Old House on the Marshes by Les Green, about 1914
I have always treasured a watercolour painting that my Dad, Les Green, did when he was a pupil at East Mersea School. I have seen a similar one done by another pupil who also attended East Mersea School. It is of Marsh Cottage which stood in the fields to the south of Rewsalls Farm, close to where we now have a boating lake. I don't remember it as it was demolished around the late 1930s.
Our museum has recently received a photograph of fine oil painting by Vera Page around 1900. It is clearly the same cottage. She had named it Nanny Bakers Cottage which is interesting.
Nanny Baker's Cottage by Vera Page 1900
Who was Nanny Baker? I wondered if it was anything to do with Mrs Baker who lived on an old barge on East Mersea and who the Rev. Baring Gould based his Mrs D'Wit on in his book Mehalah, but near to Rewsalls Farm, there are two fields quaintly named Nanny Baker's and Nanny Bakers Nine Acres. These appear in the Tithe maps of 1838 some time before the Mrs Baker of the barge. Also Vera Page was some twenty years older than my Dad. She will have left the Island by 1907 to get married and then lived in Wivenhoe. My Dad was not born until 1902 and left school at fourteen. He would have been an early teenager when he painted his watercolour. The paintings are so much alike - just a coincidence?
Vera Page was the daughter of James Page who had been farming at Bocking Hall for several years but by 1901 the family were at Rewsalls. Vera married Ernest Maslen in London in 1907 - she died in 1922 along with her youngest son, Dick while accompanying her husband working in the Belgian Congo.
Vera had a brother Howard who after WW1 took on Bromans Farm East Mersea and was there until after WW2.
Nanny Baker? The two fields named on the 1838 Tithe Map named after her are one of pasture and the other arable. Nanny Baker's Cottage is almost certainly the one shown on the Map at the southern end of these fields, probably on the edge of the marsh in those days. It only had a track for access. Neither the fields nor cottage are shown as owned or occupied by Nanny Baker in 1838. So she was most likely there at the end of the 1700s or early 1800s.
By the time the cottage appears in the Census in 1871 the cottage is named Marsh Cottage, occupied for many years by the Austin family.
Published in Mersea Life May 2023 page 61.
Since the article was published there has been debate about what happened to the cottage.
David Conway (who worked for the River Board) says that Reg Farthing (who also worked for the River Board) told him that the cottage was dismantled and re-erected in a spot to the west of Baring Gould Cottages.
Ron Green believes that the cottage that was erected to the west of Baring Gould Cottages, was the brick cottage that was originally at the bottom of Church Land, East Mersea. However, Fred Ingram had a house on the corner of the turn into East Mersea vineyard, and behind that house there was a big pile of oak beams. This house has now been replaced by a modern bungalow. This is quite close to the site of Marsh Cottage.
Published in Mersea Life May 2023