The Ravenswood Home Page

Welcome to the Ravenswood Home Page. Herein you will find information on :

 Ravenswood Consultants Limited

 The Information Systems Audit & Control Association (ISACA)

 The Fabulous Thameside Mummers.

 some links to Freemasonry

Ravenswood Consultants | ISACA | Mummers | Freemasonry


First of all, Welcome to Ravenswood . . . . . .

Ravenswood was built around 1730 a short distance from the historic village of South Benfleet in the county of Essex, England. At that time, it was in a road called Endway, and the road literally ended right outside the front door where a footpath started going across Benfleet Downs to the romantic ruins of Hadleigh Castle. Benfleet was then a thriving sea port at the edge of the estuary of the river Thames and thronged with the distinctive Thames Barges.

Since the roof timbers of this traditional, Essex Weatherboard cottage are probably from the Tudor age and bear no relation to the rest of the house, that is they have slots and joints cut which have no purpose, one theory is that they are ships' timbers from one of the many derelict ships that ended their days on the local salt marshes.

The two farm workers' cottages of the original building were made into a single cottage, with an extension along one side and across the back, in about 1857 when the coming of the railway, and the building of a bridge across the harbour mouth effectively killed the port - hard to get tall masts under a railway bridge !

Ravenswood was rebuilt between 1975 and 1990 by Brian Park when it came into the family of Jane & Derek Oliver, the present owners. Jane & Derek have carried on the restoration of the property to even greater than its original state by adding Victorian bay windows, complete with stained glass, French doors onto the rear gardens and a veranda, or "stoop" right across the front.

Although the road to the front is now a busy link between Canvey Island and Southend-on-Sea, Ravenswood still backs onto open fields beyond which is Benfleet Downs Country Park; perfectly situated in the opinion of the rest of the Oliver family, Peggy the large terrier(pictured left)Podge, the cross Border Collie/German Shepherd and Candy the ancient, unloved dog of no particular denomination. Mind you, Pws, the Standard British ginger Tom likes to roam a bit too !

Of course, Granville & Lucy, the budgies, don't get to see much of it !

Anyway, hello from us all at Ravenswood and welcome to our web site !

Jane & Derek Oliver

e-mail :

or :





Ravenswood Consultants Limited

Ravenswood Consultants Ltd. are consultants in information systems audit and security with a client-base spanning many major, international companies. Ravenswood provides experienced consultancy, especially in computer security, including the BS7799 Security Standards, as well as resources to assist internal audit departments or to provide independent audit assessments. The Chief Executive is Derek J. Oliver.

Derek is an Information Systems Audit & Control specialist with over 15 years experience. He is a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). His background in computer programming is represented by Fellowship of the Institution of Analysts & Programmers and Membership of the British Computer Society.


Following his early years in the "Travel Trade" with Thos. Cooks and Trans World Airlines, Derek spent 15 years with H. M. Customs & Excise, spending time in the uniformed "preventive" service at Heathrow as well as airfreight clearance, bonded warehouse control and VAT fraud investigation before becoming a systems programmer.

He was then recruited to the Computer Audit Branch and he spent the last 5 years of Customs service as a Higher Executive Officer conducting audit and security reviews of Excise applications all over the UK.

In 1987 he joined what was then the Joint Credit Card Company and rose to be the Principal IS Auditor of the First Data Corporation of Omaha, USA, the world’s largest processor of credit and debit card transactions. In this capacity, he was the senior member and manager of their UK audit team, based at First Data Resources in Basildon, Essex.

He left First Data in 1995 to respond to the challenge of consultancy and founded Ravenswood Consultants Limited.


Derek is past President of the Information Systems Audit & Control Association in London (ISACA) and is currently a member of the CISA Certification Board. In 1996 he was made a Freeman of the City of London.

In recent years he has presented papers at international conferences in London, Denver, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, Budapest and Slovenia on a wide range of topics including Information Security Policies, Business Continuity Planning, Year 2000 Issues and BS7799 Certification.


Contact Ravenswood Consultants Ltd at :


The Information Systems Audit & Control Association (ISACA)

Interested in the control and security of computer systems ? So are we !

The ISACA was founded as the EDP Auditors Association in 1960 and now represents over 22,000 computer audit, control and security professionals organised into over 140 Chapters all over the world.

For more information on ISACA you can e-mail :

The Association also administers the only international professional qualification in auditing information systems, the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) designation. Contact :

The London Chapter can be reached at :

Or, of course, you can browse the ISACA Website where you'll find all about the Association, contacts with the international Chapters, CISA and many interesting papers and documents on IS audit & security which you can download. Browse along to :

The Fabulous Thameside Mummers.

The "Fabulous" Thameside Mummers & their Plays

by Derek J. Oliver.

The tradition of the Mummers Play can be traced as far back as ancient Greece, when groups of strolling players would call at private houses and perform a short play, either depicting a mythical or historical tale or a story of love and wooing, in return for food and wine. Their visit was generally associated with bringing good luck to the household and fertility to the land by their praise of the Ancient Gods.

By the time this concept reached these fair shores, the Britons were emerging from a race of Pagans who's religious beliefs led them to celebrate the turning of the Winter (Saturnalia) in what is now "December", and the birth of Spring at the beginning of "May" (Jack-in-the-Green). These celebrations generally took the form of much partaking of the ale and wine and some form of sacrifice to the relevant Deities.

At this time, the Christian Church was trying to wean the villagers away from the traditional Gods and Pagan sacrifices but was faced with the difficulty of replacing most enjoyable "booze ups, sing-songs and general debauchery" with their Latin chants, piety and especially sobriety !

The answer came with the Mummers Play which provided a replacement for the "sacrifice" in the form of a symbolic killing of "evil" by "good" followed by "rebirth" in the form of a resurrecting "cure". In most cases, St. George fights and kills the evil Turkish Knight who is cured by the Doctor and repents of his evil ways, symbolising the death of the "Old Year" and birth of the "New" (and pacifying the Gods with the sacrifice).

The plays were performed around the time of the Christian festivals which, co-incidentally, are at similar times to the Old Religion, Christmas (Winter) and Easter (Spring), also known as "Pace Egging Time", and are generally associated with feasting, albeit more civilised.

There are three distinct themes, each of which was adapted by individual villages to their own, unique Village Play :

- The Hero/Combat Plays, as described above, though St. George (e.g. Kirkby Lonsdale, Westmorland) can be replaced by King George (e.g. Firle, Sussex) or even Robin Hood (e.g. Kempsford, Glos.); the opponent can be the Turkish Knight (Firle/Kirkby Lonsdale), Colonel Slasher (Alderley, Cheshire) or the Templar (Tendring, Essex) and the Doctor can take many forms, depending on local traditions, e.g. Father Christmas, Tom Pinney, Toss Pot etc. There are various sundry characters which, curiously, appear in many Village Plays from distant parts of the country, such as Molly Bags (e.g. Kirkby Lonsdale & Firle), Humpty Jack, Jolly Jack Tar, Paddy from York, the Fool and sundry females such as the Templar's Lady.

- The Ritual Slaughter Plays, which mostly originate in Derbyshire and are concerned with the symbolic killing of the Derby Tup, or Ram, which is the County badge, thus releasing its' spirit to bring peace and plenty to the land; a direct correlation to the actual, ritual sacrifice of a Ram to a particular Pagan Deity.

- The Ploughjack or Wooing Plays, almost straight from Ancient Greece, these plays would be performed at the start of Spring to symbolise re-creation and fertility in that the Lady is wooed in turn by various figures representing 'ordinary' life, such as the Farmer, the Eldest Son, the Lawyer and the Old Man but ends up marrying the Fool, symbol of the free spirit of Pan, perhaps ?

Plays have been "discovered" from villages all over England, mostly collected by local gentry or churchmen and written in their diaries or books of "local customs": the tradition even reached Wales where the Mari Llwyd (Grey Mare) and her entourage would visit homes and perform a ritual song/play in return for food.

The villagers would perform their play but once each year, the parts being handed down from Father to Son; the costumes would be a suit of rags, with each character being introduced by the wording of the play, "In comes I .....", or by a "calling-on" song. These rags would be simple and cheap to produce but would also hide the "real" identity of the performer, important if the play included some line, or ad-lib, critical of the Church or the local Gentry: for this reason, the Mummers would frequently blacken their faces with soot.

Traditionally, as with the Ancient Greeks, the performances of the Play would be associated with gifts from the audience, normally in the form of food and drink. The Mummers would, of course, perform for the Lord of the Manor and his guests, expecting (and probably receiving) a considerable amount of reciprocal entertainment in the kitchens and wine cellars. Nowadays, the remuneration tends to be in the form of cash, though a free pint or two and the occasional meal are gratefully received and faithfully applied !

Few village plays are still performed in their original locations, but many have survived to this day and are kept alive by some teams of Morris Dancers who include one or two plays amongst their dances and by a few teams of Mummers who perform many different plays both at the traditional celebrations and throughout the year at Festivals and Fairs.

The Thameside Mummers were formed in 1970 by a group of men who shared an interest in traditional music and ritual as members of a Folk Song club, then in South Benfleet, Essex, who, over several pints of home-brewed Ale, decided to research, learn and perform a Mummers' Play at the Club. The Hoy at Anchor Folk Club is now based at The Ship in Leigh-on-Sea, and the Thameside Mummers have continued their long association with the club, which celebrates its' 21st Anniversary in 1991.

The group have now collected over 30 traditional plays from all parts of the country and perform throughout the year at many events, both local and national; they have appeared on a number of occasions at International Folklore Festivals at Sidmouth, Devon and Whitby, Yorkshire.

They number all types of play within their repertoire, Hero/Combat, Ritual Slaughter and Ploughjack, and just to show that the "art" is still developing, they have several "modern" plays, written by members of the side, generally with a comic theme, such as "Omelette, Prince of Denmark", "The Ritual Slaughter of the Brussel Sprout" and "'allo 'allo": these being performed as the occasion demands. Most of the plays are performed in suitable costume, though the traditional "Ribbon Coats" are worn for one particular play in order to maintain contact with the "roots".

Traditionally, since in less enlightened times females were not expected to do anything but look after their Husbands and bear children, the Mumming Plays were strictly MEN ONLY, with all female characters being played by men. Although evolution and civilisation is now achieving a measure of sexual equality, which is most definitely recognised by the side, the Thameside Mummers have remained true to the tradition and are, and will remain, restricted to males. Since most performances are associated with large quantities of local Ale, their collective partners tend to regard this situation as quite acceptable !

In short, the "Fabulous" Thameside Mummers are now famed for their versatility, the quality of their plays ... and their thirst !

For more information on the Thameside Mummers and their plays, or for potential bookings, please contact :

The "Bagman" (Secretary) :

Derek "Otto" Oliver,

Ravenswood, 148, Essex Way,

South Benfleet, Essex, UK, SS7 1LN




There are many, many links to Masonic Lodges and Grand Lodges throughout the world. Simply the best way for a simple soul like Worshipful Brother Derek J. Oliver, London Grand Rank, is to refer you to what is fast becoming THE definitive reference site for Freemasonry on the Web, that of the Internet Lodge . . . . . or the general link site


Derek J. Oliver LGR is Secretary of Anima Lodge No.3634 in London, Chaplain of St.Michael's Lodge No.6683 in the Province of Essex and a member of Internet Lodge No.9659, all under the constitution of the United Grand Lodge of England as well as Crossed Keys Royal Arch Chapter No.7808 and Langdon Hills Lodges of Mark Master Masons and Royal Ark Mariners No.1628. Contact Derek at