Wakes Colne: Economic history

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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'Wakes Colne: Economic history', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe, ed. Janet Cooper( London, 2001), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol10/pp122-125 [accessed 22 July 2024].

'Wakes Colne: Economic history', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Edited by Janet Cooper( London, 2001), British History Online, accessed July 22, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol10/pp122-125.

"Wakes Colne: Economic history". A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Ed. Janet Cooper(London, 2001), , British History Online. Web. 22 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol10/pp122-125.


Wakes Colne manor, with woodland for 400 swine in 1086, was one of the most heavily wooded manors in the Colne valley, but part of its wood was probably in Colne Engaine. On the four estates which later formed Crepping manor there was pasture for 112 swine. As in other areas of north Essex, clearance was rapid. That it was in progress by 1066 is indicated by the numbers of bordarii recorded that year; there were 15 bordarii to 7 villani on Wakes Colne manor and 9 bordarii were the only recorded tenants in Crepping. (fn. 1) In 1380 the main wood on Wakes Colne manor demesne was the 82-a. Westheywood in Colne Engaine; in Wakes Colne itself there was only the sparsely wooded 12-a. park. (fn. 2) On Crepping manor Sowenewood, perhaps an early plantation, was recorded in 1327; there was a small wood at Rowenhey (later Rowney) in 1331, and other scattered woods in 1432. (fn. 3) Rowney wood (11 a.) survived into the mid 19th century. (fn. 4) In 1996 the only wood in the parish was Acorn wood (17 a.) near Wakes Hall, first recorded in 1790. (fn. 5)

In 1066 the arable on Wakes Colne manor was worked by 3 demesne and 5 tenants' ploughs; in 1086 by 3 demesne and 4 tenants' ploughs. A sokeman had a further ½ plough on his freeyardland. On Alward's two Crepping estates, which extended into Chappel, there were 2 ploughs in 1066 and 1½ in 1086. There was ½ plough on the St. Edmund's abbey estate, and 1 plough on the 5 sokemen's 94 a. (fn. 6)

By the earlier 14th century most of the tenants' arable on Crepping manor lay in inclosed fields or crofts, but each was divided among several owners and was presumably commonable after harvest. (fn. 7) Some rights of common had been extinguished before 1307, and later in the century holdings were apparently consolidated. (fn. 8) In 1530 land held in 'parcels' was still distinguished from inclosed land, and the arable of Crepping manor was divided from that of Archentines manor in Fordham only by a mere or baulk. (fn. 9) Most villein holdings were small, some only 2 a. or 3 a., but a 30-a. holding was recorded in 1337. (fn. 10) In the 1530s there were c. 53 free- and copyhold tenants whose holdings ranged from 45 a. down to 1 r.; as much as half the manor may have been freehold. (fn. 11) The demesne in the 1330s lay in c. 15 small fields, concentrated around the manor house in the south-east quarter of Wakes Colne parish andthe north-east quarter of Chappel. Mowing and carting services were being demanded in 1307, and other works in 1343. (fn. 12) Parcels of the demesne were leased in 1353, 1412, and 1417. (fn. 13) The repair of the manorial sheepcote and two barns in 1409 and trespasses in the lord's corn in 1420 and 1426 suggest that the earls of Oxford were exploiting part of the manor directly, but the whole manor was being leased in 1432. (fn. 14)

Most named holdings on Wakes Hall manor in the 15th century may have been former quar- ter (12 a.-15 a.) or half yardlands (30 a.); two of the latter were called half yardlands in 1480 and 1466. (fn. 15) In 1393 the demesne arable was divided into 2 large fields of 134 a. and 136 a. and 4 smaller ones totalling 135 a., which may earlier have been the units for a 3-course rotation of (1) wheat (2) oats with barley, rye, peas, or beans, and (3) fallow. (fn. 16) By 1393 almost two thirds of the demesne was being leased, and the remaining large field was leased in 1400. Ploughing, mowing, and harvest works owed by up to 30 customary tenants had been commuted. Before commutation 3 customary tenants had been given food and drink at 2 special ploughing works, and 4 at 5 carrying works; 8 mowers had received grain for pottage. Reduction in rents and in sums paid in commutation of works, as well as the growing arrears of rents, suggests some difficulties by 1393. (fn. 17) In 1404 rents on two holdings were almost halved to attract tenants. (fn. 18)

There was 13 a. of meadow in Wakes Colne manor in 1086, and probably 16 a. on the later Crepping manor. (fn. 19) In the later 14th century there was 12 a. or 15 a. of meadow on the Wakes Hall demesne alone. (fn. 21) Most of the meadow probably lay along the Colne, the tenants' meadow in Edland or Headland meadow, part of which was still divided into strips belonging to different owners in 1885. (fn. 20) In the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries there was also meadow at Pardon valley, on the White Colne boundary, and near Allcocks green. (fn. 21)

In 1526 Wakes Colne green was common to tenants of Wakes Colne manor for cattle and sheep in accordance with a stint, but several tenants overloaded the common. (fn. 23) Unspecified rights of common were still attached to enclosures at the green in 1866. (fn. 24) A 38-a. freehold on Crepping manor had pasture for 12 cows in 1345, (fn. 25) but there is no later record of such rights or of where they were exercised. The lord of Crepping farmed out a herd of 20 cows in 1340, and tenants owned up to 50 sheep and 7 cattle in 1332. (fn. 26) There were 3 hives of bees on Wakes Colne manor in 1086, and in 1338 bees, apparently the lord's, were stolen from a tree on Crepping manor. (fn. 27)

Twenty-one people were assessed for subsidy in Wakes Colne and Crepping in 1327 at a total 50s. 8¼d., an above average assessment for the hundred. Among the wealthiest men, assessed at 8s. 6d. and 5s. 6d., were Henry Bacon of Crepping manor and the freeholder GeorgeCornerth. (fn. 28) Thirty-three people were assessed for subsidy in 1524, 30 in 1525; at least 25 of them were assessed in both years. The wealthiest men were Thomas Turner, later lessee of Wakes Hall and Crepping Hall, who was assessed on goods worth £30, and the copyholder Richard Bunner, assessed on £20 worth. Of the 11 men assessed on earnings, only 4 or 5 were assessed on the labourer's 20s. (fn. 29)

There were 35 tenants on Wakes Hall manor in 1635. Although most of the c. 32 earlier hold- ings had been split up, many of the resulting smaller ones had been consolidated. Only about a quarter of the land was freehold. (fn. 30) The largest estate was William Potter's 126 a. which included Fishers, a 50-a. freehold first recorded in 1466. (fn. 31) It had been held by the Waldegraves of Bures St. Mary (Suff.) and by John Turner of Crepping Hall. (fn. 32)

Small numbers of cows and sheep were frequently recorded in the 16th century, but the available pasture may have been reduced by c. 1700. A lease in 1708 of 121 a. of arable, 26 a. of pasture, and 23 a. of meadow apparently allowed the ploughing of up to 160 a. a year. (fn. 33) Wheat and oats, with some barley and maslin, remained the principal crops. (fn. 34) Hops were grown from the 1620s or earlier until the late 18th century, saffron before 1635, and teazel and caraway c. 1780. (fn. 35)

In the 19th century the parish was still dominated by the two manorial estates, both held by John Lay until his death in 1819. (fn. 36) In 1838 Henry Skingley at Wakes Hall owned and occupied 320 a. in Wakes Colne with 15 a. in Chappel. Crickitt's executors at Crepping Hall owned 266 a. in Wakes Colne and 182 a. in Chappel; most of it was occupied by William Worcester, whose farm, leased from several landowners, comprised 298 a. in Wakes Colne and 52 a. in Chappel. John Brett at Fishers held 203 a.; one of his tenants also leased Great Loveney Hall and held altogether 173 a. in Wakes Colne and 24 a. in Chappel. (fn. 37) In 1851 Wakes Hall comprised c. 400 a., Crepping Hall 450 a., and Great Loveney Hall 300 a.; Fishers was not recorded. Three other farms were over 100 a. By 1881 Wakes Hall farm had increased to 500 a. and Fishers to 320 a.; Crepping Hall farm was only 355 a., and Great Loveney Hall 201 a. (fn. 38) The Wakes Hall estate was sold c. 1884 to Charles Page Wood who farmed it until his death in 1915. (fn. 39) Joe Percival (d. 1973) bought the Wakes Hall estate and much other land in the parish in the 1930s and 1940s; his large farm was intact in 1996. (fn. 40)

In 1839 there was 1,668 a. of arable to 117 a. of grass, and 52 a. of woodland in the parish. By 1905 the grassland had increased to 520 a., the arable had decreased to 1,496 a., and the woodland to 44 a. (fn. 41) In the late 19th century and the early 20th several farms included 'garden' land, presumably producing vegetables for market. (fn. 42) Fruitgrowing was encouraged by the RevdE. Bartrum, rector 1887-1906, who published guides to the cultivation of apples, pears, plums, raspberries, and strawberries. (fn. 43) A 90-a. farm in Wakes Colne and Mount Bures in 1926 included 10 a. of soft fruit. (fn. 44) There was a poultry farm in 1922. (fn. 45) In 1953 Rowneys farm (80 a. extending into Mount Bures) could rear 1,008 poultry and 38 or more pigs; cereals, sugar beet, potatoes, and cabbages were grown on the arable land. (fn. 46) In 1996 most of the parish was arable, the chief crops being wheat and barley, with rape, sugar beet and beans; two farms kept beef and dairy cattle. Oldhouse farm had extensive apple orchards, and also reared ostriches. (fn. 47)

Wakes mill was a fulling mill in the 16th century; weavers were recorded in 1563, 1584, 1607, and 1619, and woolcombers or combers in 1664, 1679, and 1701. (fn. 48) There was a glover in the parish in 1582 and a bricklayer in 1597; otherwise most recorded trades were service ones:tailors in 1567 and 1595, a butcher in 1597, and grocers in 1708 and 1754. In 1573 a husbandman worked as a musician. (fn. 49)

Between 1841 and 1891 farmers and their labourers made up c. 60 per cent of the working population; the remaining workers included wheelwrights, blacksmiths, and shopkeepers, as well as domestic servants at Wakes Hall, Wakes Colne Place, and Fishers. Wakes mill employed 6 men in 1851, and 10 in 1871. There were 3 railway employees in the parish in 1851, a total of 14 in 1891. The railway probably also made possible the establishment of the coalyard by 1851. (fn. 50) The early 19th-century Kiln field and Bricks field may mark the site of brickworks in the north-west corner of the parish. Brickmakers were recorded in Loveney Hall Road in 1871 and at Parkers Green in 1886, and there was still a brickfield in the parish in 1890. (fn. 51) Apart from a silk worker, presumably employed in one of the nearby silk mills, in 1851, and 2 strawplaiters in 1871, few working women were recorded until 1891 when 23 were tailoresses, probably for Colchester clothing firms. (fn. 52)

A wheelwright's, blacksmith's, and builder's business, established in 1804 on the Colchester road on the boundary between Wakes Colne and Chappel, continued under different owners into the 1920s when F. Doe diversified into coach building. (fn. 53) A sawmill had been built on the site by 1925, and the business became a timber merchant's. (fn. 54) A blacksmith's business, started in the disused Wakes Colne forge in 1934, (fn. 55) still produced decorative ironwork in 1996.

A mill on Robert Malet's Wakes Colne manor in 1066 and 1086 descended with the manor until c. 1860. (fn. 56) It was farmed for 60s. a year in 1392-3, (fn. 57) and was leased to the tenant of the manorial demesne for 73s. 4d. a year in the mid 16th century. (fn. 58) In 1518 it was a corn mill, but by 1540 when it was called Walkmill it was probably also a fulling mill, as it was in 1617. (fn. 59) Fulling seems to have ceased by 1719. (fn. 60) An oil mill was added before 1777. (fn. 61) In 1894 the corn mill contained five pairs of millstones, the oil mill a roller seed crushing mill and two twelve-inch ram hydraulic presses. (fn. 62) Oil milling ceased early in the 20th century, but the flour and feed mill, powered by electricity, worked until 1974. (fn. 63)

A windmill at Wakes Colne green was built c. 1757, taken down between 1777 and 1782, and rebuilt before 1787. The mill, a post mill with two pairs of stones in 1821, burnt down in 1856 and was not rebuilt. (fn. 64)


  • 1. V.C.H. Essex, i. 377, 451, 480-1, 550, 560, 573; P.R.O., C 142/362/180.
  • 2. P.R.O., C 136/17, no. 3.
  • 3. 91 E.R.O., D/DBm M2, rott. 4, 8; D/DBm M3, rot. 27; D/DBm M7, rot. 5.
  • 4. Ibid. sale cat. B4555; O.S. Map 6", Essex XVII (1881 edn.).
  • 5. E.R.O., D/DHt T75/17; ibid. D/CT 103.
  • 6. V.C.H. Essex, i. 451, 480-1, 550, 560, 573.
  • 7. e.g. E.R.O., D/DBm T5/3-4; D/DU 646/15, 646/29.
  • 8. Ibid. D/DBm M1, rot. 6; D/DBm T5/11-12.
  • 9. Ibid. D/DBm M9.
  • 10. Ibid. D/DBm M2, rot. 17 and passim.
  • 11. Ibid. D/DBm M21/1.
  • 12. Ibid. D/DBm M1, rot. 6d.; D/DBm M3, rot. 32d.
  • 13. Ibid. D/DBm T5/13; D/DBm M6, rott. 11-12.
  • 14. Ibid. D/DBm M6, rott. 9d., 15; D/DBm M7, rott. 2, 5.
  • 15. Ibid. D/DGw M1-2, passim.
  • 16. Ibid. D/DBm M1-7, passim, especially M1, rott. 1, 3, M2, rot. 6; P.R.O., C 136/17, no. 3; ibid. SC 6/839/20.
  • 17. P.R.O., SC 6/839/20-1.
  • 18. E.R.O., D/DGw M1, rot. 5.
  • 19. V.C.H. Essex, i. 451, 480-1, 560, 573.
  • 20. P.R.O., C 136/17, no. 3; ibid. SC 6/839/20-1.
  • 21. B.L. Add. Ch. 40741; E.R.O., D/DU 594; D/DGw M9; ibid. D/CT 103, 103A; ibid. sale cat. B631; P.R.O., SC 6/839/20.
  • 22. E.R.O., D/DH VI B 11; D/DHt T75/1; ibid. D/CT 103.
  • 23. Ibid. D/DGw M3, rott. 2, 7d., 19, 20.
  • 24. Ibid. sale cat. B4743.
  • 25. Ibid. D/DBm M3, rot. 3d.
  • 26. Ibid. D/DBm M2, rot. 10; D/DBm M3, rot. 24.
  • 27. V.C.H. Essex, i. 550; E.R.O., D/DBm M3, rot. 21.
  • 28. Med. Essex Community, 22; Cal. Pat. 1345-8, 298; Feet of F. Essex, iii. 56.
  • 29. P.R.O., E 179/108/154, 174; E.R.O., D/DH VI B 1; D/DBm M21/1; Visit. Essex (Harl. Soc.), i. 303.
  • 30. E.R.O., D/DU 594.
  • 31. Ibid. D/DGw M2, rot. 5d.
  • 32. B.L. Harl. Ch. 43 F 28; ibid. Add. Ch. 40741; E.R.O., D/DBm M9; D/DU 594; D/DE1 T233; P.R.O., PROB 11/61, f. 264; ibid. C 2/JasI/P6/25.
  • 33. Essex Wills, ii, pp. 108, 121, 173; iv, pp. 161-2, 166; viii, p. 217; Cal. Assize Rec. Essex, Eliz. I, p. 270; Feet of F. Essex, vi. 167; E.R.O., D/DH VI B24.
  • 34. E.R.O., D/ACR 2, ff. 158v., 264 and v.; ibid. D/P 88/12/1, especially f. 56v.; ibid. D/DHw T105; Essex Wills, iv, pp. 161-2, 166; ix, p. 176.
  • 35. E.R.O., D/ACW 6/261; ibid. D/DU 594; ibid. D/P 88/13/4; P.R.O., C 3/377, no. 2; deeds of Gt. Loveney Hall, in possession of Mr. and Mrs. D. Prestney; C. Vancouver, View of Essex Agric. table facing p. 36.
  • 36. E.R.O., D/P 88/11/1; above, this par., Manors.
  • 37. E.R.O., D/CT 71A, 103A.
  • 38. P.R.O., HO 107/1782; ibid. RG 11/1799.
  • 39. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1882, 1886); E.R. xiv. 33-6; xxiv. 104-6.
  • 40. Inf. from Mr. I. Stratford.
  • 41. E.R.O., D/CT 103A; P.R.O., MAF 68/2121.
  • 42. e.g. E.R.O., sale cat. B1065.
  • 43. Ibid. T/P 181/3/15; E.R. xv. 96.
  • 44. E.R.O., sale cat. B4755.
  • 45. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1922).
  • 46. E.R.O., sale cat. B6773.
  • 47. Essex Countryside, xlv. 23-4.
  • 48. E.R.O., Q/SR 8/1, 80/41, 140/81, 212/6-7; ibid. Q/SBa 1/37; ibid. D/P 88/1/1; ibid. D/DGw M7; Essex Wills, iv, p. 181; Wills at Chelm. (Index Libr.), ii. 205; below, this section.
  • 49. E.R.O., Q/SR 27/24, 28/28, 43/23, 131/54, 132/33, 132/35-36, 139/61; Wills at Chelm. ii. 64.
  • 50. P.R.O., HO 107/335; HO 107/1782; ibid. RG 10/1692; RG 12/1416.
  • 51. E.R.O., D/CT 103; ibid. D/Z 2/14/9; P.R.O., RG 10/1692; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1886).
  • 52. P.R.O., HO 107/335; HO 107/1782; ibid. RG 10/1692; RG 12/1416.
  • 53. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1906 and later edns.); E.R.O., T/P 175/12.
  • 54. O.S. Map 6", Essex XXVII SE. (1925 edn.); Kelly's Dir. Essex (1929).
  • 55. Colch. Expr. 25 Jan. 1978.
  • 56. V.C.H. Essex, i. 550; E.R.O., D/DH VI B/16; D/DA T274; D/DHt T75/11-12, 18; D/DHw T105; D/DB T 1005.
  • 57. P.R.O., SC 6/839/20; cf. ibid. C 136/92, f. 39.
  • 58. Ibid. E 318/17/828; E.R.O., D/DH VI B 1; ibid. D/DU 65/72.
  • 59. P.R.O., C 142/362, no. 180; ibid. E 326/12285; L. &P; Hen. VIII, xv, p. 346; E.R.O., D/DH VI B 1.
  • 60. E.R.O., D/DHt T75/11-12.
  • 61. Essex Map (1777).
  • 62. E.R.O., D/DB T 1005.
  • 63. E.C.S. 31 May 1974.
  • 64. K. G. Farries, Essex Windmills, iii. 102-3; E.R.O., D/DGw M 11, p. 146; D/DGw M 12, pp. 18, 81; D/DGw M14; ibid. D/Z 2/14/9. The mill owned by Hen. Skingley in 1826 and 1832 was Wakes mill, not the windmill: cf. Essex Windmills, iii. 103.