A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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Fyfield is about 2 miles north of Chipping Ongar, (fn. 1) and has an area of 2,450 acres. (fn. 2) Its name is derived from the 5-hide unit of assessment used by the AngloSaxons. (fn. 3) In several respects it is one of the most interesting parishes in the hundred. There is an unusual number of moated sites and pre-18th-century houses. Four houses, Fyfield Hall, Lampetts, Dame Anna's Farm, and the rectory, date from the Middle Ages. The church, which dates from the 12th century, is one of the few in the district with a central tower and north and south aisles. Considerable sums must have been spent on its erection and on alterations and additions in the 13th and 14th centuries. Fyfield thus seems to have been a place of some importance and wealth in the Middle Ages and this is borne out by the taxation statistics printed below (pp. 300 f.). As late as 1671 it was more densely populated than any other place in the hundred except Chipping Ongar and Moreton (see below, pp. 306 f.). In 1801 the population was 511. (fn. 4) Fyfield was then sixth of the parishes in the hundred in order of population density. (fn. 5) The population rose slowly to 629 in 1861. (fn. 6) It subsequently declined to 468 in 1881. (fn. 7) There was some later fluctuation but in 1921 it was again 468. (fn. 8) There was an increase to 693 in 1931 (fn. 9) and in 1951 the population was 710. (fn. 10) The present density is much lower than in those parishes of the hundred where there has been great building development but is still higher than in most of the rural parishes. At the end of the 18th century the principal centre of population was Norwood End, in the north of the parish. Since that time most of the houses there have disappeared and the population is now concentrated mainly in the village of Fyfield near the centre of the parish. This is one of the few nucleated villages in the hundred and near it to the east are the parish church and the ancient manor house of Fyfield Hall.
There are hills rising to about 260 ft. above sea-level in the south-east and 280 ft. in the north-west. In the valley between these two hills is the River Roding which enters the parish in the east and flows south to form part of the southern boundary before leaving Fyfield in the south-west. At this point the land is below 150 ft. Witney Wood is in the south-east, and there are some small patches of woodland in the north-west. The road from Chipping Ongar enters the parish in the extreme south-west and runs north-east to the Rodings and Dunmow. Close to the south-west corner a drive leads off the east side of the road to Folyats, an irregularly shaped roughcast house built about 1914 by J. W. Newall of Forest Hall in High Ongar (q.v.). The site was chosen for its fine view over the Forest Hall estate. (fn. 11) About ½ mile farther along the road a lane leads eastwards to Herons Farm. (fn. 12) The West Ham Open Air School stands on the west side of the road about 250 yds. beyond the turning to Herons. A little farther to the north is the hamlet of Clatterford End. Here there is an L-shaped block of cottages of late 17th or early 18th-century date, with pargeted plaster panels of zigzag pattern. Clatterford Hall, on the east side of the road, is a red-brick house, probably of the late 18th or early 19th century. There have been picturesque alterations at various later dates. Clatterford House on the opposite side of the road has similar chimney-pots. It was probably built about the middle of the 19th century. (fn. 13)
Beyond Clatterford End Ongar Road is joined by a road which leads westward to Moreton and by a lane which leads northward to Lampetts. (fn. 14) About ½ mile along on the north side of the road to Moreton is Pennyfeathers. This house stands on a moated site and appears to date from the late 17th or early 18th century. Farther west on the same road are four pairs of council houses.
Nearly ½ mile north-east of the road junction, on the south side of Ongar Road, is the village of Fyfield. The post-office is at the north end; from there a road known formerly as the Street and now as Queens Street, runs southward. On the east side of Queens Street is a row of houses of which the most northerly is the Queens Head Inn. These have external details mostly of the 18th and early 19th centuries but the structures are older. At the south end stands the block of two houses, called Bruetts, devised by Anthony Walker in 1687 for the use of the church clerk (fn. 15) and of the schoolmaster. (fn. 16) North of Bruetts is another house known as Brewitts. This appears to be a 16th-century structure with later additions. It is said that there was once a tannery at the back of it. (fn. 17) All the buildings on the west side of the Street have been built since the middle of the 19th century. They include the Mission Hall. (fn. 18)
South of the school the road turns sharply eastward by Fyfield Bridge and continues to the eastern boundary of the parish as Willingale Lane. West of the bridge a drive leads northward to Fyfield Hall. (fn. 19) Nearly opposite the drive is the church. (fn. 20) At the south-west corner of the churchyard stands the building which in the late 19th century was known as the Vicarage. (fn. 21) There is a water-mill (fn. 22) on the River Roding about 200 yds. southwest of the church. Until early in the 20th century there was a windmill (fn. 23) about 200 yds. west of the water-mill; the track leading to the windmill still exists. A little to the east of the church a lane known as Church Lane leads southward to Cannon's Green, formerly Bury Green. Wethers, formerly White Hall, stands at the north end of Church Lane on its east side. This house contains a fine oak staircase of late 16th- or early 17th-century origin. Near the staircase is the base of an original chimney. The house was altered and probably much reduced in size in the early 18th century. Later still brick wings were built at the back. On the west side of Church Lane, opposite Wethers, is a row of three cottages which has gabled dormers and one chimney with diagonal shafts. At present only one tenement is occupied. South of the row is a single-story threeroomed cottage which was church property from at least the 17th century until 1947. (fn. 24) It probably dates from the 16th century. Since 1947 it has been rethatched and plastered and thoroughly reconditioned. South of this cottage there are seven pairs of council houses. The cottages at Cannon's Green are mostly of the 18th or early 19th centuries. Two of these have some curious coursed rubble walling consisting of knapped flints mixed with broken brick, possibly material from a demolished building. One of the two may have belonged to the church in 1835. (fn. 25) Near the church to the east is Fyfield House, a brick building which dates from about 1830. Almost opposite Fyfield House is the rectory. (fn. 26) At Witney Green, about ½ mile east of the church, there was in about 1768 a 'fair mansion house, some time the seat of George Pochin Esquire, Sherriff of this county in 1700'. (fn. 27) The present farm-house appears to be mostly of the early 19th century with an addition of about 1860, but at least one wing has evidently been demolished. In the yard is a fine symmetrical red-brick stable range dated 1777. An old farm-house and buildings, all demolished in 1886, (fn. 28) stood about 100 yds. to the north. (fn. 29) Little Witney Green, opposite Witney Green on the west side of Willingale Lane, is in course of demolition. It appears to have been a small timber-framed house of the early 17th century.
North of the village the road from Ongar is known as Dunmow Road. Ponders Lodge Farm, on the east side of this road near the post-office, is a two-story timber-framed house with a T-shaped plan. Part of the front oversails and has curved brackets to the soffit probably dating from about 1500. The large chimney and back wing may be later additions. The sash windows and pargeting patterns on the plaster are of the 18th century. On the opposite side of the road there are several cottages which date from the 17th century and earlier. A little to the north of Ponders Lodge Farm is the Black Bull Inn, beyond which there is a single-story weather-boarded cottage belonging to the church and perhaps dating from the 17th or 18th century.
Opposite the Black Bull Inn a road leads northwestwards to Norwood End. This area of the parish is now more sparsely populated than it was in 1777. (fn. 30) At Holme Garden in Norwood End there is a moat enclosing an area which is about 150 yds. across and consists of two adjacent sites of roughly rectangular shape. In 1770 there was a local tradition that Henry, Lord Scrope (d. 1415) had a 'magnificent seat' on this spot. (fn. 31) On the west side of the road, opposite the moat, stands the Nook, a small timber-framed building which probably dates from the early 19th century. It has the appearance of a small school or nonconformist chapel of that period and is said to have been a 'nonconformist academy'. (fn. 32) It is now a private dwelling and is in process of being rebuilt. A little to the north of the Nook a track, formerly a lane, leads south to Green's Farm and then to Maltings Farm. Green's Farm stands on a moated site and appears to date from the late 17th or early 18th century. Maltings Farm probably dates from the early 17th century. It is much altered but retains a chimney with diagonal shafts. North-west of Holme Garden is Dame Anna's Farm. This stands on a moated site and is a timber-framed two-story house of medieval origin. It appears to have consisted originally of an open hall possibly with a two-story wing at the west end. The vertical timbers, which are exposed internally, are close-set and heavy. The screens passage across the east end of the hall is still in existence. The screen itself is of chamfered oak studs alternating with tall single panels, probably of 16th- or early 17th-century date. There is a two-story porch at the front of the house and a small staircase wing at the back; these two features may have been added when a ceiling was inserted in the hall. The heavy beams supporting this ceiling, now sagging, are probably of the 16th century. The brick chimney with four diagonal shafts appears to have been inserted near the west end of the hall at the same period. There are indications that the east end of the house is also a rather later addition, as two separate partitions exist side by side to the east of the screens passage. The westernmost of these has two curved braces to the tie-beam which are visible on the first floor. The upper story of the gabled porch oversails on three sides and has curved brackets to the soffit. The moulded oak door-frame is of 16th- or early 17th-century date. In the window east of the porch is a fragment of heraldic glass of the 17th or 18th century. This has the incomplete inscription 'Chard and Brom'. Probably in the present century the west part of the front was faced with red brick. Three-light sash windows were inserted, those on the ground floor having large decorative lintels of stone or cement. There is a brick single-story addition at the east end of the house. From Dame Anna's Farm a lane leads north-westwards to Hales Farm, formerly Old Hides Farm, which probably dates from the early 17th century.
Nearly ½ mile from the Bull Inn northward along Dunmow Road is the site of a big house, called Pickerells, which in the 18th century belonged to the Brands of Herons. (fn. 33) Unlike Herons, Pickerells descended to Thomas, 20th Lord Dacre (d. 1851). (fn. 34) By 1835 the house had disappeared, (fn. 35) but old foundations have been found on the site during the last few years. (fn. 36) The farm which has been called Pickerells since before 1873 (fn. 37) was known as Ash's Farm until after 1842 when it, was owned by Lord Dacre. (fn. 38) It stands about 300 yds. to the north of the site of the former Pickerells and probably dates from the late 17th, or early 18th, century, with a front addition of about 1800.
The inhabitants of Fyfield were at first responsible for the upkeep of Fyfield Bridge, (fn. 39) but in 1616 Robert, 3rd Baron Rich, lord of the manor of Fyfield, was said to be responsible for it. (fn. 40) The parish was again responsible for the bridge in the early 19th century. It is not included in the list of county bridges about 1800 (fn. 41) or in 1830. (fn. 42) In or shortly before 1835 it was said that the occupier of Fyfield Hall estate, with the assistance of the neighbouring gentry, had recently erected a bridge at Fyfield, from plans and specifications by George Bridges, a London builder. (fn. 43) In 1835 part of the bridge appears to have been a county charge. (fn. 44) In 1858 the county surveyor noted that the bridge was built of oak and that in 1856 it had been widened at the expense of the county which was responsible only for the additional width. (fn. 45)
In 1791 a wagon went at noon on Saturdays from Fyfield to the 'Saracen's Head', Aldgate. (fn. 46) In 1826-7 a coach ran from Ongar and Fyfield on every day except Sunday, to the 'Bull', Aldgate, passing through Abridge and Chigwell. (fn. 47) The vans of S. Clements and the wagons of Thomas Nichol also served Fyfield and other villages. (fn. 48) In 1848 George Yeallett was carrier to London on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. (fn. 49) In 1862 a coach went daily to London. (fn. 50)
In 1840 a 'memorial' for a postal service in Fyfield and other parishes was sent to the Postmaster-General (fn. 51) and in 1845 Fyfield asked for a receiving office. (fn. 52) The request was shortly granted. (fn. 53) In 1877 an application for a money-order office was refused, (fn. 54) but in 1881 a post-office was established, serving also Cannons Green, (fn. 55) with delivery extended in the next year to Norwood End. (fn. 56) A telegraph office was opened under guarantee in 1893 (fn. 57) and the telephone service was established in 1923. (fn. 58) A police officer is stationed in the parish. (fn. 59)
Water was supplied by the Herts. and Essex Waterworks Co. in the later 19th century (fn. 60) but there is no sewerage system. (fn. 61) Electricity was supplied to most of the parish in 1938. (fn. 62) The village hall was built about 1920, (fn. 63) and a sports ground was opened in 1951. (fn. 64) A branch of the county library was opened in 1937.
Fyfield has always been a rural parish devoted mainly to agriculture. No evidence has been found to support the tradition that Henry, Lord Scrope (d. 1415), lord of the manor of Fyfield, lived in the parish, (fn. 65) nor is there evidence that any other lord of this manor lived in Fyfield in medieval times. Certainly no owner of the manor has been resident since early in the 16th century. (fn. 66) The owners of Herons never lived in Fyfield except for a period in the 18th, and perhaps in the 17th, century. (fn. 67) The Brands lived in Fyfield during the first part of the 18th century, (fn. 68) but by 1768 Thomas Brand, then lord of the manor, was no longer resident. (fn. 69) Subsequent owners of Herons never lived in Fyfield. (fn. 70) The owners of Lampetts lived in the parish in the 17th century and in the first half of the 18th century, (fn. 71) but after the death of John Collins in 1750 they were not resident until at least the latter half of the 19th century. (fn. 72)
In 1842 E. F. Maitland owned 387 acres in Fyfield, the Hon. W. P. T. Long-Wellesley 288 acres, the Revd. J. B. Stane (of Forest Hall in High Ongar, q.v.) 263 acres, J. B. Stane 216 acres, and the trustees of Eleanor Kirwan 238 acres. (fn. 73) None of these owners farmed their land themselves. (fn. 74) J. M. Wilson owned 112 acres which were part of the manor of Envilles in Little Laver (q.v.). (fn. 75) There were three other substantial owners in the parish; Lucy Evans owned but did not occupy Dame Anna's Farm (131 acres); Thomas, Lord Dacre owned but did not occupy Ash's Farm (116 acres); and Captain Harry Ord held, as trustee of Mrs. Ord, Green's Farm (70 acres) which was occupied by W. Whitney, and Hale's Farm (58 acres) which was occupied by J. White. (fn. 76) There were three other farms of over 40 acres. (fn. 77)
Fyfield has always been a parish of mixed farming with a heavy predominance of arable. In 1086 there were 5 ploughs in the manor of Fyfield; there was woodland for 400 swine, 10 acres of meadow, and also a hive of bees. (fn. 78) In 1841 it was estimated that there were 1,655 acres of arable, 425 acres of meadow, and 120 acres of woodland. (fn. 79)
In 1086 the manor contained a mill, (fn. 80) and in 1281 there was a windmill there. (fn. 81) A windmill was in use in the parish until about 1910 (fn. 82) when it was blown down and cleared away. It was an open-based wooden post mill. (fn. 83) A mill on the River Roding is still using waterpower to grind cattle food. (fn. 84) The building is weatherboarded and appears to date from the 18th or early 19th century. The mill house is a double fronted plastered cottage probably built about 1840.
The Fyfield Pea (Lathyrus tuberosus) (fn. 85) has been naturalized at Fyfield since about 1800. It is a native of Europe and West Asia. (fn. 86) It can still be found in hedges and fields in Fyfield, in particular in a field east of the rectory, but is considered to be not so plentiful as formerly.