Colne Engaine: Local government

Pages 113-114

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2001.

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John Engaine held view of frankpledge and the assizes of bread and of ale in 1274, (fn. 1) and his successor a three-weekly court in 1347. (fn. 2) In 1429 two men were summoned for marrying villeins without licence, and a third made fine for a similar marriage. In 1556 the court dealt with assault and affray. A constable and a taster of ale were elected at the Whitsun leet by 1503. (fn. 3) Courts leet ceased after 1700, and in the 18th century courts baron were held irregularly, their only business being to record the transfer of copyholds. (fn. 4) Courts were held at Christ's Hospital's farmhouse or occasionally, in the 19th century, at the Five Bells. The last court was held in 1895, but conveyances and enfranchisements of copyholds were entered in the court books until 1927. (fn. 5)

By 1400 the lords of Wakes Colne were holding courts leet and baron, with the assize of ale, for Little Colne, including Goldingtons manor. The courts were separate from those of Wakes Colne by 1653. (fn. 6) From 1462 or earlier a separate constable was elected for Little Colne. (fn. 7)

By 1467 the lords of Goldingtons manor were holding courts baron for their Essex estates, including Colne Engaine. (fn. 8) The lord's pound was broken in 1603. (fn. 9) The courts, held at the south-west corner of Goldingtons green, continued until 1861, and conveyances and enfranchisements of copyholds were entered in court books until 1899. (fn. 10)

At all three courts from the 15th to the 17th centuries tenants were presented for failing to scour ditches, for felling trees, for encroaching on greens and roads, and for digging clay illegally.

A court for Sherives manor was held in 1766, (fn. 11) but no court records have survived.

Robert Prentice, parish constable in 1693, was accused of fraud and false accounting. (fn. 12) Two constables' sticks were painted in 1765. (fn. 13)

In the earlier 18th century weekly allowances were paid to up to 18 paupers; occasional relief in kind, usually clothes or shoes, was also given. (fn. 14) The numbers receiving regular relief rose to 26 in 1769 and to 31 in 1798; clothes and shoes continued to be bought, and a surgeon or apothecary was paid in the 1760s and 1770s. In 1761, 1762, and 1766 spinning wheels was bought for pauper women. (fn. 15) The same system continued into the 19th century, and in addition some men were paid for work on the roads. (fn. 16) A workhouse, whose inmates were employed in spinning and hop-picking, operated between c. 1750 and 1761 and again from c. 1777 to c. 1790 or perhaps to 1795 when the overseers settled affairs there. At other times the building seems to have been used as pauper housing. It was sold in 1839. (fn. 17)

The three unendowed almshouses reported in 1768 were probably also used for pauper housing. That on Buntings green may have been the house built there by the parish in the late 16th century for 'a most wicked and ungodly man'. The houses were presumbly those sold by the parish in 1836. (fn. 18)

Expenditure on the poor more than doubled between 1776 and 1783-5, rising from £125 to an average of £266 a year, an increase comparable to that at Earls Colne and one of the largest in the hundred. (fn. 19) By 1803 expenditure had risen to £422, and by 1813 to £607 or £1 4s. 2d. per head of population, one of the lower rates in the hundred. It fell to £427 in 1816 before rising to £734 in 1818. Expenditure per head remained slightly below average for the hundred until 1830 when total expenditure rose to £900, £1 9s. 2d. a head. Although expenditure fell to £601 in 1834, expenditure per head remained above average for the hundred. (fn. 20)

Eighteenth-century and early 19th-century vestry meetings were attended by the parish officers, the rector or curate, and 6-7 parishioners. Although in 1821 there was reported to be no select vestry, there seems to have been a distinction in the mid 18th century between the annual 'town' meeting and others. (fn. 21) In the 1830s meetings were sometimes adjourned from the church to the Five Bells. In 1839 the vestry agreed to pay to vaccinate poor families; in 1845 money raised for poor relief paid for a soup kitchen. (fn. 22)


  • 1. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i. 155.
  • 2. Guildhall MS. 13544.
  • 3. E.R.O., D/DC 9/7A.
  • 4. Ibid. D/DC 9/8-9; Guildhall MS. 13574.
  • 5. Guildhall MSS. 13545, 13546/1, 13572; E.R.O., D/DC 9/10.
  • 6. E.R.O., D/DGw M1-4; D/DU 307/13, p. 43.
  • 7. Ibid. D/DGw M2, rot. 3.
  • 8. Ibid. D/DU 307/1.
  • 9. Ibid. D/DU 307/2.
  • 10. Ibid. D/DU 307/3-8.
  • 11. Ibid. T/B 186/14.
  • 12. Ibid. Q/SR 481/7.
  • 13. Ibid. D/P 193/9/1.
  • 14. Ibid. D/P 193/8/1.
  • 15. Ibid. D/P 193/12/1, 7-8.
  • 16. Ibid. D/P 193/8/3-5; D/P 193/12/4.
  • 17. Ibid. D/P 193/8/2, 6; D/P 193/12/1-2.
  • 18. Morant, Essex, ii. 220; E.R.O., D/DU 307/13, f. 21v.; ibid. D/P 193/8/3.
  • 19. E.R.O., Q/CR 1/1.
  • 20. Poor Law Abstract, 1804; E.R.O., Q/CR 1/10, 12; Rep. Sel. Cttee. on Poor Rate Returns, 1822-4, H.C. 334, App. (1825), iv; ibid. 1825-9, H.C. 83, p. 62 (1830-1), xi; ibid. 1830-4, H.C. 444, p. 60 (1835), xlvii.
  • 21. E.R.O., D/P 193/8/1, 3-5; D/P 193/12/1; D/P 193/18/2.
  • 22. E.R.O., D/P 193/8/6.