Sectional Preface

Pages xxiii-xxxvi

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 3, North East. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1922.

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In this section


Sectional Preface.

(i) Earthworks, etc., Prehistoric and Later.

The North-eastern quarter of Essex contains comparatively few earthworks of importance for the country is little suited to hill-forts and works of that description. Of the existing examples of earthworks the most interesting are the Red Hills, the Lexden Earthworks and the Romano-British barrow on Mersea Island.

Over two hundred Red Hills, so-called from the red earth of which they are composed, have been noted in Essex, chiefly near the estuaries of the Colne and the Blackwater. Similar works are found on the Lincolnshire coast, on the Upchurch marshes in Kent, and on the opposite shores of the Channel. They are usually situated by the sides of creeks and along what was the old high-water mark before the sea-walls were built. They are generally of low elevation and irregular in shape and frequently cover two or three acres. The red earth is extremely fertile, and is often removed and used for agricultural purposes. Careful investigation has been made of some of the hills, notably at Goldhanger and Canewdon, and here they consisted of powdery red earth containing pieces of roughly shaped and crudely baked clay, with grass as a binding material, in the form of fire-bars, fragments of small chambers (similar to ovens) and circular stems spreading out at the end. Late Celtic pottery, some pieces with rivet holes, and small pieces of Roman pottery (including a fragment or two of Arretine ware) have also been discovered. The mounds appear to be originally of pre-Claudian date, but their purpose is doubtful though many theories on the subject have been advanced. It is possible that the material was brought by water, perhaps as ballast, and dumped at the sides of the creeks to form 'hards' or landing places. The salt-marshes (known as Saltings) contain many mounds other than the Red Hills, and are crossed by ancient tracks, known as 'Peat ways.'

Of Hill Camps, the single example (see Plan, p. 128) is in Great Horkesley parish. Here the defensive works, except at the northern end, are gradually being destroyed by the plough.

The Lexden Earthworks (see Map, p. 72) are collectively the most interesting monument of their class in Essex. They are situated about two miles from the centre of Colchester and cover all the high ground W. of the town between the River Colne and Roman River and, to a certain extent, beyond both rivers. They consist of four main lines of entrenchments each with a rampart and a ditch on their western side, situated one behind the other and running roughly N. and S. On the line of Gryme's Dyke, the westernmost of the four, is a curious triangular work, perhaps covering a point where the three western lines of entrenchment converge, and further N. is a large excavation, known as King Coel's Kitchen, perhaps a disused gravel-pit. There is also an original entrance through this dyke. There are slight traces of minor banks near the main entrenchments.

Mersea Mount (see Section, p. 229), in West Mersea parish, contained a Romano-British burial (see Roman Remains below).

The mediaeval earthworks include the remains of three castles, the town ditch at Colchester and some sixty homestead moats. The rampart and ditch of the Inner Bailey of Colchester Castle remain intact on the N. and E. sides, the northern rampart being thrown up over Roman walls and pavements. Of the town ditch, fragments remain on the N. and E. arms. At Mount Bures is a well-preserved moated mound with no traces of a bailey; it was possibly the seat of the Sackvilles. Of Birch Castle, mentioned by Morant as a moated mound, belonging to Sir William Gernon, only a semi-circular fragment of rampart and ditch remains.

The miscellaneous earthworks include a length of entrenchment in Layer Marney parish, two doubtful tumuli at Messing and Tolleshunt Major respectively, a fragment of a recently discovered work in Brinkley Grove, N. of Colchester, and a number of mill-dams.

The recorded occupation of Mersea Island by the Danes, in A.D. 895 (AngloSax. Chron.), has left no recognizable trace; the suggested identification of their camp with the moat in East Mersea (2) is almost certainly incorrect as the site is too high above the sea-level and too far from the coast.

(ii) Roman Remains.

The area included in the present volume is, in Britain, unrivalled for its wealth of historical associations with the latest pre-Roman and earliest Roman periods. These associations cluster round Colchester which had a flourishing population already in touch with Roman civilization before the Claudian invasion A.D. 43. Roman moneyers were employed by Cunobeline; Roman amphorae have been found with late Celtic pottery at Colchester; and Arretine ware has occurred in at least one of the mysterious 'Red Hills.' The adoption, therefore, of the elements of 'Romanization' was stimulated rather than initiated by the invasion. Southeastern Britain was absorbed rather than conquered, and the (apparently) casual and unguarded occupation of Colchester itself by the first colonists indicates a comparatively settled and civilized countryside. Under such conditions it is likely that country houses of Roman type began to spring up almost immediately after the invasion; indeed a building at Pleshey, noted in Volume II of the Essex Inventory, was certainly occupied at this period, and excavation may be expected to yield similar evidence elsewhere. Of military remains there is, on the other hand, no trace. Such temporary fieldworks as must have been thrown up by the Claudian armies may be supposed to have vanished long since beneath the plough. Colchester has been claimed by some writers as in origin a legionary fortress, but the absence of supporting evidence is reflected in the diversity of opinion as to the precise legion stationed there, and the weight of Tacitus is, on the whole, opposed to any such view.

Towns and villages.—It is not improbable that some of the 'villas' noted in the district formed the nuclei of small settlements, and at Brightlingsea, near the mouth of the River Colne, there seems to have been a small village. The only town definitely known to us, however, is Colchester, one of the four or five places in Britain which attained to colonial or to municipal rank.

Camulodunum, the royal oppidum of Cunobeline, is an exceptionally large specimen of the promontory fortress. Here, two rivers, the Colne and the Roman River, approaching each other and then receding only to meet after a while, enclose a more or less pear-shaped plateau, of an elevation of about one hundred feet with tolerably steep sides, and measuring about three by four miles. The neck of the plateau is defended by a reinforced system of earthworks. There are four distinct lines of embankment across the space from the Colne to the Roman River, and, beyond the rivers to the north and south, other ramparts are found, which must have been designed as flanking works to the main defences. The outmost line, 3½ miles in length, the straightest, and therefore perhaps the least ancient of the entrenched lines, is known as Gryme's Dyke. It shows a curious double bend at a place a little south of the centre, and not far to the north of the bend a gap, where presumably the ancient road passed. The dyke has been a boundary, time out of mind, and now marks the western confines of the borough of Colchester, and the civitas of the Domesday survey seems, in the opinion of many good judges, to correspond to the British oppidum. (fn. n1) The area included between rivers and dykes is as much as twelve square miles, and must have possessed great natural strength when forests enclosed it on the north and west, and the rivers, with the tides and marshes, offered a much broader expanse of water defences than now. Within the limits a considerable number of Celtic coins have been found, and a Celtic cemetery existed in Lexden Park, but no evidence of permanent dwellings of these people have come to light, such as abound at Alesia, Bibracte and other oppida of the latest pre-Roman period in Gaul.

To this place came Claudius, as conqueror, in A.D. 43, with his four victorious legions. Here in due course arose the Temple to Claudius, the Statue of Victory, the Curia and the Theatre which Tacitus mentions. The "Colonia Victricensis " seems to have been called into being by Ostorius Scapula sometime between the years 47 and 50. This general required all the regular troops he could muster for his expedition into Wales, but, as he could not afford to leave his rear completely unguarded, he established at Camulodunum a strong body of veterans 'as a defence against the rebels and as a means of imbuing the ' socii' with respect for our laws." (Tacitus Ann. XII. 32.) Thus, it would seem, in the north-east corner of the extensive area of Celtic Camulodunum, under Roman auspices, an intensive life was developing on the site of modern Colchester. The existing walls enclose 108 acres, which is exactly double the size of the legionary camp at York. But however tempting it may be to suppose that the walls of Colchester originated as a double legionary camp, there stands the definite statement of Tacitus that in A.D. 61 the colony was unprotected by defences such as a fortress would have required. Moreover, three instances of burial within the walls, and a case where the wall passes on the top of Roman pavements (see Inventory, No. 45), prove that the present walls are not coeval with the first Roman occupation of the site.

Anyhow, in A.D. 61, when the storm of Boudicca's (Boadicea) rebellion burst, there was only a small military force at hand to quell it. At that time the natives were chafing at the lawlessness of the veterans and the licence of the soldiers, and were further exasperated by eviction from their holdings, and by the spectacle of Roman luxury, while the veterans were scattered in the cultivation of their ill-gotten estates, and the legate Suetonius was far away in North Wales. There was no time to remove the women and infirm into safety; no time to construct fosse or rampart, and though the young men and soldiers occupied the temple (all else was plundered or fired), it fell after a two days' siege. In London, Verulam, and Colchester, about 70,000 citizens and provincials were killed.

Roman Camulodunum had to make a fresh start, and the walls and other evidence indicate something of the general outline of the new work. It is quite certain that a road ran from the Balkerne Gate to the East Gate, almost certainly crossed by a road from Head Gate to the North Gate. The clue thus afforded may be reinforced by the known position of early churches within the walls, by sundry considerations concerning the Castle area, and by the excavation of an insula in 1920 in the Castle Park (No. 36, p. 26). The spade then revealed a block of about 440 ft. by 290 ft. built, as the pottery involved implies, in the latter half of the first century, over older buildings that had been destroyed by fire, and were differently orientated. It established the facts that 330 ft. south of the N. wall of the city is a road running east and west parallel to the wall; and that this road is cut by two others at right angles, respectively at 820 ft. and at 1,110 ft. from the E. town-wall. The last-mentioned of these roads is the main thoroughfare leading from the Roman Ryegate, and lies partially under the present Ryegate Road. As this line was seemingly the western boundary of the King's demesne in Domesday, extending from High Street northwards, and through the wall down to the River Colne, it is likely that the Roman way remained so far in evidence till the Norman Conquest. If continued southwards, it would meet the S. wall of the town at the point where the Mersea Road may be supposed to enter, at the lost Roman South Gate.

The width of the excavated insula suggests that it lies in the same longitudinal zone as the forum of the town, and it will be seen hereafter that this very likely is the case.

The bearing of the evidence of the churches on the town-plan is interesting. There were eight parish churches within the walls, and the date of their respective foundations is probably very remote. But it is noticeable that the parishes attached in all cases extend beyond the walls, while St. Botolph's is extra-mural as far as the building is concerned though its parish bounds penetrate within the enceinte. At Lincoln, on the contrary, in the upper city, town walls and parish boundaries are rigidly conterminous. It is likely that old churches would have been placed so as to be easily accessible from old streets, and at Colchester, St. Peter's, St. Runwald's (now destroyed), St. Nicholas', All Saints' and St. James' are approached by the High Street, while two others, St. Martin's and Holy Trinity, rest their west end on the same transverse line as St. Runwald's; and St. Mary-at-the-Walls, though slightly away from a line of a probable Roman street, stands close to a Roman postern in the town-wall.

Of the buildings within the walls the schedule in the Inventory (subjoined) tells its own tale. Till recently no house had been properly planned, and no individual edifice possessed much distinctive interest. The points which proved a change of plan after the first occupation of the site had been noted, and the pavements irregularly recorded. But these were perhaps of no particular merit, they include no figure subjects, and the harvest of finds inside the town could not at all compare with the richness of the yield of the cemeteries outside. In particular, two monuments, both in Colchester Museum, deserve notice: (1) the tombstone of M. Favonius Facilis, a centurion of the twentieth legion, of 1st-century date, and (2) a sphinx, holding in its claws a human head of grotesque character. But the digging in the Castle Park has thrown new light on the plan of the Roman city, and the reinvestigation of the Castle has revealed the fact that it covers one of the most extensive surviving 'monuments' of Roman Britain.

The plan (p. 28) shows that the west end of the town, near the London road, was more thickly covered with buildings than the eastern quarter, though many may be waiting discovery in the still large gardens on this side. The Roman town never spread beyond its early walls and does not rank among the larger towns of Roman Britain. It was too near London and did not, like Verulam, stand on any important road. The small finds in the museum and elsewhere show that it was occupied to the end of the Roman period. No evidence exists as to its fate in the fifth century. The fire and first narrowing of the Balkerne Gate betoken an enemy in the Roman period, but the date is uncertain. The further reduction of the Gate and the destruction of the north-eastern postern were probably effected in the postRoman period, but whether in struggles with Saxons or Danes is unknown. It is difficult to believe that in a place so exposed to sea-raiders, occupation was continuous from Roman to Saxon days, when other towns like Roman Canterbury, Verulam, and Silchester were either deserted for a time or abandoned altogether.

The Celtic name of the Claudian 'Colonia Victricensis' continued in use during the Roman period. The town is called both 'Colonia' and 'Camoloduno' in the Antonine Itinerary (474, 480), but 'Camuloduno' in the Peutinger Table. Camulodunum, spelt as on Cunobeline's coins, is mentioned in an inscription from Carnuntum at Vienna (Corp. Inscr. Latin. III. 11233) and possibly in another found 27th July, 1922, at Jedburgh Abbey. It is so used by Tacitus and is to be preferred to the spelling, Camalodunum, as in the elder Pliny (Nat. Hist. II. 187) and an unimportant inscription in the Vatican (Corp. Inscr. Latin. XIV. 3955). The name is connected apparently with a Celtic war god Camulus.

Farms and Country-houses.—These are fairly numerous, and the presence of bricks of Roman type in the walls of at least twenty-five churches (excluding Colchester) may be assumed to indicate the existence of a number of destroyed or undiscovered buildings within the area. Unfortunately, in no case have the known remains been completely or scientifically excavated, and it is not possible to reproduce an intelligible plan of a single example, with the small exception of the circular building on Mersea Island. There seems now to be little doubt that this building was not a 'pharos' but was a peristyle monument of a plan which can be paralleled in existing monuments on the Appian Way (L. Canina, Via Appia) and elsewhere. On both sides of Colchester, at Stanway on the west and at Alresford on the east, extensive 'villas' have been partially excavated, but all detailed information regarding the former seems to have been lost, and the record of the latter is inadequate. At Rivenhall, trenches have revealed the existence of extensive remains which deserve further exploration; and at Great Coggeshall, Dovercourt, St. Osyth, Tolleshunt Knights, and, less certainly, at Tollesbury and Kelvedon, evidence of settled Roman occupation has been found, but not properly investigated.

Burial-Mounds.—The mound on Mersea Island has been shown by excavation to have been built over a burial of late 1st-century date, and should therefore be classed with the Bartlow Hills (see Volume I of the Essex Inventory) as an example of a mode of sepulture which was common at this period both to south-eastern Britain and to Belgium. It is possible that the two mounds in Lexden Park, near Colchester, are of similar origin, but the partial excavation of one of them disclosed no burial, although Roman potsherds were found in its structure.

Roads.—Four roads in N.E. Essex are largely of Roman origin; conjecture adds others, of which some are probable but all are unproved. The known roads all converge upon Colchester. The Stane Street, which emerges from Hertfordshire near Bishops Stortford and proceeds due eastwards (see Sectional Preface to Essex Inventory, Vol. I), was joined at Marks Tey by the Roman main road from London, and so carried both lines of traffic to the west or south-west gates of Colchester. It has been reasonably argued that this coincidence of the London Road with the natural course of Stane Street implies the pre-existence of the latter, but our knowledge of the road-system in this district is very incomplete and alternative routes possibly existed. Between Stanway and Colchester the problem is further complicated by the probability that the system was altered in Roman times. Excavation has shown that the original road penetrated the Gryme's Dyke at an entrance half a mile south of the present Lexden Road, proceeded east-south-eastwards through the inner banks, and then, near Prettygate Farm, turned abruptly north-eastwards to the Balkerne Gate (H. Laver, E.A.S.T. (N.S.), III, 123; M. Christy, ib., XV, 190, XVI, 127), passing close to the present Grammar School and the junction of Queen's Road with Victoria Road near West Lodge. This is the quarter where the great 1st-century cemetery stood, and the road-metal is said to have been found 10 ft. north of the centurion tombstone, which was unearthed in the fifth garden on the east side of Beverley Road.

The route thus indicated between Colchester and Stanway was indirect, and was probably determined partly by the pre-existence of the Lexden earthworks. There is reason, however, to suppose that this road was superseded during the later Roman period by a more direct route which left Colchester at the site of the mediaeval Head Gate (beneath which the foundations of a Roman gate are said to have been noticed) and coincided approximately with the present Lexden Road. It is on this line, and not on that of the earlier way, that the open-field system hinges, and it is possible, though not certain, that the modern cutting made for St. Clare Road, adjoining Lexden Park, has disclosed the ditch which formerly flanked the Roman Road. Close to this route, south-west of Head Gate, have been found numerous 3rd and 4th-century inhumation burials.

South of Colchester the Roman Road to Mersea can be traced intermittently. It is said to have been found by the eastern boundary-wall of St. John's Abbey, and to run near Plum Hall and Monk Wycke to the place called the Rampart on the E. side of Berechurch Park, where it remains to a height of two or three feet. Abberton church stands on it, and it is supposed to pass by Peet Hall Causey to the Strood. Traces of it, however, are scarce, and it has been thought that the old approach to Mersea Island was by a ferry some half mile or more east of the present causeway.

The Eastern Counties route in the Antonine Itinerary six miles beyond Camulodunum reaches 'Ad Ansam.' This halting-place must have been on the bank of the River Stour, near Stratford St. Mary. The present road, from about two miles from Colchester, is a parish boundary almost all the way, but whether the Roman Road emerged from the Rye Gate or (like the modern road) from the East Gate is uncertain.

On leaving these four roads—Stane Street and the roads to London, Mersea and Stratford—evidence even of a general kind becomes precarious. Near Dovercourt, the "mutilated parts of a considerable large stone pavement" containing Roman coins is noted by Morant (Hist. Essex, I, 499), and may be part of a line of communication between Colchester and the destroyed fort at Walton by Felixstowe. North-west of Colchester a road from Cambridge should probably be looked for. This route, which is clear over the Gogmagog Hills and may be followed dubiously as far as Ridgewell, must have descended the Colne Valley; but in the area wherewith this volume is concerned no trace of it has been discovered. (See Sectional Preface to Essex, Vol. I). South-west of the town a road may have led in the direction of (though not necessarily to) Maldon; but here again verification is not yet forthcoming.

(iii) Ecclesiastical and Secular Architecture.

Building Materials: Stone, Flint, Brick, etc.

There is little change in the general characteristics of both ecclesiastical and secular buildings in N.E. Essex from those described in the preceding volumes on the N.W., Central and S.W. parts of the county. The parts towards the E. coast show a greater use of septaria as building material, and the Colchester district displays, as might be expected, an extensive re-use of Roman material, both brick and stone. The N.E. is the only part of the county yet surveyed which provides examples of 13th-century or earlier brickwork. The bricks used at Coggeshall Abbey, of late 12th and early 13th-century date, are of a warm red tone and generally about 1¾ in. to 2 in. thick; the fact, that the majority of them are shaped to suit their present positions is an argument in favour of local manufacture. With the 14th century the use of brick became more general in this part of the county and examples are noted at Colchester, St. Martin and St. Leonard-at-the-Hythe; Stanway All Saints, and Fordham. The brick of this period is of a much lighter shade, varying from light red to a muddy yellow. The 15th and 16th-century brickwork reverts to the warm red colour of the earlier work; an instance of remarkably large bricks (11¼ in. by 5¼ in.) of this period occurs in the lower part of the tower of Weeley church.

Nearly all the purely secular buildings of earlier date than the 16th century are of timber; after that period a certain number of the larger houses were built of brick. Stone is confined to the domestic buildings of certain dissolved monastic houses, to the keep of Colchester Castle, and to the walls of a number of cellars in the town of Colchester.

Ecclesiastical Buildings.

The churches of N.E. Essex include a fairly high proportion of buildings of more than usual interest. The proximity to the Suffolk border is indicated by the presence of a number of large churches, such as Dedham (Plate, p. 80), Great Coggeshall and Great Bromley (Plate, p. 112), of the East Anglian type. Bradwell (juxta Coggeshall) church is worthy of special mention as it is untouched by modern restoration and presents a museum of church fittings of all periods down to the end of the 18th century. The two churches of Copford and Great Clacton are both buildings of a peculiar type of construction of which the only parallel in this country appears to be the nave at Chepstow Priory.

Chronologically, all the mediaeval periods are well represented except the 13th century, of which, as elsewhere in Essex, there are comparatively few examples. The tower of Holy Trinity, Colchester (Plate, p. 34), is a well-known example of pre-Conquest work and is built on to the W. gable of a still earlier church. Inworth retains both nave and chancel of pre-Conquest date, but the latter was subsequently extended. Of late 11th and 12th-century work there are many examples, Tollesbury, Heybridge (Plate, p. 131), and West Mersea tower being the earliest. The two 12th-century churches at Copford and Great Clacton (Plates, pp. 76, 114) have already been referred to; they were both roofed by a system of broad cross-arches with cross-vaults groined into the main span in each bay: both vaults were subsequently removed. The ruined priory church of St. Botolph, Colchester (Plates, pp. 46, 47), is in a class by itself as being the nave of a fairly large conventual church; it is largely built of Roman brick. Enriched work of this period occurs at Little Totham (Plate, p. 115), Great Bentley (Plate, p. 108), Great Tey (Plate, p. 130) and Middleton (Plate, p. 142). Great Tey has a massive 12th-century central tower and the W. towers of Heybridge and St. Martin, Colchester (Plate, p. 38), have features of interest. A series of plain early 12th-century vaults represents the E. range of the monastic buildings at St. Osyth. To the very end of the century belong the columns of the N. arcade at Stisted (Plates, pp. 212, 213). The best examples of the 13th century are to be found in the chancels of Stisted (Plate, p. xxviii) and Easthorpe (Plate, p. 92), the nave at Kelvedon (Plate, p. 141) and the monastic buildings of St. Osyth (Plate, p. 203) and Little Coggeshall (Plates, pp. 166–7). Fourteenth-century work is well represented in the district, the chancel of Lawford (Plates, pp. 150, 151) being an example of particular richness. Other good work of the period occurs at Colchester St. Martin (Plate, p. 39) and St. Nicholas; Langham (Plate, p. 148); Great Bromley (Plate, p. 113), Elmstead (Plate, p. 93) and Pebmarsh; the W. tower at All Saints, Stanway (Plate, p. 6), has a curious vault in the form of a saucer dome with applied ribs. The finest 15th-century building is probably the handsome W. tower at Brightlingsea (Plate, p. 11), and other good examples of the 15th and 16th centuries are to be found at Dedham, Great Bromley, Great Coggeshall, Feering (Plate, p. 96), St. Osyth (Plate, p. 198), Layer Marney (Plate, p. 155) and Colchester St. Leonard-at-the-Hythe (Plate, p. 35). The nave at St. Osyth, the S. side at Feering, and the whole church of Layer Marney are executed in brick. The only examples of post-Reformation work of any interest are the church at Manningtree, much altered, and the porch and other works at All Saints, Stanway, all of the 17th century.

Apsidal E. ends, all of the 12th century, occur at Copford, Little Tey (Plate, p. xxviii) and Little Braxted, the two latter being without chancel-arches. Remains of a former apse exist at Easthorpe and probable indications of another at Great Braxted. The church at Lamarsh has a round tower (Plate, p. xxviii), much repaired, and central towers exist at Great Tey and Mount Bures, but the last-named has been rebuilt; there is evidence also of a former central tower at Wakes Colne, of a central crossing at St. Nicholas, Colchester, and documentary evidence of a central tower at St. Peter's in the same town. The priory church of St. Botolph, Colchester, had two western towers, of which one still stands in part.

Western towers of brick are to be found at Layer Marney, Weeley, Thorpe-le-Soken, Great Holland, Tolleshunt Major (Plate, p. 220) and Colchester (Berechurch and Greenstead). The upper stages of Colne Engaine; St. Mary, Birch (Plate, p. 6); and Little Bromley, are also of this material.

There are handsome stone porches at Ardleigh (Plate, p. xxix), Great Bromley and Brightlingsea, and good brick examples at Feering (Plate, p. 96) and Pebmarsh (Plate, p. xxix). Of timber porches, those at Aldham (Plate, p. xxxvi) and Tendring (Plate, p. xxxvi) date from the 14th century, and later instances at Frating, Bradwell (Plate, p. 7) and Great Horkesley have features of interest.

Nine churches have low-side windows.

There is a fine hammer-beam roof at Great Bromley (Plate, p. 113) and others at Peldon, St. Osyth, and Colchester St. Leonard-at-the-Hythe (Plate, p. 35); a 17th-century example occurs at Manningtree (Plate, p. xxxvi). Good roofs of other types exist at St. Osyth, Dedham and Colchester St. James and St. Martin.

Stone or brick vaulting is used at Dedham (Plate, p. 213) and Stanway All Saints (W. tower) and Great Coggeshall and Feering (Plate, p. 133) (S. porches).

One desecrated chapel at Great Horkesley (Plate, p. 127) is scheduled in the inventory. It is a late 15th-century brick building and is now used as a cottage.

Monastic and Collegiate Buildings.

The mitred Benedictine abbey of St. John at Colchester is now represented only by the gatehouse (Plate, p. 43) and some of the precinct wall. There are no remains above ground of the Priory of Earls Colne. The small Cluniac house of Little Horkesley apparently adjoined the church there, but the existing edifice was probably always parochial. Of the Cistercian order the only example was the Abbey of Coggeshall, of which there are interesting remains of the domestic buildings (Plates, pp. 166, 167), with the 'capella extra portas' now in the chapel of Little Coggeshall (Plate, p. 127). The Austin Canons are represented by the extensive and important remains of the Abbey of St. Osyth (Plates, pp. 198, 202), the ruined nave of the priory of St. Botolph at Colchester (Plates, pp. 46, 47), the earliest house of the order in England, and a single wall at Tiptree Priory, Great Braxted. The Benedictine nunnery of Wix adjoined the church there and the existing N. arcade may have formed part of the nuns' quire. Of the two houses of friars (Grey and Crossed or Crutched) at Colchester, and of Cressing Temple there are no remains above ground.

Two almshouses at Colchester (Winnock's and Winsley's) have 17th and late 16th-century buildings of some interest.

Secular Buildings.

The N.E. division contains the single example in Essex of a walled town— Colchester. Its relative importance during the mediaeval period may be gauged by the fact that it had eight parish churches within the walls and three more immediately outside. Unfortunately, no ancient buildings connected with its corporate life have survived though there is handsome corporation plate dating from the 17th and 18th centuries and mediaeval seals to bear witness to its continuous commercial importance. A very large collection of municipal records dating from about 1300 onwards is stored in a carefully isolated apartment in the Castle Keep.

About two hundred and thirty-five houses in the N.E. part of the county have been assigned to the period preceding the Reformation; they are scattered fairly evenly over the whole area, except the N.E. coastal district, and are nearly all of timber. The earliest domestic work is of the 14th century. St. Clair's Hall, St. Osyth (Plate, p. xxxi), has an aisled hall with oak columns of this date, and another contemporary hall of similar character existed at Bourchiers Hall, Tollesbury, but of this the roof is now the only recognizable portion. In West Stockwell Street, Colchester, are remains of a timber building, probably of late 14th-century date. A number of houses on both sides of the High Street, Colchester, are provided with mediaeval stone-built cellars, many of them with 14th-century details. Their chief interest lies in the fact that they seem to indicate that the main building line of that period was set considerably back from the street frontage and had in front a line of cellars presumably covered in and perhaps supporting booths or shops.

The best examples of domestic work of the 15th century are monuments Nos. 5, 70, 71 and 75 in Great Coggeshall; Nos. 30, 86, 190 and 231 in Colchester; Feeringbury in Feering; Southfields in Dedham (Plate, p. 84); and Tolleshunt D'Arcy Hall, in Tolleshunt D'Arcy. There are houses with good early 16th-century detail at Paycocks in Great Coggeshall (Plates, pp. 118, 119), a very rich example; the Sun Inn at Kelvedon; the Marquis of Granby at Colchester (Plate, p. xxxvii); Tollesbury (No. 18) (Plate, p. xxxvii), and Jacobes Hall at Brightlingsea (Plate, p. 176). While later timber building is exemplified at Lower Dairy Farm, Little Horkesley (Plate, p. xxx); Gate House, Colchester (No. 39) (Plate, p. 122); Great Coggeshall (Nos. 31, 69), etc. Seventeenth-century pargeting remains largely intact at Colneford House, Earls Colne (Plate, p. 235) and Wivenhoe (No. 6) (Plate, p. 235); more fragmentary examples of the same work occur at Colchester (Nos. 29, 31, 53, 192, 227 and 234) and Mount Bures (No. 5). There are remains of good early 16th-century brick houses at Bradfield Hall in Bradfield (Plate, p. 10) and Wivenhoe Hall in Wivenhoe (Plate, p. 234), and Beckingham Hall in Tolleshunt Major has a curious mid 16th-century gatehouse (Plate, p. 230) with remains of stencilled decoration on plaster. Layer Marney Towers or Hall (Plates, Frontispiece, etc.) consists of the early 16th-century gatehouse and one range of a large courtyard house, probably never completed; it is remarkable not only for its proportions but as providing one of the few examples of Renaissance ornament in this country before the Reformation. The abbey buildings of St. Osyth (Plates, pp. 198, 199) and Coggeshall were converted into houses soon after the Dissolution, and the remains of the Darcy mansion at St. Osyth are important. At Wix (No. 2) (Plate, p. 231) and Tiptree Priory, in Great Braxted (Plate, p. 234), are late 16th-century houses built on the sites of former monastic establishments, and the curious structure of Bourne Mill, Colchester (Plate, p. 68), is largely built of reused material, probably from St. John's Abbey. The main block at Beaumont Hall, Beaumont cum Moze (Plate, p. 234), is another brick building of a rather later date.

At Coggeshall is a bridge of three spans, which though much altered is probably of 13th-century date.


Altars.—At Great Tey there is part of a small altar with consecration crosses, presumably intended for insertion in a larger slab. At the end of the tomb of John, 2nd Lord Marney, at Layer Marney, is an altar of the same materials and workmanship as the tomb but with a modern slab. Other altar-slabs remain at Colchester St. Martin, Little Horkesley, St. Osyth and Thorrington.

Bells.—Forty-eight bells in N.E. Essex are of pre-Reformation date. Of these, two by a predecessor of William Dawe, one by William Burford, and probably the uninscribed clock-bell at Lexden are of the 14th century. Of the remainder, six are by Robert Burford and four each by H. Jordan and J. Danyell. A large proportion of the post-Reformation bells were supplied by the Colchester foundry of the Grayes.

Brasses.—The earliest brass is the magnificent cross-legged effigy of Sir William Fitzralph, c. 1323, at Pebmarsh (Plate, p. 171). To the beginning of the 15th century belong the handsome canopied brasses of the Swynbornes, father and son, at Little Horkesley (Plate, p. 171), one with the SS collar; the brass of Sir William Pyrton, 1490, at Little Bentley, also has the SS collar. At Wivenhoe are the large early 16th-century brasses, both with canopies, of William, Viscount Beaumont, and Elizabeth, Countess of Oxford; of similar date and character is the brass of Bridget, Lady Marney, and her two husbands, at Little Horkesley. There is an interesting series of family brasses at Tolleshunt D'Arcy of the Darcies, at Great Coggeshall of the Paycockes, and at Brightlingsea of the Beryffs; the Paycockes and the Beryffs being rich merchants. Only two brasses with effigies of priests remain; at Great Bromley, of 1432, with a mutilated canopy, and at Wivenhoe, of 1535. Aldermen in their robes are represented at Colchester St. Peter, and a civilian at Wormingford has a collar, formerly inlaid, round his neck. A single shroud brass occurs at Little Horkesley, and at Elmstead are a pair of hands holding a heart. Palimpsest brasses have come to light at Colchester St. James, Tolleshunt D'Arcy (two), Fingringhoe and Wivenhoe; two of these are of Flemish workmanship.

There are early 14th-century indents with separate letters in the inscriptions at Great Horkesley (dated 1327), Tolleshunt D'Arcy and Wivenhoe.

Ceilings and Plaster Work.—In domestic buildings there are enriched plaster ceilings (Plate, p. 235) at Colchester (No. 114), Dedham (Nos. 9, 22 and 24), Manningtree (No. 13) and Harwich (No. 3, 20 and 31). The specimens of enriched pargeting have already been referred to (p. xxxii).

Chests.—Early dug-out and iron-bound chests remain at Messing (Plate, p. xxxii), Fingringhoe (Plate, p. xxxii), Langham and Stisted; two of these, at Fingringhoe and Stisted, have dates in iron-work (1684 and 1676) added later. Other mediaeval or early 16th-century chests, heavily bound with iron, occur at Little Bentley (Plate, p. xxxii), Copford and Layer Marney. There are late 16th or 17th-century chests with carved fronts at Great Bromley (Plate, p. xxxii) and Great Henny. Two interesting foreign chests, one of iron painted and one with iron arabesque-ornament, remain at Great Tey and Wivenhoe. There is an interesting 16th-century alms-box at Dovercourt (Plate, p. xxxii).

Communion Table.—The only communion table of particular interest is the carved and dated example (1633) at Cressing (Plate, p. xxxii).

Doors.—The finest surviving door in the district is that at Colchester St. Peter (Plate, p. 42), with rich hammered and stamped iron-work of c. 1300, ascribed to Thomas of Leighton, the craftsman responsible for the grille on the tomb of Eleanor of Castille at Westminster. There is enrichment of similar date and character surrounding the handle-plate of a door at Aldham (Plate, p. 132). Fairly elaborate 12th-century iron-work remains on the S. door at Heybridge (Plate, p. 132). Of traceried doors of the late mediaeval period, the best examples are at Great Bromley (Plate, p. 132) (two), Dedham (with remains of carved figures, Plate, p. 42), Fingringhoe (Plate, p. 132) and Ardleigh (Plate, p. 132).

Fireplaces.—The most interesting fireplaces are those of late 11th-century date at Colchester Castle (Plate, p. 58), each with two flues; they are amongst the earliest examples in the country. At Paycocks in Great Coggeshall are two fireplaces with early 16th-century carved oak lintels (Plate, p. 119); of rather later date and of early Renaissance design is the handsome carved stone fireplace at Stanway Hall in Stanway (Plate, p. xxxiii). Other examples of interest (Plate, p. xxxiii) are to be found at Marks Hall in Markshall, Colchester (Nos. 18 and 20); Great Coggeshall (No. 36); Langham (No. 11); Layer Marney Towers in Layer Marney, and Guisnes Court in Tollesbury.

Fonts (Plate, p. xxxiv).—There are comparatively few 12th and 13th-century fonts in the district and none of them are of particular interest. The 14th-century font at Dovercourt has a shafted stem and traceried bowl. Many good 15th and early 16th-century fonts survive, the more important being those at Colchester St. Martin, Great Tey, Little Totham, Stanway St. Albright, Thorrington, Great Clacton and East Mersea; that at Great Clacton has carved figures and the font at East Mersea has a rich traceried bowl. The most interesting font, however, is one of carved oak at Marks Tey; it has a traceried bowl and stem and remains of carved figures cut back. The font at Bradwell has a brick stem. A curious 18th-century font at Tollesbury is dated by the parish records a few years too late for inclusion in the Inventory. The fonts at Fingringhoe and Little Horkesley have buttressed and traceried covers of 15th and early 16th-century date respectively.

Glass (Plates, pp. 192, 193).—Very little pre-16th-century glass has survived in the churches of N.E. Essex, and what there is, is, for the most part, fragmentary. The largest quantity is at Lawford—excellent foliage, border and canopy work (14th-century). At Great Oakley, Little Oakley, Wormingford and East Mersea are small examples of the same kind and period. At Elmstead are the upper parts of two panels composed of foliage in grisaille set in a border of fleurs-de-lis and castles (c. 1300). Of the 14th century there is good tabernacle work at Feering. Of late 16th or early 17th-century date is one large and nearly complete window— the E. window at Messing with six of the corporal works of mercy in panels, the whole under a mutilated canopy. The four late 12th-century medallions in the E. window of the chancel of Rivenhall church call for special mention on account of their date and their excellent condition. They were brought from abroad and inserted in their present position in the 19th century. The 13th-century panel of the knight on horseback in the same window is also noteworthy. There are a few good examples of 14th-century heraldic glass—at Great Bromley is a coat of Martel and at Frinton are the shields of Warenne and Elderbeke. Most of the heraldry is of the 16th century; of that period we have the very interesting armorials of the Marney family in the North Chancel Chapel at Layer Marney, including three shields of Henry, Lord Marney, K.G. At Lawford Hall in Lawford there is a remarkable Swiss roundel with the arms of the Empire and Fribourg with its dependent towns. There, also, are some shields of the Bowyer family and a Tudor Royal Arms. At the Siege House, Colchester, are two roundels (removed from another Colchester dwelling) which are of rather special interest. The one, dated 1546, shows the quartered coat of Katherine Parr, surmounted by a Royal crown, and the other the full achievement of Thomas, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, K.G. It is noticeable that the Royal arms are placed in the first quarter, a fact which supplies contemporary evidence of the truth of one, at least, of the charges brought by Henry VIII against the Duke. At Dukes, in Layer Marney, and at Feeringbury, in Feering, among others, are roundels with Royal badges crowned and initials E.R. (probably for Queen Elizabeth). Of the last years of the 17th century, or the beginning of the 18th century, is a large oval panel with the arms of Henry Compton, Bishop of London, in the E. window of the N. aisle at the church of St. James, Colchester.

Hour-glass Stands.—Wrought-iron hour-glass stands remain at East Mersea, Thorrington and Little Bentley.

Monuments.—The N.E. quarter of Essex contains thirteen mediaeval effigies, of which four are at Earls Colne Priory (Plate, p. 91) and three each at Layer Marney (Plate, p. 158) and Little Horkesley (Plate, p. 170). All except one at Earls Colne and one at Little Horkesley (both ladies) are armed figures. The three at Little Horkesley are of the 13th century and of oak. The figure at Elmstead (Plate, p. 170) is also of oak and of c. 1310. The series at Earls Colne are to members of the family of Vere, Earl of Oxford; all the monuments are of alabaster, except the earliest, which is probably the figure of Robert, 5th Earl, 1296. The tombs have been moved more than once and have been wrongly ' re-assembled,' the great tomb of Richard, 11th Earl, and his wife, now forming two separate monuments. The tombs of the Marneys at Layer Marney consist of one 14th-century monument of alabaster and two early 16th-century tombs with effigies and slabs of touch and early Renaissance architectural work of terra-cotta, of which they form a remarkable example. The other two effigies are at Thorpe-le-Soken and Tolleshunt Knights. Other mediaeval monuments occur at Dedham with a panelled canopy, and at Colchester St. Nicholas, a Gothic wall-tablet. There is an interesting incised slab of a priest at Middleton (Fig., p. 183), probably of Flemish workmanship, and a fragment of another at Bradwell. The best post-Reformation monuments are the two Darcy tombs at St. Osyth (Plate, p. 197) and other memorials at Rivenhall (Plate, p. 197), Colchester Berechurch (Plate, p. 97) and Little Totham (Plate, p. 97). There are wall-monuments or tablets of some interest at Bradwell (Plate, p. 97), Cressing (Plate, p. 97), Tollesbury and Colchester Holy Trinity.

Niches.—There is an interesting series of 15th or early 16th-century niches at Brightlingsea and other good examples are at Little Oakley, Ardleigh and Lawford.

Paintings.—The fine series of 12th-century paintings at Copford (Plate, p. 77), though considerably restored, are nevertheless still of extreme interest and give an excellent idea of the general appearance of such work when recently executed. Fingringhoe had also an extensive series of paintings, but most of these are in an advanced state of decay. At Bradwell, Easthorpe and Great Totham are painted figures more or less well preserved and at Layer Marney is an excellent representation of St. Christopher (Plate, p. 155) of early 16th-century date. Slight remains of painted decoration occur also at West Mersea.

There are no important remains of domestic decoration of this character, but a room in Colchester (No. 21) has early 18th-century painted panels, and remains of painted work occur at Josselyns in Little Horkesley and at Wivenhoe (No. 6). The Gatehouse of Beckingham Hall in Tolleshunt Major has remains of a painted stencil design on the external plastering.

Panelling.—The best linen-fold panelling occurs at Pay cocks in Great Coggeshall (Plate, p. 119) and Tolleshunt D'Arcy Hall in Tolleshunt D'Arcy (Plate, p. 180), and there is good later 16th or 17th-century panelling at Messing church and Bradwell church.

Piscinae.—At Great Horkesley is a 12th-century pillar-piscina and the 13th-century examples at Bradfield and Little Coggeshall have features of interest. There is a long list of good 14th-century piscinae including those at Great Bromley, Lawford, Little Oakley, Pebmarsh, Great Tey, Alphamstone, Colne Engaine and Elmstead, of these the first four are the more noteworthy; 15th or early 16th-century examples occur at Bradwell and Brightlingsea.

Plate (Plate, p. xxxv).—The earliest plate of the district are the two mazerbowls mounted in silver at Holy Trinity and St. Leonard-at-the-Hythe, Colchester; the former is of the 15th century and has a black-letter inscription referring to the three kings, and the latter apparently bears the date-mark for 1521. At Earls Colne is an early 16th-century paten with an incised figure of Christ in the middle. There are eighteen Elizabethan cups, of which an unusually large proportion have no date-mark; one cup dates from 1561, four from 1562, one from 1563 and three from 1567. Of later plate the most interesting piece is the Irish Chalice (Plate, p. xxxv) from St. Mary-at-the-Walls, Colchester; it is dated 1633 and formerly belonged to the Franciscan Friary of Rossereily, Galway. Other interesting pieces are the cup given by Laud, 1633, at Manningtree, and the two sets in their original cases at Little Bentley and Little Horkesley.

Pulpits.—The most interesting pulpits (Plate, p. 181) are those at White Colne and East Mersea, both of the 17th century; the former has carved figures of saints and the latter retains its sounding-board.

Royal Arms.—There is a handsome carved panel of the Royal Arms, dated 1634, at Messing (Plate, p. 181).

Screens.—Screen-work is but poorly represented in the district, but at Bradwell (Plate, p. 34) is an interesting 15th-century example retaining its boarded tympanum. At Colchester St. Martin (Plate, p. 39) there was a 14th-century screen dividing the chancel into two portions and probably used for the Lenten Veil. Other screens with features of interest include those at Thorpe-le-Soken, Copford, and Ardleigh; the first of these has a curious inscription. Secular screens occur at Marks Hall in Markshall (Plate, p. 180), Coggeshall Abbey in Little Coggeshall, St. Clair's Hall in St. Osyth and Kelvedon (No. 58).

Sedilia.—The finest sedilia are the finely carved 14th-century recesses at Lawford (Plate, p. 150); other notable examples of the same century occur at Elmstead and Alphamstone. To the 13th century belong those at Little Coggeshall and Easthorpe.

Stalls and Seating.—There is a very richly panelled back of a bench of c. 1500 at Inworth (Plate, p. 181), and at Langham are some carved bench-ends with popey-heads (Plate, p. 181). The early 17th-century stalls at Messing (Plate, p. 181) are good examples of their period.


1. Prehistoric and Roman.—The earthworks at Lexden are fairly well preserved, as are the mounts at Lexden and Mersea; Pitchbury Ramparts have nearly disappeared, except for the N. section. The Roman remains at Colchester are well looked after. The foundations at West Mersea have suffered from exposure.

2. Mediaeval Churches, etc.—Of the one hundred and nine churches of ancient foundation, eight have been almost entirely rebuilt and others retain only small portions of the old structure. The former churches of Moze, Layer Breton, Little Henny and Colchester Mile End are represented by foundations only, though the last place has a modern church some distance from the old site. Two churches at Walton-le-Soken have been destroyed by the sea. The churches of Little Birch, Stanway All Saints, Mistley, Virley and Colchester St. Botolph are roofless and ruined. Of the remaining ninety-four all but six are in fairly good condition; the majority have been extensively restored.

About eight per cent. of the secular buildings are in a poor or bad condition, but most of these are of little importance except the pargeted house at Wivenhoe (6), which is a 'selected' monument. The larger houses are nearly all in excellent condition and Layer Marney Towers has been recently restored. The earthworks of the castle of Mount Bures and Colchester are well preserved, at any rate in part, but those at Birch are much denuded.


  • n1. See Cutts, Colchester, p. 62.