A History of the County of Essex: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1983.
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Harlow hundred, sometimes called a half hundred, comprised 11 parishes in west Essex, extending east and south from the river Stort, which forms the county boundary with Hertfordshire. The northern boundary of the hundred followed Stane Street, which since Roman times has been the main road between Colchester and the towns of Hertfordshire. In the 18th century communications were improved by the turnpiking of the road through Harlow and the construction of the Stort canal, which joined the Lea at Roydon. In the 19th century the London-Cambridge railway was built along the western fringe of the hundred. The London-Cambridge motorway (M11), built in the 1970s, traverses the hundred, with access at Harlow. Stansted airport is immediately north of Stane Street.
Iron Age remains, including a hill fort in Great Hallingbury, have been found in several parishes, and there was a Roman town at Harlow. Place names and the evidence of open field farming in most parishes, indicate that the area was one of early Saxon settlement. In the Middle Ages Hatfield Broad Oak was a considerable market town, with a Benedictine priory, and there were large villages, with markets, at Harlow and Roydon. Elsewhere hamlets grew up around greens and commons and at road junctions. Hatfield Broad Oak declined after the 16th century, and the hundred, little affected by the railways, remained rural until after the Second World War, when most of five ancient parishes on its western side became Harlow town. Hatfield forest, belonging to the National Trust, comprises over 400 ha., mainly in Hatfield Broad Oak.
There were many water mills along the Stort and a few windmills on higher ground. They were used not only for corn grinding but for small industries, like the silk making which was carried on at Little Hallingbury from c. 1693 to c. 1770. There were small brickworks in many parishes, and at least two continued into the 20th century. Potteries flourished at Harlow from the 13th century until c. 1700. In the 19th century there were makings at Sheering and Harlow, large breweries at Harlow and Hatfield Heath, and a marine engineering factory at Netteswell. Of those only the Sheering makings survive, and there has been little recent industrial development outside the new town.
Larger houses have included Netherhall at Roydon, built in the 15th century with a brick gatehouse, part of which remains. Morley House, later Hallingbury Place, in Great Hallingbury, built in the 16th century, was demolished in the 1920s. Moor Hall in Harlow, Barrington Hall and Down Hall, both in Hatfield Broad Oak, were rebuilt in the 19th century. Moor Hall was demolished c. 1960, but the other two survive. Timber framed houses, many of them medieval, abound throughout the hundred.
In 1086 Harlow hundred comprised c. 86 hides, divided between 34 estates in 16 places distinguished by separate names. The totals include 1½ hide in Matching, incorrectly entered under Barstable hundred. (fn. 1) Most of the places gave their names to the parishes of the hundred, but there are exceptions. The Domesday Hallingbury was later split into the parishes of Great and Little Hallingbury, and Parndon into Great and Little Parndon. Ovesham (Housham) was later included in Matching parish; Cuica (Quickbury) in Sheering, and Siriceslea (Ryes) in Hatfield Broad Oak. An estate in Epping probably became the manors of Hayleys and Madells in the Rye Hill area of that parish. Most of Epping was in Waltham hundred, but Rye Hill remained in Harlow hundred. (fn. 2) An estate in Nazeing seems to have been located in Roydon hamlet, which became part of Roydon parish but by 1199 had been transferred to Waltham hundred. (fn. 3) Two small estates in Weald probably lay in the hamlets of Hastingwood and Thornwood, which were in North Weald Bassett parish but in Harlow hundred. (fn. 4) An estate in Laver, which has not been definitely identified, may have become part of Otes in High Laver. (fn. 5) Netteswell, which was not named in the Domesday survey, may then have been included in the bishop of Durham's great manor of Waltham.
A tax return of 1237–8 included 12 places under Harlow hundred: North Weald, Great Hallingbury, Sheering, Quickbury, Little Hallingbury, Matching, Latton, Harlow, Parndon, Monksbury (in Little Hallingbury), Harlow Abbots, and Roydon. Netteswell, which was not separately entered, was subsumed under the liberty of Waltham Abbey. Hatfield Broad Oak was omitted as royal demesne. (fn. 6) Harlow Abbots was Harlowbury; the other Harlow entry probably related to the remainder of the village.
From the 14th century the hundred comprised 10 complete parishes: Great and Little Hallingbury, Harlow, Hatfield Broad Oak, Latton, Matching, Netteswell, Great and Little Parndon, and Sheering, together with most of Roydon parish, two hamlets in North Weald Bassett, and one hamlet in Epping. For tax purposes Little Parndon was sometimes assessed with Great Parndon. (fn. 7) Four parishes had detached parts, shown on 19th century maps: Harlow, Great Parndon, Little Parndon, and Matching. (fn. 8)
King Stephen, probably between 1148 and 1154, granted the hundred to Bury St. Edmunds abbey (Suff.) to hold by the farm which the abbey had rendered to Henry I. (fn. 9) The hundred later reverted to the Crown, and in 1241 Henry III granted it with Hatfield Regis manor to Isabel Bruce. (fn. 10) The hundred descended with the manor until the forfeiture of Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham, in 1521. (fn. 11) After 1521 it descended with Ongar hundred, which had also belonged to the Staffords, until the death in 1673 of Charles Rich, earl of Warwick. (fn. 12) In the subsequent partition of the earl's estates the lordship of Harlow apparently fell to the share of Daniel Finch, earl of Nottingham (d. 1730). (fn. 13)
From the 14th century, and probably earlier, the hundred was customarily farmed by its bailiff. The annual farm of the hundred was £4 in 1304 and £5 6s. 8d. in the mid 15th century. (fn. 14) The customs of the wardstaff of the hundred, a symbol of the king's peace, were probably similar to those of Ongar hundred. (fn. 15) The manors of Latton Hall and Madells in Epping were held by service of keeping the wardstaff. The lord of Latton Hall also paid wardsilver. (fn. 16) Ward Hatch survived as a field name in Latton in 1616. (fn. 17) The ancient meeting place of the hundred was probably Moot Hill, later the Mount, at Mulberry (formerly Moteburgh) Green, Harlow. (fn. 18)
The competence of the hundred court was affected by liberties granted to the lords of individual manors. By a charter of Richard I the manor of Great Parndon was quit of suit at the shire and hundred courts. (fn. 19) It was stated in 1274–5 that the lord of Hatfield Regis manor claimed return of writs and all other royal liberties. The lords of Harlow, Netteswell, Roydon, and Great Hallingbury claimed the right of gallows, the assize of bread and of ale, and all other royal liberties except warren. The lords of Little Hallingbury, Wallbury in Great Hallingbury, Sheering, and Quickbury in Sheering held view of frankpledge and the assize of bread and of ale. The lord of Quickbury also held bourghselver (tithing money). (fn. 20) By 1387 the lord of Sheering had the right of gallows. (fn. 21)
For some administrative purposes Harlow hundred was grouped with neighbouring hundreds. In 1321 a commission of the peace was issued for the hundreds of Harlow and Waltham. (fn. 22) From the 15th century Harlow was closely associated with Ongar hundred, through their common ownership. From the late 16th century Harlow and Ongar were grouped with Waltham hundred as a county division. (fn. 23) It is not known if meetings were held for Harlow hundred alone in the 17th century. In 1803 the inhabitants of Harlow hundred met to discuss funds for the militia. (fn. 24)