Over the past few weeks I’ve dived back into family history research. Earlier in the year I spent a good couple of months researching into the Hines of Hemyock where a branch of family history from my wife’s gran linked into; it was fascinating to piece together the history of this family and to actually visit Hemyock itself to put some flesh and colour into the history. After this point the plan was to continue onward into the Moors of East London, but as is always the case other things – work, other research, life – got in the way. All of which means that it was nice to get back on the saddle to find out about the Moors.

As of yet the research is in the opening stages, but by using the amazing genealogical magic of Ancestry I’ve managed to trace back the Moors to the 18th Century to the small parish of Mistley, Essex. Samuel Lewis’ A Topographical Dictionary of England – published in 1831 – describes the town as:

MISTLEY, a parish in the hundred of TENDRING, county of ESSEX, ½ a mile (E.) from Manningtree, containing 778 inhabitants. The living is a discharge rectory, with the curacy of Manningtree, and the vicarage of Bradfield, in the archdeaconry of Colchester, and diocese of London, rated in the king’s books at £16. 13. 4. F. H. Rigby, Esq. was patron in 1811. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, stands about a mile north-west from the site of the former structure, and was consecrated in 1735, having been rebuilt, principally at the expense of Edward Rigby, Esq. The river Stour is navigable at the village, where are good quays- and commodious warehouses for corn, malt, and coal, in which articles much business is carried on: the quay, port, and warehouses, at Mistley, belong to the proprietor of Mistley hall. The petty sessions for the division of Tendring are held here on Mondays, once in five weeks, alternately with Thorpe, Manningtree, and Great Bromley.

And, so this was the environment in which the furthest ancestor – John Moor – was born in 1782. Due to the absence of verifiable records until he was much older (such as the 1841 census), much of John Moor’s life is shrouded in mystery. So far we have not been able to find the year of his marriage, his wife’s maiden name, nor all of the names of his children. However, it appears to be clear that he married a woman named Elizabeth (1785-1839), with whom he had several children.

Unlike many ancestors that I dig into, John Moor lived a public life; he has been described as ‘a well known businessman’ in the area of Mistley due to owning and being involved in several businesses. One of these was the use of his boat – the ‘Sally’ – which he used for fishing, as well as a ferry to transport people across the water to Harwich. All of this was particularly useful before the coming of the railways in the 1840s. Furthermore, John also left a will showing an estate to the value of £100 (how much at this time); even though the sum wasn’t a huge fortune, the actual fact that he left a will – to which only 2% of the people at the time did – suggests he held a reputable status in that region of Essex. John Moor’s status in the area can be confirmed with his name listed as one of the voters of Mistley in the 1847 General Election; such a privilege was only afforded to those in society who were affluent enough (this coming before the other reform acts of 1867, 1884, and the widening of democratic participation in 1918). It is not known who John voted for in the Essex South county constituency: perhaps the reforming Whig politician Sir Edward Buxton, or perhaps the Conservative Thomas William Bramston.

However, his strongest association in the area was with the tavern, the Wherry Inn, which Rod Smith suggests was ‘probably inherited from his father’. John Moor is listed as the publican of the Wherry from the 1823-24 edition of Pigot’s Directory, right through to editions published in the 1830s, 1840s, and into the early 1850s. His three decades as landlord of the Wherry suggests that he was at the heart of the community, thereby securing his reputation in the village.

John Moor’s association with the Wherry Inn also suggests something else: the Witchfinder General of the 17th Century – Matthew Hopkins – is reputed to have owned an inn in Mistley back in the 1640s. It is possible that John Moor was publican of the same pub as the Witchfinder General; the Wherry Inn was situated on Mistley street, the central thoroughfare through the community, which could have applied to the village of the seventeenth-century. Ultimately, there is no way to confirm this, due to the Wherry Inn being demolished in the 1880s to allow for street widening and modernisation in the area.

However, in the meantime I’m not going to let that get in the way in what I hope will be an intriguing connection. If this is a hint of what the Moors have to offer I will look forward to continue digging into their history. My ultimate wish/dream/fantasy is for the Moors – who eventually settle in East London – to be linked to the British football legend of 1966 World Cup fame Bobby Moore. One can hope, can’t they?