A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2001.
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LANGHAM parish (2,977 a. or 1,205 ha.) (fn. 1) lies c. 6 miles north of Colchester. The river Stour forms the northern boundary of the long, roughly rectangular, parish; the Salary brook, a tributary of the Colne, the southern boundary with Mile End in Colchester. The western boundary with Boxted follows field boundaries and a section of the Black brook, a tributary of the Stour. The eastern boundary with Dedham and Ardleigh follows the main road from Colchester to Ipswich. There have been no known boundary changes. (fn. 2)
The land rises from c. 8 m. or less in the Stour valley to a ridge at c. 38 m. at Langham Hall and church. The gradient is gradual north and west of the Hall but very steep in the Coombs between the Hall and Gun Hill. The rest of the parish forms a slightly rising and undulating plateau at c. 40-46 m., cut into two distinct parts by the small but steep valley of the Black brook, running west to east across its centre. (fn. 3) The northern part of the parish now lies within Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the views from the ridge near the church inspired John Constable's painting 'Dedham Vale' (1828). (fn. 4) In the earlier 20th century Langham was apparently favoured by tenants from London and elsewhere because of its healthy climate and scenery; its good 'society' was also noted. (fn. 5)
Alluvium predominates along the Stour, while the valley slopes are composed of river gravel. The ridge is capped with London clay and an outcrop of red crag. The soils of the north and centre of the parish are based on glacial gravels and sands, although the Black brook exposes London clay. South of Langham Moor and Park Lane the land consists of glacial loams. (fn. 6)
The line of the Roman road from Colchester to Ipswich was altered on the approach to the Stour crossing at Gun Hill, presumably long before the road was first depicted in 1777. (fn. 7) The road, possibly called Skipping Street in the 15th century, (fn. 8) was turnpiked in 1725. (fn. 9) It was diverted into a new cutting at Gun Hill c. 1964 and made into a dual carriageway c. 1972. (fn. 10) The Colchester eastern bypass, opened in 1982, crosses the southern edge of Langham. (fn. 11)
Dedham Road continues the ridgeway from Great Horkesley past Boxted and Langham Hall manor houses and churches to Dedham. From it lanes lead northwards to farms along the Stour and southwards across the valley of the Black brook; one of the latter lanes was called Black Brook Street in the 16th century. (fn. 12) Two of the southern lanes combine at Langham Moor and continue south to Mile End by Runkins Corner. The third route along the present Rectory Lane and Wick Road was called Crooked Lane in 1769 and 1838. (fn. 13)
'Warryes' cross at the junction of Wick Road and Perry Lane in 1520 was presumably later demolished. (fn. 14) The site was called Market Cross by 1838, and more recently St. Margaret's Cross. (fn. 15) The site of Roddisdale cross, recorded in 1544-5, is unidentified. (fn. 16)
Later 16th century orders to scour the river, to cut weed and sedge, and to prevent obstructions, probably benefitted the river navigation as well as Langham mill. (fn. 17) The Stour was canalized between 1705 and 1713 by the River Stour Navigation Co. (fn. 18) Langham lock, built by 1765, was removed c. 1933 when South Essex Waterworks Co. built Boxted waterworks and pumping station. (fn. 19) In 1838 the Stour was crossed by a foot and horse bridge at Langham mill and a footbridge near East meadow. The former was destroyed by a flood and replaced in 1981 by a single span footbridge. (fn. 20) Minor bridges, probably over the Black brook or other small watercourses, included Polfeld bridge (1432), Buck's bridge (1432 and 1515), Ashplot bridge (1526), Halls bridge (1582), and bridges in East meadow (1401 and 1577). (fn. 21)
In 1189 Henry of Cornhill was granted power to inclose and impark his woods at Langham, part of the same tract of royal forest that included Kingswood and Cestrewald. (fn. 22) In 1535 the royal grant of the neighbouring Kingswood heath in Mile End to the burgesses of Colchester included timber in Langham. (fn. 23) The park (c. 850 a.) covered much of the southern third of the parish. (fn. 24) A tenement called Gatehouse at Langham Moor in 1414 probably records a gate in the north-west corner of the park, and later field names suggest other gates at the north-east and south-west corners. (fn. 25) In 1291 eleven men were imprisoned in Colchester castle or the Tower of London for hunting deer in Langham park; all were apparently later pardoned. (fn. 26) Deer stocks had recovered by 1294 when the king gave the abbot of Colchester 12 deer. (fn. 27)
In 1557 Robert Bogas, a clothier of Langham and Stratford St. Mary (Suff.), secured a lease of Langham park for 21 years, although only 400 a. were apparently included in the lease. He was also granted power to dispark, and it was perhaps in that period that Langham Lodge farm and the farms south of Park Lane were established. (fn. 28)
Thirty-five free and unfree tenants were recorded in 1066 and 44 in 1086. (fn. 29) There were 111 taxpayers in 1377. (fn. 30) There were at least 107 male inhabitants in 1646, indicating a population of perhaps 400-500. (fn. 31) Average baptisms outnumbered burials from 1639 to 1668, especially before the mid 1650s, but there were more burials than baptisms from 1678 to 1689. In 1671 hearth tax was paid by 62 people with 49 exempted, perhaps suggesting a roughly stable population. (fn. 32) The population rose from 657 in 1801 to a peak of c. 860 in 1851 and 1861, then fell to only 560 in 1901. (fn. 33) Between 1931 and 1951 the population expanded from 601 to 1,017, partly as a result of the temporary housing of homeless people at Boxted airfield (in Langham). As those people were rehoused, the population fell to 869 by 1961. The population was static between 1971 (930) and 1991 (929). (fn. 34)
Many neolithic axes and other implements have been found, five from near Park Lane Farm. (fn. 35) Cropmarks of ring ditches, trackways, boundary enclosures, and field systems, especially in the north and centre of the parish, reveal Bronze Age, Iron Age and Romano British settlement. An enclosure at Blackbrook Hill was associated with pottery of 20-60 A.D. and a gold coin of Cunobelin. (fn. 36) Cropmarks in the Stour valley near Broomhouse have been interpreted as an Iron Age village, and an enclosure and field system opposite Stratford St. Mary as a Romano British farmstead. (fn. 37) Roman coins and a carved stone have been found at or near Valley House. (fn. 38) Coins, brick, tile, and oystershell suggest that a high status Roman site, perhaps a villa, lay near the later manor house and church. (fn. 39)
The main early medieval settlement was probably at Langham Hall; the place name, perhaps meaning the settlement of Lawa's people, probably relates to that site or one in the valley below. (fn. 40) The group of cottages and houses reported on the nearby Church green or Arnold's plot between the 16th and 18th centuries may represent a former nucleated settlement. (fn. 41) The settlement had been demolished by 1838, probably by the lord of Langham Hall; the only house to survive, Church Farm, belonged to the Rectory manor. (fn. 42)
Medieval settlement between the Hall and the Black brook was dispersed. Priory Farm may occupy the site of a holding whose rent was given by Hugh Tirel to the abbey of Conflans (Haute Saône) c. 1138. (fn. 43) Wenlocks (later Hill Farm), a late medieval house, was occupied by 1255, and the nearby Edward's Farm may be associated with John Edward (fl. 1327). A house on the site of the later Valley House existed by 1338. (fn. 44) Surviving late medieval houses include Broomhouse, perhaps on the site of the dwelling of Thomas in the Broom in 1327, (fn. 45) The Old House, Glebe Farm, and Church Farm.
The 2 marks owed by the men of Langham in 1190 for a concealment under the royal forest pleas, may represent a licence to settle part or all of the lands south of the Black brook. (fn. 46) Settlement was certainly established by the 13th century. The site of Wybornes may be associated with Ralph Wybern (fl. 1241) and that of Mott's Farm (later Union Farm) with Alice Mot who held 'Mottisland' in 1275-6. (fn. 47) The granary at Alefounders (formerly part of New House farm), and the house next to Kingswood in 1512, reveal that clearance had pushed southwards by the later Middle Ages. (fn. 48) Both later field boundaries and place name evidence suggest much woodland clearance; for example Maltings farm was known as Woodhouse farm from 1541 until the later 19th century. (fn. 49) Conditions were probably similar to those on Boxted and Great Horkesley heaths: a Hawks heath and a William at Health were recorded in 1400 and a Wents heath in 1544-5. (fn. 50)
Medieval settlement south of the Black brook was also dispersed, although there may have been a small hamlet around a triangular area (c. 6-7 a. in 1838) later known as Langham Moor, at the north-west corner of the park. (fn. 51) The moor was 'swamp' or 'marshland' in 1580 and 1723, probably rough, wet, unimproved grassland. (fn. 52) Its southern edges were apparently settled by the early 15th century, although it was not recorded by name until 1515. (fn. 53) Cottages later encroached on or lined the edges of the moor, and by 1601 many poor people had settled there. (fn. 54)
The density of farms was apparently greater in the south of the parish, and there are many scattered farmhouses and cottages of the 16th- 18th centuries, typically of lobby entrance form, as at Floral Dene and Mount Pleasant. (fn. 55) Settlement probably crept slowly southward as in the neighbouring parishes of Boxted and Great Horkesley. Although there were 11 houses and cottages along Dedham Road in 1838, the main concentrations of housing by that date were in the south of the parish. (fn. 56) In 1841 eighty per cent of agricultural labourers lived south of the Black brook, and in 1881 over three quarters of all houses lay in that area. (fn. 57)
Piecemeal ribbon development from the 19th century onwards along Moor Road and Chapel Road, along the edges of Langham Moor, and along parts of neighbouring roads created the modern village centre. The electrification of the Colchester to London railway line in 1961 and the construction of the Colchester to Ipswich dual carriageway c. 1972 encouraged further suburban development in the later 20th century. (fn. 58) Building styles are mixed, ranging from a few 19th century brick and slate houses, to houses, bungalows, and chalet bungalows from the 1920s or 1930s until the 1980s. In the 1990s large detached mock-vernacular houses were built in several places, including the east end of Park Lane and the junction of Wick Road and Perry Lane. (fn. 59)
Council houses at Hillcrest and on the east side of Wick Road were built c. 1927 to house farmworkers. The Swedish timber chalets and Airey concrete houses on the west side of Wick Road were erected as council houses between 1946 and 1948, the latter being upgraded in the early 1990s. Rayners Court, a block of council flats on Wick Road, was built c. 1970. Low cost modern housing in School Road was built by the Rural Housing Trust in association with Langham Parish Council in the mid 1990s. Retirement bungalows in High Street were completed in 1998. (fn. 60)
There were two carriers to Colchester in 1902; one of them, Waller's, still operated in 1914. Schofield's carriers began in 1919 and was still operating as a removals firm in 1999. (fn. 61) The parish was well served by bus services from Colchester during the 20th century; (fn. 62) in the 1990s there was a weekday Colchester to Ipswich service and a rural bus service. (fn. 63) Electricity was supplied in 1933, mains water by 1939, and partial main drainage since c. 1972. (fn. 64) In the 1990s there was no street lighting out of choice, and no gas supply. (fn. 65) A doctor's surgery recorded from 1917 to 1929 had apparently closed by 1933, (fn. 66) but there were two surgeries in Moor Road in the 1950s. There was an osteopathic clinic in 1999. (fn. 67)
Illegal beerhouses were recorded in 1593, 1657, 1659, and 1663. (fn. 68) There was a beerhouse near the church in 1601 when an application, supported by the rector and six chief inhabitants, was made for a second to serve Langham Moor. (fn. 69) There was probably an inn at Wybornes on Horne Street by the 16th century, first recorded as the Hare and Hound in 1754, and as the Greyhound by 1762. (fn. 70) It closed and became a private house c. 1911. (fn. 71) The Fox at Langham Moor and the Shepherd and Dog at Blacksmith's corner were recorded in 1871. (fn. 72) The former closed c. 1960 (fn. 73) but the latter was still open in 1999.
Between 1813 and 1815 a friendly society with 31 members met at the Greyhound inn. (fn. 74) In 1876 the annual school treat was held at the rectory with sports and songs. (fn. 75) The Langham branch of the Labour League (fl. 1876) had its own brass band. (fn. 76) In 1897 there was a Langham and Dedham Cottage Garden and Poultry show and in 1907 a Langham Flower show. (fn. 77)
Football was presumably once played at Camping close, north of Langham Hall in 1838. (fn. 78) In 1961 Langham Valley football team (founded 1954) were based at the former Baptist chapel and had their pitch at Highfields. (fn. 79) In 1932 Essex Rural Community Council helped build a village hall at the junction of Perry Lane and Wick Road. A library was installed there in the 1960s and 1970s, and the hall was extended c. 1980. (fn. 80) After it was destroyed by arson in 1985 the site was sold and a new Community Centre was built on the 8 a. recreation ground on School Road which had been founded in 1973. It opened in 1988, and served as a village hall, and community and sports centre in 1999. (fn. 81)
In 1642 parliamentary supporters sacked Wenlocks and forced the royalist John Wenlock to flee. In 1648 one of his sons joined the royalists at the siege of Colchester. (fn. 82) The besiegers apparently constructed an outwork south of Maltings Farm, marked by First and Second Ramparts field, War field, and a slightly elevated ridge of clay. (fn. 83)
In 1581 a Langham bricklayer was indicated for seditious words at Colchester. (fn. 84) In 1645 two Langham women were condemned to death for entertaining evil spirits, and a third for bewitching neighbours' cattle. (fn. 85) In 1695 a grain riot involved 40 Langham people; one of the ringleaders was fined and placed in the pillory in Colchester. (fn. 86)
Basque children, refugees from the Spanish Civil War, were housed at The Oaks on School Road between 1937 and 1939, as were elderly British evacuees in the Second World War. (fn. 87) A prisoner of war camp was established next to the Colchester-Ipswich road towards the beginning of that war; it housed Italian and later German prisoners. Boxted airfield, built in Langham on the former park in 1942-3, was occupied by units of the American 8th Air Force. It was transferred to the R.A.F. in late 1945 and closed in 1947. Some of the buildings were used for temporary housing after the war, and some survived in 1999, converted to commercial and storage premises. Others were dismantled and sold in the 1950s when the land was returned to cultivation. (fn. 88) A monument to the U.S.A.A.F. was erected in Park Lane in 1992. (fn. 89)
All the surviving houses of the 17th century or earlier are timber framed; most have later additions or alterations and many have been renovated in the later 20th century. In 1391 an unnamed house, probably a house with an open hall, had an upper chamber (solar) at one end. Another house, divided between a mother and son in 1410, had a chamber with solar at its principal end; out buildings included a bakehouse. (fn. 90) As the population contracted in the 15th century many houses and other buildings fell into ruin and were removed from holdings or demolished. (fn. 91)
Three surviving late medieval houses have a hall and one or two cross wings. The Old House has a small hall and jettied east cross wing probably of c. 1400, and a west cross wing perhaps of the 16th century. About 1600 the hall was floored, possibly enlarged, and apparently re roofed; a great chamber was created on the first floor; a stack was inserted, and a stair turret added behind the east cross wing. Contemporary wall paintings survive. Broomhouse, where the west cross wing of two storeys and attics and the small two bayed hall were constructed together, is probably of the 15th century. The east, jettied, cross wing, with a crown post roof and a chimney stack, was probably built in the 16th century. The hall was floored and the stack inserted in the late 16th century. Another stack was inserted into the western cross wing in the 19th century, and the eastern cross wing was extended to the rear in the 20th century. A possibly 15th century barn survived near the house until a fire c. 1995. Church Farm (fn. 92) has a hall and three bayed cross wing, jettied at both ends, of the 15th century or earlier, with close heavy framing, tension braces, and jowled posts. Like those at Glebe Farm (formerly the Rectory) and Broomhouse, the hall is quite small and appears to have been of only two bays. In the 17th century a stack was inserted into the cross passage, possibly replacing a smoke hood, to form a lobby entrance. There is a two storeyed jettied porch of similar date.
As many as eight late medieval houses with open halls and inline chamber ends or kitchen bays survive. Wybornes, originally a three bayed single storeyed hall with internal cross passage and an additional partially partitioned chamber bay, is probably of the later 15th century. The whole building was covered by an unmoulded four-bayed crown post roof with smoke gablets at the higher end and a hip over the chamber. It was modified in the earlier 16th century and again slightly later. Alterations, which may be associated with conversion to an inn, included the flooring of the hall and insertion of a chimney stack in the cross passage, the addition of a short rear range of two storeys and attics, and the excavation of a cellar. Other additions were made in the 19th and 20th centuries. Nos. 1-3 Pungford Cottages was probably a single house with a long hall and in line end on the west, and crown post roof, perhaps of the late 15th century. The hall may have been floored in the 16th century, but both stacks appear to be later. It was split into two cottages in the 17th century, when the end bay and one bay of the hall were converted into a lobby entry house, and into three in the 20th century. Chaplins has a long north south range, apparently a hall of perhaps three bays with evidence of a crown post roof at the north end, and a small in line end of one storey with attic, of uncertain medieval date, perhaps 15th century. A two storeyed south wing was added in the early 17th century; the hall was floored at the same time although the stack may be later. An additional bay of two storeys and attics was added on the south in the late 17th century. Maltings Farm, a hall house with storeyed in line ends, was probably built in the 15th century. The hall was floored and the house modified in the late 16th century when mullion windows and wall paintings were added to the parlour end. The roofs of the in line ends appear to have been raised and turned to run parallel to that of the hall about that time, and an additional attic floor was also provided at each end. The house was renovated again in the late 18th or early 19th century. Mantons has an apparently 15th- century hall of three or four bays with an in-line end, probably originally jettied. The stack and floor were inserted in the 17th century. Probably before 1800 an additional bay was added on the north-west, and the roof was raised to provide additional height on the first floor. Keeper's Cottage (formerly Old Workhouse Farm) was originally a small two-bay hall, with one, possibly two, floored, in-line ends, of the 15th or very early 16th century. The central truss of the hall has jowled posts and open braces and there is evidence of mullioned windows on both sides of the hall. The stack was inserted and the hall floored in the very late 16th or early 17th century. (fn. 93) The core of Old Whalebone and Highfield cottages is a small former hall with a crown-post roof, possibly with one in-line end, probably of the 15th or early 16th century. A stack was inserted and it was converted into a lobby entrance house in the early 17th century. Further bays were added in later centuries. Bramble Cottage was probably a long hall house of the 15th or earlier 16th century which was floored and had a central stack added in the later 16th and early 17th centuries; it may have had an open kitchen bay at the north end.
Alefounders on Park Lane, a five bayed later 14th- or 15th-century granary converted to a cottage in the 1920s, and The Thatched Cottage on High Street, apparently a 19th-century con- version of a 15th-century barn or granary, mark the sites of medieval farms whose houses have been demolished or replaced.
Many new houses were built in the 16th and 17th centuries, some of them apparently on holdings enlarged by late medieval engrossment. Langford Hall, formerly Poffords, Pollards, or Spencers, is a two-storeyed house, with jettied upper floor and dragon post, and a barn perhaps both of the earlier 16th century. (fn. 94) Most of the new houses were of lobby-entrance type. Bakers Cottage, an L-shaped house of four bays which has always been two-storeyed with a stack, may have been built by Thomas Baker (fl. c. 1510). (fn. 95) It originally comprised a large, heated room, and a smaller unheated room to the east on the ground floor, and two upstairs rooms of the same proportions. A two-storeyed bay was added to the west of the stack in the later 16th century and extended northwards by one single storeyed bay in the late 18th or early 19th century. The adjacent Tudor Farm Cottage, externally of similar appearance to Bakers, is a three-bayed lobby-entrance cottage of c. 1600; the floor is supported on tusked beams like those at Bakers and Mantons. It was extended to the north by two bays, probably in the 18th century. The weather-boarded Langham Oak Cottage (formerly Reuben's Farm), of one and a half storeys, has at its core a three-bayed lobby-entrance cottage of the mid 16th century. The western bay may originally have been open to the roof, perhaps serving as a kitchen. The bays on either side of the stack have very large, heavy beams with diamond stops; the beams, though tusked on both ends, are not inserted and are clearly an integral part of the original structure.
Langham Lodge, of two storeys and attics, has been partly rebuilt in brick and internally modernized. The north facade has three gabled bays. The east end of the south elevation and probably the east elevation were jettied. The roof, with heavy rafters, windbraces, and high collars, probably dates from the later 16th century or earlier 17th. The house is probably on the site of the medieval hunting lodge of Langham park and what remains may be a rebuilding of an earlier structure, perhaps a hall and two cross wings, constructed for the earliest lessees of the park, Robert Bogas (fl. 1557) or William Gardiner (d. 1577). (fn. 96)
New building in brick in the 18th century was limited in extent. The front range of Old Park House (formerly New House Farm) was added in the early 18th century, and comprises two large rooms on each floor with a central hall and stair placed against the stack of the original 17th- century lobby-entrance house. The ground floor parlour was modernized in the earlier 19th century, and the dining room made in Tudor style in the 1920s. Whalebone House, on the site of Highfields Farm recorded from 1545, is a gault brick house of three bays, two storeys, and attics, with rainwater heads dated 1801. It was probably built by the Blyths, an important Non conformist landowning family, who lived there in the earlier 19th century. (fn. 97) Polygonal bay windows rising through both storeys were added to the front, probably in the earlier 20th century. The most notable of the few large, 19th century, houses is Homestead School on School Road, formerly Langham Oaks or The Oaks, a large Gothic style house on an irregular plan, faced externally in ashlar. The front appears to be c. 1875, while the entrance and rear extension are c. 1910.