A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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In early references it is sometimes difficult to distinguish CHIPPING ONGAR from High Ongar (q.v.). By the will of Thurstan, son of Wine (or Lustwine), 1043-5, 'the wood at Ongar, except the deer enclosure and the stud which I have there', were left to the servants of the testator, and to Thurstan's servant Thurgot was left ½ hide which ´lfstan occupies at Ongar'. (fn. 1) Thurstan's wife was mentioned in the will as ´thelgyth; she appears in Domesday Book as 'Ailid', and was said to have held Ongar before the conquest as 1 hide and as 1 manor. (fn. 2) From her the manor seems to have passed to Ingelric 'the priest'; for in 1068 William the Conqueror confirmed the gift of Ongar by Ingelric to the house of St. Martin-le-Grand, London. (fn. 3) In spite of the gift, however, Ongar was held in 1086 by Ingelric's successor Eustace, Count of Boulogne. (fn. 4) It was the only one of ´thelgyth's Essex estates that did not pass to Ralf Bainard. (fn. 5) Ralf Bainard, however, held ½ hide at Ongar in 1086 which had previously belonged to a freeman. (fn. 6) Possibly this freeman had been Thurgot.
It was suggested by J. H. Round that Ongar castle, upon its mound, was thrown up by Count Eustace and was the caput of the count's Essex fief. (fn. 7) From Eustace Chipping Ongar passed as part of the honor of Boulogne to his daughter Maud and her husband King Stephen. (fn. 8) Between December 1153 and October 1154 the manor was granted by William, son of Maud and Stephen, to Richard de Lucy, later the justiciar of Henry II. Ongar castle became the caput of Richard's honor of Ongar. Henry II visited the castle in the spring of 1157 and was sought out there by Richard's brother Walter de Lucy, Abbot of Battle. (fn. 9) In 1158 Richard de Anesti went to Ongar castle to deliver a writ to Richard de Lucy. (fn. 10) Between 1155 and 1159 the king granted de Lucy 100 acres of assarts 'in the forest from Stanford, and Greenstead and Ongar'. (fn. 11)
Richard de Lucy retired to the cloister in 1179, and died in the same year. His son and heir Geoffrey had predeceased him and he was succeeded by Geoffrey's elder son Richard. (fn. 12) Richard the younger was dead before Michaelmas 1182, and was succeeded by his brother Herbert. (fn. 13) In 1185 it was stated that Herbert and his lands were in the custody of his uncle Godfrey de Lucy (the future Bishop of Winchester). (fn. 14) Godfrey was then said to have had custody for four years. (fn. 15) Herbert de Lucy was dead by 1189, when Godfrey was holding the £5 that had previously been his in the hundred of Ongar. (fn. 16)
The heirs of Herbert de Lucy were his sisters. The Bishop of Winchester, however, continued to hold the honor of Ongar until 1194, when it was given to Geoffrey de Lascelles, the husband of Maud, daughter of Herbert de Lucy's sister Maud. (fn. 17) In the same year Rose of Dover, another sister, promised the king £700 for permission to marry and for half of the inheritance of her brother and grandfather. (fn. 18) Geoffrey de Lascelles seems to have retained Ongar until 1204, when it was granted to Geoffrey Fitz Peter, the justiciar. (fn. 19) Fitz Peter farmed Ongar at £83 a year until Christmas 1209, when Robert Peverel became keeper. (fn. 20) In January 1214 he was credited with the amount he had spent on wine for use at the king's household at Ongar on the Thursday after Christmas. (fn. 21)
In 1214 Maud de Lucy, widow of Geoffrey de Lascelles, was married to Richard de Rivers, a veteran servant of the king. (fn. 22) In 1215 Richard was granted permission to make two deer leaps in his great park of Ongar 'as he had right and custom to do'. (fn. 23) In 1217- 18 Richard was holding Ongar with Maud de Lucy of the honor of Boulogne. (fn. 24) This was a correct statement of the overlordship. The honor of Ongar built up by Richard de Lucy comprised fees held of the honors of Boulogne, Gloucester, and Mortain. Some of the Gloucester fees lay in Essex, and one of them, Greenstead (q.v.) was near Ongar. (fn. 25) This was probably the reason for later incorrect statements that the manor of Chipping Ongar was held of the honor of Gloucester. (fn. 26)
Richard de Rivers died in 1221-2. In March 1222 Richard his son and heir by Maud de Lucy was granted permission to hold a fair at Ongar until he came of age. (fn. 27) Maud de Lucy herself survived until about 1243. Her heir was her grandson John, son of Richard, who was aged 4 in September 1243 (or 1244). (fn. 28) Custody of Maud's lands was granted to Philip Basset. (fn. 29)
John de Rivers died in 1294 and was succeeded by his younger son John. (fn. 30) The younger John was summoned to Parliament as a peer and is thus held to have become Lord Rivers (of Ongar). (fn. 31) As John de Rivers, lord of Ongar, he was one of the barons who sent a letter to the pope in February 1301, but his seal is not appended to the letter. (fn. 32) In 1302 he had licence to let the manor of Chipping Ongar to farm for five years to John de Sandale, a royal clerk, the castle and knights' fees being excluded. (fn. 33) In 1321 or 1322 John de Rivers claimed the reversion of the manor and castle of Ongar which he had leased for their lives to Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, and Maud his wife. (fn. 34) The date of this conveyance is not known. Presumably it was between 1302 and the death of the Earl of Gloucester in 1314. Ongar was one of the places in which the earl had fees in that year, and which were being held in dower by his widow, who died in 1320. (fn. 35)
John de Rivers appears to have been in the rebellion of 1322. He probably died in that year, but whether he held Ongar at his death is not clear. (fn. 36) Nor is it clear whether he was the host when Edward II visited Ongar castle in November 1321. (fn. 37) Hugh de Audley, Earl of Gloucester (d. 1347) died in possession of the manor of Chipping Ongar, of the inheritance of Margaret of Clare his wife. (fn. 38) Margaret had died in 1342. (fn. 39) Their daughter and heir Margaret was the wife of Ralph Stafford, Baron Stafford, and later Earl of Stafford. (fn. 40) In 1348 the king granted a licence for the manor of Ongar to be entailed upon Ralph and Margaret and their heirs. (fn. 41) This settlement was carried out in 1351. (fn. 42) Ralph died in 1372 and was succeeded by his son Hugh. (fn. 43) Hugh died in 1386, leaving Chipping Ongar to his son Thomas. (fn. 44)
From this time Chipping Ongar descended with the other possessions of the earls of Stafford, who later be- came dukes of Buckingham. (fn. 45) Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, suffered execution and forfeiture in 1483. Ongar was named among his possessions and was granted by the king in 1484 to Sir Thomas Montgomery for life. (fn. 46) Edward Stafford, son of Henry, was restored to the dukedom in 1485. He was executed for treason in 1521 and his possessions, including Ongar, passed into the hands of the king. (fn. 47)
In 1524 Chipping Ongar was leased for 21 years to Thomas Maple, yeoman. (fn. 48) In 1537 William Morris, a gentleman usher of the king's chamber, was granted an 80 years' lease of the manor, to run from the expiration of Maple's lease in 1545. (fn. 49) In 1542, however, the king granted the manor absolutely to George Harper, who a month later transferred his interest to Morris. (fn. 50) Morris mortgaged the manor in the same year to Eustace Sulyard for £400. (fn. 51) William Morris died in 1554, leaving James Morris as his son and heir. (fn. 52) By his will he devised to his wife Anne a life interest in two-thirds of the manor of Chipping Ongar. (fn. 53) James Morris is said to have erected a pleasure house on the top of the castle mount. (fn. 54) A visit to the 'house of pleasure' may well have been a feature of the visit of Elizabeth I to Anne Morris at Chipping Ongar. (fn. 55) In 1561 James Morris received the queen's licence to alienate the manor to Andrew Hemerford and Christopher Crowe. (fn. 56) This was evidently for the purpose of a marriage settlement, for in 1563 Hemerford and Crowe were licensed to convey Ongar to James Morris and Elizabeth his wife and the heirs of James's body, with remainder to his right heirs. (fn. 57)
James Morris died in 1597. Four years before Chipping Ongar had been settled on his son and heir John on his marriage with Katherine, daughter of Sir Gabriel Poyntz of North Ockendon. (fn. 58) Sir Gabriel had settled the manor of North Ockendon (q.v.) and other property on his daughter and son-in-law and their joint issue and this explains why John Morris later changed his name to Poyntz. John Morris alias Poyntz was knighted and died in 1618. (fn. 59) His son and heir Sir James Poyntz died in 1623. (fn. 60) Sir James was succeeded by his son Richard, who died in France in August 1643. (fn. 61) Sir James's brother Poyntz Poyntz evidently succeeded Richard, but died in December of the same year. According to the inquisition on Poyntz Poyntz the next heir to Chipping Ongar was John Morris, son of Edward Morris brother of Sir John Morris alias Poyntz. (fn. 62)
The next step in the manorial descent is not entirely clear. In 1647 John Morris son of Edward was arraigned before the House of Lords on charges of forging various evidences, including Acts of Parliament, to secure his title to Chipping Ongar, North Ockendon, and other manors. The petitioners against him were Sir Adam Littleton, Bt., and Audrey Littleton his wife, Maurice Barrow, and Sir Fulke Greville. (fn. 63) Audrey was daughter of Thomas Poyntz, son of Sir Gabriel. (fn. 64) There seems little doubt that she was the heir to North Ockendon under the settlements made by Gabriel. She had no claim to Chipping Ongar but here John Morris's title was apparently disputed by Barrow and Greville. Barrow is said to have married Sir James Poyntz's widow and Sir Fulke Greville to have married Anne, sister and coheir of Richard Poyntz. (fn. 65) Elizabeth, the other sister and coheir was apparently the wife of William Duncombe. (fn. 66) Apparently Elizabeth and Anne made good their claim to Ongar, for in 1650 and 1651 a series of conveyances was made by which they secured the manor upon Sir Thomas Whitmore, Bt. (fn. 67) Thomas (d. 1653) was succeeded by his son William, the 2nd baronet (d. 1699). (fn. 68) In 1663 William's estate at Chipping Ongar was bringing in £426 10s. a year. (fn. 69) The largest tenant was 'Mr. Goldsborough', who paid a rent of £101. (fn. 70)
It must have been in 1663 or 1664 that Thomas Goldsborough, no doubt the tenant mentioned above, bought the manor from Sir William Whitmore. (fn. 71) Goldsborough was dead by 9 September 1664. (fn. 72) Another Thomas Goldsborough was holding the manor of Chipping Ongar in 1718 (fn. 73) and it appears to have been about this time that he sold it to Edward Alexander, second son of Nicholas Alexander of Marden Ash in High Ongar. (fn. 74) Edward Alexander in 1744 demolished the house built by James Morris and built in its place 'a large and handsome summer house'. (fn. 75) He died in 1751 and was succeeded by his grandson Richard Henry Alexander Bennet. (fn. 76)
Richard H. A. Bennet made a settlement of Chipping Ongar in 1766 before his marriage to Elizabeth Amelia, daughter of Peter Burrell of Beckenham (Kent). (fn. 77) He died in 1814 and was succeeded by his son, also named Richard Henry Alexander Bennet. (fn. 78) The son died in 1818, and Elizabeth Amelia his mother in 1837. (fn. 79) Under the will of R. H. A. Bennet the father (1811), remainder was to his daughters Emilia Elizabeth, wife of Sir John Swinburne, Bt., and Isabella Julia, wife of Sir James Willoughby Gordon, Bt. (fn. 80) By means of a private Act of Parliament (1838) and subsequent conveyances between the interested parties Chipping Ongar was settled upon Charles Henry Swinburne, Captain R.N., later Admiral. (fn. 81) By this time most of the manorial rights had lapsed. The manor court is said to have been held for the last time in 1732. (fn. 82) In 1835 one who had been resident at Ongar for 23 years stated that he had never heard of any quit or chief rents having been paid to the lord of the manor and that the only manorial rights exercised had been the lease of the fair and market tolls and the appointment of the gamekeeper of the manor. (fn. 83) The fair and market tolls were sold in 1841 and from that date if not before the manor may be said to have become extinct. (fn. 84)
Admiral Swinburne died in 1877. (fn. 85) His widow Lady Jane Swinburne continued to hold the estate at Ongar until her death in 1896. (fn. 86) After her death it was held for some years by her trustees. None of Admiral Swinburne's children left issue. The last of them to survive was A. C. Swinburne the poet (d. 1909). Ongar castle and some of the adjoining land was sold by the Swinburne trustees in 1918 to Joseph Bennett. (fn. 87) In 1934 Mr. D. A. J. Buxton bought the castle from the executors of Mr. Bennett. (fn. 88)
No part of the castle now survives except the earthworks. The plan consists of a flat-topped mount with encircling moat, an inner bailey, a weaker enclosure to the north and east, and the town enclosure to the west. (fn. 89)
The mount is 50 ft. high and is about 230 ft. in diameter at the base and 70 ft. at the top. It is now occupied by fragments of flint rubble and brick. The mount is surrounded by a symmetrical moat 50 ft. wide across the water. There is no trace of a bridge or causeway across the moat. (fn. 90) The bean-shaped inner bailey is defended by a strong inner rampart and moat and covers about 2 acres. The moat was formerly linked at both ends with that of the mound, and is about 80 ft. wide from crest to crest and 26 ft. deep from the top of the rampart. Parts of it have been destroyed during the past 20 years. (fn. 91) The entrance from the town enclosure was in the centre of the west side through a gap in the rampart, on each side of which is a fragment of flint rubble containing what may be Roman bricks. The masonry does not appear to have extended along the rampart, which was probably surmounted by a wooden palisade. The outer enclosure on the north and east was less strongly fortified and is indicated by two ponds and a ditch of slight profile. (fn. 92)
Two existing houses appear to have been, at different times, the capital mansion of the estate. The White House was certainly the residence of Alexander Bennet in 1738, (fn. 93) and may have remained so after he succeeded to the manor. In the late 19th century Henry Gibson, Clerk of the Peace for Essex, lived there. (fn. 94) The house is a timber-framed structure built originally on a half-H plan. A small staircase projection in the angle between the central block and the northeast wing has been enclosed by later brick additions and the plan is now roughly rectangular. In one of the attics is a plastered Tudor fireplace and near it there was formerly a beam dated 1599. (fn. 95) This probably represents the date at which the house was built. A first-floor room at the north-west end has panelling of about 1700. During the first half of the 18th century a new staircase was inserted, most of the principal rooms were panelled and the roof was probably rebuilt. The present front wall of gault brick was added about 1835 and at the same time a partition wall and chimney were built across the former central hall. (fn. 96) There are also extensive alterations at the back of the house.
The Castle House was described in about 1835 as the mansion house of the estate. (fn. 97) About 20 years earlier it had been the residence of Isaac Taylor, minister of the Congregational church. (fn. 98) The present house appears to be the central part of a considerably larger structure dating in the main from the 16th century. It is partly timber-framed and partly of brick and has three stories. Prints of about 1830 (fn. 99) show the existing three-gabled block flanked on either side by two-story wings. Behind and to the south-west is a larger wing. The principal windows are shown with mullions and transoms. At this period the lane passed directly in front of the building. The reconstruction of the house took place about 1840 and most of the plaster detail in the Tudor style was applied at the same time. The attics retain 16th-century cambered tie-beams and several of the rooms have panelling of this date or a little later.