Knox Box of Miscellany

Dawn Knox – A rearranger of words into something hopefully meaningful…

5th June 2014
by Dawnknox
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Beam Me Up, Hornsby!

Grave stones of James Hornsby and this three wives, Sarah, Catherine and Catherine in the St. Nicholas Churchyard.

Grave stones of James Hornsby and this three wives, Sarah, Catherine and Catherine in the St. Nicholas Churchyard.

In the previous post, I talked about John Puckle, who left money in his will for a school to be set up to educate poor children of Laindon and Basildon. One of the conditions was that the schoolmaster in charge should be a graduate but it was doubtful that the last and most well known master, James Hornsby, attended university or ever graduated. His first occupation listed in the census was farm labourer and it may have been that he was a former student of Puckles School, as he lived in the Great Burstead area.

Graduate or not, he must have been a reasonable teacher, as he was the schoolmaster for forty eight years and is remembered today in the name of the senior school near St. Nicholas Church; The James Hornsby School.

Puckle’s school catered for up to 20 boys and girls, who were taught reading, writing and arithmetic and they would pay 4d or 8d depending on the level of instruction they received. However, the number of children varied according to the farming seasons and on occasion, there were up to fifty scholars of varying ages. In November 1874, there were 41 children attending the school, 20 of whom were funded by the Puckle Foundation. In that year, the eldest child was twelve years old and the youngest, Thomas Spooner, was five. It was likely that Mr. Hornsby taught lessons in the nave of the church as well as in the ground floor room of the school house. The belfry area of the nave was used as a scullery and we know that Catherine, the third and last Mrs. Hornsby,  stored her pots and pans there and used it to dry her washing in wet weather. In reply to a parishioner who complained about the washing, Catherine said “Well people don’t go to church on Toosdays”.

The school closed in September 1877 when St. Nicholas School opened (later renamed Laindon Park Junior School). Mr. Hornsby died in 1887 at the age of 87 and he is buried in front of the Priest House with his three wives: Sarah, who died in 1851 aged 59, Catherine, who died in 1859 aged 47 and a second Catherine who died in 1883 aged 68.

It is thought James Hornsby was a strict disciplinarian and was not adverse to using the cane although this was probably quite normal for the nineteenth century. The story that always makes my imagination work overtime has to do with the beam in the School House.

One thing’s for certain, that popular sci-fi command was never heard in Puckle’s School although you might have heard this, “Please DON’T beam me up, Mr. Hornsby, Sir!” If you want to know more, you’ll have to get your copy of ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’, which doesn’t include Captain Kirk, nor Scotty but does come out on 29th June and can be pre-ordered here



4th June 2014
by Dawnknox
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Sharing, Caring and Preparing…


Plus, Minus and Multiply. What’s missing?


What’s missing?

You don’t have to be a mathematician to work out it’s the division sign. And it might well have been missing completely if it hadn’t been for John Pell, (1611-1685), who coincidentally was rector at St. Nicholas Church from 1663. I suppose that until he came up with the symbol, mathematicians managed to show division by putting numbers above and below a horizontal line, e.g. 1/2.

But I’m not sure if Pell did society a favour, as I’m embarrassed to say it came as quite a revelation to me that 1/2, which I thought of as a ‘half’, more meaningfully means one divided by two. Looking back, I don’t know why I was confused as it’s pretty obvious but then I’ve never claimed to be a mathematical genius and I feel that Pell is partially responsible, with his division sign. Why do you need two ways of expressing the same thing? I guess you have to be a mathematician to answer that one or at least have greater mathematical skills than me, (which really isn’t hard.) So, why am I mentioning John Pell? Does he appear in ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’?

Well, no, he doesn’t.

I could pretend that his lack of presence in the book was just retribution for imposing his division sign on an unsuspecting public, especially me, but the truth is, he was born two centuries too early. However, that doesn’t rule him out of appearing in a future book, as I have a sneaking suspicion that Daffodil may one day find herself stepping back through the Veil and I feel she may be just the person to give John Pell a piece of her mind.


This plaque can be seen in St. Nicholas Church, hanging in front of the organ loft


Another John, who was associated with St. Nicholas Church, was John Puckle, who incidentally, also didn’t appear in ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’. However, things would have turned out very differently for Daffodil if the very charitable Mr. Puckle hadn’t been so generous. Here’s a piece about him, from the St. Nicholas Church website, which can be seen here

“We are not quite sure when the Priest House started to be used as a School House. It was, however, probably in the early 1600s following the death of a local farmer John Puckle in 1617. In his will, Puckle left his farm (approximately 62 acres) to the church for the maintenance of a schoolmaster for teaching the poor children of Laindon and Basildon. The schoolmaster is to have graduated from Cambridge or Oxford and to be no rector or curate or under any ecclesiastical parson whatsoever.

The farmhouse stood opposite Benson’s farm in Wash Road in the area that is now Noak Bridge estate. The farm was sold in the late 1800s and proceeds of the sale were invested. The charity known as the ‘Puckles Charity’ is still in existence today and the small amount of interest received from the invested sum is now made available for local schools to purchase equipment etc.”

That was a very generous, thoughtful and caring act and I have always been impressed that ‘poor children of Laindon and Basildon’ included girls as well as boys. Good on you, Mr. Puckle!


It’s a James, this time that I want to tell you about and if you live anywhere near Laindon or Basildon, you will have heard of the last schoolmaster who taught in Puckle’s Charity School. It was, of course, James Hornsby, who much later gave his name to the James Hornsby High School, which is not far from St. Nicholas Church. It was he, who prepared the ‘poor children of Laindon and Basildon’ for adulthood, teaching them the 3 R’s and religious instruction. And furthermore, he did have a part in ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’! He was the schoolmaster who ran the school when Daffodil found herself in the Victorian times. More about him in another post…

But in the meantime, if you want to read more about Daffodil, you can find out here

3rd June 2014
by Dawnknox
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A Cupboard Full of Stairs

Stairs behind the door in the School House

A Cupboard Full of Stairs

When you go into the St. Nicholas Church School House, it’s not immediately obvious that there’s any access to the upper rooms. There are four doors in the ground floor room: one leads out into the churchyard, one opens into the church and the third one reveals the space that used to be a toilet although it’s full of brooms and cleaning stuff now. But it’s probably worth a mention because as well as being a toilet that was used for…well…toilet business, it was also the school ‘Naughty Step’. The story goes that wicked children were shut in the toilet and the round hole in the door, which was the only source of light in an otherwise pitch black cubicle, was closed, leaving the miscreant to contemplate their sins in utter darkness.

Next to the toilet is another door and behind that, as if in a cupboard, you can find the stairs leading up to the first and second floors.

I have never in my life been on such a difficult staircase! It turns quite sharply and becomes narrower, the more it climbs. Furthermore, the steps are of varying sizes and shapes and if that isn’t enough, you have to watch your head for protruding parts which gives the whole staircase the feeling you’re in one of those crazy houses you find in fairgrounds.

Half way up, you step off the stairs, straight into the middle room, which used to comprise the living quarters of the last schoolmaster, Mr. Hornsby, and whichever of his three wives was living at the time. But keep going (remembering to duck and do a certain amount of body swerving) and you arrive at the top room, where the school children slept during the week. Many of the children were from farming families and they attended school as and when their parents didn’t need them to work. Some of them lived quite a distance from the school and so they often boarded.

I love going up to the top and as I am quite small, I have so far managed to arrive safely in the upper room without tripping or injury to my head each time I have the opportunity. It’s like being in a different world up there so it’s no surprise that it is the place where I decided Daffodil would slip from the present into the Victorian Times.

If you want to find out more, why not have a look at the MuseItUp Publishing website, here

2nd June 2014
by Dawnknox
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Going Backwards to the Future


‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’ is set in the 13th century church of St. Nicholas in the parish of Laindon with Dunton. It tells the story of a twentieth century girl called Daffodil who finds herself in jeopardy, back in the Victorian school, attached to the church. The school building, which originally was the priest’s house,  is still there today. We hope to renovate the building and the bell tower, which has been seriously vandalised by woodpeckers. Depending on funds, there are plans to reconstruct parts of the school as it was when the last school master, James Hornsby, was in charge. As you can see from the photograph, various artifacts and costumes have already been acquired and as you can also see from the damaged wall in the photo, there is still a lot to do to make the building ready. If this dream is ever realised, local school children and in fact anyone, will be able to visit and see what the school might have looked like in the late 1800s.

This, of course, costs money and as there is a lot of expense keeping a church running as a church, especially if it’s so ancient, we’ve been planning and holding fundraising events. My money-raising effort is the book, ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’. Any money that I make from sales will go straight to the restoration of the church building. Perhaps one day in the future, we may have enough money to turn our building back to the past.

‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’ will be available from 20th June 2014 and can be pre-ordered from the MuseItUp Publishing website, here

1st June 2014
by Dawnknox
1 Comment

Daffodil and the Thin Place

What do William Wordsworth and I have in common?

Well, not a lot, except a liking for words and daffodils.


His choice of words and the way he arranged them, far surpass my skills, of course.

And I’ve made an assumption he liked words and daffodils but I can’t see anyone bothering to compose ‘I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud’ if they didn’t like writing or daffs. So, I’m going to stand by my claim.

But I know for sure that I like writing and daffodils.

I’m not sure what prompted me to name the protagonist in my story, Daffodil but it seems to suit her well. Sunny and bright.

The ebook ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’ comes out on 20th June, so if you’re interested, you can see for yourself how sunny and bright my Daffodil is. Check out the MuseItUp Publishing site, here and pre-order a copy.