Copyright
A. D Bayne.

Royal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) online

. (page 6 of 70)
Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


in length and thirteen in breadth, with a tongue of land at its extreme
point, jutting into the sea, and upon this stands the town of Harwich. To
the southward a fine promontory extends about five miles, the sea forming
within a bay of winding creeks, surrounding several small islands ; and at
the end of this head-land rises Walton-on-the-Naze, the pleasantest
bathing place along the coast. It might naturally be supposed that, being
so close to the ancient Colonia, Tendring Hundred would have been the
scene of Roman habitations and settlements ; but except at a few points
by the sea, which they occupied for defensive purposes, no traces of this
jDeople are found. By the Normans, the Hundred was attached to
Colchester Castle ; and the present owner, Charles Gray Round, Esq., has
the right to appoint a steward and bailiff". Though disafforested by King-
Stephen, the land seems to have remained in a half-reclaimed state
down to a recent period. At the beginning of the last century, it was
described as being much covered with wood, and full of fir and bushy
ground ; but drainage and modern enterprize have made it one of the best
cultivated and most fertile districts of the country. It contains the
following twenty-eight parishes : — Tendring, Alresford, Ardleigh, Beau-
mont, Great Bentley, Little Bentley, Bradfield, Brightlingsea, Great
Bromley, Little Bromley, Great Clacton, Little Clacton, Elmstead, Frating,
Frinton, Great Holland, Little Holland, Lawford, Manningtree, Mistley,
Great Oakley, Little Oakley, Great Osyth, Ramsey, Tharrington, Weeley,
Wix, Wrabness.

LEXDEN HUNDRED

Comprises the large tract which extends from Kelvedon and Coggeshall
up to Colchester, and partly around it, but not including Lexden, from
which it may be presumed it originally received its name. It sweeps
on the right between Winstree and Thurstable, and the boundary of
the borough up to Wivenhoe ; and it takes in all the rural parishes
on the left nearly up to Halstead. On the north skirts the Stour, which
divides it from Suffolk, up to Tendring Hundred. It is intersected by
the Colne, and touched along part of its western border by the Blackwater.
Although its soil varies, it has a large portion of rich corn lands. It
comprises the following thirty parishes : — Coggeshall, Aldham, Chappel,
EarFs Colne, Colne Engaine, Wake's Colne, White Colne, Copford,



42 HISTOEY OF EASTERN ENGLAND.

Feering, luwortli, Marksliall, Messing, Pattiswick, Great Tey, Little Tey,
Mark^s Tey, West Bergliolt, Boxted, Dedliam, East Dongiand, Easthorpe,
Fordhana, Great Horkesley, Little Horkesley, Langbam, Mount Bures,
Stanway, Wivenlioe, Warmingford.

WINSTEEE HUNDRED

Ls only about nine miles long by five at tlie broadest part, and partakes
of tbe mixed maritime and agricultural character of that of Tburstable,
to wbicb it adjoins west ; and it is bounded on tlie east and south hj the
estuary of the Colne and the ocean.

The name of the Hundred is generally believed to be derived from two
Saxon words signifying "Victory "and "AWood/^ probably an allusion
to an important battle with some of the fierce marauders who in early
ages found access to this district from the sea. The Danes were driven
to Mersea Island, and besieged there after their defeat by King Alfred.
The Saxons had many salt works — then an important branch of manu-
facture — along this coast. Considerable commerce, according to the
capabilities of that day, appears to have been carried on here ; and there
is no doubt that the inhabitants had acquired some of the civilisation and
luxurious taste of the neighboiing city of Camulodunum^ so that the
exposed tract was peculiarly tempting to the sea-rover seeking for plunder.
Thus, at a later period, Mersea Island, which had been a sort of suburban
residence for some of the great ofiicers and Roman aristocracy of Colchester,
became a place of importance for resisting the entrance of the northern
pirates into the Colne or the bay. At the present time, the remains to
bo found in that island of the magnificence of the Imperial rulers, and
the stately towers of Layer Marney, memorials of 'the splendour which
prevailed here nearly two thousand years later, are the chief objects of
interest in the Hundred.

It contains the following thirteen small parishes : — Layer Marney,
Layer Breton, Layer-de-la-Hay, Abberton, Fingringhoe, Langenhoc,
Peldon, Great Wigborough, Little Wigborough, Salcat, Virley, Wes;
Mersea, East Mersea.

THURSTABLE HUNDRED

Is a small district, partly agricultural and partly maritime, lying on
the verge of the river and Blackwater Bay, along which it extends from
Heybridge to Tollesbury and Tiptree Heath, and it is bounded on other
sides by Lexden and Winstree and Witham Hundreds. It is about
eleven miles long from west to east, and from three to six miles broad.
The Hundred includes a pleasant tract of country. Along the estuary of
the Blackwater lies a large extent of rich marsh land, running from the



A DESCKIPTION OF ESSEX. 43

vicinity of ]\Ialden up to Salcot Creek ; and beyond this rises a range of
undulating- liigli lands^ upon which can be seen the villages and church
towers of the various parishes. The district was no doubt the scene of
some very early settlements, and it was often over-run and ravaged by
the Danes, but there is little or no interest attached to its ancient history.
Its local records are little more than a dry detail of births and burials of
families who have long since departed and left few footprints ou the
lands they o"\vned. There is scarcely a ruin to be seen, and the mansions
and parks of the modern world are almost as scarce. Salt works arc
often mentioned amongst the possessions and grants in Doomsday Book,
and the Conquerer had three large factories of the kind here ; but this
branch of industry has dwindled away before the competition of other
parts of the kingdom, and the inhabitants are now employed either in
maritime pursuits — oyster dredging and the coal carrying trade — or in
agriculture.

The Hundred comprises the following ten parishes : — Heigbridgc,
Goldhanger, Langford, Tollesbury, Tolleshunt d'Arcy, Tolleshunt Major,
Tolleshunt Knights, Great Totham, Little Totham, Wickham Bishops.

DENGIE HUNDEED

Has been the scene of some important events in the history of the nation,
but in ages so remote that there is no written record to identify them
with the locality ; and in traversing the district, we find few of those ancient
relics by the aid of which their memorials may be traced out. On the
shores beyond Bradwell stood the city of Ithanchester, in Avliich Cedde,
the first bishop of the diocese, in 658, baptised Mary in the new faith,
built a cluirch, and endowed priests and deacons to minister in it. In a
later age, the Danes took possession of the Hundred, and long made it
their head-quarters or camp along the coast, from which they sent forth
their expeditions and plundered the other parts of the country. It was
in a manner their recognised home in their earlier struggles for the master-
ship of the land, as its present name implies — Dengie being derived from
Danes-ig, " the Danes^ island." A thousand years have passed since that
time, and a great change has been wrought in the scene. Flocks graze
undisturbed on the rich marshes beyond which the long narrow war-vessels
were moored. The carol of the ploughman and the tinkle of the sheep-
bell are heard at twilight, instead of the martial signal. The fierce chief-
tain has subsided into the skilful farmer. The steel that glitters in the
sun is that of the sickle or the scythe ; and instead of the wild warrior
returning to his den vnt\\ his prey, the rich heavy wheats of Dengie are
sent forth to help to feed and fatten other parts of the kingdom.

This Hundred contains the following twenty-one parishes, irrtspectivo



44 HISTOKY OF EASTERN ENGLAND.

of the borougli of Maldou^ wliicli is described separately : — Wood-
liam Walt, Woodham Mart, Hazeleigli, Purleigli, Cold Norton, Stow
Maries, North Frambridge, Latcliingdou, Snoreham, Muudon, Steeple,
Mayland, Altborne, Cricksea, Burnliam, Southminster, Aslieldham, Deugie,
Tillingliam, St. Lawrence, Bradwell.

EOCHrOED HUNDRED

Is bounded on three sides by water — on the south by the lower part of
the Thames and the sea, eastward by the German Ocean, and on the north
by the Eiver Crouch. Its length from east to west varies from ten to
seventeen miles ; in width, it is about seven miles. It is a rich wheat -
growing district, with its lands relieved in many places by dark woods ;
it is finely undulated, and there are marshes along the vale of the Crouch
and the coast of the Thames and the ocean, where the population assumes
a mixed agricultural and maritime character. Formerly the Hundred
was regarded as a seed-bed of all kinds of aguish diseases, and this
character still lingers about the islands formed by the winding of the
rivers and creeks along the coast ; but the progress of drainage and other
agricultural improvements has removed this reproach from the mainland,
and brought a healthier atmosphere with increased fertility. In old times,
the care and custody of a Hundred brought substantial power and profit
to noble and royal personages. In 1380, the Earl of Oxford held this
bailwick on condition that he should, " at his own cost and charge, keep
the fences and lodges of the King's parks at Hayleigh, Hadleigh, and
Thundersley, in repair.'' Three hundred years before this, and in the
earliest record, we find it and most of the land in the possession of the
great Baron Twene, the reputed Dane, who saved his estates by adroitly
succumbing to the Norman.

It contains the following twenty-four parishes : — Rochford, Barling,
Canewdon, Eastwood, South Frambridge, Foulness Island, Hadleigh,
Hawkwell, Hockley, Leigh, Paglesham, Prittlewell, Rawreth, Rayleigh,
North Shoebury, South Shoebury, Shopland, South church, Great Stam-
bridge, Little Stambridge, Sutton, Great Wakeriug, Little Wakering,
Ashingdon.

CHELMSFORD HUNDKED

Lies as nearly as possible in the centre of the country — if we lop off
Tendring, which juts out to Harwich and Walton ; being situate about
twenty-seven miles from Bow Bridge on the one side, the same distance
from Bullingdon Bridge, the Suffolk boundary on the other, twenty-four
miles from Hertfordshire on the north-west, and twenty-two miles from
the River Thames on the south.

The lands are for the most part fair and fertile, lying iu general low.



A DESCRIPTION OF ESSEX. 45

and being well-watered by tlie Chelmer, the Cam^ the Wed^ and other
tributary rivulets. There are gentle valleys and graceful slopes to be
found in it ; and here and there the land swells up into picturesque
eminences^ as at Danbury Hill, at Galleywood Common, at Little Baddow,
and the Church of Fryerning, from which views can be obtained stretch-
ing even into other counties.

; In early times, like other districts, this formed a little local government
of its own. The Hundred court was held for the trial of oifences, and the
inhabitants were organized for the maintenance of order, and held
responsible for the escape of criminals — a liability of which a remnant
survives in the action which still lies against them for damage committed
by a mob. It does not, however, appear to have been a favourite spot
with the old military barons. At least, they have left here none of those
castle ruins which are the footprints of the race. But the cowled monks
fastened thickly upon itj and their religious halls and cloistered homes
were erected on many a fair spot and sheltered nook of the Hundred.

The Hundred comprises the following thirty parishes : — Creat Baddow,
Little Baddow, Blackmore, Boreham, Broomfield, Buttsbury, Chelmsford,
Chegnal St. James, Chegnal St. Mary, Danbury, Fryerning, Hanningfield
East, Hanningfield South, Hanningfield West, Ingatestone, Great
Leighs, Little Leighs, Margaretting, Mountnessing, Rettendon, Roxwell,
Eunwell, Sandon, Springfield, Stock, Great Waltham, Little Waltham,
Wedford, Woodham Ferris, Writtle.

WITHAM HUNDRED,

Or half-hundred, as it was anciently called, is a rich and fertile tract,
skirted at one part by Chelmsford Hundred, the Chelmer flowing eastward
along its border, and bounded on the west by the Hundred of Dunmow,
on the north and east by the Hundreds of Hinckford, Lexden, and
Thurstable, and on the south by that of Dengie. It is of a somewhat
circular form, extending about nine miles each way.

The Hundred has been described as "■ one of the pleasantest and most
fertile divisions of Essex ; " and its good and varying soil, with the rich
vales through which flow the Blackwater and the little streams of the
Brain and the Ter, are proofs that this character has not been lightly
bestowed. There are no records of its very early settlement ; but its
situation on the great military highway, and relics of the imperial rulers
that have been found within its borders, are signs that it was not
altogether unknown to the Romans ; and its proximity to the strongholds
and haunts of the Danes renders it probable that the first buds of
civilization which had begun to sprout amidst its fairest lands were often
trodden down by those fierce marauders. The Hundred comprises the



46 HISTORY OP EASTERN ENGLAND.

following- fourteen parishes : — Witliam^ Crossing, Hatfield Peverel,
Terling, Little Braxted, Kelvedon, Ulting, Bradwell, Eivenhallj
Faulkbourne, Fairstead, White Notley, Black Notley.

HICKFORD HUNDRED

Is the most extensive in the county : so extensive that for practical and
judicial purposes it is divided into two — North Hinckford and South
Hinckford.

The Hundred, which partakes of a mixed agricultural and manu-
facturing character, is about eighteen miles in length, by fourteen or
fifteen broad, and is computed to contain one-eighth of the whole county.
It reaches from Chelmsford and Witham Hundreds, adjoining it on the
south and south-west down to the River Stour, which bounds it, and
separates Essex from Suffolk on the north and north-east. On the north
it touches on Dunmow and Freshwell, and on the east upon Lexden
Hundreds. The whole tract is in general finely undulated and richly
wooded ; and in the fertile vales toward the lower part of the district, the
hop is cultivated to some extent.

The Hundred includes the forty-seven following parishes : — Ashen,
Alphamstone, Braintree, Brunden - cum - Ballingden, Belchamp St. P.,
Belchamp Otten, Belchamp Wait, Birdbrook, Booking, Borley, Buhner,
Bures Hamlet, Felstead, Fenchingfield, Foxearth, Gestingthorpe, Gasfield,
Halstead, Hedingham Great, Hedingham South, Great Henny, Little
Henny, Lamarsh, Listen, Maplestead Great, Maplestead Little, Middleton,
Ovington, Panfield, Pebmarsh, Pentlow, Rayne, Ridgewell, Great Saling,
Steeple Bumpstead, Shalford, Stambourn, Stebbing, Stisted, Shirmer,
Tilbury, Toppesfield, Twinstead, Weathersfield, Wickham St. Paul's,
Great Yeldham, Little Yeldham.

FRESHWELL HUNDRED,

Or, as it is sometimes called. Half -Hundred, is a small district, about ten
miles long from north to south, and six in breadth at the widest part,
lying between the Hundreds of Hinckford, Dunmow, and Uttlesford, and
touching at its extreme points on Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. It is of a
purely rural character, with its fertile farms and pleasant hills and vales
interspersed with fine woodlands. It takes its name from a spring rising
in a valley near Radwinter called Freshwell, which, after joining several
other rivulets, falls into the Blackwater. It includes the following ten
parishes : — Bardfield Great, Bardfield Little, Bardfield Saling, Ashden,
Helions Bumstead, Hadstock and Bartlow Hamlet, Hempstead, Radwinter,
Great Sampford, Little Sampford.



A DESCRIPTION OP ESSEX. 47

UTTLESPORD HUNDRED

Lies between Clavering Hundred, and those of Dunniowand Fresliwell; at
one point it touches upon Herts, and its extreme point borders upon Cam-
bridgeshire. The old Roman mihtary way known as Ikene-street traversed
part of this district, and the tract from Littlebury through the Chester-
fords is rich with the remains of those imperial rulers of the land.

This Hundred contains the following twenty-five parishes : — Takeley,
Arkesden, Birchangcr, Great Chesterford, Little Chesterford, Great Chishall,
Little Chishall, Debden, Elmden, Elserhani, Haydon, Henham, Littlebury,
Ne^^ort, Quendon, Eickling, Stansted, Mouutfitchet, Strethall, Wendens,
Ambs, Wenden Lofts, Wicken Benant, Widdington, Wimbish ^^dth
Thundersley.

CLAVERING HUNDRED

Is the smallest Hundred in the county, and lies on the north-western
side, and is bounded on the west and south by Hertfordshire. The
Hundred comprises the narrow tract of land lying on the north side of the
railway between Bishop Stortford and Newport, extending about nine
miles, but not more than four, and in some places only two, in breadth.
This lordship was part of the possessions of Suene, and Claveringbury
Castle was of some note as one of the strongholds of feudal days. It
gave name to the family of De Clavering, which dwelt here ; and at
different periods it was in the hands of various noble owners till it came,
through a grant of Queen Mary, to the Barringtons of Hatfield Broad
Oak. The Castle, which stood near Clavering Church, fell with the
feudalism it represented and upheld. The only traces left by the ancient
lords of Clavering are traces of the works round the area of their Castle
home, and of the deep trench by which it was defended.

It comprises the following six parishes : — Clavering, Berden, Farnham,
Langley, Manewden, Ugley.

HARLOW HALF HUNDRED

Does not exceed in extent some of the larger parishes in the county.
Joining Dunmow Hundred on the east, it skirts the forest woodlands, and
westward is bounded by the Stort, which divides Essex from Hertfordshire.
It is eleven miles long-, by from three to six broad. The district is con-
veniently situated for communication with the neighbouring counties ; the
I'ailway, which twines with the Stort along its border, occasionally plunges
into it, and throws out its stations here and there. The scenery in the
summer months is exceedingly picturesque. As we ascend some of the
hill-tops of the Hundred, we catch glimpses of rich vales, quiet farms, and



48 HISTORY OP EASTERN ENGLAND.

scattered villages^ with a dark mass of forest land in the distance. There
are no striking historical events connected with the locality^ no battle-
fields to wander over^ nor castle ruins to inspect ; but we find it to have
been in Roman Catholic times a perfect nest of monks, there being five
monastic institutions within it, while the neighbouring Abbey of Waltham
drew much of its fatness from tracts of its land.

It contains the following eleven parishes : — Harlow, Great Hallingburg,
Little Hallingburg, Hatfield Broad Oak, Latton, Matching, Rettswell,
Great Parndon, Little Parndon, Roydon, Sheering.

THE HUNDRED 01' DUNMOW

Is composed of a long narrow tract of land, stretching from the outer
verge of Thaxted towards Safiron Walden at one end, and to Mashbury,
within five miles of Chelmsford, on the other, a distance of nearly twenty
miles. It is not more than eight miles across at the broadest part, and
at some points it narrows to little more than half this distance.

The Hundred is intersected at some points by deep valleys, which give
picturesqueness to its high lands and variety to its soil ; and through
some of these lower grounds, the Roden and the Chelmer, which take
their rise in this part of the county, flow. Much of this land is loam or
chalky clay, and a large quantity of the barley supplied to the maltings
of Stortf ord and Ware is grown in the district. Lying midway between the
two great arteries of traffic, the high roads and railways communicating with
Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire, its inhabitants are chiefly employed
on local trades and the pursuit of agriculture ; but it is a Hundred rich in
remains and memories of the past. Its two chief towns, Dunmow and
Thaxted, still bear in their streets marks of the quaint style of olden times.
Many of its churches are beautiful specimens of the magnificence and
architectural taste of former ages. The choir of the Priory Church at
Little Dunmow, with its laughable legend, and the ruins of Tilty Abbey,
tell of the ecclesiastical splendour which once adorned the district ; and
as we ascend the green turf which covers the huge mound of rubbish at
Pleshy and Canfield, we stand upon all that remains of the power of the
Lord High Constables of England, and the splendour of the once mighty
De Veres.

Dunmow comprises the following twenty-five parishes : — Burnston,
Broxted, Great Canfield, Little Canfield, Chickney, Great Dunmow, Little
Dunmow, Good Easter, High Easter, Great Easton, Little Easton,
Landsell, Mashbury, Pleshy, High Roothing, Aythorp, Berners, Leaden,
Margaret, White, Morrell Hamlet, Shellow Bowels, Thaxted, Tilty,
Willingale Doe, Willingale Spain.



A DESCRIPTION OF ESSEX. 49

Great Daiimow is pleasantly situated on an eminence close to the
river Chelmer, one of the finest trout streams in England. A number
of Roman coins have been found here, and some antiquaries suppose it to
be the Roman station Ctesaromagus, which others fix near Widford, not
far from Chelmsford. On the road from hence to Colchester are the
remains of a Roman Causeway. Dunmow consists principally of two
streets. It has a Market-cross in the centre of the town, erected in 1578,
and repaired in 1761. The Church is a large building of considerable
antiquity. Some portions of this edifice (including the east window,
which is a very fine one) are in the decorated English style, and others
in the perpendicular. It has an embattled tower at the west end, and
over its entrance are the arms of several noble families carved in stone.
Dunmow has meeting-houses for Independents, Baptists, and Quakers.
Baize and blankets were manufactured here in great quantities ; but
this branch of trade has been given up. The rtianufacture of sacking and
a species of coarse cloth is, however, carried on.

Little Dunmow stands two miles east of Dunmow, where a Priory of
Augustine Canons was founded in 1104 by the Lady Juga, sister to Ralph
Baynard, the then lord of the manor. This pious lady built a Church also,
a large and stately fabric, the roofs sustained with rows of columns, whose
capitals were ornamented with oak leaves elegantly carved, some of which
still remain in the part now used as the parish church. This was the eastern
end of the ancient choir, with the north aisle. Under an arch in the
south wall is an old tomb, said to contain the body of the foundress. The
Church contains some curious monuments ; one to the memory of Walter
Fitzwalter, a powerful baron of the reign of Henry III., who died in
1198, and is said to have been a descendant of the Lady Juga. To this
noble is ascribed the institution of the ceremony of giving a flitch of
bacon to any married persons who would, in the presence of the prior,
kneeliug upon two sharp stones in the churchyard, take the following
oath : —

" You shall swear by the custom of your confession,
That you never made any nuptial transgression
Since you Avere married man and wife,
By household brawls, or contentious strife ;
Or other-\vise in bed or at board,
Offended each other in deed or word ;
Or since the parish clerk said amen,
Wished yourself unmarried again ;
Or in a twelvemontli and a day
Repented not in thought any way.
But continued true, and in desire,
As when you joined hands in holy choir.



50 HTSTOI^Y OF EASTERN ENGLAND.

If to these conditions, without all fear,
Of your own accord you avlU freely swear,
A whole gammon of bacon you shall receive,
And hear it hence with love and good leave ;
For this our custom at Dunmow well known,
Tliough the pleasure he ours, the bacon's your own."

Tlie flitcli, wliicli is a side of bacon, was the express reward of this un-
common nuptial agreement ; though the word gammon (a ham) is used in
the oathj perhaps as more suitable to the rhyme. The first persons on
record who claimed this reward were Eichard Wright and his wife, of
Bradbourn, in Norfolk, in the reign of Henry IV. The last time it was
claimed was in 1751, when a large print was engraved of the ceremony
which took place on the occasion — the parties, after they had taken the
oath, being carried in procession through the town on men's shoulders,
with the bacon borne before them. Of late years attempts have been
made to revive the ancient custom, but these were only theatrical ex-



Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 70)