6th January 1941: The Essex War Agricultural Committee

Phoned Hull just after 8, met Capt. Folkard at half past 9, and went out to Birch Hall [for a meeting of the Lexden & Winstree District War Agricultural Committee]. We met in the main hall before a roaring log fire, the mantel above which was carved with the Borough Arms, and sat on uncomfortable chairs having the Round crest of a lion conchant in high relief on their backs. Capt. Round [Chairman of the District Committee] came in, looking every inch the country squire, and was very nice to me. I sat at the table with Capt. Folkard, and took notice of how the meeting was run.

On the Committee were Col. Furneaux from Fingringhoe Hall and Frank Warren the Suffolk breeder from Godbolts, also Cr. Alex Craig from Moat Farm who spoke to me and was pleased I was coming in with them. I soon found it was presumed by all present that I have now taken up this work. The meeting was very long, lasting from 9.45 to 1.15, and a big agenda was dealt with. I felt quite at home with the whole affair, and even made a suggestion about acquiring Hall Barn and the stables at West Mersea, which was well received.

Weather very cold, and roads terrible. No planes over tonight.

The Museum Committee agreed to second EJR as Secretary to the Lexden & Winstree District Committee of the Essex War Agricultural Committee on 8th January 1941. The Library in Hollytrees Museum was requisitioned as the District Committee's office and it was agreed that EJR should continue his responsibilities for firewatching and shelter duties at the Castle at night. More details on EJR's work with the War Agricultural Committee are available in his book.

The role of the War Agricultural Committee's District Committee was to maintain close contact with local farmers in order to maximise food production and to make recommendations to the County Executive Committee to serve directions on the farmers concerned as necessary. Further information on the role of the War Agricultural Committees can be found in an excellent journal paper by Professor Brian Short: 'War in the Fields and Villages: The County War Agricultural Committees in England, 1939-1945'

Captain (later Colonel) Round was Chairman of the Lexden & Winstree District Committee. Fortnightly meetings of the District Committee were held at his home, Birch Hall. The Round family had previously owned Colchester Castle and Hollytrees before they were bought for the Borough of Colchester with money donated by Viscount Cowdray in the 1920s. Captain Round's great uncle, Charles Gray Round, had first given permission for part of the Castle to be used as the town museum in 1855.

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