TitleCharles G Round 1797 - 1867 - Birch Centenary Chronicles 23
AbstractCharles G Round 1797 - 1867

Birch, Layer Breton & Layer Marney Local History

Centenary Chronicles - No. 23.

Published in Parish News - August 2001

Among the mass of papers in the Essex County Record Office which form the Round family archive, are the diaries kept by Charles G Round. Charles was the eldest son of Charles and Charlotte Round. He went to Winchester School and Balliol College before becoming a barrister in 1822. He succeeded to Birch Hall when his father died in 1834 and was Recorder of Colchester at that time. He represented North Essex as an MP from 1837 to 1847. In 1838 he married Emma Sarah, daughter of Major G Brock. The diaries show that Charles was devoted to his various duties as well as to the family banking business in Colchester and London. The first references to Birch are in July 1825 when on the 23rd he "Lounged about. Walked over to Stanway Hall. The carriage took me up. We all went to Colchester at my uncles. In the evening walked in the Botanic Garden". It is not clear that "walk" was by horse, or on foot, and given the distances said to have been covered it must have been the former on some occasions. Charles was a very religious man and every Church attendance appears to be mentioned sometimes with quite cutting comments about the sermon as on July 24th "To Birch Church twice. Both morning and evening. Mr Walker preached. The morning sermon I could not attend to, the evening one I did not." The comment was sometimes made that the sermon was "over the heads of our people" and, very occasionally he noted that it was even over his head!

On July 25th he returned to London, "Up at 4. At 5 went to meet the Coggeshall coach, but I found that it and all the early coaches went an hour sooner than on the other days of the week on Monday mornings; and in consequence I had to post all the way to London by myself. It cost me £4. 5s. (£4.25)"

In the days before the coming of the railways travelling was, to say the least, uncomfortable and slow but on September 29th Charles records "Took my place on one of the new Colchester Coaches at 3 and reached Stanway at about 8. Walked across the fields to Birch." Presumably any baggage was left to be collected later or delivered by one of the carriers to the Hall. Most days, when at the Hall, Charles went shooting but without much success it seems. He recorded the number of shots taken, possible kills, and his share of any bag. The bag comprised rabbits, birds such as snipe and at least one cat! He notes that his mother sought meat for the pot but he complained that those he killed were mainly wild birds - as opposed, it is assumed, to "farmed" birds. Compared to the bags described in later years in other parts of the country the Birch bag was always quite modest. In addition to shooting the only other activity mentioned, in detail, was "visiting".

Evidence of the family's banking interest appears in an entry for December 19th 1825, when he "Sold some stock (in London) and got into a postchaise with nearly £50,000. Arrived safely at Colchester at about half past two." No mention of highwaymen or footpads! Nothing happens at Christmas, but on January 5th 1826 "Dressed and dined at Stanway Hall. The family Christmas party. We sat down 20 to dinner. Played whist, won 8 points. After drank the health of my father and mother, this being their wedding day. They have been married 31 years. My father played whist, but my mother danced as merrily as the youngest of the party."

Entries refer to tenants calling to pay rent and purchases from some local tradesmen (Tiffen the butcher and Digby the miller) but few mentions of others although calls were made on those who were ill and recently bereaved families. One exception is on January 9th 1843 when "After call at Terrace, home: where behold Mr Waylor. Informed by him that our under housemaid, Eliza Sach, had been carried off an hour and a half before by fit of apoplexy! Poor girl and a good girl as far as I ever saw. She had lit our fire in the bedroom in the morning and she last came to my eye at morning prayers. Dead in one moment - a fearful warning to us all." This tells us something of the daily routine at the Hall and the caring nature of the Rounds. Further evidence comes four days later when it is noted "At 12 the remains of poor Eliza brought down stairs and placed in cart to be carried to Messing for burial. I do trust that everything proper and respectful has been done towards this poor girl. Perhaps some of us may envy her." A rather strange sentiment to end with.

Many entries are very similar, such as "Our quiet chapter" which, perhaps refers to quiet reading undisturbed, and notes that "E. (his wife Emma) walking to her school." The reference to "her school" appears even before the Birch School as we know it was built and, in such cases, it is assumed that this walking was by horse or trap as some took place after heavy snow.

On January 25th 1843 there is a very significant entry - "On arrival of Mr Parker's pony out with him and Mr Hopper into the grass field and after riding and walking and consulting and discussing a scite (sic) for a house fixed upon. May it please Almighty God to bless the work? Be it not done in pride or in presumption? Amen." Mr Hopper was the architect of Birch Hall and is better known for Penrhyn Castle, Danbury Park, and the remodelling of Wivenhoe Park (now the University of Essex). Relations between Hooper and Round were not always easy but the work progressed.

An early entry in 1847 notes that "E. nearly blind" and one wonders just what part she was able to play in the building of her new home. The move into the new house took place in November of that year and for the last month before the move the Rounds were away in the Isle of Wight and on their arrival at the new Hall were welcomed by the staff and had "prayers in E sitting room from Rev Harrison - no loss of life or limb in the building."

It is not clear whether "E" accompanied her husband on 16th May 1851 when he and a party of 13 visited the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. His short description of the day - which he said was "Wonderful" shows that the Great Exhibition was crowded making it as difficult to appreciate all the sights as it is in similar shows today. One is left wondering, however, if a 12 hour day, door to door, was really enough to do justice to such an exhibition!

One of the many proud moments in a long life of service must have been when the Rounds entertained royalty at Birch Hall. This occurred on October 19th and 20th 1865 but the royalty involved would not have been a household name. Queen Emma (Dowager Queen of Sandwich Islands, now Hawaii) stayed for the night during a tour of the country. Reference is made to handing her down from her carriage; in to dinner and out again and the whole visit was deemed a great, if exhausting, success.

Bearing in mind Emma's blindness and Charles age (67) it is interesting to read his references to the version of the Grand Tour they undertook in July and August 1864. Mostly by rail it is described from their arrival at Shoreditch Station (then the London terminal) by boat from Dover to Calais then through France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Given that Emma was taken ill during the tour it was quite amazing that they were able to complete it and, seemingly, take in all the sights they set out to see. Nevertheless they returned to Birch Hall relieved to find it all in order and grateful for the welcome they received.

Charles continued making entries until November 23rd 1867 and it is clear from the last few entries that he knew he had not long to live and the last notes refer to being almost bed ridden. He died on December 1st 1867, just eight days after the final entry. Emma was to live on until 1892.

Our thanks go to the staff of the Essex Record Office. Colchester. and for the use of research carried out by the late Mr T Millatt.

PublishedAugust 2001
SourceMersea Museum