A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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In 1066 LITTLE LAVER was held as a manor by Brictmar. (fn. 1) In 1086 it was held of Eustace Count of Boulogne by Richard and was worth 10s. (fn. 2) In 1190 an assize was held to determine whether Eustace de Lagefare had more right to hold the 'land of Lagefare' of the king than the king had to hold it in demesne. (fn. 3) In 1200 Ralph de Rochester brought a suit against Eustace de Lagefare, the tenant, for possession of the land. (fn. 4) Afterwards they came to an agreement whereby Eustace de Lagefare acknowledged 'all the town of Lagefare' to be the right of Ralph de Rochester who granted to Eustace the services of 8 tenants and 27 acres of land to hold of him by the service of 1/3 knight's fee. (fn. 5) In 1212 and 1217-18 Ralph de Rochester held Little Laver in chief of the king by the service of ½ fee and Richard de Rochester and his brother Eustace held the manor of Ralph. (fn. 6) It was probably from this division of the manor between Eustace and Richard that there came to be two manors in Little Laver: Little Laver alias Bourchiers Hall and Enfields alias Envilles (see below). It seems, however, that until 1325, if not later, the estates held by the successors of Eustace and Richard were considered not as separate manors but as parts of one manor. (fn. 7) In 1307 this manor was held of Robert, 2nd Lord Scales, whose great-grandfather Robert de Scales (d. before 1250), had probably inherited it through his wife Alice de Rochester. (fn. 8) Robert, 2nd Lord Scales, died in 1325 and was succeeded by his son Robert, 3rd Lord Scales. (fn. 9) After this Envilles and Bourchiers estates came to be regarded as separate manors but they probably continued under a common overlord. Certainly in 1428 the tenant in chief of both manors was Humphrey Stafford, later Duke of Buckingham (d. 1460). (fn. 10)
In 1303 Bennet le Brun held ¼ fee in Little Laver. (fn. 11) Shortly afterwards the Bourchier family came into possession of this estate. In 1325 John le Bousser and others were tenants of the manor of Little Laver which was held by the service of 1 fee. (fn. 12) Soon afterwards Bousser's estate became a separate manor known as LITTLE LAVER HALL alias BOURCHIERS HALL. In 1330 Robert, afterwards 1st Lord Bourchier, was granted free warren in his demesne lands in Laver. (fn. 13) In 1346 John Bourchier, son of Robert, held the ¼ fee which Bennet Broun once held. (fn. 14) In 1384 John, now 2nd Lord Bourchier, was granted free warren in the demesne lands of his manor of Little Laver. (fn. 15) This manor now followed the same descent as that of Bourchiers Hall in Moreton (q.v.) until 1559 when Richard, 1st Baron Rich, conveyed it to John Collins. (fn. 16) Thomas Collins was lord of the manor in 1584. (fn. 17) The estate remained in the Collins family (fn. 18) until it was sold to Matthew Blucke of Hunsdon (Herts.) who died about 1713. (fn. 19) From 1563 to 1660 or later the Collinses also held Envilles (see below). For some years Blucke had held the office of usher of the rolls of the Court of Chancery and after his death it had been decreed by the court that his private estate should be sold to meet debts arising from his term of office. (fn. 20) Accordingly in 1714 Little Laver manor was sold for £2,100 to Samuel, 1st Baron Masham. (fn. 21) At that time the estate contained 300 acres and was in the occupation of Thomas Halden. (fn. 22) In 1736 Lord Masham settled the manor on his son Samuel at the time of the latter's marriage to Henrietta Winnington. (fn. 23) In 1757 the Hon. Samuel Masham mortgaged this manor and his two other manors of Otes in High Laver and Matchinghall in Matching to Dr. Robert Taylor for £3,000. (fn. 24) At that time the manor house and farm were rented by Thomas Halden for £135 a year. (fn. 25) There were no freeholders or copyholders. (fn. 26) In 1765 and 1766 the manor was included in the mortgage of the Masham estates to Robert Palmer and came into his possession with the other estates in 1767. (fn. 27) In 1801 it was sold by Richard Palmer to William Clark for £5,855 of which £755 was paid for the timber on the estate. (fn. 28) At that time the manor farm consisted of about 285 acres of which 235 acres were arable. (fn. 29) The whole farm except for 20 acres of woodland, which Richard Palmer had kept in hand, had been leased to John Hall in 1799 for 21 years at £160 a year. (fn. 30) There were no quit rents and no royalties. (fn. 31)
William Clark was owner of the estate until 1804 or 1805 when it was acquired by James Meyer. (fn. 32) In 1828 or 1829 it passed to Christian P. Meyer who built a new house, afterwards known as Little Laver Hall, for his own occupation, leaving the old manor house for his tenant John Hall. (fn. 33) C. P. Meyer still owned the estate in 1848; it then consisted of 270 acres of which he occupied 15 acres and John Hall 255 acres. (fn. 34) C. P. Meyer was succeeded before 1859 by his son Herman who died in 1893 leaving as his heir his son James. (fn. 35) In 1930 James Meyer sold Little Laver Hall to Mr. E. W. Bovill. (fn. 36) In 1943 he sold the rest of the estate, including the manor farm and the old manor house, to Mr. T. Glasse, who still owns and farms the property. (fn. 37)
The old manor house is now known as The Grange. It stands on a moated site; parts of the most were filled in during living memory and only fragments now exist. The older part of the house is on its east side and consists of an L-shaped timber-framed structure with wings running east and north. In the centre is a massive brick chimney, cruciform above roof level, on which the date 1587 has been recut. The east wing may be a late-16th-century adaptation of an earlier structure and there are indications that it was formerly of greater extent. The north range was probably built in 1587 as a two-story 'solar' wing. The ground floor fireplace has a fine three-centred chamfered brick arch, 9 ft. wide, and there is a heavily moulded cross-beam in the same room. In the upper room an arch-braced roof truss is partly visible. A single-story extension to this wing at its north end is now a dairy. Various timberframed additions and a staircase were inserted later in the angle of the two wings. About the middle of the 19th century a gabled brick wing was added on the west side of the house.
Little Laver Hall was probably built about 1845. The original gabled house was of brick and stucco with hood-moulds to the windows and a two-story bay on the garden side. The south and east wings were added in 1930. (fn. 38)
In 1299 Sir Henry de Enfield was granted free warren in his demesne lands in Little Laver and Fyfield. (fn. 39) In 1303 Ralph of Essex was reported as holding ¼ fee in Little Laver. (fn. 40) Ralph probably held a life interest only, for it seems that Sir John, son and heir of Sir Henry de Enfield, afterwards held the estate. (fn. 41) In 1325 John de Enfield and others were tenants of the manor of Little Laver which was held by the service of 1 fee. (fn. 42) In 1329 Sir John de Enfield divided his estates in Little Laver, High Laver, and elsewhere between his sons. He granted to his sons William and Thomas, and to the heirs of William, a messuage, a mill, 2 carucates of land, 2 acres of meadow, 20 acres of wood, and 40s. rent in Little Laver, Moreton, Fyfield, and Beauchamp Roding. (fn. 43) In 1346 William de Enfield was reported as holding the ¼ fee which Ralph of Essex once held. (fn. 44) In 1361 William died in possession of the estate which had been granted to him in 1329 and which became known as the manor of ENFIELDS alias ENVILLES. (fn. 45) His heir was his son John, a minor. (fn. 46) During the minority of John his lands were in the custody of Thomas Rokewood. (fn. 47) John came of age in November 1368. (fn. 48) In June 1369 he had seisin of his lands. (fn. 49) Immediately afterwards he granted to John Bampton and John Lepyngeden in fee a yearly rent of £20 'to be taken of all his lands in Little Laver, Moreton and Beauchamp Roding'. (fn. 50) John de Enfield died in 1375. (fn. 51)
In or soon after 1375 the manor descended to Alice, daughter of John de Enfield, and her husband Ralph de Tyle. (fn. 52) In 1397, after the death of Ralph de Tyle, all his lands in Little Laver were committed to the custody of William de Stucle during the minority of John de Tyle, son and heir of Ralph. (fn. 53) John de Tyle died in 1399 leaving as his heir Thomas de Enfield, uncle of his mother Alice. (fn. 54)
The subsequent history of the manor has not been traced until May 1541 when Robert Tirrell of Lynton (Devon) and his wife Joyce were licensed to alienate it to Richard, afterwards 1st Baron Rich. (fn. 55) In 1563 Lord Rich conveyed it to John Collins of Bourchiers Hall and his son Thomas. (fn. 56) In 1603 Nicholas Collins held the manor. (fn. 57) In 1625 Thomas Collins, probably the son of Nicholas, and his wife Dorothy conveyed it to George Scott and John Rowley. (fn. 58) In 1632 and 1634 Thomas Collins was lord of the manor. (fn. 59) In 1640 Thomas Collins and his wife Dorothy and Richard Collins held the estate. (fn. 60) By 1660 Thomas Collins the husband of Dorothy was dead. (fn. 61) In that year the widow Dorothy Collins and Thomas Collins, probably her son, conveyed the manor to Henry Wheeler and Edwin Baldwin. (fn. 62)
By 1702 John Austry was in possession of the estate. (fn. 63) He was still lord of the manor in 1713. (fn. 64) Within the next 20 years the estate passed to John Evans, apparently Austry's grandson, who was described as lord of the manor in court rolls from 1734 until 1757. (fn. 65) In 1745 there were thirteen manorial tenants who paid rents amounting to £1 0s. 8d. a year. (fn. 66) Between 1757 and 1766 the estate descended to Margaret Mary, who may have been the daughter of John Evans and who was the wife of John Jones in 1766. (fn. 67) By 1780 the manor had passed to Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, Bt., who in 1767 had married Jane daughter of Margaret Mary. (fn. 68) Sir Thomas died in 1798. (fn. 69) His son and heir, Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson, Bt., died in 1821 having devised the manor to his second son John Maryon Wilson, a minor at the time of his father's death. (fn. 70) In 1848 the manor farm, which consisted of 249 acres, was in the occupation of William Nicholls Clay. (fn. 71) John Maryon Wilson became 9th baronet in 1869 and died in 1876. (fn. 72) He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Sir Spencer Maryon Wilson, Bt., who died in 1897. (fn. 73) In 1899 Sir Spencer's trustees were lords of the manor but after the beginning of the 20th century the estate was apparently no longer regarded as a manor. (fn. 74)
The manor house site had an elaborate system of moats of which considerable parts remain. There appear to have been at least three moated enclosures, one of which was triangular. There is no trace of an early manor house although the present farm-house probably occupies the same site. It probably dates from the early years of the present century. A sevenbay timber barn, which formerly had a thatched roof, may be of the 18th century or earlier.