and journals, and computer access to websites such as

We support the Record Office and Essex history in a variety of ways. We started a volunteer scheme several years ago that has gone from strength to strength.  Projects that have been completed include the flattening, reboxing and indexing of old wills; computer work entering details to the online catalogue; indexing building plans from all over Essex; and ancient shipping records from Essex ports.  Indexing such records will allow historians to use such valuable source materials for a wide variety of possible projects.

New volunteer projects are underway for 2011.  These include researching old newspapers for entertaining and light-hearted news items for use in the BBC Essex Sunday morning Steve Scruton programme; Essex Now and Then, a photographic project that will be based on images held in the Record Office collection; and work with the Essex Sound and Video Archive.  If you are interested in any of these projects or in helping the Record Office in a volunteer capacity please contact Marilyn Hawkes on 01245 244620.  Most of the volunteering opportunities do not require any specialist knowledge, and where necessary training and guidance will be provided.

Two of the many wills we have helped rebox
The Friends also provide money to help buy maps, documents or books which might otherwise be beyond the Record Office budget. We also make grants to assist with publications on local history - such as the provision of expensive colour plates or indexing. For example, we have just helped the Essex Society for Archaeology and History pay for an index to be made of its Transactions, which date from the 19th century and are of great interest to local historians. Our most recent expenditure has been to purchase a computer system (and the appropriate desktop publishing training) for the new editor of the Essex Journal, which is run by a voluntary consortium of which the Friends are part.

Ingatestone HallAs a county-wide organisation, our AGM is always held in a different part of Essex, with appropriate speakers or a tour of the area after the official business. We also make every attempt to provide a delicious tea for those members who attend the AGM! Our golden jubilee AGM in 2004, for example, was held at Ingatestone Hall; the 2005 AGM at Copt Hall near Epping; and the 2006 AGM at Kelvedon; the 2007 AGM at the Maltings, Great Dunmow; the 2008 AGM at The Guildhall, Harwich; the 2009 AGM at Essex Police Headquarters, Chelmsford; and the 2010 AGM at Valence House, Dagenham.

So, if you are interested in getting involved with the raw materials of Essex history and the work of the Record Office it will cost you £10 a year, for which you will receive a quarterly newsletter, 20% discount on any of the many Essex Record Office publications, the opportunity to attend special membership only events, and reduced ticket price on many Essex Record Office talks and highlight events. We work with our members to provide an interesting and varied programme of activities.

map of UK showing Essex and London

Essex is a county of contrasts situated in the south east of England, and immediately north east of London. The county has a rich variety of landscapes which range from large urban areas in the south to vast rural areas with small towns and attractive villages in the north and north east.

40 Years of the Friends of Historic Essex
Read 'A Review of the first 40 years'. An insight into how the friends were formed.

Links to other Essex-related history and archaeological websites

Essex Society for Family History

Essex Archaeological and Historical Congress

The Essex Society for Archaeology and History

Victoria County History

Woodford Historical Society

Rayleigh Through the Looking Glass

© 2011

Friends of Historic Essex