A History of the County of Essex: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1983.
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Childerditch is 5 km. SSE. of Brentwood, between Little Warley, to the west, and West Horndon. (fn. 1) The ancient parish comprised 1,635 a. (661.7 ha.). In 1934 it was divided at the railway line between the urban districts of Brentwood and Billericay (later Basildon). (fn. 2) In 1938 the area south of the railway was transferred from Billericay to Thurrock U.D. (fn. 3)
Though near a town Childerditch remains isolated and rural. It is one of a group of long, narrow parishes sloping from a wooded ridge to the Thames plain. The terrain drops from 100 m. in the north, at Thorndon country park, to 6 m. in the south. The soil is London clay. Several streams flow south. One, which was part of the parish boundary with Little Warley, is joined by another coming down from Childerditch Pond, in the country park, before flowing into the river Mardyke which formed the south-east boundary, near Blankets Farm. In the angle of the stream and the Mardyke was the former Childerditch fen. (fn. 4) The 'ditch' in the parish name refers to one of those watercourses. (fn. 5) A scheme to cut a canal from Childerditch to the Thames at Purfleet, in West Thurrock, proposed in 1776, was revieved in 1833, but it came to nothing. (fn. 6)
Childerditch has always been sparsely populated. The three manors contained a recorded total of 21 inhabitants in 1066, and 25 in 1086. (fn. 7) There were 32 houses in 1670, (fn. 8) and about 40 in 1766. (fn. 9) In 1801 the population was 188. It rose to 289 in 1821, but then declined, with fluctuations, to 184 in 1931, the last year for which there are separate figures. (fn. 10) There has been little residential building since 1931, though the opening of factories at Childerditch Hall and adjoining West Horndon station has increased the daytime population.
It is a parish of scattered farms and cottages, with settlement mainly in the northern half. In the early 18th century the lane from Brentwood and Little Warley linked several houses along the southern edge of Childerditch common, which occupied the north end of the parish, and continued east past Childerditch Pond to Bell End Hatch in West Horndon. The western end of the lane is now part of Magpie Lane, but its course farther east is marked only by footpaths. A footpath is all that remains also of a wide road which in the early 18th century ran south over the common to old Thorndon Hall. (fn. 11) The lane and the road seem to have disappeared after the building of new Thorndon Hall (1764–70) and the incorporation of Childerditch common in Thorndon park. (fn. 12) Running south out of the old lane from Little Warley were Childerditch Street, and farther west Dunnings (later Childerditch) Lane, and the lane to Childerditch Hall. Childerditch Street, which in the later 18th century contained about 10 houses, follows the stream from Childerditch pond before curving west through the valley to join Childerditch Lane. Dunnings Lane was associated with the family of Roger Dunning, who was living in the parish in 1210. (fn. 13) Until the 18th century or later the name applied to the whole of the spinal road from the common to the fen, but it is now restricted to the section south of the railway. There may have been no road over the fen until the early 18th century. (fn. 14) The parish church stands on a hillock west of Childerditch Lane. Nearly opposite is the former vicarage. Farther south in the same lane are three farms on ancient sites: Nuttys, Tillingham Hall, and Blankets. Nuttys was formerly called Offens, from an 18thcentury tenant. (fn. 15) Tillingham was a Domesday manor. Blankets was associated with the family of John Blanket (fl. 1440 or 1441). (fn. 16)
The London, Tilbury, and Southend railway extension from Upminster to Pitsea, opened in 1886, crossed Childerditch south of Nuttys Farm, with a station at East (now West) Horndon, near the boundary with Childerditch. (fn. 17) In the present century an industrial township has grown up around the station. The factories are on the Childerditch side of the boundary, but the dwellings have been restricted to West Horndon. The Southend arterial road, opened in 1925, also crosses the parish, a little north of the railway. (fn. 18) A new road, Stahlton Lane, was later built to link the cement works at Childerditch Hall with the arterial road.
Most of the older surviving buildings are in Childerditch Street. Near the north end of the street is Woodlands, a 15th-century house, much altered. (fn. 19) Opposite is Rose Brook, which also dates from the 15th century, (fn. 20) and farther south Meadow View, of the 18th century. All three are timber framed. The oldest farmhouses are Roses, Childerditch Lane, a timber-framed building refronted in the 19th century, and Blankets, an 18th-century building of red brick. Nuttys Farm was rebuilt in stock brick in 1866. (fn. 21) Hill Farm, Childerditch Street, appears to have been rebuilt in the earlier 19th century, as was Childerditch Hall. Apart from the factories, and the new Tillingham Hall, the most notable 20th-century buildings are two or three expensive detached houses of c. 1970 in Childerditch Street.
With a small, scattered population Childerditch has always had to seek goods, services, and social life mainly outside its own boundaries. Steeplechasing was carried on there during the 1860s, and attracted some notable Essex sportsmen. (fn. 22) In 1884 attempts were being made to start a parish circulating library. (fn. 23) In 1848 Childerditch had a beerhouse, a shop, and a school, but all three had closed by 1915, when the last resident vicar, then without a carriage, complained that there was no shop, post office, or doctor within 2 miles. (fn. 24)
There were three estates in Childerditch in 1086, held respectively by the king, Saisselin, and Swein of Essex. The first two later merged to become the manor of Childerditch. The last became the manor of Tillingham.
The king's land, comprising 1½ hide, had been held in 1066 by Earl, later King Harold. (fn. 25) It was held after the Conquest by the queen. The tenant in 1086 was Ralph, sheriff of Surrey. (fn. 26) Henry I granted the land between 1108 and 1115 to Otes the goldsmith, hereditary cutter of the dies for the coinage, and between 1116 and 1127 confirmed it to William son of Otes. (fn. 27) The descendants of Otes retained an interest in it until the 14th century. (fn. 28) They probably held it in serjeanty, like Lisson Green, in Marylebone (Mdx.). (fn. 29) Simon son of Richard, who held land at Childerditch in 1210, may have been their tenant. (fn. 30) His widow Gille was holding the estate in 1219 (fn. 31) and in 1235, when her tenure was stated to be by serjeanty. (fn. 32) In 1251 a later Simon son of Richard granted the estate, described as I carucate, to Coggeshall abbey. (fn. 33) At that time a claim was put in by Warin de Munchensy, whose lands in Ingrave and West Horndon extended into Childerditch. (fn. 34)
Saisselin's land, comprising 1¾ hide in 1086, had been held in 1066 by Orgar, a free man. (fn. 35) The tenancy in chief seems to have passed to Warin FitzGerold (d. 1216), and descended, at least until the later 13th century, like that of Theydon Garnon. (fn. 36) Childerditch and Theydon Garnon were also linked by subordinate tenancies. In 1205 Richard son of Ralph son of Peter of Theydon leased his estate at Childerditch to Thomas Bret. (fn. 37) The estate was later acquired by Robert Hovel, to whom in 1223 Cecily, widow of Richard son of Ralph, surrendered her right to dower. (fn. 38) She had previously granted her dower in Theydon Garnon to Ralph Gernon. (fn. 39) About 1236 Gernon held 2 knights' fees in Theydon Garnon, Childerditch, Wicken Bonhunt, and Windhill (Cray's Hill) in Ramsden Crays, apparently of Margery de Rivers, daughter and heir of Warin FitzGerold. (fn. 40) Gernon was presumably the mesne lord. The demesne lordship of Childerditch remained in the Hovel family until 1251, when Robert Hovel and Margery his wife granted the estate, described as 2 carucates in Childerditch and (Little) Warley, with the advowson of Childerditch, to Coggeshall abbey. (fn. 41) Coggeshall was to hold it of Robert and Margery and her heirs, which suggests that she was the heir of Richard son of Ralph.
The two estates granted to Coggeshall abbey in 1251 became known as the manor of CHILDERDITCH or CHILDERDITCH HALL, lying in the north and centre of the parish. (fn. 42) In 1257 Coggeshall further acquired a messuage and 20 a. from Henry of Thorndon. (fn. 43) In 1377 the manor of Tillingham was added to the estate, which thus came to comprise most of the parish, and remained with the abbey until the Dissolution.
Coggeshall abbey surrendered Childerditch and Tillingham manors to the king in 1538. (fn. 44) They were granted in the same year to Sir Thomas Seymour, later Lord Seymour, who in 1540 conveyed them to Sir Richard Rich, later Lord Rich. (fn. 45) They descended like the manor of North Weald, in the families of Rich, Cheeke, and Archer, until 1766, when they were sold by Thomas Archer, Lord Archer, to Robert Edward Petre, Lord Petre (d. 1801), and were thus merged in the Thorndon Park estate, the history of which is reserved for a later volume. (fn. 46)
In 1839 William Petre, Lord Petre (d. 1850), held 1,473 a. in Childerditch, i.e. 91 per cent of the total area of the parish. (fn. 47) His holdings included 736 a. of tithe-free land which had belonged to Coggeshall abbey, and represented the former demesne of the manors of Childerditch (420 a.) and Tillingham. The Childerditch demesne then comprised Childerditch Hall farm and Nuttys farm, and small parts of New House (later Little Tillingham Hall) and Hill farms. Lord Petre also held 737 a. of land which had been outside the abbey's demesne, including 374 a. in Thorndon Park. The Thorndon Park estate was broken up after the First World War. Much of it was bought by Essex county council in 1939 and 1951, under the Green Belt scheme. Thorndon Country Park, designated by the county council in 1971, includes Childerditch wood and Childerditch Pond. (fn. 48)
Childerditch Hall farm was bought in 1920 or 1921 by the tenant, Henry Ford, whose grandson, Mr. P. W. Ford, was the owner in 1977. (fn. 49) Since the 1930s part of the former farm land to the west has been developed for industry. (fn. 50) In 1967 Mr. P. W. Ford constructed a large irrigation lake to the east of the hall. (fn. 51) Childerditch Hall, Stahlton Lane, was rebuilt in the 19th century in stock brick.
The manor of TILLINGHAM lay in the south of the parish, but also included detached parts in South Weald and Doddinghurst parishes, which lay north of Childerditch. It originally comprised i hide and 40 a., held in 1066 by Alwen, a free woman. (fn. 52) In 1086 it was held of Swein of Essex by Osbern. The tenancyin-chief descended, like that of Theydon Mount, with the honor of Rayleigh. (fn. 53) The Domesday tenant Osbern also held of Swein in West Tilbury, and Tillingham, stated in 1086 to be in Barstable hundred, was a member of West Tilbury manor until the mid 14th century. (fn. 54) In 1377 it was said to be held in chief of the honor of Rayleigh. (fn. 55) About 1512 Tillingham was taxed as part of the 'hamlet of Childerditch' in the manor of West Horndon. (fn. 56) At that period West Horndon manor, in Barstable hundred, was held by the FitzLewis family, which also owned land in West Tilbury. (fn. 57)
The demesne tenancy was held at the beginning of the 13th century by the Tillingham family. In 1197 William of Tillingham held 2 knights' fees of the honor of Rayleigh. (fn. 58) He died in 1201, and was apparently succeeded by his son Richard, who c. 1210 was holding 2 fees in Childerditch and West Tilbury. (fn. 59) Richard was dead by 1211. (fn. 60) Robert, his son and heir, may have been identical with Robert of Tilbury, who held the same 2 fees in 1232 or 1233. (fn. 61) The Tillingham and Tilbury families were certainly related or closely associated. (fn. 62) The manor of Tillingham descended in the Tilbury family for over a century. Robert of Tilbury (fl. 1254) was succeeded by Richard of Tilbury, who died by 1275, leaving a son Robert. (fn. 63) Robert of Tilbury came of age in 1287 or 1288, but was dead by 1291, when his younger brother William succeeded to his lands. (fn. 64) William of Tilbury (d. 1303 or 1304) left John his son and heir (d. 1320), who shortly before his death settled West Tilbury and Tillingham in trust for his wife Joan, with remainder to their infant daughter Idony. (fn. 65) Joan later married Sir William Vaughan and, with him, was still holding Tillingham in 1346. (fn. 66) Idony died in 1332, leaving the remainder to her uncle William of Tilbury, who in 1337 sold it to Sir William Bawd and his wife Joan. (fn. 67) The Bawds also held the manor of Bawds or Downsells, in South Weald. (fn. 68) Tillingham was said in 1337 to comprise no less than 962 a., including land in South Weald and Doddinghurst. Sir William Bawd (d. 1343) was succeeded by his son John (d. by 1346). (fn. 69) In 1353 John's son William Bawd granted Tillingham to his uncle Sir William Bawd, who died holding it in 1375. (fn. 70) In 1377 Sir William's trustees conveyed it to Coggeshall abbey. (fn. 71) It subsequently descended with the manor of Childerditch. In 1839 the former demesne lands of Tillingham were stated to comprise 317 a., including Tillingham Hall farm (276 a.) and small parts of New House (later Little Tillingham Hall) farm and Blankets farm. (fn. 72) In 1788 the manor included 289 a. at Bentley and Crow Green, in the north-east corner of South Weald, extending into Doddinghurst. (fn. 73) The total comprised 195 a. farm land and 94 a. of waste, most of which lay on Tillingham common.
Tillingham Hall, which lies east of Dunnings Lane, was built c. 1970 to replace an earlier building which probably dated from the 18th or early 19th century. (fn. 74) East of it is a homestead moat, indicating the site of the original manor house. (fn. 75)
In 1086 the three small manors were all poor and sparsely settled. (fn. 76) Each manor contained woodland pasture for 100 swine. That indicates a density of woodland high for Essex, (fn. 77) but much lower than in neighbouring Little Warley. (fn. 78) There were also sheep pastures: for 60 each on the king's manor and on Saisselin's manor, and for 100 on Swein's manor. They probably lay in the coastal marshes, detached from the main body of the parish. (fn. 79) Since Swein's manor was a member of that of West Tilbury its sheep pastures may well have been there. On Swein's manor and that of the king the number of plough teams had decreased slightly between 1066 and 1086: from 1½ to 1 and from 3 to 2½ respectively. On Saisselin's manor, the largest of the three, the tenants had 2½ plough teams both in 1066 and in 1086, and the number of demesne plough teams had risen from 3½ to 4. That manor had, however, suffered a remarkable loss of stock during the same period: from 50 to 12 sheep, from 24 to 6 swine, 4 rounceys to 1, 12 'beasts' to 4. No stock was listed on the king's manor. On Swein's manor there was only one beast in 1066, but there were 10 in 1086.
The Domesday swine pastures probably lay mainly in the northern uplands of the parish, where there is still woodland. In 1257, soon after acquiring Childerditch manor, Coggeshall abbey was licensed to inclose 150 a. of woodland and 300 a. of heath in Childerditch and Little Warley. (fn. 80) In 1295 the common pasture of the manor, comprising 300 a. of health and 250 a. of wood, occupied 41 per cent of the whole area. (fn. 81) In 1720 Childerditch common extended from the Great Pond north to Kent's wood. (fn. 82) It was by then part of the demesne of Ann, Lady Tipping, lady of the manor, and owner of the adjoining Thorndon park. (fn. 83) In 1840 the common formed part of the park, belonging to Lord Petre, and the only parts of it not owned by him were a small piece of waste by the Great Pond and the roads over the common. (fn. 84) When and how this large common passed into private ownership is not clear. The process may well have started in the late 14th century, when Coggeshall acquired Tillingham manor and appropriated the rectory. The abbey thus attained an unusually dominant position in the parish, and there are signs that it was disposed to restrict public rights of common. In the 1380s, for example, there were frequent proceedings in the manor courts against men taking away the lord's heath, (fn. 85) and in 1419 the abbey leased a site on Childerditch common to a neighbouring landowner, to make a fish pond. (fn. 86) Although the common was annexed by the lords of the manor much of it was left as heath or woodland, though 10 a. were inclosed and stubbed up early in the 18th century. (fn. 87) In 1939 the common was bought by Essex county council, which maintains it as a public open space, designated in 1971 as part of Thorndon country park. (fn. 88)
In 1295 Childerditch manor comprised 1,341 a., equivalent to over four-fifths of the parish, and including 642 a. of arable, 32 a. of meadow, and 117 a. of pasture, in addition to the 550 a. of common. (fn. 89) The arable was then being cultivated on a three-course rotation. There were 203 a. under corn, including 140 a. in Hakesdoune field; 206 a. were under oats, including 53 a. in West Bradefield and 66 a. in East Dunningesland; 233 a. lay fallow, including 62 a. in East Bradefield. These particulars suggest open field agriculture, but the pattern was complicated by several smaller fields, including Holecroft, a name indicating inclosure. The manorial pasture included 31 a. in Maneland (common land), and smaller areas in Horseleaze, Northbuleaze, and Southbuleaze, names which also suggest intercommoning; (fn. 90) but some of it lay in Chalvescroft. The stock on the manor comprised 476 sheep, 62 pigs, and 118 cattle, including 3 horses and 34 oxen. There were also a windmill and a water mill.
The survey of 1295, made by Coggeshall abbey, did not mention the common called Childerditch fen, which lay on the southern boundary of the parish, in the angle formed by the river Mardyke and a tributary. Inland fens were rare in Essex but there were several others in this district, including the adjoining Bulphan fen. (fn. 91) In 1392 two wardens of the fen were appointed by Childerditch manor court. (fn. 92) The omission of the fen from the 1295 survey suggests, however, that it was then part of Tillingham manor. The fen, which was at least 20 a. in extent, had been inclosed by 1719. (fn. 93) Most of it became part of Blankets farm. (fn. 94) In 1842 the fen lay in Childerditch level, a drainage district forming part of Rainham level. (fn. 95) Including the fen some 228 a. of Childerditch parish then lay within Childerditch level. They were the lowlying lands extending downstream southwards from Childerditch Pond.
By the 18th century the colonization of woodland, waste, and fen, and the division of the manorial demesne, had created several new farms. In 1772 there were reckoned to be 9 farms in the parish. (fn. 96) Tillingham Hall and Childerditch Hall had the largest rentals, followed by Offens (later Nuttys) and Thompsons (i.e. Blankets). The other five were no more than smallholdings. In 1840 there were 7 farms of 30 a. or more, including 4 of over 150 a. (fn. 97) In 1906 there were 7 of over 50 a. and in 1926 8 of over 100 a. (fn. 98)
In 1801 a total of 484 a. were returned as sown with crops, including 227 a. of wheat. (fn. 99) In 1839 there were some 767 a. of arable and 738 a. of woodland and permanent grass. (fn. 100) The proportions were similar in 1866: 825 a. of arable, of which 116 a. were fallow, and 805 a. of grass. (fn. 101) The cereal crops then included 323 a. of wheat, 61 a. of barley, 90 a. of oats, and 8 a. of rye. There were 166 a. of vegetables, mainly beans, and 61 a. of vetch, lucerne, and other crops. Sheep numbered 513, milk cows 45, other cattle 24, and pigs 30. Returns of 1906 show a decline of cereals and a great increase in dairy farming. (fn. 102) There were 1,268 a. under grass, and only 503 a. were being cultivated as arable, including 156 a. of wheat, 117 a. of oats, 24 a. of barley, 30 a. of rye, and about 120 a. of vegetables, mainly beans, peas, and mangolds. The number of sheep had declined to 417, but there were 332 cows and heifers and 276 other cattle. In 1926 1,395 a. were returned as under grass, and there were 344 a. of arable, the main crops being 96 a. of wheat, 80 a. of oats, 33 a. of barley, and 35 a. of beans. (fn. 103) There were 971 sheep, 530 cattle, 104 pigs, and 1,118 poultry. It is notable that sheep, which figured prominently in Childerditch's economy in 1066 and 1295, have also done so during the 19th and 20th centuries.
About 1937 the Essex Brick Co. started operations on land adjoining Childerditch Hall, Stahlton Lane; the works were taken over c. 1946 by the Costain Concrete Co. (fn. 104) The Howard Rotavator Co., manufacturers of agricultural machines, in 1938 opened a factory adjoining West Horndon railway station. It was closed in 1975. (fn. 105) Brown and Tawse Tubes Ltd. in 1940 bought 15 a. in Childerditch Lane, and have gradually built there large works for making steel tubes, with warehouses and offices. (fn. 106)
Court rolls for Childerditch and Tillingham manors survive, with some gaps, for the period 1377–1819. (fn. 107) There are also court papers for both manors, 1630–1838. (fn. 108) Throughout the period covered by the court rolls the two manors were jointly owned, and the distinction between them was not always strictly maintained in the activities of their courts. The courts leet and baron of Childerditch were held annually in Easter week until c. 1560, and then irregularly. From 1638 only courts baron were held. The leet was usually attended by 12 jurors until the late 15th century, after which numbers varied between 4 and 19. It usually appointed one constable, except between 1510 and 1573, when there were two. There were two aleconners from 1377 to 1392, one only from 1392 to 1512, and no more until 1581, when the last two were appointed. The election of a beadle is recorded in 1388 and 1390. When a beadle died in 1392 his widow completed his term of office, and claimed a year's payment. Also in 1392 three wardens of the common were appointed. Two of them were for Childerditch fen. The third was for Ashwells street, presumably the detached part of Tillingham manor that lay in South Weald. Two overseers of fairs were elected in 1581, perhaps to control traders travelling to the fairs at Brentwood. In the 14th century there were several presentments in the court leet for allowing buildings to become ruinous. A widow was presented for incontinence in 1386. In the 14th and early 15th centuries the court frequently fined offenders against the assizes of bread and ale, and those taking the lord's heath, called 'hetheres'. In 1392 a miller was presented for bad work and for taking excessive profit. In 1459 or 1460 a man was presented for fishing with a hoop-net.
The courts of Tillingham, when they were distinguished from those of Childerditch, seem to have met annually on the same day. After 1621 they were courts baron only. The homage was usually between 4 and 8. The courts leet rarely appointed officers: a beadle was chosen in 1406 and 1420, and a constable in 1450. In 1420 it was stated that according to the custom of the manor the beadle was subject to distraint if he failed to collect rents. In 1632 a man was presented for taking furze and brushes from the manorial wood at Downsells green, in South Weald.
Surviving parish records include vestry minutes for 1726–89, 1808, and 1840–1913. (fn. 109) In the 18th century the vestry rarely met more than once a year. The meeting-place was not recorded until 1783, when it was stated to be the church. The numbers signing the minutes were usually from 4 to 6. Officers presenting accounts did not usually sign, so the total attendance was probably between 7 and 10. John Groome, vicar from 1709 to 1760, attended meetings, apparently as chairman, until 1752, but his two successors appear not to have attended. Until 1850 there was one churchwarden, chosen until 1752 by the vicar, and thereafter by the vestry. From 1851 there were two, nominated respectively by the vicar and the vestry. There was one overseer of the poor until 1787, and thereafter two. There were two surveyors of highways. Until 1788 or later there was only one constable, but in the year 1743 there was also a headborough.
The parish owned a row of cottages in Childerditch Street, which were let to the poor. Two of them were rebuilt by the vestry early in the 18th century. (fn. 110) They were still occupied by the poor in 1839. (fn. 111) They were sold in 1844. Childerditch had no workhouse, and in 1807 contracted to lodge 8 paupers in Great Warley workhouse.
The cost of poor relief was £117 in 1776, and averaged £142 between 1783 and 1785. (fn. 112) Between 1801 and 1821 inclusive it averaged £290, being highest in 1801 (£436) and 1819 (£406). (fn. 113) During that period poverty in Childerditch seems to have been slightly less serious than in the neighbouring parish of Cranham, which was of similar area and population. (fn. 114) In the years 1813–15 some 30 parishioners, i.e. about onetenth, were on permanent relief, and 61 others received occasional relief.
There was a priest at Childerditch in 1232. (fn. 115) In 1251 Robert Hovel and Margery his wife granted the advowson, with their estate, to Coggeshall abbey. (fn. 116) In 1380 the rectory was appropriated to the abbey, and in the following year a vicarage was ordained. (fn. 117) The rectory and the advowson of the vicarage subsequently descended with the manor of Childerditch. (fn. 118) In 1766, when Lord Archer sold the manor and rectory to Lord Petre, he retained the advowson, which, however, was acquired by Petre from the Archer trustees in 1792–3. (fn. 119) Since Petre and his successors were Roman Catholics they could not personally present to the benefice. The next presentation, in 1805, was made by their agent Thomas Bramston. (fn. 120) Later presentations in the 19th century were made for single turns. (fn. 121) The chancellor of Cambridge university presented in 1912, presumably under the Popish Recusants Act, 1606. (fn. 122) About 1934 the advowson was conveyed to the Martyrs Memorial trust, but in 1940, when the vicarage next fell vacant, the benefice was united with that of Little Warley, and the trust had the right of alternate presentation. (fn. 123) That arrangement continued until 1972, when Childerditch was separated from Little Warley and united with Great Warley, the advowson being vested alternately in the Martyrs Memorial trust and the Heseltine trustees. (fn. 124)
The rectory was valued at 7 marks in 1254 and 1291. (fn. 125) When the vicarage was ordained in 1381 the vicar was endowed with all small tithes, the tithes of hay, 12 a. of glebe, an annual rent of 6d. customarily due to the church, and an annual pension of 4 marks from Coggeshall abbey. He was not to receive the tithes of mills, lambs, wool, calves, piglets, hay, or cheese from the abbey's demesnes in the parish. (fn. 126) The vicarage was valued at £8 in 1535, and £38 in 1650. (fn. 127) In 1646 Parliament temporarily augmented it by £30 from the impropriate rectory of Heybridge, belonging to the dean and chapter of St. Paul's (Lond.). (fn. 128) In the early 18th century the estimated value of the vicarage was £70. (fn. 129) John Groome, vicar 1709–60, by will gave £6 a year to his successors on condition that they managed the exhibitions he had founded at Magdalene College, Cambridge. (fn. 130) In 1840 the vicar's tithes were commuted for £177. (fn. 131) He was then receiving great and small tithes from 849 a. The remainder of the parish, representing the former demesne of Coggeshall abbey, belonged to William H. F. Petre, Lord Petre, whose impropriate tithes had been merged with the freehold. There were then 20 a. of vicarial glebe. In 1875 the total value of the vicarage was £218. (fn. 132)
The ordination of 1381 provided that the vicar should have the Rectory house. (fn. 133) In 1840 the Vicarage house was in Childerditch Street, opposite Hill Farm. (fn. 134) A large new Vicarage, in Tudor style, was built in Childerditch Lane in 1842. (fn. 135) It survived as a private house in 1977.
In 1574 the vicar, Thomas Reddriche, was presented at Quarter Sessions for refusing to wear a surplice. (fn. 136) A later vicar, Arthur Grave, was presented at the archdeacon's visitation in 1606 for the same offence, and for failing to use the sign of the cross at baptism. (fn. 137) The Protestation of 1641 was signed by 35 parishioners, probably representing most of the households in the parish. (fn. 138) Daniel Duckfield, vicar from 1611 until his death in 1653, was a 'godly and preaching minister'. (fn. 139) His three successors during the Interregnum were all presented by the patron of the living, Sir Thomas Cheeke, who was a zealous Puritan. (fn. 140) The last of them was John Hervey, appointed in 1658, but ejected for nonconformity in 1662. (fn. 141) Puritan influence lingered in the parish for some time after 1662, for in 1685 the archdeacon found it necessary to order that the communion table should be set against the east wall and railed. (fn. 142)
Robert Stonehouse, vicar 1667–84, was a king's chaplain who was prosecuted by some of his parishioners for non-residence. (fn. 143) John Groome, vicar 1709–60, published a book on The Dignity and honour of the Clergy. (fn. 144) He seems to have been resident at least until c. 1750. (fn. 145) In the early 19th century the vicar John Newman (d. 1840) was non-resident, and employed a succession of curates. (fn. 146) Later vicars resided until the union of benefices in 1940. John H. Lewis, 1840–64, built the National school as well as the new Vicarage, but in the 1850s he failed to carry through the much needed restoration or rebuilding of the church, through disagreement with William B. Petre, Lord Petre, the Roman Catholic squire, impropriator, and patron, who was legally responsible for the chancel. Edmund S. Tiddeman, vicar 1865–85, came to terms with Petre and rebuilt the church. (fn. 147)
The church of ALL SAINTS AND ST. FAITH, Childerditch Lane, stands on the site of its predecessor, which had the same dedication. The first known reference to the old building was in 1387–8, when Coggeshall abbey paid a tiler for tiling the new chancel. (fn. 148) In 1858 the church was a small building comprising nave of flint rubble, thought to date from the 12th century, brick chancel of recent date, timber belfry, and south porch. (fn. 149) It was then ruinous, but the debate as to whether it should be restored or rebuilt was not settled until 1869, when the old church was demolished and replaced by a new one. (fn. 150)
The present church was designed by D. Cubitt Nichols and F. Johnstone of London, architects who had for many years worked for Lord Petre. (fn. 151) It is built of Kentish ragstone in the Early English style, and consists of nave and chancel with south porch and west bellcot. (fn. 152)
No monuments survive from the old church. There is one bell, probably of the 17th century. (fn. 153) The old church plate was sold in 1889 by the vicar, Joseph Hull. He was, however, forced to recover it, and it was all given back except for a cup, which had been acquired by a church in Scotland. (fn. 154) The surviving pieces include a silver paten and a silver flagon, both of 1743 and given by the vicar, John Groome. The font, which dates from the early 16th century, has a blackletter inscription recording the fact that it was given by John Throsscher (Thresher) and his wife. (fn. 155)
In 1676 there were stated to be six papists in the parish. (fn. 156) There were a few Roman Catholic families there in the 18th century. (fn. 157) No doubt they were encouraged in their faith by the Petres, who were landowners in the parish even before they acquired Childerditch and Tillingham manors, and whose private chapel at Thorndon Park was attended by people from Childerditch between 1764 and 1791. (fn. 158)
Puritan influence was strong in Childerditch from the early 17th century. (fn. 159) In 1672 the houses of John Palmer and Jeremy Reeve were licensed for Presbyterian worship; Thomas Gilson of Brentwood applied to preach at the latter. (fn. 160) In 1691 the local congregation was raising about £20 a year to support a minister, Clarke, who also had private means. (fn. 161) He was still active in 1700. (fn. 162) The meeting seems to have ceased by 1715, (fn. 163) but in 1724 an application was made to license John Ballard's house for dissenters' meetings. (fn. 164) There were said to be two Presbyterian families in the parish in 1770, but only one in 1776. (fn. 165)
In 1839 a meeting was started at Childerditch Hall, probably by the tenant, John Butler, who registered it in 1843. (fn. 166) It moved to another private house c. 1849. (fn. 167) In 1851 it was a branch of Brentwood Congregational church. (fn. 168) Butler, its deacon, was an agent of the Essex Congregational Union committee, and for a time secretary of the Brentwood district. (fn. 169) The meeting, which returned to Childerditch Hall by 1860, still existed in 1862, but had ceased by 1876. (fn. 170)
About 1833 a Sunday school, in union with the National Society, was opened in the church. (fn. 171) In 1839 about 20 children attended the school, which was managed by the curate and maintained by the vicar, not without opposition from nonconformists and others. (fn. 172) In 1842 the parish vestry temporarily appropriated part of the old poorhouse for a school, (fn. 173) and in 1844 Childerditch National school was built by subscription, with the aid of grants from the government and the National Society. The site, at the junction of Childerditch Street and Dunnings (now Childerditch) Lane, was given by William Petre, Lord Petre (d. 1850), the Roman Catholic landowner. The school was receiving an annual government grant by 1881, when attendance was 25. (fn. 174) The building was enlarged in 1891. (fn. 175) In 1911 there were two teachers with an attendance of 35. (fn. 176) In 1912 the school was closed because the managers could not improve the accommodation as required. (fn. 177) The children were transferred to Little Warley council school. The school buildings became a private house.
Charity for the Poor.
Some time before c. 1720 a widow gave £10 to the parish, to be used to provide interest-free loans to poor inhabitants. (fn. 178) It was stated in 1787 that the capital had been used to build a cottage, and that 10s. a year was being paid to the parish overseers for distribution to poor widows. (fn. 179) The cottage was probably one of those rebuilt by the parish early in the 18th century. (fn. 180) No reference to the charity has been found after 1787.