• Gaming set crafted by Napoleonic Prisoners of War (1803-1815)

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20/06/2018 by 

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The set includes a small wooden box, 50 dominoes and 27 playing cards. The playing cards and dominoes have been hand carved out of animal bones and intricately painted.

The box, although now in poor condition, is fairly detailed, with patterns and painted figures down the sides and on the lid. The side panels of the box depict scenes and figures from the time period, and these are protected behind glass.

It is unclear where the precise location of the POW camp was in the area, and the box which was made to contain the items does not give many clues to where about it was situated.

Billericay played a fairly important role during the Napoleonic Wars due to its close proximity to London. The primary role of the town was to supply the government with flour and bread but they also provided soldiers with accommodation in the forms of inns. Between 1804 and 1807 an army barracks was established between Sun Street and Wellfield Lane, housing 276 men. (It closed around 1815, at the end of the wars).

The High Street was used for regimental parades, which were colourful and entertaining but disruptive. This issue combined with the lesser income received by payments from soldiers for rooms in inns and the generally rowdy nature of soldiers led to petitions from innkeepers. These petitions were responded to by the government giving the innkeepers £50 in recompense for the damage caused in one particular episode.

The houses on Sun Street (no. 7- 17, 19-27, 29-39 and Stanley Terrace) were built in the early 19th century and were used as barracks in the Napoleonic wars. The old Rising Sun pub had it’s own room for officers.

Much of the male population of Essex was under some form of military training, either in the militia, the volunteer army corps, the guides and pioneers, or even as guerrilla troops.

Billericay also played a role as military Holt between Chelmsford and the Tilbury ferry. Of the troops who were billeted here we know that the North Lincolnshire militia, the West Essex regiment and the Havering Yeomanry all spent time here throughout the Napoleonic wars. Billericay could have taken on a significant role had Napoleon invaded, as it was decided that Chelmsford would be abandoned should Colchester be captured. This was ultimately unnecessary given that Bonaparte’s naval power was damaged at Aboukir Bay in 1798 and then destroyed at Trafalgar in 1805.

Aside from these changes, Billericay was largely unaffected by the war, the only other main developments being the establishment of Sunday schools and grammar schools in the area.