More about this website

This is a summary of the background to the Goldhanger history archives and the Goldhanger Past website. . .

An informal local history group was originally formed in the 1980s with two objectives: to preserve the documented and pictorial history of the village and to organise exhibitions with this theme. A paper based archive was maintained until the original archivist left the village in 2005 and a full four draw filing cabinet was passed on. It was recognised at the time that electronic records had many advantages over the paper based archives: the material can be easily updated, much smaller storage space is required, copies can be easily made and distributed leading to increased availability and greater security. So a PC based archive was created, initially by scanning the important material already held on paper. The paper archive has been kept however, and is still growing as new paper material that is offered, is scanned but not destroyed.

An early decision regarding the storage on a PC was that no special software should be used, and only minimal features of MS Windows would be required to access the information, so standard file types only are used: JPEGs ie *.jpg for images and HTMLs ie *.htm internet style files for integrated text, images and hyperlinks. Both of these file formats are international standards and not the intellectual property of comercial organisations. The more complex and non-standard features within the HTML language have also been avoided to hopefully circumvent possible software compatibility issues now and in the future, and to ensure that the material can be sensibly viewed with a range of browsers. Over the years approximately 80 copies were made and distributed to current and former residents of the village and copies have been sent around the world. With hindsight, a log of the origins of all the material should have been maintained, but that has never happened, so it is not always possible to know the origins of items.

The availability of the digital material meant that presentations using a laptop and digital projector were easier to organise than exhibitions, and in recent years many local history talks have been organised using the archive. To give the scale of the amount of material held in the digital archive to date, it is estimated that if all the text and two images per page were printed on A4 paper it would be about 4000 pages of paper. A summary is at . . . Digital archive

The archives have been greatly helped by material from past and present residents who have had an enthusiasm for local history. Notable Dr. Salter,  Maura Benham, Crawshay Frost,  Cyril Southgate, Joe Canning and many others.

In 2009 a subset of the locally held digital archive was put onto the internet, and over the years the amount of material on has steadily increased as search engines have increasingly indexed all the material, and web-stats for the site indicate that the audience has steadily grown. The Site Map page gives an indication of the scale of material currently on the web, which is perhaps one tenth of the total material in the archive. The site has been created and maintained with freely available PC tools and without professional help.

In 2014 a short introductory video was put onto YouTube at...  by 2018 it had received 270 hits.

An enquiry to in 2014 about acquiring more web-space for this site revealed that they longer offer web-space to new customers or additional space to existing users. Although this site has not yet been over filled, it raised the need for an alternative longer-term plan and security with a diversity scheme. At that time the simple solution was to put a back-up copy of the site onto Dropbox, and as Google did not seem to find this directly, a small gateways was be constructed on Google Sites at. . .


An attempt was also made to put a copy onto Essex County Councils as the site offers free webspace to Essex based “community and voluntary groups”. However an enquiry to their support team on how to transfer the existing files resulted in a reply of: “your files are unsuitable for our site” with no explanation given. So a single webpage was created at with links to the site (and to the PDFs described below).

A similar attempt was made to put the files onto Google Sites but they only seem to allow new webpages to be created using their special cloud based editor, which also would be a major re-work for the 130+ webpages.

In mid 2016 a decision was made to revert to the original technique of offering copies of the entire material to some members of the history group. This time copies of both the website and the off-line  Digital archive were passed out to several members of the group on memory sticks, which can now easily accommodate everything.

In another attempt to find a solution to a permanent on-line home for the history files, the subject was discussed with the Goldhanger parish magazine editors and they have kindly offered to host a copy on in their webspace. That has been updated several times and remains available at...

In mid 2016 a paper-back book was created out of the existing web-based material. This was due in part to the knowledge that there are some enthusiastic readers of the articles placed in the Parish Magazine who can’t or don't ever look at the web, plus the increasingly conviction the website will cease to exist once one can no longer support and pay for (or any other) personal webspace. The book was created in PDF format which is surprisingly easy to upload, access and read from Google Drive and , and they are particularly easy to access and read on tablets such as Ipads. A PDF version of Maura’s book Goldhanger – an estuary village has also been put on these sites.

The Google sites folder containing many PDF files is set “public” and is at...

The folder holding the PDF files is at...

These cloud based folders cannot be found directly by searching, but they can be accessed indirectly through the Goldhanger Past webpages found with a search for:  Goldhanger past or history

It now seems that PDF files held on several free “cloud” sites, plus locally distributed memory sticks with “everything” could well be the best long-term solution. PDF files seem now to be so prolific that is hard to imagine that the readers and files could one day disappear, even though the format is proprietary and commercial.

More and more large pages have been transferred to Google Drive as .PDF, .PPT, .JPG and .MP3s files to conserve space on the site. The volume of material held on Google Drive in this form now exceeds the volume of material held in!

As YouTube goes from strength to strength under Google’s ownership it seems likely that the videos are here to stay and secure, so more local videos have been progressively added. There are links to over 30 local videos at... YouTube links.htm. Twenty have been created by your local historian and have had over 2500 viewings to date, and fourteen in the list have been created by others.

One can only assume that paid-for web space will disappear when payments stop, whereas free cloud space with will continue as long as someone is looking at it.

In late 2018 a copy of the complete site was placed on Google Drive as .ZIP files as another form of back-up should disappear for any reason. This has been kept it up to date with the main site. Not wishing to give away all the material too easily, the means to access this zip file needs not only a little IT know-how but also some local knowledge. The files can only be accessed by using this webpages missing? link, but it is necessary to change the last part of the address to the archivist’s former house name. Advice on potential uses are included there. There may be a smaller .zip file that may contain recent changes.

Uncovering Ernest Mansfield's past was a particular milestone in terms of local history and the emerging role of the internet and is in itself of historical significance for the number of threads and contacts established over several years, so it is worthy of recording as a webpage which is entitled: Mansfield’s past revealed.

Another particular milestone has been the development of the Ellacombe Chimes Support website. This came about due to a contact made via our Bells of St Peters webpage from someone looking for advice on how to play the Ellacombe Chimes who could find no assistance elsewhere. The result is we jointly developed a new website dedicated to this subject. We have had many contacts through it and the work in ongoing.


Copyright has always been a subject of particular concern and is worthy of a mention here...

This is a complex subject and other than taking specific legal advice the internet is the best source of guidance. However, the web is dominated by USA copyright constraints and threats, but USA law is very different to UK and EU law, and in reality threats of legal action in the USA do not have a great deal of relevance when in the UK, unless large sums of money are involved. UK copyright is covered by civil law not criminal law so the police are never involved. It is up to the legal representative of a copyright holder to pursue any potential breach but court action is rare, and usually associated with the recovery of substantial profits made from major literary and music publications, or to block further publication that would substantially affect the holder’s income.

In the USA a copyright symbol © and a date was previously required to establish copyright. In the UK and EU copyright is established simply by having an author’s name and date on a title page. The duration of copyright varies depending on the type of material but is usually between 25 and 70 years after the death of the holder. Many major websites claim a new copyright on ancient material that has been digitised, however this remains controversial and there is little evidence that it has been tested in UK courts.

Selling, broadcasting, and even giving away the copyrighted material of others is potentially a violation, but just “showing” material to a restricted audience as in a presentation is most likely not to be. The “Fair Dealing” clauses of the UK Copyright Act provide many concessions for uses such as: personal study, educational, charitable and current news reporting, also short extracts with an acknowledgement, etc.

An irony is when viewing images on a PC or other home device that have an associated message that says it must not copied in any circumstances, there will already a digital copy within the device, which is fundamental to the way these digital devices work.  One just has to find the file and move it to a permanent location. If historic material appears on more than one website it is likely to be out of copyright. Furthermore, should one ever be approached by one of the sites, one can respond that it wasn’t copied from that site.

A benefit of putting material on the web is that offending material can always be removed later and many sites include words such as:

“Acknowledgements for short extracts and images taken from other documents are given in many places on the site. Further acknowledgements will be readily added, or material removed, if request by a copyright holder who has so far not been identified”.

Similar wording has been on the About page of this site for many years. Nobody has ever made contact.

In contrast, one needs to be very careful when publishing and selling printed books as they cannot be modified or easily withdrawn.


Perhaps it is now appropriate to reflect on where we are at, and consider the future direction...

If the information collected to date was in one book it would have a beginning, middle and end. The web version has a beginning, but one can so easily be diverted by the many very useful links, so the nearest the reader may get to an identifiable end could well be here! Having reached this point, if you are satisfied that you have seen everything useful to you then congratulations! You could always send a message to mark the event. The email address on the About page has served its purpose well as many contacts have been made with former residents and their relatives, who have also kindly supplied much additional information, and with other historians with information to share.

Despite ones natural instinct that the history of a small village must be finite, new information keeps appearing: new sources on the net, old books and newspapers recently digitised, old and different postcards appear, another attic cleared, another book with local content to add to the virtual library, etc. Not least, recent local scenes and street scenes all too soon become part of our past. The nature of the information is also changing, in the early days the emphasis was on buildings, the environment, and early pictures of the village. However progressively the fascinating and inspiring stories about our local people have grown in significance, and there seems to be no end in sight. Authors and artists from the past are of particular interest to historians as they have made a major contribution to our knowledge of the past, and their work is given greatly deserved prominence in both in these web pages and in the local archive.

One is tempted to identify highlights from the archives, and somehow indicate the relative importance of the material held, but professional historians and archivists would probably never do that, so nor should an amateur try. However, clues are in the chosen structure of the site, and the committed surfer will notice the archivist's particular interest in local authors. One can't help having a special empathy with them through the combination of their words, their photographs and biographical details of them written by others. Furthermore, the ability of local authors, such as the Revd J C Atkinson, Ernest Mansfield, Lindsay Fitzgerald Hay, and Joe Canning to exploit the semi-biographical novel to reveal much about the places where they lived, their neighbours, and themselves is most notable. It is particularly perverse that Ernest Mansfield wrote (but then attributed it to Dr Salter) that it would be too egotistical to write one's own biography! So if he and others before us could be so bold, why not follow that principle?

While Crawshay Frost did not appear to write a book (at least that we have yet found), he did leave a legacy of many published letters, photographs, and newspaper articles (some attributed to others, but clearly heavily influenced by him), many with a local history theme, that is more than enough to earn him the accolade of Local author.

Identifying highlights and achievements by this archivist and author using today’s technology is another matter. Uncovering Ernest Mansfield’s past is definitely high on the list, as is uncovering Crawshay Frost's past,  Commercial Fishing,  Chapel near Chappel farm,  Frank Wellington  and many more.

Today there is recognition that owners of listed historical buildings and works of art, are but custodians of a heritage to be maintained and passed on to future generations. Similarly, those who search out, catalogue and preserve our history are but custodians and facilitators of access to a heritage that could so easily be lost or overlooked. But who should undertake this role in a small village? Not it seems the nearest town museum or library, nor the county records office, even less national libraries and archives. These organisations all have much grandiose objectives and a wider brief. So it is up to enthusiastic local amateurs to take on and maintain this local role.

Historians inevitably have eyes to the future, as they come to realise that the largest audience for their work is not their contemporaries, but those who will study their efforts in the generations to come, so we all look to future as well as considering present day readers. Maura Benham's Conclusion on page-79 in her book Goldhanger - an Estuary Village which was written in 1977 was clearly not intended for the benefit of the residents at the time.

Henry Ford is often quoted as saying: History is Bunk, however what he actually said and was printed in Chicago Tribune on May 25th, 1916:

I don't know much about history, and I wouldn't give a nickel for all the history in the world. It means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history we make today.

So although he expressed no interest in history as it affected his business at the time, he certainly wasn't averse to creating and recording his own version and piece of history, which he did most successfully. Perhaps every historian is subconsciously doing just this by collecting and recording information about the past and at the same time recording some information about the present and themselves. However . . .

There is little we can know or do about The Future, only plan, predict, and hope.

The Present is infinitesimally narrow. In computer terms it is just a fraction of a second and by the time this sentence has been typed it is already a piece of the past in electronic terms.

This leaves predominantly The Past, whatever the timescale, be it of events of one week, one year, or hundreds of years ago, and without memories in some form or other we are lost.

However, a famous Quote from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh seems appropriate here...

“What day is it?” asked Pooh,

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet,

“It’s my favourite day,” said Pooh.

For amateur historians today is also the favourite and best day...

Search facilities are at their best

New information has just appeared

Archiving and presentation facilities are at their best

We are here to exploit these advantages

Paradoxically the greatest leap forward in accumulating and accessing local history has come about through computer technology, which could not have been foreseen by past authors and historians. Fortunately their chronicles are now being recovered, collected, preserved and distributed with this technology.

For today's historians, internet searches and worldwide distribution of material via the internet is just as significant as potential future readership. From the statistics available we know that there are far more visitors to this site from outside the village that from within it. This encourages further development of topics that are of particulate interest to those from afar. These are perhaps relatives of those in the village, people who once lived here, or those who have just visited or plan to visit the village. Web stats tell us which pages have been most accessed over the last few years and are, in order of popularity: The Great War, The Chequers history, Spitzbergen, Salt Extraction, Smuggling, and Panoramic Scenes, all of which would be of interest to non-residents and the increasing number of tourists that visit our village.

The local history articles regularly placed in the Parish Magazine has also become popular and significant as not everyone wants to use the internet. Between 2015 and 2018 forty-eight 1-page articles and cover photos have been published. Back issues of the magazine going back to 2015 are available here.

So maybe we should now ask what future technologies might there be to further improve our knowledge of the past and enhance its distribution. However, as the web continues to change and evolve, we also need to be aware of what current technologies that we are using and relying on are going to disappear! Search engines have already dramatically improved since this website was first created and will continue to do so. Searching the web and searching this site is now so easy and effective. Viewing devices have become much more portable and internet access at historic sites is becoming the norm. More computing power and storage to hold more information is inevitable.

Developments in the internet technology to transform and better present the material are appearing all the time, and perhaps we will soon be able to have an Alan Turin style artificial intelligence conversation, in which our past local historians and authors will recall their experiences using the material in the archives in such a way that is indistinguishable from today's video links.

Perhaps an increasing number of Ernest Mansfield's scientific predictions in Astria - the Ice Maiden will come to fruition and his telepathy receiver will enable those who choose to enter the world of the Cyborgs and go back in time to observe past events, in the company of our local historians.

Maybe the futuristic and philosophical ideas that Edward Howes shared with John Winthrop look increasing relevant. We know that their interest in engineering, alchemy, alchemism, religion, and their quest for Utopia were also shared with, if not learnt from Lucasian Professor Sir Isaac Newton who was a Cambridge contemporary. They were seeking the perfect world, and one has to concede that whatever today's troubles, the world is a lot nearer achieving their goal. The digital era, based on mathematically pure ones and zeros that can be independent of any physical form, which is the basis of web, provides some of that mechanism reaching towards the Utopia that they desperately sought. Namely: Worldwide communications, access to knowledge, education and health benefits for all, three dimensional moving images, and a means to save our past for perpetuity. Despite some using the web for anti-social and undesirable activities, in general it has to be a force for good rather than evil.

The technology surely has the potential to preserve our souls for eternity as Howes and Winthrop and many others have sought in the past, and many groups are now working towards it. Already we can do much more than leave a diary, a biography and a stone in the graveyard, so one thing seems certain - whatever and wherever it is, that mechanism will be easily found with a search.

Quotations from another and much more recent Cambridge Lucasian Professor, the late Stephen Hawking are very appropriate here. It is only he who could give a book the title of: “A Brief History of Time”...

We are all connected by the Internet like neurons in a giant brain.

Never give up work; it gives you meaning and purpose; life is empty without it.

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.

The past, like the future is indefinite.

So are we anywhere near the end of this local journey? Clearly not, there will always be more to discover and record. A glance at the About page demonstrates the degree of chance and the Site-map shows the scale of the material held on-line. Digital archive gives the scale of the material held in the off-line archive. Not least in 2018 we have witnessed the 100th anniversary of the Great War Armistice, which provided another major opportunity to discover, create and record more local history. It seems there will always be more, and our local history will continue to accumulate, but for now just one more word from. . .





David N

Goldhanger, June 2019


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