A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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Greenstead is a small parish adjoining Chipping Ongar to the west. (fn. 1)From 1548 to 1554 it was united with Chipping Ongar. (fn. 2) Its population has always been small until the last 20 years. In 1801 it was 102, and in 1931, 119. The population in 1951 was 785, the large increase being mainly accounted for by the building of houses on the estate adjoining Chipping Ongar. (fn. 3) The main centres of population are at the east and west ends of the parish, not in the centre by the hall and the church.
The land rises from about 200 ft. above sea-level in the east to 300 ft. in the west. A stream which rises in the west flows east to join Cripsey Brook near the north-east corner. Greenstead Wood is in the west, between the stream and the north boundary. The road from Chipping Ongar enters Greenstead in the south-east and runs through the parish to Greenstead Green in the north-west. At the Ongar end of this road there is a small built-up area, mostly of the 19th century and later. To the north of this is a large housing site consisting of 100 privately built houses, 30 post-1945 council houses, and two groups of prefabricated houses.
The rectory lies on the road about ½ mile from Ongar. To the west of it, lying close together to the north of the road, are the parish church and Greenstead Hall. They are joined to Ongar by an avenue of trees about a mile long. (fn. 4)
There are a number of houses at Greenstead Green. Little Thorbens (now called The Cottage) is a small two-story timber-framed house with a cross-wing and an overhanging gable at its west end. The date 1564 is cut on one of the roof timbers. (fn. 5) Blackstock House and Tudor Cottage formerly made up a single house, named New House. Tudor Cottage is timber-framed and partly weather-boarded, and dates from the late 16th or early 17th century. Blackstock House, on the west, is a gault brick addition dating from about 1870. Greenstead House is a two-story stucco building, dating from the 18th century with a large addition of about 1860. Ivy Cottage adjoins it (see below, Schools). Hardings Farm is opposite Ivy Cottage. Also at Greenstead Green, on the south side of the road leading to Ongar, are five pairs of council houses. The green from which this part of the parish took its name no longer exists, but within living memory there was a long triangular open green on the west side of the road here, reaching nearly to Toot Hill in Stanford Rivers. (fn. 6) The present road from Greenstead Green to Toot Hill appears to have been constructed between 1838 and 1873-4. (fn. 7)Pensons Lane runs from Greenstead Green north-east to Ackingford Bridge (see Chipping Ongar). Another road runs north from Greenstead Green to Bobbingworth. A road from the centre of the parish runs south to Stanford Hall and the church in Stanford Rivers. Half a mile to the east of this road, on the southern border of the parish, is Lodge Farm. It is a timber-framed house of mid- or late-17th-century date, and it contains a round-headed corner cupboard of the same period.
The railway from Epping to Ongar passes through a small part of the parish on the north east. Blake Hall station, on this line, is ¼ mile north of Greenstead Green but is in the parish of Stanford Rivers.
Few references have been found to the parish roads. In 1598 Greenstead was presented at quarter sessions for the bad state of its highways. (fn. 8) In 1618-19 the road from Chipping Ongar to Greenstead was in a bad condition and the parishioners of Greenstead and High Ongar were said to be jointly responsible for its upkeep. (fn. 9)
The Greenstead housing estate has all the public services. (fn. 10) Water was supplied to some parts of the parish in 1908, from Chipping Ongar as far as Greenstead church. (fn. 11)There is sewerage as far as the Croft. (fn. 12) Gas was first supplied in 1934. It at first extended along the road to Blake Hall Station. (fn. 13)Greenstead Green has had electricity since 1932. (fn. 14)
In 1086 there were in all 8 plough-teams in Greenstead, woodland for 520 swine, 35 acres of meadow. There were then only 14 pigs on the manor: the number had declined from 30 in 1066. There were 40 goats and 20 sheep, a rouncy, and 3 beasts. (fn. 15)The parish was less densely wooded than Chipping Ongar (q.v.) to the east.
The manor of Greenstead in 1349 was said to contain 60 acres of (arable) land, 8 acres of meadow, 15 acres of pasture, and a wood. (fn. 16)In 1625 it was said to contain 100 acres of land, 20 acres of meadow, 60 acres of pasture, and 60 acres of underwood. (fn. 17) In 1690 there were 100 acres of land, 80 acres of meadow, 100 acres of pasture, and 80 acres of underwood. (fn. 18)These figures seem to indicate that from the 14th century onwards the demesne farm gradually increased in size until, by the end of the 17th century it contained about half the total area of the parish. In the 18th century there were at least three farms in the parish apart from the home farm of Greenstead Hall. (fn. 19)During the first half of that century almost all the land in the parish was acquired by a single owner. It was split up again after 1750. (fn. 20)In 1839 the parish was estimated to contain 289 acres of arable, 325 acres of meadow and pasture, 31 acres of woodland, and 23 acres of common, waste, and roads. (fn. 21)The Hall farm contained 263 acres. There were three other farms of 50-100 acres. More than 400 acres were owned by the lord of the manor, and within the next 30 years two other farms were added to the main estate, leaving very little land in the parish outside the estate. (fn. 22)
Inclosure was probably facilitated in Greenstead by the small number of interests involved. A rental of about 1525 has numerous references to crofts in Greenstead, which suggests that much inclosure had already taken place. (fn. 23)It is, however, interesting that the green which gave its name to Greenstead Green should have survived until modern times. (fn. 24)
The sale of timber from Greenstead during the Napoleonic wars is mentioned below. (fn. 27) It is clear from the maps that Greenstead wood was much larger in 1777 than it was a hundred years later. (fn. 28)