The Foxearth and District Local History Society
The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians. (Andrew Clarke and GH) These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

If you'd like to publish any interesting material about the history of East Anglia on the site, then please send an email to the Resident Historians at Andrew.Clarke@Foxearth.org.uk and we'll add it.

Family Historians have their own area on the site, so look there if your main interest is in tracing your family history.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cold Light on Harry Price: 'Archaeologist and Numismatist'

Harry Price, the author of the two books that made Borley Rectory famous, operated in the grey area between spin and fraud. In an extraordinary career he often overstepped the mark into deceit.

Harry Price had enormous energy and enthusiasm. For part of the week, he was a travelling Salesman, a sales rep., for a paper-bag manufacturer, without academic qualifications. For the rest of the week, he was a gentleman of private means, a scientific expert, and psychic researcher. The public, fantastic, image of Harry Price, which took as its inspiration his hero, Sherlock Holmes, is the one that many people desperately wanted to believe in. He even became the inspiration for some of Dennis Wheatley's later 'Occult' novels.

Harry Price was driven by two passions, a yearning for academic respectability, and the esteem of his peers. His self-esteem was extremely brittle, and he was renowned as an abrasive, hostile and vindictive man when he considered that he had been crossed. He was suspicious and quick-tempered. By the end of his life he had few friends, and his most loyal acolytes had hardly met him, and were familiar only with the public persona.

Spiritualism wasn't his first choice as a medium in which to achieve fame. He had tried previously tried Archaeology. Price had been fascinated by old coins from his schooldays. In his twentiers, he became interested in Trade Tokens and copied out the sections on Shropshire and Kent from the standard work on 'Trade Tokens’ written by George C Williamson, and then published the results under his own name. Bizarrely, the secretary of the Ripon Naturalists Club read the article and, impressed by his apparent erudition, invited him to become their Curator of Numismatics. The Club was a local amateur group that met in the evenings in rooms leant to them by the Ripon Museum, and Price accepted the appointment, but called himself the ‘Hon Curator of Numismatics, Ripon Museum'. So, passing himself off as an expert on coins, with a bogus qualification, and a published article plagiarised from a textbook, he bought a collection of Roman and Anglo-Saxon coins from a local farm worker called Mickelthwaite in Pulborough, soon after he moved there in 1909. This coin collection had apparently been the fruit of a lifetime’s amateur archaeology in the area and Arundel. He then passed these off as his own and gave lectures on them. He supplemented these coins with another collection of Saxon gold coins bought from dealers, and wove a fantastic tale of how he had found them over the course of several years diligent archaeology. As these lectures went down so well, he then obtained some clumsy forgeries of spectacular finds, such as silver ingots and bronze figures and passed these off as his own archaeological finds. All this was well-received in the local papers and his fame spread. He was soon heralded as the ”Well-known Sussex Archaeologist”,

In his lectures, and subsequently in his autobiography, he claimed, falsely, to have helped with the excavation of a Roman Villa at Greenwich Park in 1902. ‘Excavating Roman Villas is one of the most exciting jobs imaginable’. The truth is more prosaic: he had reviewed A.D.Webster’s book of the excavation in his School magazine in 1902. He went on to claim that he had supervised the archaeological work at Borough, 2 ½ miles from his home in Pulborough. He hadn’t.; and the Royal Society of Antiquaries had to issue a denial. He also claimed to have been engaged, since 1903, on a major work ’The Numismatistic History of Sussex’.

After Price was exposed publicly in the local newspapers in 1910, by the President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, one hears no more of Harry Price the ”Well-known Sussex Archaeologist” . This left him with certain difficulties, and a redundant coin collection. In 1923, he leant the coins to the church for an exhibition. The church was, at the time, in an almost ruinous state, the coins were left in the empty unlocked church and were uninsured. Inevitably, there was a theft, though there is some confusion as to what, if anything, was taken. Harry Price announced, as a direct consequence, the end to his work as a Numismatist (coin expert) and the abandonment on his ‘Great work ’The Numismatistic History of Sussex’. No trace of this work has ever surfaced, despite Price’s claims that it was ‘Nearly completed’, and ‘all the plates had been engraved’. However, for Price, it brought down the curtain on ‘Harry Price the Archaeologist’, just as ‘Harry Price, psychic Investigator’ was taking off well in the public eye.


A fascinating new book about Harry Price, written by Richard Morris, is soon to be published. Its revelations about the true story of Harry Price are likely to contain many surprises. Pre -Orders are now being taken on Amazon at a reduced price- Harry Price The Psychic Detective is published by Sutton Publishing on 19 October 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

John Addyman: Foxearth's Famous Resident

Foxearth was once the home to one of the finest landscape artists of the Twentieth Century, John Addyman, who died a couple of months ago. John Addyman and his wife Madeleine rented Claypits Hall for a time in the 1950s, upon John’s appointment to the staff of the Colchester School of Art under John O'Connor in 1955. John produced a great deal of work in watercolour from sketches made in Foxearth, Borley, Liston and Pentlow. "a perfect vehicle for my new ideas on the more formal presentation of content in landscape painting". Gradually Addyman familiarised himself with the East Anglian landscape, and both its sublety and fragility.

John and Madeleine were a delightful couple, who played host, at Claypits, to a large number of parties, and there was a continuous stream of visitors, art students, jazz enthusiasts and acolytes.

John and Madeleine were from Cheshire. They were both artists of striking talent and originality, and very much part of the post-war ‘Beat’ generation. When Madeleine met John, he was a charismatic rebel figure, rather like James Dean, who once, for a dare, drove his motorbike up the stairs of the Wallasey School of Art, and into the foyer. Whereas he studied graphic design and illustration, his teachers including John Nash, Edward Bawden and John Minton, she was reluctantly studying textiles. He was a talented jazz pianist and his artwork had a strange, casual brilliance. They were a sociable couple who then, and thereafter had a wide circle of friends and drinking companions.

John’s artwork was like his persona. The image concealed a far more subtle and complex truth. John carefully cultivated the image, and some of his most brilliant and revealing work was never shown publicly in his lifetime. He was a master in several crafts and artistic media. He was a skilled book-illustrator, and produced some fascinating work in ceramics. He could sketch with a mastery of technique that matched the French academic school. (he was often the star of local Church Fetes, doing portraits at five pounds a time). However, it was his watercolour landscapes that everyone remembers. Nobody had come close to his brilliant rendering of a hot summers day in East Anglia, which look for all the world as if they had been done with a few casual brushstrokes, but were, in truth, a clever analysis of the structure of the landscape and one’s perception of it.


John had been brought up by strict and hardworking parents Jack and Emma, who ran a leatherwork business and shop at Wallasey. His father had hoped that John would take over the business, and John was fascinated and absorbed by the meticulous nature of the craft, and, for a while, assisted his father.

It was this early craft training that led to one of the paradoxes in John’s work. It looked for all the world as if it had been dashed off casually. In some cases, the colour was allowed to run down the paper as if it had been painted in a frenzy of creativity. In fact, John never lost his meticulous approach to his work, which was painfully self-critical. A painting could be worked on for months, rejected, picked up again, and finally completed in and agony of doubt.

Madeleine was also exceptionally talented as an artist. Her eye for shape and colour were remarkable, and her influence was an enormous help to John. Even more than that, both of them used, as their inspiration for their artistic work, the intensity of the love and friendship within their relationship. It is this that provides the deepest theme in their work.

The couple left Claypits Hall in 1967 to move a short distance to Station Road, Sudbury. John found it hard to earn a living working solely as an artist, but was renowned as a gifted teacher at the Colchester School of Art. Madeleine took to teaching too, as well as bringing up four children. After teaching at Salters Hall School, she became a primary School Teacher at Tudor Road School, in Sudbury, and finally, for eight years, the head-teacher at Hartest School. She lectured extensively to teachers on Education in the Primary School, and ran art courses for teachers. Whenever she could, she painted glorious, richly coloured, sumptuous paintings which, even today, seem startlingly original. John Addyman was renowned for his work with lithography and woodcuts. He was the driving creative force behind the founding of the Print Workshop behind Gainsborough's house, which continues today to nurture young talent. In addition, he was an expert framer, producing work of exquisite quality. He was able to reproduce or restore frames of any period and was often called upon by museums and collectors for his expertise.

After John Nash, John Addyman is generally acknowledged as one of the most accomplished landscape artists produced by Britain in the Twentieth Century. It is fortunate that he lived to see a huge increase in the appreciation of his work. The rebel of Wallasey had become a renowned artist whose pictures are in the collections of every serious connoisseur of Landscape Art. However, it is much too soon to come to a final appraisal of his work, because so much never saw the light of day in his lifetime. There are the glorious icons from late childhood, inspired by seaside holidays, his wonderful book illustrations, his astonishing ceramics, mysterious and erotic. Some of the last watercolours he did, from life classes, encapsulate everything that John is renown for, the apparent casualness masking the meticulous care, the wonderful sense of colour, his academic mastery of the craft of painting, and the profound tenderness and sensitivity of the work.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dead Dogs, little girls and sausage shops

From the Bury Free Press, August 26th 1893.

At a Coroners Court at Mortlake which held an inquiry into the death of a female child of unknown parentage. George Newman said he was engaged by the riverside when he saw a parcel floating in the water

Upon getting it out he found it was a young child.

The Coroner

“what were you doing, it is a wonder you did not bury this"

Witness

"if it had been in a sack I should have buried it."

Coroner to witness

"How many dead dogs do you get?"

 Witness

"Well me and my mate have buried 41 dogs today, that is from Putney to the Ship at Mortlake"

Coroner

"I hope there are no sausage shops in the neighbourhood, one would never have thought there were that many dead dogs. How often do you hunt for these dogs?"

Witness 

"every day sir, sometimes we get 60 some days 40 sometimes only 25"

Coroner

"Then you have had field day today with 41, how much per head do you get for them?"

Witness

"I get so much per week sir"

Coroner

"I suppose it would not do as you would be putting them back"

Witness

"I wish they would sir."

Open Verdict.

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