A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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Stapleford Abbots is about 5 miles north of Romford and 5 miles south-west of Chipping Ongar. (fn. 1) It has an area of 2,366 acres. (fn. 2) It is still a rural parish but during the past 30 years there has been some suburban development in the south, from which region there is now a good bus service to Romford. Until the 19th century the parish retained over 100 acres of woodland, part of the ancient forest of Essex, and some 300 acres of common waste and meadow. (fn. 3) It formerly included also two large mansions, Albyns and Knolls Hill. Albyns, a very fine house dating from the 16th century, is now (1954) being demolished after war damage. Knolls Hill was pulled down in the 19th century. In the 18th and early 19th centuries there was a considerable hamlet in the east of the parish at Martins Hern (fn. 4) but only two derelict cottages now remain there. There were 47 inhabited houses in the parish in 1801 and 78 in 1821. (fn. 5) In 1801 the population was 320. (fn. 6) By 1831 it had grown to 507. (fn. 7) It remained very close to 500 until the 1880's, when it fell to 320 in 1891. (fn. 8) It then rose again to 433 in 1911 but fell to 391 in 1921. (fn. 9) Since 1921 there has been a renewed rise, the figure for 1951 being 731. (fn. 10)
There are hills rising to 291 ft. (Knolls Hill), 257 ft., and 300 ft. in the west, centre, and south-east of the parish respectively. In the north the land falls just below 100 ft. where the River Roding forms the parish boundary. Bourne Brook flows south-west between the hills in the centre andsouth-east of the parish. The road from Romford crosses the southern boundary of the parish and runs north-west. At Standish Farm, just inside the boundary, it is joined by a road which leads north-east to Navestock. This Navestock road branches at Tysea Hill Chapel, (fn. 11) one branch running east to Navestock Side and the other continuing northeast to Navestock Heath. There are some 20th-century houses on the Navestock road between Standish Farm and the chapel. Opposite the chapel are three pairs of council houses and there are another three pairs on the east side of the road to Navestock Heath, just inside the parish boundary.
On the west side of the Romford road, nearly opposite the Royal Oak public house, is a field in which a windmill formerly stood. (fn. 12) The road is lined with 20th-century houses for more than ¼ mile beyond the 'Royal Oak'. Beyond these houses it is joined by Bournebridge Lane which runs west to Lambourne End. There are also some 20th-century houses at the eastern end of Bournebridge Lane. Beyond them, on the east side of the lane, is Butchers Farm, a red-brick house dating from the 18th century; it has a dentil eaves cornice and a mansard roof with dormer windows. Beyond Butchers Farm the lane crosses Bourne Brook at Bourne Bridge, to the north-west of which is a cottage which was formerly Knolls Hill Free School. (fn. 13) About ¾ mile farther west, just before Bournebridge Lane crosses the western boundary of the parish, is Knolls Hill Farm, which is on the hill-crest site of the mansion demolished in the 19th century. (fn. 14) On the parish boundary, north-west of Knolls Hill Farm, is Blackbush Farm, a timber-framed and partly weatherboarded house, which probably dates from the 16th century; it consists of a central block with gabled crosswings to the north and south.
About ½ mile beyond the junction with Bournebridge Lane, the Romford road is joined by a lane leading east to Stapleford Hall. (fn. 15) On the south side of this lane there stood until a recent fire Mitchells Farm, probably a 17th-century house. About ½ mile farther along the Romford road is the school. (fn. 16) Beyond this Hook Lane leads south-west to Blackbush Farm and Lambourne End. A drive to Battles Hall (fn. 17) leads north from Hook Lane, near its junction with the Romford road. About ¼ mile north of this junction are three pairs of council houses. Beyond these the Romford road is joined by Church Lane which leads south-east to the church (fn. 18) and the rectory. (fn. 19) On the east side of this lane are four pairs of council houses, south of which is the site of the former parish school. (fn. 20)
North of Church Lane, on the east side of the Romford road, is Bons Farm, opposite which a lane leads westward to Hammonds Farm. (fn. 21) Bons farm-house is timber-framed and plastered and consists of a central hall block with cross-wings to the east and west. There are indications that the east wing and some of the timbers of the hall are of medieval origin. In the 16th century the roof of the hall was raised to give another story, a chimney was inserted, and the three-story west wing was added or rebuilt. This has a small staircase wing adjoining it. At the front of the house the upper floors of both wings oversail and have original moulded bressummers. The doorway, barge-boards, and other timber-work are also original. Both in the central block and in the west wing stone fireplaces of the 16th century have been uncovered. These have four-centred arches and carved spandrels and are almost identical with fireplaces of the same period which were formerly at Albyns. In two instances there are Tudor roses and fleurs-de-lis above the lintels.
The Romford road leaves the parish at Passingford Bridge over the Roding. Immediately to the south of the bridge a lane leads south-east to Albyns, (fn. 22) which lies in a park, and the main road via Abridge to London runs west. On the north side of the London road, about ¼ mile west of Passingford Bridge, is Passingford Mill. (fn. 23) The former Mill House is a little farther west.
References in the Quarter Sessions rolls to communications in Stapleford Abbots chiefly relate to Passingford Bridge. (fn. 24)
In 1592 Bourne Bridge was presented as so broken that no horse and cart could pass. (fn. 25) In 1609-10 it was said that this bridge was in decay and should be repaired by the Crown. (fn. 26) In 1656 it was reported that 'the lord of the manor of Stapleford Hall, one Chambers alias Chamberline' had failed to repair it. (fn. 27)
In 1896 a sub-post-office under Romford was established at Stapleford Abbots, with two rural posts. (fn. 28) There was a telephone service by 1937. (fn. 29) A police officer is stationed in the parish. (fn. 30)
Water was first supplied by the Herts. and Essex Waterworks Co. in 1935, but there is no main drainage. (fn. 31) In 1935 powers were obtained by the Romford Gas Co. to supply gas to Stapleford Abbots and other villages but there is not yet a supply. (fn. 32) Electricity was laid on in 1931. (fn. 33) A branch of the county library was opened in 1931. (fn. 34)
Stapleford Abbots has always been a rural parish, devoted mainly to agriculture. The lords of the capital manor have never lived in the parish. (fn. 35) The owners of Battles Hall were never resident after the beginning of the 15th century. (fn. 36) The owners of Albyns manor seem to have lived in the parish at some periods before the middle of the 17th century and the Abdys, who bought the estate in 1654, were resident for nearly the whole of the period from 1654, if not before, until 1840. (fn. 37) After 1840 both the house and the estate were leased and the Abdys did not again live in the parish. (fn. 38)
In 1845 the parish consisted of 2,332 acres, most of which was occupied by tenant farmers. (fn. 39) The Crown owned 349 acres of which 226 acres (Stapleford Hall farm) were occupied by E. and C. Mollett and 123 acres (Hammonds Farm) by J. Fitch. (fn. 40) Lady Mildmay owned 351 acres of which she occupied 140 acres, mainly woodland. (fn. 41) Sir Thomas Abdy owned 350 acres of which 125 acres, mainly wood and meadow, were occupied by R. Currie, 70 acres by E. and C. Mollett, and 66 acres by J. Surridge; the rest was leased in 7 parcels. (fn. 42) W. J. Lockwood owned 341 acres of which 124 acres (Knolls Hill farm) were occupied by R. Rudd, 96 acres (Blunts farm) by J. Stains, and 75 acres (Olivers Farm) by H. Viney; the rest was leased in 4 small parcels. (fn. 43) There were 3 other substantial owners, none of whom farmed the land himself: D. McIntosh owned 160 acres which he leased in 2 parcels; the Revd. John Bramston Stane owned 142 acres of which Rebecca Roach occupied 84 acres (Wiggans farm) and C. Stevens 57 acres (Tunbridge farm). (fn. 44) There were 3 other farms of over 40 acres, all of them occupied by tenant farmers. (fn. 45)
Then, as now, there was mixed farming in the parish, with a predominance of pasture. In 1801 it was estimated that more than two-thirds of the parish was meadow and pasture land. (fn. 46) In 1845 there were about 800 acres of arable, 1,250 acres of meadow and pasture, and 200 acres of woodland and forest. (fn. 47) There were also 40 acres of land under hops. (fn. 48)
There is some evidence concerning inclosure in the parish. Most of the common field and meadow land had evidently, as elsewhere in the area, been inclosed before the 19th century. In 1824, however, 291 acres of land belonging to the capital manor were inclosed. (fn. 49) This land was mainly in the east of the parish. It was largely waste but included 36 acres of common meadow (Rye Mead), 21 acres of which were in Lambourne parish. (fn. 50)
About 132 acres of woodland in the west of Stapleford Abbots, belonging mostly to the manor of Battles Hall, formed part of Hainault Forest. (fn. 51) When the latter was disafforested in 1851, the part of it in Stapleford Abbots was unaffected. (fn. 52) In 1858 the Hainault Forest Allotment of Commons Act (fn. 53) provided that 191 acres in Stapleford Abbots, Lambourne, and Dagenham should be allotted as common to the parish of Stapleford Abbots. (fn. 54) This land was inclosed in 1865; 14 acres of it were sold, almost entirely to the Crown, to pay the expenses of inclosure; 2 acres were awarded to the churchwardens and overseers to hold in trust as an allotment for the labouring poor of the parish chargeable with a rent of £2 to the Crown; 100 acres were allotted to the Crown in compensation of its rights in the land as owner of Battles Hall manor; the remainder was allotted to various individuals in compensation for their rights of common. (fn. 55)
The windmill which formerly stood opposite the 'Royal Oak' does not appear on a map of 1777 (fn. 56) and may have dated from the early 19th century. It was a weather-boarded post-mill (fn. 57) on a brick base and ceased work some years before 1910. (fn. 58) In 1923 the sails were blown off (fn. 59) and the building was demolished. (fn. 60)