Wakes Colne: Local government

Pages 125-126

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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About 1274 Baldwin Wake claimed gallows, view of frankpledge, and amercements for breach of the assizes of bread and of ale. Robert de Quency had withdrawn Wakes Colne from the sheriff's tourn. (fn. 1) Edward I granted Baldwin Wake free warren in 1280. (fn. 2) The manorial gallows, renewed in 1534, stood in the Bures road near Wakes Colne green. (fn. 3)

From 1397 or earlier courts were usually held in March and at Michaelmas, and a leet on the Monday after Pentecost. (fn. 4) They heard pleas of debt and of assault, and dealt with breaches of the assize of ale and with unscoured ditches and ruined houses. They also heard pleas of land, notably dower, and recorded conveyances of copyholds and leases of demesne lands. In 1406 and succeeding years three villeins were presented for leaving the manor without permission. Two aletasters were elected from 1400 and two constables from 1411. (fn. 5) Between 1515 and 1529, while the manor was in his hands, Henry VIII appointed bailiffs or seneschals. (fn. 6)

By the mid 17th century the main business of the courts was the conveyance of copyholds, but some nuisances were presented; two constables and two drivers of the common were elected at the annual court leet in Pentecost week. (fn. 7) The leets had ceased by 1727, but annual courts baron continued until 1848 or later. Apart from presentments for encroachments and nuisances, the business was increasingly formal; copyholds were usually surrendered out of court. (fn. 8)

Henry III granted free warren to Walter of Crepping. (fn. 9) By 1327 the lords of Crepping manor were holding three-weekly courts baron, and annual courts leet in Pentecost week. Tenants were amerced for damaging the lord's crops, pasture, hedges, or wood, for stealing corn, for encroaching on roads, and for failing to scour ditches; in 1361 one was summoned for not performing labour services. Pleas of debt and of trespass were heard, and conveyances of customary land recorded. At the leets, breaches of the assizes of bread and of ale were presented; men were accused in 1327 and 1333 of shedding blood, in 1328 of raising the hue and cry unjustly. In 1402 a tenant paid chevage to live outside the manor, and three others failed to do so in 1412. In 1433 two nativae made fine to marry outside the manor. Two tasters of ale were recorded from 1338, the constable in 1343, and a hayward in 1349. In 1347 the appointment of rentcollectors and haywards for the manorwas regulated. (fn. 10)

In the earlier 16th century courts dealt with cases of debt, trespass, and assault with bloodshed; unscoured ditches and unrepaired houses were presented. Constables and aletasters wereelected at the leets, and boys over 12 were admitted to frankpledge. In 1508 tenants were forbidden to graze unringed pigs on the common, and in 1550 to pasture animals on the highways without a herdsman. In 1559 the court ordered the repair of the stocks and the metas, perhaps the archery targets. (fn. 11) By 1708 there were only courts baron whose business was confined to the conveyance of copyholds; they continued until 1796 or later. (fn. 12)

Between 1681 and 1741 the overseers paid weekly allowances and supplied firewood and other relief in kind to 6-9 paupers, and gave occasional relief to others; some pauper children were apprenticed. In 1724-5 a woman was taken to hospital in London. Apart from the wheel and two spindles bought for a widow in 1717, nothing was done to set the poor on work. Rents were paid for a few paupers; others were accommodated in the town house or workhouse at Wakes Colne green, or in the parish or poor house, occasionally also called the town house, east of the church. One house, called the almshouse, was built or rebuilt in 1698; the town or workhouse was extensively repaired, in white brick, in 1749-50. The total amount spent averaged c. £60 a year, reaching a low point of £28 in 1688-9, and high points of £122 in 1715-16 and £123 in 1730-1. Expenditure was high between 1715 and 1723, perhaps because of widespread illness, and in 1721 the overseers reduced spending on clothes and other relief in kind. (fn. 13)

Expenditure on the poor was £168 in 1776, averaged £180 between 1783 and 1785, and rose in 1803 to £324, or 17s. 5d. per head of population, about average for the hundred. (fn. 14) Between 1813 and 1836 expenditure per head of population was among the highest in the hundred, although total expenditure fell from £961 in 1813 to £638 in 1815 before rising again to £882 in 1819. It reached a high point of £1,070 or 48s. 5d. per head in 1831 and £1,015 in 1832 before falling sharply to £683 in 1834. (fn. 15)

In 1800-1 paupers still received weekly allowances, wood, clothing, and other contributions in kind, (fn. 16) but by 1823 almost all out relief was in cash. Men worked in the gravel pits or on the roads; in 1824 and 1825 four girls were at a nearby silk mill. From 1830 the overseers paid the workhouse governor for keeping up to 26 paupers at 3s. a head, but other payments to the poor continued as before. (fn. 17) The workhouse was used until 1837, when it was sold and the paupers transferred to the Union workhouse in Stanway. (fn. 18)

The usual parish officers, 2 churchwardens, 2 overseers of the poor, 2 surveyors of the highways, and 2 constables, were elected annually from the late 17th century or earlier. From 1734 to 1822 there was only one churchwarden. Attendance at the Easter vestry in the earlier 19th century ranged from 2 to 9; the rector, when present, took the chair. (fn. 19)


  • 1. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i. 139-40.
  • 2. Cal. Chart. R. 1257-1300, 233.
  • 3. E.R.O., D/DGw M3, rot. 30; D/DGw M6; D/DGw M9.
  • 4. P.R.O., C 136/92, no. 1, f. 39; ibid. SC 6/839/21.
  • 5. E.R.O., D/DGw M1-3, passim.
  • 6. L. & P. Hen. VIII, ii (1), pp. 310, 475; (2), p. 1175; iii (1), p. 147; iv (2), pp. 1672, 2737.
  • 7. E.R.O., D/DGw M4.
  • 8. Ibid. D/DGw M8-13; ibid. D/P 88/28/1.
  • 9. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i. 139.
  • 10. E.R.O., D/DBm M1-7, especially M1, rot. 1; M3, rott. 28d., 37; M6, rott. 3, 11; M7, rot. 6.
  • 11. Ibid. D/DBm M8-10.
  • 12. Ibid. D/DBm M13; D/DGw M18; ibid. D/P 88/28/1.
  • 13. Ibid. D/P 88/12/1, 8.
  • 14. Ibid. Q/CR 1/1; Poor Abstract, 1804.
  • 15. E.R.O., Q/CR 1/10; Rep. Sel. Cttee. on Poor Rate Returns, 1822-4, H.C. 334, p. 81 (1825), iv; ibid. 1825-9, H.C. 83, pp. 61-2 (1830-1), xi; ibid. 1830-4, H.C. 444, p. 60 (1835), xlvii.
  • 16. E.R.O., D/P 88/12/2.
  • 17. Ibid. D/P 88/12/3; V.C.H. Essex, ii. 464.
  • 18. E.R.O., D/P 88/12/6; ibid. G/LwM 2, p. 101.
  • 19. Ibid. D/P 88/12/1-3, 8.