Chipping Ongar: Occupations

Pages 166-167

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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The occupations followed in Chipping Ongar have mainly been those normal in a small market-town. The relative importance of the place was no doubt greater during the Middle Ages before the decay of the castle.

It is not unlikely that a market was held as early as the 12th century. (fn. 1) The first explicit reference to one is in 1287, when John de Olmestede, steward of Sir John de Rivers gave a bond to Hugh de Gloucester, tailor of London, in 8 quarters 'of the best, purest and cleanest dry corn, of the country and measure of Essex . . . as could be sold in the market of Angre within the quinzaine of Michaelmas last for 3s.' (fn. 2)

In 1372 the market was appurtenant to the manor and was being held on Tuesdays. (fn. 3) It remained in the possession of the lord of the manor until 1841, when the market tolls were sold by Sir John Swinburne to P. Chaplin of Harlow. (fn. 4) The 'Old Market House' was in about 1841 situated next to 'The King's Head' on the south side. (fn. 5) Later in the 19th century the market was held in the Town Hall on Saturdays. (fn. 6) It probably came to an end at the same time as the fair (see below). (fn. 7) In 1927-30 a brief unsuccessful attempt was made to revive the market: poultry were sold at 'The King's Head'. (fn. 8) The poultry boxes in 'The King's Head' yard are now (1952) being casually dismantled. (fn. 9)

The Old Market House had been converted into shops by 1877. (fn. 10) Two market crosses, which still survived in 1842, (fn. 11) had been removed by 1877. (fn. 12) The house still survives. (fn. 13) It dates from the 17th century and consists of two stories with attics and basements, timber framed and plastered. The upper story projects on the east front. The lower part of the building was formerly open. (fn. 14)

In 1222 Richard de Rivers, whose father had recently died, received the royal grant of an annual fair of three days' duration until he came of age. (fn. 15) The fair was to be held on 9-11 November. The implication in the grant seems to be that the fair was already being held and that Richard needed sanction for holding it because of his minority. A hiring fair, on 11 October, was being held in 1763. (fn. 16) In 1780 a fair was held on 30 September. (fn. 17) A list of 1792 stated that a fair was held on Easter Tuesday, and another for hiring on 11 October. (fn. 18) In about 1845 the fair was held on 12 October and there was 'much business in barley for malting'. (fn. 19) The fair apparently lapsed for a time in the middle of the 19th century. It was revived in 1872 and held in the Town Hall. A handbill advertising the 10th fair since the revival, to be held on 12 October 1881, bears the name of Captain Budworth of Greenstead Hall as the chairman of the fair committee. (fn. 20) The author of the bill claimed that the fair was a valuable aid to the mutual understanding of different classes of society. The fair was mainly for entertainment. It was not universally popular and in 1892 the tolls were bought by Henry Gibson, Clerk to the County Council, and a local resident, with a view to its abolition. (fn. 21) A letter to Gibson from a certain H. Brown in that year states that 'those who have had to bear the brunt of the fair, being obliged to live in the midst of it will readily welcome ... its abandonment'. (fn. 22)

In the 17th century there is slight evidence from trade-tokens of cloth-making at Chipping Ongar. (fn. 23) Philip Trayherne, a dyer, occurs in 1677. (fn. 24) In the same century are references to inter alia a tailor (1605), (fn. 25) a locksmith (1655), (fn. 26) a basketmaker (1667), (fn. 27) and a haberdasher alias hatter (1667). (fn. 28) In 1626 Edward Peacock, tallow chandler, and Robert King, apothecary, were presented at Quarter Sessions for using and maintaining a house 'for to melt their tallow and "gravee" near unto the common market-place, which is a common annoyance to the inhabitants dwelling near'. (fn. 29)

Pigot's Directory of Essex for 1840 listed the tradespeople in Chipping Ongar. There were eight public houses. The general pattern of employment has changed little since that time. The town is, however, sufficiently near to London to have reacted fairly quickly to new fashions. There was a photographer there in 1874, when there were only 33 in the whole of Essex. (fn. 30)

The date at which the brickmaking industry began at Chipping Ongar has not been found, but it seems likely that this was about 1800. (fn. 31) For many years the brickfield on the Greenstead Road was owned and operated by the proprietor of the adjoining gas works. (fn. 32) The brickfield was closed in 1917, soon after the new brickfield at Hallsford in High Ongar (q.v.) was opened. (fn. 33)

There was a printer in the town in 1845. (fn. 34) A later printer, Slocombe, was in business about 1870-90. (fn. 35)


  • 1. No market charter has survived.
  • 2. Cat. Anct. D. v, A. 11885.
  • 3. C135/File 230.
  • 4. R. I. Porter, Notes on Chipping Ongar, 1. But see E.R.O., D/DC 27/736. Chaplin still owned the tolls in 1856: D/P 124/23/2.
  • 5. E.R.O., D/CT 262. The Old Market House is sometimes referred to locally as the Butter Market: inf. from Mr. D. W. Hutchings of Ongar.
  • 6. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1874 f.).
  • 7. For the demolition of the Town Hall see above, p. 156. The Town Hall has sometimes been called the Market House. Its position and design suggest that this was for long one of its main functions.
  • 8. Inf. from Mr. D. W. Hutchings.
  • 9. Ibid.; personal observation.
  • 10. R. I. Porter, Notes on Chipping Ongar, 1.
  • 11. E.R.O., D/DC 27/736.
  • 12. R. I. Porter, Notes on Chipping Ongar, 1.
  • 13. It is now the Clifton Café.
  • 14. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 53. The Market House is shown in the print of Ongar by I. Hassell, 1818: E.R.O., Prints Collection, Chipping Ongar. The building had three open arches on the east side.
  • 15. Rot. Lit. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i, 490b.
  • 16. E.R.O., Q/SBb 268.
  • 17. Essex, Herts. & Cambs. Almanack, 1780.
  • 18. Rep. Com. Mkt. Rights [C. 5550], p. 161, H.C. (1888), liii. The hiring fair is said to have been held at one time in the 'Lion' yard: inf. from Mr. D. W. Hutchings.
  • 19. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1845).
  • 20. Handbill in the possession of Mr. Avery, Shelley House, Ongar.
  • 21. Inf. from Mr. D. W. Hutchings.
  • 22. Ibid. This letter is now (1955) in the Essex Record Office.
  • 23. V.C.H. Essex, ii, 398; E. Anglian, iii, 127; E.A.T. n.s. xvii, 248.
  • 24. E.R.O., Q/SR 437/42.
  • 25. Ibid. 173/131.
  • 26. Ibid. 365/22, 23.
  • 27. Ibid. 411/70.
  • 28. Ibid. 411/42, 71.
  • 29. Ibid. 252/52.
  • 30. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1874), 367.
  • 31. See above, p. 156.
  • 32. White's Dir. Essex (1848, 1863); Kelly's Dir. Essex (1874 f.). For the Gas Works see above, Public Services.
  • 33. E.R.O., T/P 96: Ongar W.E.A. Survey, 1951.
  • 34. He printed the rules of the Ongar Cricket Club: see above, Social Life.
  • 35. He printed R. I. Porter's Notes on Chipping Ongar (1877) and P. J. Budworth's Memorials of Greensted-Budworth (1876).