The Marriages have been farmers and millers ever since they came into mid-Essex back in the seventeenth century from France.
Francis Marriage of Stebbing married around 1656 and had one child, William, who was born in 1668. William married Ruth, daughter of John Woodward, of Mundon Hall, in 1721, and died in 1738. Ruth survived him for thirty four years, living at Partridge Green Farm in Broomfield. Before she died in 1772 she left instructions that she should be buried in the orchard near her dwelling.
Though the farm passed out of family ownership the sanctity of that grave has been honoured down to this day. The tomb is kept in repair and stands under a crab apple tree although the orchard was grubbed out long since. Her son died within two years, but he left his own family and the long line of Marriages continues strong as ever. That close association with the soil and the fruits thereof is still maintained in the family businesses of farming and milling.
The story of the business enterprise of W. and H. Marriage & Sons Ltd. would best be started at the death of one, “William Marriage of Broomfield in the County of Essex, Miller and Farmer” as he is described in his will, which was proved on 27th May, 1826. He actually died in November 1824 when his twin sons, William and Henry, were but seventeen years old.
The old register of the Witham Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends shows that these boys were born on 17th August to his wife Mary.
That the family was already well set on the path to success in farming and milling is shown by reference in the will not only to William himself as miller and farmer but also to the occupations of his brothers; Joseph of Bishops Hall Mill and John, of Broomfield, “miller”, while his cousin John Marriage is quoted as of “Moulsham Lodge in the parish of Chelmsford, Farmer.”
William Marriage was obviously a successful man. His brother and cousin were made trustees, to sell his property at Blasted Hill, Little Waltham, but they were also requested to “manage and carry on such Milling Business and Farming Business as I may be carrying on at the time of my death . . . until my sons William and Henry attain the age of Twenty-one years”
So, on 4th April, 1822, William Marriage put his hand to the document which is the first page in the firm’s history.
The two boys were young, even at twenty-one, to take over such a business, but they had a close-knit family of farmers and millers to whom they could turn for advice and help. There are no records in existence to tell the early story of the firm. It is an old saying that a windmill and a watermill always go together and evidence of this exists in the family ownership of the windmill at Ayletts, Broomfield which was close by the watermill called Croxton’s. Its connection with the Marriage family can be traced back to 1804 when William and George Marriage insured it. The entry in the register of the Royal Exchange Insurance Company shows, in 1806, ‘Wm. Marriage of Broomfield in the Co. of Essex, Miller and Mealman. On the building of his smock wind millhouse, timber built including all the standing and going gears, millstones… machines and dressing mills therein situated near his dwelling house in Broomfield aforesaid – £800.”
“On stock in trade including Boulting cloths, sacks and movable utensils in the same £200.”
“Warranted no steam engine.”
It was demolished by 1880 but not before it had achieved some local fame as the mill in which Isaac Mead worked as a young man. He mentions, it as Blasford Mill, in his, “Life Story of an Essex Lad.” At Moulsham too, the site of a windmill has been discovered, near the watermill, in the middle of what is now the firm’s football field. At Broomfield itself, as well as the steam and watermill there had been a windmill nearby through hundreds of years.
The one great innovation which appears to have been made early in the administration of William and Henry was the introduction of steam power. What an effect that must have had on the miller’s trade. Up to that time the stones could turn only at the whim of wind and water. Floods and gales brought problems as severe as droughts and windless days. The miracle of steam gave a steady rate of production in all weathers. These young men who installed the first machinery on the far bank of the river opposite the watermill at Broomfield were indeed farsighted.
Details of the flour trade in 1824 are not easy to come by. The grinding was all done on stones and there were various types of surface according to the grain being ground and the fineness and whiteness desired in the flour. Any sieving was probably done with horsehair sieves. In those days wholemeal or brown flour would be cheaper than white because it required less processing and in contrast to today had a faster ‘throughput’; also there were no by-products which had to be sold off cheap for animal feed. A good deal of the work was grinding cutomers’ own corn and returning the meal to them, and for this instead of a cash charge being made, a proportion of the product was kept by the miller.
Proof of that pioneer steam installation at Broomfield Mill is provided by the entry in Pigot and Co.’s “Royal national and commercial directory of 1839, which also shows the family commitment to the trade as shown under ‘Millers’:
Marriage, Francis Bishops Hall Mill
Marriage, John. Broomfield
Marriage, John. Croxton Mill
Marriage, Jos. junr. Moulsham Mill, Baddow Lane
Marriage, Thomas M. Barnes Mill, Springfield
Marriage, William & Henry (by steam & water). Broomfield Mill
The fact that ‘steam’ is specially mentioned seems to indicate the novelty even at that time, and it can be seen that William and Henry had the only one of six family mills on the River Chelmer to be so equipped. It is worth quoting John Booker who in his “Essex and the Industrial Revolution” 1974 says:-
“In 1836 Broomfield watermill was augmented by a steam engine bought second hand for £145. at the sale of the Europa mill at Rotherhithe. Wentworth of Wandsworth took this engine in part exchange for a new engine of their own make in 1852. The chimney stack of the Chelmer mills in Chelmsford built by W. & H. Marriage in 1900 as a steam roller mill still bears the plaque ‘W & H M 1836’; this is believed to be the original plaque which was installed by the Marriage family at Broomfield when they first adopted steam power.
In June 1852, as shown by its engine-plate, a new steam engine, built by Wentworth, was installed. The twins appear to have been far too busy founding the business and starting the farms, as well as marrying twice, both of them, and bringing up large familes, for them to have had many outside pursuits. As it was they had comparatively short lives and packed a great deal into them!
The next generation, though hardworking, had a chance to look round and enjoy the fruits of the twins’ enterprise. Henry II was a great coursing enthusiast.
When he ‘went farming’ his greyhounds followed behind his horse and as and when opportunity occurred had a ‘course’ over his land and that of friendly neighbours.” Golden Wells”, was the summer quarters for the greyhounds which were looked after by the shepherd.
He bred horses on his own farm for work, for carriages, and for fox-hunting which he much enjoyed. His enthusiasm and hard work also extended to setting out fruit trees. He is said to have exclaimed that he “missed the best day’s fox hunting ever known” because he was engaged in planting the present Parsonage Orchard at School Lane, Broomfield. He was a keen grape vine grower and built splendid grape houses with coal-fired heating at Ayletts. And, for relaxation – he became a County Councillor!
The family were Quakers from their earliest beginnings and an amusing story is told of this Henry. In the course of bargaining with him for some of his beasts a butcher used a swear word. Henry stopped the negotiations at once and ordered the butcher to go and wash his mouth out at the cattle drinking trough before the deal could continue!
Philip Marriage, William’s son, was the designer and motive force behind the building of the present Chelmer Mill and his foresight has benefitted the present generation. The walls and foundations of this single-storey steam engine house were built strong enough to ‘go up on’ and so, in 1966, much difficulty and expense was avoided by building flour silos over the old boiler and engine shed. But this generation was only building on the firm foundations of these two founders.
By 1855 the entry in Kelly’s Directory of Essex reads:
“MARRIAGE, William & Henry, millers, corn and coal merchants, Baddow Road and Broomfield.”
It shows that they were already diversifying. Coal was required to provide the steam for the two mills now converted. It was brought by barge from Heybridge, up the Chelmer and Blackwater Canal. The record shows that in 1856 the company brought two thousand tons of coal up to Chelmsford in this fashion and it was unloaded by casual labourers carrying baskets at 6d a ton – and free beer.
In that same year, 1856, a new Stocktaking Book was begun. As one of the firm’s earliest existing records it throws interesting sidelights on the business. It shows first that the capital in the partnership was divided as follows:
Building the Flour Silos:
Three sixths – William Marriage
Two sixths – Henry Marriage
One sixth – Henry Marriage junr.
Stock in mills and farms was valued then at 20,738 9s. 8d.
The mills in the business were valued thus:
Broomfield Mill, Engine and Gears £1 100
Broomfield Mill Gears (the watermill) £500
Moulsham Mill Gears £500
Moulsham Mill Engine & Machinery £800
Bishop Hall Mill Gears £100
Bishop Hall Engine, Gears & fixtures in the house £650
Croxton’s Mill Gears £500
It is the number of written comments on the each year’s business which are so intriguing. They span more than twenty years with notes like this:
“1857… we are of the opinion the result of this year’s trade has been very favourable, wheat having fallen 10/- per Quarter our bad debts have been but very few, only about £200. Farms paid very well but lost a number of horses and a great many cows last year and we the undersigned agree and consider the above correct accounts .
“1860 . . This year we have had considerable loss by damage of Moulsham Mill falling which cost us £130 to set right, our horses done badly having lost six pretty good horses… we have put a new boiler in at Bishop Hall which cost us £250.
“1862 . . . The bad debts have been very heavy this year. We have repaired flood- gates at Croxton’s Mill put in New Flood Gates Moulsham Mill spent £60 cleaning river at Broomfield Mill. Our Milling Business has been bad there has been a very large supply of American Barrells… be careful how you employ people to sell flour.” A Barrell was an American flour measure and container.
“1866… We have lost by death our oldest partner on 2 mo 23 after an illness of 17 days, he left by his will his share to this business to his three sons to commence from the stocktaking. We had a very wet Harvest last year, we held a large stock of wheat for last 18 months, we have had a rise of 8/- per Quarter on wheat, our trade was large all the autumn…
“1868… a good trade in Oil Cake… the bullocks last summer did well, winter grazing did bad lost good many with Lung complaint… our mill offal sold well all the year.
“1870… we sold from 8 month to 12 month 31St 1868 £800 of cabbages in London Market.”
“1873… we have lost by death our Senior Partner Henry Marriage who died 7 mo 24/72 after a long illness his son Henry taking his share of the business the last 9 ms. We had a very wet harvest, the wheat much injured by sprouting also a light crop. Labour has been much dearer, trade has been pretty good and Stock has sold well.”
But we must return to our historical narrative if we are going to tell the Marriage story in its proper order Bishops Hall Mill, leased from the Mildmays, the great local landowners, had been in a branch of the family for years. It was brought into the W. and H. Marriage business, as shown by a lease dated 31st March 1856:
“Dame Jane St. John Mudmay… widow and William and Henry Marriage of Broomfield, Essex, millers… that water corn mill… called… Bishops Hall Mill together with the water wheel and the great pit wheel upon the same shaft… together with the mill house and the meadow land about it from September 1855 for seventy one years at a yearly rent of £133 (for the mill alone)”
This ancient mill was given up about 1920. It was eventually demolished and the land is now part of the property of Hoffmann’s now called RHP.
That business had gone well in the first thirty years is shown by the Deed of Partition of 27th April 1860. It demonstrates that the families were growing up and dividing off. From this deed it appears that the firm owned two shops in Ongar, Alfords Farm in Chignall Smealey and Fridays Farm in Good Easter, and Mashbury, as well as ‘Bacons’ or Beacon Hill Farm in St. Lawrence. These places were to be retained by William, while Henry took over land in Woodham Ferrers, Stow Maries and Purleigh, together with properties at Bicknacre, Horndon-on-the-Hill and Stanford-le-Hope.
William’s death in 1866 has been noted. His will showed that he expected his three sons William, Sampson and Philip to take over “the Milling and Farming Business carried on by me in partnership with my brother, Mary Marriage and others. He had already moved from the mill house at Broomfield to the wider acres of the farm at Writtle Park, leased from Lord Petre.
The continuing expansion of the business is indicated by the acquisition of more farms, like Beaumont Moats, Writtle, now known as Beaumont Otes, which was the subject of a valuation in 1861. It showed that the ‘Farming Stock’ included 33 sacks, an old turnip cutter, a liquid manure wagon, six foot ploughs with whipple-trees and 5 sledges, a pitsaw, an oat bruiser, four shooting sticks and three dung prongs~ The live stock included nine horses, all named, from Whitefoot and Violet to Prince and Brown.
It was soon necessary to revise the partnership articles to take in the sons coming along on both sides of the firm. The document drawn up in 1865 brought William and his three sons, William, Sampson, Philip and Henry and his son Henry into the business of millers and farmers at Broomfield, Chelmsford, Springfield, Little Waltham and Writtle. Capital was shown as £50,000.
Another interesting document, which runs on from 1868, is the Cropping Book. It is a detailed record of every crop that has ever been grown in every field the Marriages have farmed from that date, when the farms they occupied are listed as:
Writtle Park and Redindykes at Writtle
Beaumont Otes, Brick Barns and Chobbings at Chignal
Fridays and Baileys at Mashbury and Mount Mascalls at Boreham.
By 1884 other farms had been brought into the business – Bedfords, at Good Easter (1870), The Parsonage at Broomfield (1871) Gardeners (1871) and Woolpits (1878) at Springfield, Hayrons (or Herons) at High Easter (1884). This brought the total acreage farmed up to 2,110 acres.
Henry Marriage provides the interesting observation:
“This compares with acreage farmed today –
By the Marriage Family of 1687 acres total
By Brick Barns Farms Limited which is the farming Company formerly known as W. & H. Marriage and Sons (Farms) of 794 acres. (It must be noted that today’s acreages are in Ordnance Survey Acreages and those of last century were in ‘farm’ acres, i.e. inside the hedges. This means the old family farmed a great deal of land if one cares to add 10%).”
That carefully kept Cropping Book and the Stocktaking Book together mark the passage of the years. In 1875 “We have lost by death our partner Wm. Marriage who died 4 mo. 27/75 after an illness of 3 weeks his brothers Sampson and Philip taking his share of the business. We had a very good crop of corn & Wheat Heavy, a drop in Wheat of a pound per Qtr., trade very slow with small profit. We consider we made £603 which is in the Farm Capital.”
In 1878: “We had this year a very bad Crop of Corn the worst for 20 years, dropping markets all the year & a very close price for flour and in 1879 the Stocktaking Book records, “We have had a very bad year in our milling trade our corn a poor crop and very much damaged by wet, many of our Bullocks & Sheep did not pay anything our bad debts were very heavy as under (a long list follows). Our horses very healthy.
There the comments stop for many years, but the Cropping Book continues.
Take one field, Redricks, on one farm, Brick Barns. From 1878 to 1891 it was sown with wheat, clover, wheat, barley, mangold, wheat, beans, wheat, mangold, wheat, trifolium, wheat, barley and beans. It needs little imagination to people that field through the seasons and the years; the ploughman and his horses in a cold and foggy dawn, the boys who cleared stones through winter holidays, the men and women with hoes, and bent backs, the hay-makers and the harvesters and the band of gleaners, the farmer and his family working through the year beside them.
The ‘Agreement Book’ of 1866 shows another side of the business – the complicated negotiations required in the disposal of the fruits of the farms and the flour of the mills. But what catches the eye first is an old sheet of paper pinned to the first page. It reminds one of the inside staff a milling business requires, for it is a cheeky poem composed by one of the office clerks concerning his immediate boss:
“Look out, ’tis Friday morning,
There’s lots of work to do,
And I give you timely warning
That some will fall to you.
The bell will tinkle, tinkle
And William he will hem
At that chap who looks like Winkle
Our valued A.C.M.”
It goes on for four clever verses. It celebrates but one worker of character in a big and busy commercial empire; there were hundreds of others throughout the mills and farms and all down the years who made a vital contribution to the business which, as it prospered, gave work to generations, often of the same family. So we should remember in gratitude the buyers and the sellers, the stone dressers and the engine men, the horse-men and the lorry drivers, the foremen and the workmen who brought the corn from the fields and sent the flour to the towns. The farmers had to make agreements concerning their products. That of September 19th, 1866 shows how the Marriages disposed of their milk:
“Henry’ Marriage’s respects to Mrs. Abbott and writes to say they will accept her offer of 1/7 per Barn Gallon of milk to be delivered to Shoreditch Station Carriage paid for one year say from 26 of September 1866 to 26 September 1867 Mrs. Abbott finding cans and paying for the milk once a fortnight the quantity to be say from 20 to 30 Barn Gallons per day should their cows become diseased this contract to be null and void will you be so kind as to send cans on the 24th or 25th directed W. & H. Marri~ge & Sons, Chelmsford Station In 1882 an agreement to supply milk to a London retailer stipulated that “30 to 40 gallons of 17 imperial pints” should be supplied at ls. 9d a gallon.
Of course there must have been years of happiness and harmony in the firm. Good years went largely unrecorded, because they were good they were not news. Look at the Stocktaking Book for 1887 and you will see the other side of the coin. “We have had a very close trade all the year, and a good many bad debts, also a very considerable drop in the value of horses & other stock. In January we had a bad outbreak of Anthrax at Brick Barns about 40 cows and beasts died. The remainder were killed and got rid of at a great sacrifice losing one Thousand pounds by the outbreak.”
Farming and milling prospered under skilled management. Evidence of this is found in “The Miller” for 7th December, 1891 which tells us:
“During the past month we had the pleasure of visiting the Moulsham Mills, Chelmsford, in which Mr. Henry Simon, the well known milling engineer, of Manchester, has erected a roller plant, having a capacity of 5 sacks of flour per hour, for that old-established firm of millers, Messrs. W. & H. Marriage & Sons, who by their personal attention to the various improvements in millstone milling and the position in which their mill is placed – being in one of the best districts for Essex Wheat – have been able to compete successfully with those who adopted the process of Roller Milling earlier.”
“The mill is well placed for water carriage, barges containing the foreign grain, &c., being able to come up the river by way of Maldon and unload at the mill door. The members of the firm of Messrs. W. & H. Marriage & Sons belong to a family connected with milling for many years, and the firm now consists of Mr. Henry Marriage, a son of the late Mr. Henry Marriage, and Mr. Sampson Marriage and Mr. Philip Marriage, the two sons of the late Mr. W. Marriage, who was twin brother to the late Mr. Henry Marriage.”
“The roller plant has been fitted up in a new brick building of three storeys built on to the old premises at the back, and when the foundations were being excavated the remains of an ancient water mill were unearthed; an old oak beam was found bearing the name of the millowner and millwright who erected that mill, and dated in the year 1712… the millstone mill, which contained altogether seven pairs of mill-stones, is now used for warehousing purposes.
‘Besides this roller mill Messrs. W. & H. Marriage & Sons have three other mills working on the millstone system, namely, the Broomfield Mills, which contain ten pairs of millstones worked by water and steam, the Bishopshall Mills, having eight pairs of millstones, and the Croxton Water Mill, with five pairs of millstones.”
No doubt it was the success of this new method of milling which caused the family to think along the lines of a new mill, built for the purpose. On 9th February 1898 the deed was signed to purchase Bishops Hall Mead from the Mildmay Family for œ1342. The old mill itself stood on land now belonging to Hoffmann’s Ball Bearing Factory. The mead stretched from Hoffmann’s to the railway. This meant the mill could be built with its own railway siding so that grain could be easily delivered in rail waggons, and the flour could go out the same way to wholesalers in London where it was further distributed by horse and van. From 1899 the accounts show the purchase of the site and the building of what was to be called Chelmer Mill for an ultimate total of £1 1 276.
The fact that it is still running to full capacity over seventy years later shows that succeeding generations were continuing to build on the firm foundations laid by those indomitable twins one hundred and fifty years ago. The spread of the generations is shown in the old deeds and other documents. The number of children bearing the same family fornames in honour of their ancestors would be very confusing but for the detailed pedigree already established by the family and reproduced in outline at the beginning of this book.
The next generation, though hardworking, had a chance to look round and enjoy the fruits of the twins’ enterprise. Henry II was a great coursing enthusiast.
So, when Philip Marriage died a bachelor in 1901 it was a couple of years before Sampson Marriage could effect the purchase of shares in Broomfield Mill from the various heirs.
The siting of Chelmer Mill was advantageous in more than one way. When Hoffmann’s wanted to expand their premises in 1910 they had to pay no less than £400 to “Henry Marriage, Sampson Marriage and Henry Marriage, junior, of Chelmer Mill, millers”, for the grant of sufficient natural light from mill land. Another side of the business, likely to be overlooked today, was the supply of coal. A copy of a tender dated 1907 shows that the firm was supplying Essex Education Committee with coal for many of its schools at up to £1 8s. 6d a ton! In 1912 prices were actually lower for the same contract.
In that same year, on 27th May, Mr. Henry Marriage died, aged 77. He was the son of the co-founder Henry Marriage, and since he was born in 1835 had grown up with the firm almost from the beginning, seeing it through into the twentieth century as the senior member. His contribution to public work included County Councillor, Justice of the Peace and a member of the Central Chamber of Agriculture. As a very well-known local miller it was natural that he should assume Chairmanship of the Chelmsford Corn Exchange Company. He had married, in 1865, Mary Sophia Clayton. They had five sons and three daughters, two of whom Henry’ and Llewellyn took his share of the business.
William Marriage, son of the first William, left his share to brothers Philip and Sampson. The latter died 24th August 1915 leaving his share to his son Sampson Percival. All this information and good deal more is given in the abstract title to Woolpits Farm, Springfield of 11 June 1918 concerning:
“All that water corn mill called Broomfield Mill . . – heretofore in the occupation of John Jasper afterwards of Robert Dixon… and subsequently in the tenure of William Marriage – together with the water wheel and first motion but no other part of the machinery… except out of the Conveyance hereby made such parts of the Steam Mill, Boiler House, chimney and buildings on the Springfield side of the Mill as… belong to the firm of W. H. Marriage & Sons… and all that dilapidated post windmill situate… (in or near)… Mill Field.”
Farm business at this time is suitably summed up in the Trading & Profit & Loss Account of 1917-18:
“Corn & Seeds Sold £5015 14 6
Peas Sold 17
Hay & Straw Sold 1032 3 7
Potatoes Sold 469 7 6
Live Stock Sold 11889 19 3
Rabbits, Poultry’ & Eggs Sold 119 15
Wool Sold 88 6 2
Rents of cottages etc. 8614 6
Willow Trees Sold 196 14
Keep of horses, cows etc.22315
Sundries 5 10 5
At this time also, the continuance of the war was causing difficulties in the supply of wheat for the mill. One return of 30th April 1917 declares to the government the amount of wheat milled and the flour and offals produced from a “mixture of wheat and authorised cereals”.
1917 also saw the important sale of much of the property of Sir Gerald Mildmay, including Barnes Farm and Mill and Moulsham Corn Mill, both tenanted for long by members of the Marriage family. Of Moulsham Mill the catalogue says, “The Mill is built partly in brick and partly in Timber, with a Tiled Roof, on Four Floors, and is fitted with an Undershot Water Wheel… It has been one of the Best-Known Corn Mills in the District for many years. Marriages bought it – and still own it.
Bishops Hall Mill came under the hammer at the same time, but Marriages had given up tenancy to Mr. G.B. Ling long since for it had been quite outmoded by the new Chelmer Mill close at hand.
Through war and peace, through seasons good and bad the farms were cultivated, the beasts were fattened, the milk flowed into the pail and the corn went to the mills to be ground. It is impossible to sketch even in outline, in this short history, the way in which the families who worked for the firm, and the Marriages themselves, were supported by the business which William and Henry began.
The amount of work to be done to maintain the farms and keep the flour pouring into the sacks can hardly be appreciated, especially when considering those days when man and horse were the prime movers in agriculture.
Just one little red notebook gives a clue to the never-ending round of work which is the farmer’s lot. It simply shows, page by page, the number of bullocks moved round the various fields of a farm from 1923 to 1936. Someone had to move those bullocks, to keep them and the fields in proper fettle. And someone else, doubtless at the end of a day’s work, had to enter that account, and many others, before there could be any thought of supper.
One other such account has been by chance preserved. It is a bill from G. Mansfield & Son of Dolphin Yard, off Tindal Street in Chelmsford. He was the blacksmith. In December 1928 he shod nine horses, with thirty six shoes for only £33.18.6. The sound of the anvil, the smell of singed hoof and the red face of the smith, shiny with sweat, all conjured up by a piece of paper.
Back in the Stocktaking Book, the idea of providing annual comments had petered out long ago. The only entry in recent times was so significant that it was boldly entered in red ink under 1926:
“There took place in May 1926 a General Strike & Coal Strike the latter lasted 9 months we had a good stock of coal but calculate that it cost us £700 for coal extra. Together with a bonus that we gave the men for working through the strike”.
Memories of the “Agricultural Activities of W. & H. Marriage & Sons” from this time on have been jotted down as random thoughts by Henry Marriage:
1. In the early days very few if any potatoes appear to have been grown. After the first World War they were increasingly planted.
2. Sugar Beet growing appears to have started in 1926, with a small acreage of 8 acres in Little Painters Field at Brick Barns and 2bd acres at Fridays in Patience Field.
3. The partners were early users of steam cultivators. We never owned our own set of ploughing tackle but used to hire Roslings or Pattens, and as late as 1956 employed Keelings to plough some fields. We believe we were the last in Essex, if not in England, to steam plough by contract.
4. Early on we had a set of threshing tackle with own engine. The first engine is thought to have been a Burrell, later we had a Wallis & Stevens this was replaced in 1934 by a Marshall;said to be one of the fastest on the road to ever be built.
5. We were founder members of the Essex Pig Society, and had two herds, one at Chignal and another at Good Easter.
6. At one time we had a herd of cows at Chobbings Farm. They got the fatal disease of anthrax and were destroyed on the farm. We never replaced them.
7. Very large (by modern standards) pigs were produced for the London trade. They were killed and went to London on the flour wagons. These pigs ran with the fattening bullocks and were supposed to live and thrive on the food the bullocks wasted!
8. Two flocks of sheep were kept latterly for very early lamb for the Easter trade which meant
lambing down in mid winter. Purpose made straw yards were erected every year for this.
9. Many horses were kept for farm work and transport generally. We had our own stallion and a large crop of foals every year. Our own Blacksmith (two at one time) did all the shoeing and repairs to iron implements. A Wheelwright was fully employed at the Wheelwright’s shop, Springfield on carts, wagons etc. All timber was home grown having been felled at the farms and transported by wym to sawyards in Chelmsford, brought back the same day and stored in fitch to be finally sawn by hand to its particular purpose. All wheels were shod at the Blacksmith’s Shop at Broomfield Mill which had its own shoeing (tyring) pit and bender etc. It was strategically placed near the River Chelmer bank for water supply, and also within hollering range of the Mill! Our last smith Fred Harvey is still alive and well. He retired a few years ago having worked his whole career for us at smithing finally combining this with tractor driving.
Life at the mill was as busy and complicated as it was on the farm. The difficulties experienced in trying to keep old equipment in working order are clearly illustrated by the letter from the millwright, S. Byford of Sudbury concerning the old watermill at Moulsham. It was written on 8th January, 1932:
“Dear Sir, I have been unable to find a cog wheel suitable for your mill. After extensive enquiries I am therefore sending you prices of new wheel and spindle.1 mortice wheel of 34 cogs of Best Applewood bored & finished to suit cone £11 18 6 1 solid steel spindle 4 ft. 7” long fitted with adjustable cone with reed, slotted for Key ck. & turned to fit existing toe Brass 7 5 0 Your Mace & Ring will be used if possible also neck Brases, Grease Wedge,etc. if not Extras.
Hoping to be entrusted with your valued order. I remain, Yours etc.
That new process of roller milling introduced at Moulsham and then Chelmer Mills made the stone-grinding process obsolete. Yet a minority of people still enjoyed the special texture and quality of stone ground flour and the old stones still turned in Moulsham Mill right down to a year or so ago, to meet this special, but by then dwindling demand. Roller milling brought spectacular improvements in the output of flour. It also greatly increased the percentage of white flour which could be obtained from wheat. In the millstone era only about 50 to 60 per cent of the white flour was extracted. The rest was left clinging to the skin of the wheat seed. In those days therefore a number of grades of flour were available; households, straights, patents, etc. and a variety of by-products, fine middlings, toppings, pollards and bran; all according to the adjustment of the stones in the milling process.
Even by 1900 the use of millstones had been reduced to gristing for animal feeds and a little wholemeal for brown bread. Old grist books show that wheat mixtures in 1901 contained 70 per cent English and 30 per cent Russian and North American wheats. This shows a much larger proportion of the low protein, soft English wheats than is used today.
However the trend is now back to English and French wheats because of the ever-escalating cost of high protein wheats from North America.
This is becoming acceptable to the bakers who no longer wish to endure the problems of long overnight dough fermentation systems of baking, because it is asserted that the shorter, newer fermentation system which will tolerate the higher proportion of English wheat!
Great efforts are now being made by farmers and research workers to grow a better bread wheat in this country. Marriages have a well-equipped laboratory and liaise very closely with farmers on quality investigation. For the last three years they have used aircraft to apply late fertiliser treatment on their own farms in an effort to improve its breadmaking qualities.
Talking of aeroplanes, it is strange to think that only forty years ago Marriage’s took delivery of a brand new Marshall Agricultural traction engine. It was sold recently, still in working order, with the provision that it must never be scrapped without giving Marriage’s the opportunity to buy it back. Such is the nostalgia for steam – and for the stout-hearted men and women of the steam age. It is pleasing to know that the old engine has been painstakingly restored and now attends the local shows resplendent in its original colours.
Come the Second World War and W. & H. Marriage & Sons Ltd. were still in business. With Chelmer Mill so close to Hoffmann’s there was a very real risk of damage from air attacks. But, though Hoffmann’s was hit the Mill was spared, and production continued without a break. One of the partners, Phillip Clayton Beale, nephew of Llewellyn Marriage, was killed on active service at Tobruk whilst serving in the Essex Yeomanry.
In July 1942, Croxtons Mill, Little Waltham, worked for so long by the Marriages, was put up for sale, as part of the estate of Henry Marriage who had died on 6th December 1938. It went to local scrapdealers Driver and Ling, long since absorbed, but the land at Chignall St. James, Great and Little Waltham, Broomfield and Writtle was bought in by the firm in furtherance of its farming interests. Henry Marriage has jotted down some memories of that old mill.
“Croxtons Mill was the mill highest up the river Chelmer to be owned and worked by the Marriage family. They also owned the adjoining meadow. So the farm men and the mill staff combined to make the hay, load it, and cart it through the ford which had a ‘trick’ turn in the middle which had to be known or the horses could well find themselves out of their depth.”
“It was sold to close the estate on July 17th, 1942, for £305, together with the cottages nearby. The miller first named to me was one Keeble, a great character. At the end Croxtons was in the charge of Charlie Freeman who went on to Moulsham Mill until he retired.”
“This Mill, all timber-built, had to be “loaded” correctly as to the weight in the Bins and on the Floors, or else the whole structure would lean dangerously sideways. Not only did this put the building at risk, it also opened the floor boards and allowed the grain to pour out into the river!”
“The Wheel was maintained by our staff and on one occasion the Millwright, George Coe, had to stand in the flowing water to attend to some part. The current being so strong, he tied 56 lb. weights to his feet the better to withstand the force.”
Young Marriages used to be taken to Croxtons regularly – to be weighed on the mill scales to see that they were continuing in normal healthy growth.
The farms and the mills survived the war, and thought could be given in due time to overhauls and repairs. On February 22nd, 1949, a local decorator wrote:
“I agree to paint Moulsham Mill outside woodwork and windows & doors & guttering & Dust room loovers & find the labour, Brushes & Paint Pots to paint it two coats of paint … for the sum of £45.Os.0d”, which shows that the old mill was still operative and profitable enough to justify the expense.
On 16th January 1952 the steam engine by Woodhouse & Mitchell of Brig-house, in Chelmer Mill breathed heavily to Croxtons Mill in 1938 a stop for the last time. Christy Bros., a local firm of national renown, installed electric drive, and gave the mill a quiet hum which somehow suits its bulk. A gentle giant grinding corn to man’s ingenious design.
In 1957 the silos were extended to hold a further 400 tons of grain. In 1971 they were increased again so that the total of 1200 tons of grain can be held in the mill. Every week 120 tons of flour and 50 tons of by-products for animal feed leave the mill for destinations a hundred miles around.
In 1966 bulk flour silos and an automatic sacking plant were added to make it the most modern mill for miles around.
The majority of the firm’s flour trade has always been with master bakers, usually family businesses. Until the nineteen fifties more than a tenth of the trade was in biscuit flour. In the mill office there are gold medals and certificates to prove its quality. But intense competition, the reduction of the number of biscuit making firms, and their preference shown in dealing with large flour producers made this side of this business unprofitable for small, homely millers like Marriages.
Another important part of the flour trade between the wars and up to the “nineteen fifties” was in soft English flour supplied to “Packers” who were often wholesale grocers or corn chandlers. These people bought large Some of the Medals quantities of flour, blended them, often adding self-raising ingredients, and weighed them out into small bags of anything from 1 lb. to 14 lbs. for domestic use.
This trade has now disappeared and the two big national millers dominate the domestic flour market. Marriages tried for several years to compete in the packeted, domestic, white flour trade. They were successful whilst there were still numerous local independent grocers to sell to, but with the national chains of supermarkets taking most of the trade and inevitably requiring mass produced and nationally distributed flour Marriages have tended to pack and market specialised flours for more discriminating housewives. Such specialities as stoneground wholemeal, strong flour and 81% extraction flour for home-made breadmakers have proved very successful, and a lively trade has developed with the nation’s health food shops, for half of them are still controlled by independent, thoughtful individuals who appreciate the genuine product.
A wide range of flours are packed for small caterers in optimum-sized K-TER-PAKS. These are both economical and geared to the more exacting quality demands of the skilled chefs. Some export trade bas been done recently, but difficulties at the docks have made the profitability somewhat doubtful. Many large flour users now take delivery of flour blown by pipeline from road tankers into their own flour silos, and Marriages (always with the needs of the small baker in mind) have developed equipment to give tanker delivery and storage to the “family-baker” user.
In 1970 the building of a new animal feed mill was started. Although the firm has always dealt to some extent with animal feeds the new plant represented quite an increase in capacity. It can easily do more in a day than the old plant at Moulsham Mill could do in a week!
Since the early 1800s huge changes have occurred in animal feeding and it has now become a very exact and scientific process. Certainly the British pig is now more scientifically fed than the average person! A hundred and fifty years ago husbandry techniques would hardly have justified the excellent foods produced today.
Pigs for example, sometimes were not weaned until they were six, seven or even eight months old. When they were fully fattened for slaughter they could weigh over 700 lbs. and there would be literally inches of fat on the meat (today a bacon pig is slaughtered at about 200 lbs).
They tended to be fed on anything they could eat, barley meal and millers offal were regarded as good but very expensive feeds (acorns and beech nuts were regarded as good substitutes for these). At this time the only oil cake in common use was linseed – the oil having been crushed out and used to make paint and linoleum.
The millers tended to merchant oil cakes and other by-products to the farmers and when in the early 1900s the idea of balanced rations began to catch on they started to mix these raw materials and sell complete rations instead.
Since the first balanced rations were produced our knowledge of nutrition has grown very fast, synthetic vitamins and even synthetic amino acids are very widely used in animal foods. New drugs have been developed that enable the animals to make even more efficient use of their foods. Although it seems people have experimented with drugs before as this extract from a book on animal husbandry published in 1824 shows:
“There ought to be due discrimination in administering them, for some hogs are so exceedingly sleepy, without the help of opium or any such substance that they will scarcely rise to feed.”
Nowadays millers use computers to formulate their rations. In a few seconds the computer can consider several hundred different factors relating to up to thirty raw materials and select them according to their price in the ratio that will produce the most economic ration.It is obvious that when this degree of sophistication is used to formulate a ration it must be matched with similar sophistication when the ration is made. So the new mill is able to weigh any major ingredient to within a half a kilo and the smaller ingredients to within grams of the calculated weight required. It then has to be able to mix these quantities (sometimes as small as a few grams) evenly through the whole ton batch to ensure that each animal gets its share.
Now all the animal feed is ground by Christy and Norris hammer mill which has an output per hour many times greater than millstones which were last used for grinding animal feeds at Moulsham Mill during the second world war. After manufacture about half the food is packed into paper sacks for delivery, the other half being carried to the farms loose in bulk, and blown into farm bins, a system that saves a lot of time and work.
lt is not possible to name the people who brought all the improvements and developments to the business, including farms and mills. Even the directors themselves cannot be fully recorded over a century and a half. For example in 1937, new “trustees for the business” had to be nominated because,
“whereas. . . Philip Marriage died 31 March 1901, Henry Marriage died 27 May 1912, Sampson Marriage died 24 August 1915”, further trustees had not been appointed. So Llewellyn and Sampson Percival Marriage were appointed in their place.
This process is endless in a continuing family business, It was necessary again in 1961 because Henry Marriage died 6th December 1938 and Llewellyn Marriage died 18th February 1960 at the ripe old age of 80.This Henry goes down in the family history not only for his hard-working attributes but also for the elegant Victorian regime he continued at Ayletts, with three inside and three outside staff. He always went to a Harrogate hotel for his holiday, and every year he remembered to take with him his silver tea-strainer because the hotel did not provide such a refinement!
Llewellyn Marriage was a great fox hunting man and a cricketer. He was Captain of Broomfield for around twenty five years, yet every week he turned up to help mow and roll the pitch. In his 75th year he went hunting on a 25 year old horse, “Paddy”, making a century partnership.
A contemporary of Llewellyn, Percy Marriage was a man of many parts. He succeeded his Uncle Philip as the firms technical miller having passed the Millers Association technical exams in 1900. He was keen on the livestock side of the farms being a founder member of the Essex Pig Society and he judged pigs at the Royal and numerous other agricultural shows. He made annual visits to Devon or Wales buying store cattle to graze the Mill water meadows in Spring and Summer and fatten in the yards on bullock meal in winter. Many rosettes won at the Christmas Fatstock shows were nailed up in the barns.
Percy was a great flour salesman and a familiar figure in the East End of London with his Gladstone bag and “1/- all day” tram ticket. He was perhaps best known locally as a keen hunting man and was usually in front at the kill, as he was said to know every short cut and hedge gap in Essex. He was still hunting at 85. Although latterly often asleep on his horse on a long hack home after a hard day the old horse always brought him home safely.
In 1960 the farming business was separated from the milling enterprise in the interests of easier and more efficient management. The mills continued in the name of W. & H. Marriage & Sons Ltd. while the farms were known first as W. & H. Marriage & Sons (Farms) and later as Brick Barns Farms Limited. Despite the division of the business, the directors still see a great deal of each other, and in their conversation farms and mills are mixed in the closest harmony.
The flour mill continued to produce for bakers and supermarkets, adding to the traditional millstones with a fourth and fifth pair on wholemeal production. Organic wholemeal became of great interest and English organically-grown wheat became in great demand. There was also the move to import North American high protein organic wheats, mainly from Canada.
Peter and George (sons of David Marriage) and Simon (son of Henry Marriage) were appointed directors, with the older generation retaining a more distant interest.
Two ‘Cash and Carry’ warehouses, at Colchester and Chelmsford were opened for small orders of animal feeds, flour and pet foods. Marriage’s Country Stores are still running today in the same places.
Technical advances were made in most departments; computer control of accounts and formulations have been adopted. The local decline in livestock farming and the loss of many dairy herds meant that buyers of compound feeds in Essex became few and far between. There was however some compensation for this in the greatly increased numbers of horses and ponies kept in suburban areas.
Advertising and public relations started to be expanded and there were Marriage exhibits at various trade exhibitions besides our Exhibition Caravan for Essex County and local horse shows. Our old Moulsham Mill was refurbished by a Church of England charity, “Interface” and is still used for small industry, crafts and charitable concerns.
The industry continued to change into the new millennium and new types of customer have appeared for both the flour and feeds mills. Despite the ever-diminishing number of medium-sized farms, there are many more smallholdings than we have seen for a number of years, so sales to retail outlets and larger smallholders are strong, particularly for pig and poultry feeds.
2010 and 2011 saw the death of all three directors from the fifth generation – Stephen, Henry and David Marriage. All three were quite remarkable enthusiasts for milling, farming, rural life and most of all, their family. This was counterbalanced neatly around the same, as three members of the sixth generation, James, Hannah and Sam, started work for W&H. In 2012, the company bought a second feed mill, this time at Driby Top in Lincolnshire and producing micronized cereals and pulses, coarse mixes and wild bird foods.
Moulsham Mill on Parkway, Chelmsford. It was powered by water and later by steam, but ceased milling in 1971. It is now a centre for small businesses, run by charity and still owned by the Marriage family.