A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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It is not possible to distinguish with certainty between High Laver and Little Laver in Domesday but it is probable that before the Conquest Lewin held a manor in High Laver worth £16. (fn. 1) Alwin held 'another part of that manor as a manor but Ingelric added it to his own manor' in another parish. (fn. 2) In 1086 High Laver was probably held in demesne by Eustace, Count of Boulogne, and valued at £20. (fn. 3) Eustace's heir was his daughter Maud, wife of King Stephen. William, Count of Boulogne, son of Stephen and Maud, apparently granted the manor in free alms to the Benedictine abbey of St. Sulpice in Brittany. (fn. 4) This grant must have been made by 1159, when William died, but it was ignored until shortly after 1234. (fn. 5) After the death of William the honor of Boulogne passed to the king, who held the manor of HIGH LAVER in demesne until 1184 or 1185 and from that time until 1237 as immediate overlord of the Alchers. (fn. 6) Between 1234 and 1237 Mabel, abbess of St. Sulpice, claimed the manor from Richard fitz Alcher. (fn. 7) A lawsuit ensued after which the parties came to an agreement. (fn. 8) In 1237 Richard fitz Alcher acknowledged the manor to be the right of St. Sulpice which was to hold it in chief as ¼ fee. (fn. 9) The abbess, Amice, then granted the estate to Richard fitz Alcher and his heirs to hold of the abbey as ¼ fee and at an annual rent of £10. (fn. 10) In 1259 St. Sulpice transferred its rights in the manor to Waltham Abbey. (fn. 11) After 1267 Henry fitz Alcher, then lord of the manor, refused to admit that Waltham had any rights in the estate. (fn. 12) In 1275 a jury declared that he held the manor as tenant of the abbey. (fn. 13) Afterwards, at the command of the king's justices, Henry did homage to the abbot and paid his arrears of rent. (fn. 14) Henry fitz Alcher died in 1303 holding the manor of Waltham abbey. (fn. 15) It is not clear how much longer the abbey retained the tenancy in chief. In 1475 the manor was held of Anne, widow of Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham (d. 1460). (fn. 16) In 1485 it was held of Jasper, Duke of Bedford (d. 1495), and his wife Katherine, whose first husband had been Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham (d. 1483). (fn. 17) The manor was still held of Jasper and his wife in 1493. (fn. 18) By 1510 the Crown received £10 a year from the manor, (fn. 19) and this rent was paid until after 1559. (fn. 20) In 1584 the manor was held of Robert, 3rd Baron Rich, at a rent of 8d. a year. (fn. 21)
In 1167 it was reported that the estate could not be farmed because it was not stocked but during the following year it was restocked at a cost of £5 2s. 8d. (fn. 22) In 1184-5 the king granted to William son of Alcher the huntsman land in Laver to the annual value of £8. (fn. 23) In 1199 Richard fitz Alcher gave King John 100 marks to have £8 of land in Laver which his brother William had by the gift of King Richard and of which William died seised. (fn. 24) In June 1199 the king granted to Richard fitz Alcher all the land which his brother William had in Laver of the gift of King Henry, to hold in chief as ¼ fee. (fn. 25) In 1204 Richard fitz Alcher gave 10 marks and a goshawk for licence to assart 15 acres of his land in Laver and to have them put outside the forest boundary. (fn. 26) It was presented from the honor of Boulogne in 1212 that Richard son of Alcher held Great Laver in chief for ¼ fee. (fn. 27) In February 1227 Henry son of Richard fitz Alcher was granted his father's lands in Laver according to King John's charter. (fn. 28) Henry died in 1234 and his son Richard then had livery of ¼ fee in Laver held in chief. (fn. 29) In 1237 this estate consisted of 2 carucates of land. (fn. 30) In 1253 Peter de St. Hilary paid a gold mark to escape proceedings for the death of Richard fitz Alcher. (fn. 31) Richard was succeeded by his son Stephen. (fn. 32)
Shortly after 1259 Stephen entered into an agreement with Simon, Abbot of Waltham, whereby the abbey was to farm the estate for eight years instead of receiving an annual rent from it. (fn. 33) Stephen was dead by 1267. (fn. 34) Afterwards his brother and heir Henry would not let the abbey farm the estate and refused to pay rent. (fn. 35) In 1269-70 servants of Geoffrey, Prior of Waltham, went to High Laver to distrain Henry for arrears of rent. (fn. 36) They took some cattle but Henry's men then assaulted them and the cattle were restored. (fn. 37) In 1272-3 Henry brought an action against Richard de Harewes, then Abbot of Waltham. Henry alleged that 24 of the abbot's men had, at his command, trespassed upon High Laver manor and carried off livestock to the value of £40 after ill treating Henry's men and killing two of them. Henry claimed that he had suffered £50 damages in consequence of the assault. The abbot pleaded in defence that in taking the livestock he was exercising his lawful power of distraint, since Henry, unlike his predecessor Stephen, had refused to do homage to him for the manor and was five years in arrears with his rent. Henry denied that previous abbots had ever received either homage or rent for High Laver manor. In 1275, after the verdict against him, Henry made an agreement with the abbot whereby he paid four years' arrears in addition to the current year's rent. (fn. 38) When Henry fitz Alcher died in 1303 the estate consisted of a dwelling house worth 3s. 4d. a year, 362 acres of arable worth £6 0s. 8d. a year, 13 acres of meadow worth 19s. 6d. a year, and 5 acres of pasture worth 3s. 4d. a year. (fn. 39) The rents of assize of freeholders amounted to £5 6s. a year. (fn. 40) Annual outgoings, including the £10 rent due to Waltham Abbey, amounted to £10 8s. (fn. 41) The net annual value was thus £2 10s. 9d. (fn. 42)
Henry fitz Alcher left as his heir his son Alcher. (fn. 43) In 1315 Alcher granted the manor to his son Henry and Henry's wife Beatrice and their heirs to hold of Alcher and his heirs and do all services to the chief lords. (fn. 44) In 1324 Henry fitz Alcher and his wife Beatrice granted a life interest in the manor to Robert Norman for £10 a year. (fn. 45) In 1343 Henry fitz Alcher and Beatrice granted the manor to John de Depeden and his heirs to hold of the chief lords except for £10 of rent and the homage and services of seventeen tenants which were to be paid to Henry fitz Alcher and his heirs. (fn. 46) In 1346 John de Depeden was reported as holding ¼ fee in High Laver which Henry Alcher once held. (fn. 47) At the end of 1358 Maud, widow of John de Depeden, empowered the Rector of High Laver to sue for her dower of every freehold which belonged to her husband in the counties of Essex, Hertford, and York. (fn. 48) A rental drawn up in 1431 suggests that Maud held the manor of High Laver in dower. (fn. 49) After her death it passed into the possession of another John Depeden, probably her son or grandson. In July 1406 John de Neuton, treasurer of St. Peter's, York, and other trustees of Sir John Depeden's estate quitclaimed to Robert Ramsey and his heirs the manor of High Laver and all other lands in Essex and Herts. which belonged to Sir John Depeden in demesne and in reversion. (fn. 50) In 1412 John Ramsey was reported as holding one manor in High Laver worth £10. (fn. 51) In 1428 Robert Ramsey was holding the ¼ fee which Henry Alcher once held in High Laver. (fn. 52) According to the rental of 1431 Robert Ramsey was still holding the manor of High Laver in that year, but shortly afterwards it came into the possession of his daughter Eleanor and her husband Richard Priour who in 1436 received confirmation from the Crown. (fn. 53) In 1452 when he presented to the church, Richard Priour was still lord of the manor, but within a few years the estate came into the possession of Walter Wrytell, son of Eleanor Priour by her first husband Ralph Wrytell. (fn. 54)
Walter Wrytell died in 1475; his widow Katherine held the manor in dower until her death in 1493. (fn. 55) The estate then descended to John Wrytell, son of John (d. 1485), son of Walter Wrytell. (fn. 56) In 1493 the estate consisted of 230 acres and was valued at £4. (fn. 57) John, son of John Wrytell, died in 1507. (fn. 58) His heir, an infant daughter Juliane, was dead by November 1509. (fn. 59) The heirs to High Laver and other manors were the daughters of Walter Wrytell: Eleanor wife of James Walsingham and Gresilda wife of Edward Waldegrave. (fn. 60) A partition of their inheritance was made in May 1510 and the manor of High Laver was apportioned to Eleanor and her husband. (fn. 61) In 1510 the manor was said to be worth £14 14s. 8d. a year. (fn. 62) The demesne was apparently farmed out, the chief farmer being Reynold Foster. (fn. 63) Rents from the farmed land amounted to £17 9s. 4d. (fn. 64) In addition there were twelve freeholders paying rents totalling £3 10s. 5d. a year and 4 copyholders paying rents amounting to £4 6s. 5d. (fn. 65) A rental of 1540 showed no change in the value of the manor. (fn. 66)
James Walsingham died in 1540. (fn. 67) Sir Edmund Walsingham, elder son of James, apparently succeeded to the estate, for in 1550, the year in which he died, his only surviving son Thomas held his first court for the manor. (fn. 68) In June 1552 the demesne land consisted of 266 acres. (fn. 69) By 1559 the annual value of the manor had risen to £17 9s., the rents from farmed land amounting to £20 7s. 8d. (fn. 70) There were apparently only three copyholders at this time. (fn. 71) Sir Thomas Walsingham died in 1584, leaving as his heir his son Edmund; the manor was then said to be worth £5. (fn. 72) Edmund died in 1589 and was succeeded by his younger brother Thomas who retained the manor until his death in 1630. (fn. 73) His son and heir, Sir Thomas Walsingham, disposed of the estate about 1655 to Anthony Stanlake. (fn. 74) During the ownership of the last two Walsinghams, at least part of the estate was leased, the lessees being in turn G. Day and Josias and Thomas Tunbridge. (fn. 75)
Stanlake was described as lord of the manor in 1659 and it may have been on his death, sometime after 1662, that the estate descended to coheiresses: Sarah, wife of Jacob Foster, and Martha, wife of Richard Matthews. (fn. 76) In 1682 and 1686 Foster and Matthews were described as lords of the manor in right of their wives. (fn. 77) In 1695, 1699, and 1706 Richard Matthews and Abraham Foster, a London grocer and probably son of Jacob Foster, were lords. (fn. 78) Mary, daughter of Richard Matthews, brought one half of the estate in marriage to her husband Samuel Beachcroft who was lord of the manor with Abraham Foster in 1713. (fn. 79)
On Abraham's death his widow Anna held her husband's half manor for life. (fn. 80) On her death this half was divided between Abraham's two daughters: Sarah, wife of Richard Merry, a London merchant, and Mary, wife of Lewis Scawen. (fn. 81) The quarter inherited by Mary and Lewis Scawen descended to their only son Thomas who in 1753 devised all his real estate to his uncle Robert Scawen. (fn. 82) In addition to 'an undivided fourth part' of High Laver manor, Robert also held an 'undivided half' of Hayleys manor in Epping. (fn. 83) In June 1766 he and the owners of the other 'undivided' half (of Hayleys) and quarter (of High Laver manor), Richard Merry and his heir Anthony, agreed that it would be to their mutual convenience to make a physical division of their properties. (fn. 84) Lots were cast, as a result of which the two quarters of High Laver manor fell to the share of Robert Scawen. (fn. 85)
There must have been an agreement about the same time with the owner of the other half of the manor, which had remained in the Beachcroft family until after 1762, for the sale of the whole manor, for by August 1767, when he held his first court, Thomas Darby had become sole lord. (fn. 86) At the time of the sale to Darby the whole estate, which consisted of about 370 acres, was leased to Abraham Thorrowgood. (fn. 87) Thomas Darby, who continued to live at Sunbury (Mdx.), died in 1769, having devised the manor of High Laver to his wife Dulcibella for her life and then to his brother George. (fn. 88) Dulcibella died in 1784 and George in 1790.
George Darby was succeeded by his son William who changed his surname to St. Quintin. In 1802 William mortgaged the manor to Mrs. Elizabeth Dashwood for £2,557. The estate was still encumbered with this debt in 1805 when William died, leaving as his heir his son William, a minor. The trustees of the estate eventually repaid Mrs. Dashwood in 1812. In 1831 William St. Quintin mortgaged the manor for £5,000. In each of the years 1840 and 1850 he borrowed a further £1,000, making a total mortgage on the estate of £7,000. This was still outstanding when William St. Quintin died in 1859.
The St. Quintins never lived in High Laver. After the death of Abraham Thorrowgood and his wife the manor house and farm were leased to the Speed family and, from 1826, to William Barnard and his son who paid a rent of £425 a year for the first 12 years, £360 a year for the next twelve, and £373 a year from 1850.
William St. Quintin stipulated in his will, made 30 years before his death, that all his lands, except those in Yorkshire, should be sold by his trustees. The manor of High Laver was sold for £12,050 to John Watlington 'Perry Watlington, M.P., and the mortgage on the estate was paid out of the purchase money. At the time of the sale the estate consisted of 374 acres. (fn. 89) J. W. Perry Watlington was still owner in 1874. (fn. 90) By 1886 he was dead and Robert Wicksted Ethelston had succeeded to the estate. (fn. 91) Ethelston died in 1914. (fn. 92) By 1917 the estate was apparently no longer regarded as a manor. (fn. 93)
The present farm-house stands on a moated site immediately north of the church. South of it an arm of the moat may have enclosed the church itself. To the north there was formerly a third rectangular moated enclosure. (fn. 94) The present house is of brick, partly plastered, and probably dates from the late 18th or early 19th century. At least two of the timbered farm buildings are older than the house.
In 1288 Emma, daughter of Eustace fitz Walter, granted all her lands in High Laver and Housham (Matching) to Sir Henry de Enfield. (fn. 95) In 1325 Sir John de Enfield, son of Henry, John Otes, and others were tenants of the manor of Little Laver. (fn. 96) In 1329 Sir John divided his estates between his sons Richard and William. He conveyed to William his holding in Little Laver which became the separate manor of Envilles. (fn. 97) To Richard he conveyed 1 messuage, 2 carucates of land, 12 acres meadow, and 40s. rent in High Laver and Housham (Matching). (fn. 98) It is possible that at this time or shortly afterwards the lands held of Little Laver manor by John Otes were merged with the lands held by Richard de Enfield in High Laver to form a separate manor which descended in the Enfield family but which became known by the name of Otes.
The heir of Sir Richard de Enfield was his daughter Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Battail. (fn. 99) In 1397 the manor of Otes was held by John Battail, son and heir of Thomas and Elizabeth. (fn. 100) John Battail made his will in 1397, on the eve of his departure for Jerusalem. (fn. 101) He gave detailed instructions for the partition of his property between his sisters, Margaret, soon afterwards wife of John de Boys, and Alice, wife of John Barrington. Battail died shortly afterwards and Boys and Barrington quarrelled over the partition. (fn. 102) The dispute was eventually referred to the arbitration of the Countess of Hereford who decided that Otes should be equally divided between Alice Barrington and Margaret de Boys, as John Battail had instructed. (fn. 103) In 1412 John de Boys and John Barrington were each reported as holding lands in High Laver and elsewhere worth £20. (fn. 104) Margaret de Boys apparently died without issue. (fn. 105) Afterwards two daughters of John Barrington, Elizabeth, wife of John Sulyard, and Katherine, wife of John Pykenham, each inherited half of Otes. (fn. 106)
Sir John Sulyard, son of Elizabeth and John Sulyard, died in 1488 in possession of half of Otes which he held of Edward, Duke of Buckingham, and which was worth 20 marks. (fn. 107) His son and heir Edward died in 1516 and was succeeded by his son Sir William Sulyard who held his first court in 1523. (fn. 108) William died without issue in 1540 and his half-brother Eustace Sulyard inherited his half of Otes. (fn. 109) Eustace died in 1547 leaving as his heir his son Edward. (fn. 110) In 1574 Edward conveyed his half of the manor to John Collins who had already acquired the other half (see below). (fn. 111)
John Pykenham survived his wife Katherine and died in 1436 in possession of half of Otes. (fn. 112) In 1445 William Hasilden and others (named) conveyed this half of the manor to John Pykenham, evidently the son of John Pykenham (d. 1436), and his wife Margery. (fn. 113) Margery Pykenham was still seised of this half in 1500 when her son and heir George died childless, leaving as his heirs his two nieces, Margery and Elizabeth Pykenham, daughters of his brother Thomas. (fn. 114) At that time this half of the manor was held of John, Earl of Oxford, and was worth 20 marks. (fn. 115) Apparently the sisters Margery and Elizabeth Pykenham each inherited half of the moiety.
In 1539 John Heron and his wife Elizabeth, who was probably the daughter of Thomas Pykenham, conveyed a quarter of Otes to John Lymsey. (fn. 116) The latter died in 1545; in 1558 Edward Lymsey, his son and heir, conveyed this quarter to John Collins. (fn. 117)
Meanwhile in 1550 John Collins had received the other half of the moiety from John Jennyns and his wife Joan, one of whom may have been the child or grandchild of Margery sister of Elizabeth Pykenham. (fn. 118)
Between 1550 and 1574 John Collins thus acquired the whole manor of Otes. It remained in the Collins family until shortly after 1614 when it was purchased by William Masham whose son William succeeded him and was created a baronet in 1621. (fn. 119) In 1638 Sir William Masham was visited at Otes by Oliver Cromwell, who was his relative by marriage. (fn. 120) Sir William died about 1656. (fn. 121) His heir was his grandson William Masham, 2nd Bt., who died unmarried about 1662 and was succeeded by his brother Francis Masham, 3rd Bt. (fn. 122) In 1668 there were 59 freeholders and copyholders on the estate. (fn. 123) The area in their hands was more than 354 acres (fn. 124) and they paid rents amounting to £9 12s. 1d. (fn. 125) In 1678 22 tenants who failed to attend their lord's court were each fined 2d. (fn. 126)
From 1691 until 1704 John Locke the philosopher lived at Otes as the paying guest of Sir Francis Masham. (fn. 127) In 1723 Sir Francis died, leaving as his heir his son Samuel, 1st Baron Masham of Otes (cr. 1712). (fn. 128) In 1736 Lord Masham impoverished himself when he settled the greater part of his estates, including the manor of Otes, on his son Samuel at the time of the latter's marriage to Henrietta Winnington. (fn. 129) The young Samuel had already inherited the property of his uncle General Hill and Henrietta brought him a dowry of some £10,000. (fn. 130) He was a lord of the Bedchamber to George II and auditor-general of the household of George, Prince of Wales. (fn. 131) He was, however, a wastrel (fn. 132) and before he succeeded his father as Baron Masham in 1758 (fn. 133) he was already in need of money. In 1757 he mortgaged Otes and his two other manors of Matchinghall in Matching and Little Laver to Dr. Robert Taylor of Albemarle St., Hanover Square (Mdx.) for £3,000. (fn. 134) Part of the manor farm, which was valued at £140 a year, was then let to John Hinson. (fn. 135) There were 100 acres of woodland, valued at £35 a year, in hand. (fn. 167) The free and copyhold rents belonging to Otes and Matchinghall manors amounted to £11 16s. 11½d. a year and the fines and reliefs for the two manors were estimated at £5 a year. (fn. 137)
In 1761 Lord Masham was granted a pension of £1,000 a year by George III. (fn. 138) In February 1762 he still owed £2,000 of the £3,000 he had borrowed from Taylor in 1757. (fn. 139) He then married as his second wife Charlotte Dive whose father John Dive of Queen Square, Westminster, gave her a dowry of £8,000, paying off the debt to Taylor as part of this sum. (fn. 140) At about the time of the marriage Lord Masham sold to a bookseller part of his family library, including books bequeathed by John Locke, 'to make room', it was commonly believed, 'for books of polite amusement'. (fn. 141) Charlotte Masham was as irresponsible and as extravagant as her husband, (fn. 142) and, less than three years after the marriage, Lord Masham began to borrow money on a scale which led rapidly to the loss of his estate. Between January 1765 and June 1766 he borrowed a total of £8,600 on the security of the estate. (fn. 143) Most of this was lent by Robert Palmer of St. Andrew's parish, Holborn (Lond.) who had been manager of the estate from 1757, if not before. (fn. 144) In 1766 the estate was valued at £25,369. (fn. 145) Early in 1767 Palmer acquired the freehold on terms which allowed Lord Masham to live at Otes for the rest of his life. (fn. 146) Masham died there in 1776. (fn. 147) Even at the end he was 'so burdened with debt that he could not attend the House of Lords'. (fn. 148) An interesting comment on the characters of Lord Masham and Robert Palmer was written a century later by P. J. Budworth whose family had been connected with High Laver almost from the time when Masham lost his estate. (fn. 149) In 1876 Budworth wrote that 'Lord Masham seemed to have been improvident and his improvidence had been taken advantage of by one to whom he confided the management of his estates and who built up his own fortune upon the ruins of that of his master'. (fn. 150)
Robert Palmer never lived at Otes. (fn. 151) He died in 1786 leaving all his real estate to his only son Richard but charging it with the payment of £10,000 to each of his two unmarried daughters. (fn. 152) In 1801 Richard Palmer put up his Essex estate for auction. (fn. 153) This consisted of 1,258 acres valued at £1,075 a year. (fn. 154) Otes manor farm contained 279 acres which were valued, with the manor house, at £385 a year. (fn. 155) Of these 279 acres, 160 were in the occupation of three leaseholders, called Browne, the elder and younger, and Crush, and 92 were occupied by the elder Browne as tenant at will. (fn. 156) The manor house was empty. (fn. 157) The quit rents on the manor amounted to about £10 a year and the royalties were valued at £20. (fn. 158) An offer for the leasehold land appears to have been accepted in 1801. (fn. 159) The manor house and 116 acres in hand or in the occupation of the tenant-at-will were sold in 1802-3 to John Hughes who held his first court in 1808. (fn. 160) In 1811-12 the manor came into the possession of George Starkins (fn. 161) who had already acquired much of the land in High Laver which was auctioned in 1801-2. In 1824 there were 44 manorial tenants whose rents totalled £9 19s. 6d. a year (fn. 162) and in 1837 34 whose rents totalled £7 5s. 8d. (fn. 163) In 1841 George Starkins owned 613 acres in the parish; of this he then occupied 426 acres. (fn. 164)
Between 1841 and 1843 John and Thomas Inkersole came into possession of the manor. (fn. 165) In 1848 the manor farm consisted of 68 acres and was occupied by Thomas Inkersole. (fn. 166) The Inkersoles also owned an estate of 155 acres which had previously been in the possession of George Starkins. (fn. 167) They were still lords of the manor in 1860 when the last recorded court was held. (fn. 168) By 1870 the manor had apparently come to Mrs. Wright and others who still held it in 1914. (fn. 169) By 1917 the estate was apparently not regarded as a manor. (fn. 170)
There is no longer a house at Otes. The site, which is partly moated, is clear except for a well shaft and two large lime trees. South-west of the moated enclosure are the remains of an orchard wall and of two outbuildings. One of these buildings was constructed of re-used timbers. South of the site a small stream has been dammed, probably in the 18th century, to form an ornamental lake with a weir at its outlet.
In about 1770 Otes was said to be one of the only two good houses in the parish: 'a large building, in a delightful situation, with a park, gardens, canals etc.' (fn. 171) A woodcut of the house, published in 1821, (fn. 172) shows on the left hand a low three-gabled block, apparently timber-framed and plastered. It was probably of medieval origin, altered in the 16th or early 17th century. There were slightly projecting oriel windows and a two-storied porch with a pointed entrance arch. Adjoining the old house to the right there were two later additions. In front was a square three-story block, probably of the Queen Anne period. (fn. 173) Behind this was a two-story wing in the picturesque style of the late 18th century. In 1801 it was said that the newer part of the house had been recently erected. (fn. 174) The building is said to have been demolished in 1822. (fn. 175) In 1835 it was described as 'completely destroyed'. (fn. 176) Some outbuildings remained, however, for some time. (fn. 177) The last of them fell in 1952. (fn. 178)