Bishop’s Stortford Through Time – The ones that got away…

I am very pleased to say that my new book on the local history of the town of Bishop’s Stortford is now available in all good local bookshops.  If you are not local to the town (and I think a great number of my blog’s readership has an ocean or two between you and Bishop’s Stortford’s local shops!), you’ll be pleased to know that Amazon now has their copies in stock.

I had immense fun researching and writing my book. “Having” to consult archives, consult Tudor churchwardens’ accounts (my favourite bed-time reading!), read Victorian newspaper articles and write my text was absolute bliss.  Not to mention the countless nights I had to stay up late, so I could bid at the last minute on that well known internet auction site, thus securing that precious and highly important postcard of the town’s past.  (Unfortunately for my pocket, there were many many postcards which I just “had to have” at any cost!) After years spent commuting and working in the City of London as a business technologist, being able to do my passion – researching and writing about history – was absolute bliss.  Now, when people ask me what my profession is, I hover in deciding to tell them which of my two careers is my profession.  That I am a freelance business technologist working for some of the world’s largest international law firms in the City of London.  Or, a published local historian and author working from home.  (I am immensely proud of both my careers.)

There were several postcards that “got away”.  Postcards and images in my collection which I would have loved to have included in my book – but for one reason or another, I couldn’t.  Some images were excluded because I simply didn’t know what the image was about – apart from it was “somewhere” in Bishop’s Stortford; and others where I had so many images of the same building/view/area that I had to choose one postcard over the many other images.  With other views of Bishop’s Stortford, I had written their story but then had to cull that story and images from my book because there simply wasn’t room.

So, every week, starting this week, I’ve decided to blog some of the photos and stories that I couldn’t include in my book.  These are the ones that got away!

St Michael’s Church, Windhill, Bishop’s Stortford

The image below is an intriguing one.  It is a small Victorian carte de visite (or CDV) photograph of St Michael’s Church, in Windhill.  The CDV has perfectly square corners, and a plain back but, unfortunately, there’s no photographer’s information.  It is probably one of the earliest photographs of Bishop’s Stortford: according to my research, square cornered CDVs are normally pre 1870.  I thought that the gas lamp might give me a clue as to the date of the photograph – but according to good ole wikipedia, many towns were lit by gas lamps as early as 1823. I think that this view might roughly date from before 1870.

St Michael's Church, Windhill, Bishop's StortfordSt Michael’s Parish Church, Windhill, Bishop’s Stortford,
sometime between 1850s and 1870s

The intriguing part of this photograph is the wooden structure at the front of the church.  At first glance it looks like a small ticket booth.  However, look closely… It is actually a very large structure.  It is big enough to have what looks like 2 oval church windows at the front.  Look again:  there’s two tiny children climbing up a ladder – a ladder of about 7 steps.  A very strange “ticket booth” if you have to climb up a ladder to get into it!  The structure has a wooden board at the top with printed words on it (if only the Victorian photographer had got just a little bit nearer – and then we could have read it on our modern-day computers!).

There were building works which took place in St Michael’s church and were completed in November 1866.  At this time, the east windows in the north and south aisles were replaced with new ones in the same style as the existing windows.  Maybe the structure was the master craftsmen’s workshop to help them build new windows.  Maybe the little girls have shimmed up the ladder to take a peak in the work rooms.  Inquisitive Victorian children captured forever.

St Michael's Church, Windhill, Bishop's StortfordWhat’s going on! Can you help me and tell me what this structure was?
Was it the craftsmen’s workrooms for the work which took place in 1866??

My book

If you want to learn more about this historic East Hertfordshire town, please do click on the image below to buy my book. Bishop's Stortford Through Time by Kate Cole


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You may also be interested in
– The trials and tribulations of writing a book
– Bishop’s Stortford Through Time – A progress update
– Bishop’s Stortford 1569-1571: The Vermin Man
– Happy Second Blogiversary to Me – The Future

© Essex Voices Past 2014.

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One Response to Bishop’s Stortford Through Time – The ones that got away…

  1. Jamie says:

    Probably doesn’t help you but part of the structure in the photo certainly looks like a travellers waggon, as in a travelling showman or craftsman, the undercarriage and wheels likely blocked and boarded up whilst on site. you can almost make out a faint curve of a wheel peeping through under the corner unless its my imagination.
    (my dissertation was on travellers waggons!)

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