A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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THE first volume of the Victoria History of Essex was published in 1903 and the second in 1907. A little work on other volumes was put in hand in 1907 and 1909, but nothing came of it, and it was not until 1950 that any desire to add to the Essex volumes in the series openly displayed itself. In that year, however, two conferences of the Local Authorities in Essex, specially convened, resolved to raise a local fund so that work on the history of their county might be resumed. The three County Boroughs, and most of the Municipal Boroughs, Urban Districts, and Rural Districts agreed to contribute in proportion to their populations, and the money thus found was used to meet the local editorial expenses. The Essex County Council extended some useful practical help. A 'Victoria History of the County of Essex Committee' was set up in 1951 to ensure a proper use of the money, and appointed a local editor (Mr. W. R. Powell) and assistant editor (Miss Audrey M. Taylor). It has met ever since under the chairmanship of Sir John Ruggles-Brise, Bt., and besides a few co-opted individuals, consists of representatives of the participating Local Authorities and the learned societies in Essex. Mr. J. G. O'Leary, Public Librarian of Dagenham, who had cheerfully shouldered the burden of appealing for financial support, undertook the duties of secretary. With this Committee the University of London agreed to collaborate, and so was formed another of those partnerships for the promotion of local historiography, the prototype of which is described in the editorial note prefixed to the seventh volume of The Victoria History of Wiltshire. The University of London will ever gratefully recall the local generosity which made this partnership possible, and the Essex Authorities the opportunity thus afforded them of bringing out in instalments a modern history of their county.
The present volume presents some special features. Thanks to the extensive system of topographical indexing adopted in the Essex Record Office it has been possible to exploit the large accumulations of historical material in that Office in systematic fashion. This has enabled contributors to prepare fuller accounts of parish government, the administration of poor relief, and the maintenance of roads and bridges than have as yet appeared in the series, while the history of the descent of land since the 17th century has been enriched, as perhaps never before, by the use of private estate documents. Secondly, the publication by the County Council of Essex Parish Records 1240-1894 so recently as 1950 suggested that the brief descriptions of the earlier parochial registers of each parish, commonly included in the topographical volumes of the History, might be dispensed with here. Thirdly, in 1921 the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments published the second volume of its report upon the buildings of the county earlier than 1714. The existence of this volume rendered comparable treatment of the buildings in Ongar hundred superfluous, but the ground had to be traversed anew in pursuit of later buildings falling outside the Commission's purview. In the course of this inquiry it was found possible to correct or amplify some statements appearing in the Commission's reports, particularly in the light of recent research on medieval timberframed structures. In later volumes, however, it is probable that a lessdetailed treatment of the buildings will be found advisable, especially in areas that are richer in architectural interest than this one. Similarly, other features may be modified where this can be done without rendering them less scholarly.
The compilers have received help from many people living in Essex or connected with the county. The Essex Education Committee, the County Planning Department, and Chigwell Urban District Council permitted access to certain records and answered questions. The Eastern and North Thames Gas Boards, the Eastern Electricity Board, and the London Co-operative Society also supplied much information. The records of the Wanstead and Woodford Methodist Circuit were examined by permission of the Revd. J. R. S. Hutchinson. Information from the records of the Essex Congregational Union was communicated by Mr. J. S. Appleby. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government allowed the use of their unpublished lists of buildings of architectural or historical interest. Certain architectural descriptions, notably those of medieval houses, owe much to the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, and in the parish of Fyfield special surveys were made on request by the National Buildings Record. Many local residents, whose kindness is acknowledged in footnotes, gave information or permitted the inspection of their houses. The galley proof of each parish article was read by at least one person, usually the incumbent, living or working in the parish, and many valuable suggestions resulted. The County Archivist (Mr. F. G. Emmison) and his staff performed special services at all stages, Mr. Emmison himself reading many of the articles in draft or in proof. Mr. D. W. Hutchings of Ongar carried out field surveys for all parishes, gave much information, supplied references from periodicals, and read the whole volume in proof.