|The Christmas family has connections with this area going back hundreds of years. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Christmases lived in many of the properties in the village, Rose Cottages, Malting Farm, Hilldene (now demolished and replaced by Grangewood), Purlu on Lower Road (demolished and replaced by The Paddocks and Purlu), Dalmuir on the main Mersea to Colchester Road (now Country View), Mill Cottage near the Strood and, in Wigborough, Drakes Corner and the old Kings Head.
Several family members were 'carriers' transporting goods and people between Peldon, Wigborough and Colchester; later, the son of the landlord at the Kings Head, Wigborough, (both father and son called Percy Christmas), was to run a bus service from our villages to town. Other jobs the Christmas men had included thatching and working as farm labourers and carters.
We don't have many representatives of the old Peldon families in the village now but I hit the jackpot when I met with Marianne from The Crescent who was born here and who boasts a family tree featuring four families resident in Peldon in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Christmases, Baldwins, Traylors and Brands - many of whose graves are in Peldon Churchyard.
I'm always drawn to people and places about whom there is a story to tell and so it was with Marianne's grandmother, Dorothy Christmas who married Cecil Baldwin and lived in Rose Cottages, Mersea Road, Peldon. Cecil worked driving traction engines for the farmer at Brick House Farm, Peldon, Mr. Fairhead, and reckoned he had ploughed every field between here and Colchester and out towards Weeley!
Dorothy was descended from a West Mersea branch of the Christmas family, John (c1776 - 1832) and Mary Christmas née James (c1773 - 1845) who married in 1802 in West Mersea church and were Dorothy's great great great grandparents.
It seems Dorothy's mother, Sarah Christmas, died a few months after giving birth to her daughter. Sarah's widower, James, with a new-born and a large number of other children asked his married sister, Emma Organ (1862 - 1940), to bring up the baby girl. In the 1911 census we find Dorothy, aged 3, living in Colchester with Emma and her husband, George Organ (1863 - 1919), who was retired on an army pension. Many years later, that loving care was to be returned when Emma could be found in old age living with Dorothy and her husband, Cecil Baldwin, in Rose Cottages, Mersea Road, Peldon.
Emma's story is an interesting one. She was the daughter of William Christmas (1833 - 1900) and Susannah Green (1838 - 1922) and the family moved to Peldon between 1867 and 1870. William and Susannah were to have five sons and three daughters.
In both the 1871 and 1881 censuses the family are living next to William Went the Miller (Peldon Mill near The Rose was still operational then) and William Christmas's occupation is given as a Miller's Carter.
By 1891 William and his family are at Drakes Corner, Great Wigborough, and he is described as a carrier and farmer.
Emma can be found in the 1881 census aged 18 as a domestic servant for Daniel Green of Donyland Place, a farmer of 500 acres. How she met
her first husband, Arthur Spall, is not known but they married in 1888 at Portsea Island, Hampshire, presumably because of
Arthur's military posting there.
Emma was already expecting a baby when they married early in 1888 but sadly, their daughter, Florence Emma Spall, who was born around
June of that year died at the age of five months and was buried in Great Wigborough Churchyard in November 1888; the couple were to have
no other children.
A picture of Emma and Arthur Spall taken by photographer Isaac Schofield in Colchester
Arthur received a military posting to India and the couple went on to live there for a number of years during the era of the
British Raj, but Arthur died out there
in 1897 (from cholera according to the family). About six months later, in 1898, Emma went on to marry Arthur's best friend, George
Organ (originally from Gloucestershire), in India. They stayed there for some years and got used to a privileged life-style with servants and beautiful clothes; Marianne has a wonderful set of sepia pictures from that time.
A photograph of George Organ taken in Karachi
Although he was on an army pension in 1911 and in his late forties, George then appears to have signed up during the First World War between August 1915 and May 1917 serving in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. Emma's address on his Short Attestation form is given as Mill Cottage, near the Strood, Peldon. George was discharged as medically unfit in 1917. His records state that he was used to working with horses and was a good worker.
Emma with her second husband George Organ
On George's return, they moved to The Haven, Great Wigborough (near the Kings Head Inn) but sadly he died in 1919 and was buried at St. Stephen's Church, Great Wigborough. Emma was to never marry again.
Although she had lost her own daughter, she brought up her niece as her own. By the 1929 electoral register, Emma was living in Mersea Road, Peldon, surrounded by her family, Dorothy and Cecil Baldwin, who had married in 1926, her brother, George Frederick Christmas and nephew Percy Christmas and their wives.
In the 1939 register, Emma is listed as living with Dorothy, Cecil and their little girl, Sylvia (Marianne's Mum) in Rose Cottages in Peldon; she was to die the following January in 1940.
A photograph of Emma Organ later in life, believed to be outside Rose Cottage, Mersea Road, Peldon.
Her obituary in the Essex County Standard written by Peldon's Village Correspondent, Mrs, Dansie, told her story.
DEATH OF MRS. ORGAN - A much respected inhabitant, Mrs Emma May Organ, passed away at Rose Cottage on Saturday January 27, at the age of 77 years. Deceased was the daughter of Mr. Wm Christmas, for many years a well-known carrier between Wigborough and Colchester, and her husband was Mr George Organ, also of Wigborough, who predeceased her some 25 years ago. Although she had no children of her own the loss is mourned by Mrs. Cecil Baldwin, whom she brought up as a daughter. It was when her brother, Mr. James Christmas, was left a widower with eight children that she adopted the youngest of the family. Mrs. Organ had been in somewhat indifferent health for several years, but it was not until nine weeks ago that her illness became acute. She was nursed with unfailing devotion by her adopted daughter.
Essex County Standard 3rd February 1940
It is said by her family that she used to sell home-made lemonade from her gate in Great Wigborough and never got used to not having servants!
A photograph of George Organ with the family servants and his dogs in India
Peldon History Project
Postscript: My research these days is taking me much further back in time and I found a Thomas Christmas who died in Colchester in 1520. A member of a dynasty of cloth merchants he inherited the family business but also made his own fortune and contributed much to the public good. He was eight times a bailiff (predecessors of the mayor) and in his will gave generously to his employees. With the same will he restored our port in Colchester and founded Colchester's (Royal) Grammar School, which was held in his house in Culver Street until 1853. In an earlier document [1517 Domesday of Inclosures] I find he held lands in Fingringhoe. Was he the predecessor of all our Mersea, Peldon and Wigborough Christmases?