Easthorpe: Economic history

Pages 202-203

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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Easthorpe is a small parish whose economy has been connected with those of neighbouring parishes: for example, Easthorpe manor extended into Birch, and Felix Hall manor, Kelvedon, had land in Easthorpe. (fn. 1) The value of Easthorpe manor was always low. Between 1066 and 1086 it fell from 40s. to 30s. (fn. 2) In 1327, when Easthorpe was assessed together with Birch for taxation, John Gernon, the lord of Easthorpe and Birch manors, was the highest assessed of the 21 taxpayers. (fn. 3) In 1524 only 15 people were assessed. (fn. 4) In 1662 only two houses had more than four hearths. (fn. 5)

In 1086 there was woodland for 30 swine. (fn. 6) In the Middle Ages Easthorpe probably con- tained woodland near its north-west, north-east, and south boundaries; Alstons grove was re- corded in 1418. (fn. 7) In 1439 woodland of 140 a. on Easthorpe manor was coppiced. (fn. 8) By 1841 woodland amounted to only 25 a., equivalent to 3 per cent of the parish, mostly small groves along the southern boundary. (fn. 9)

Meadows lay beside Domsey brook which curved through the middle of the parish. (fn. 10) In 1086 there was 6 a. of meadow on Easthorpe manor. (fn. 11) Meadows called Goodwell and Tur- nors were recorded in 1418. (fn. 12) There was 20 a. of meadow on Easthorpe manor in 1439 worth 18d. an acre. (fn. 13) In 1841 there was 75 a. of meadow in the parish, equivalent to 9 per cent of the total area. (fn. 14).

Between 1066 and 1086 part of Easthorpe manor demesne was probably split into tenant holdings. The number of demesne ploughs on Easthorpe manor decreased from 2 to 1, but the men's ploughs increased from 1 to 3. In 1066 there were 30 sheep, 16 cattle, 15 swine, and 1 horse, but in 1086 only 10 swine and 1 horse were recorded on the demesne. (fn. 15) Easthorpe and Birch manors were held and managed jointly, and in the early 15th century were farmed with Messing manors. (fn. 16) In 1274 on Easthorpe manor there was 180 a. of arable worth 4d. an acre and 8 a. of mowing meadow worth 12d. an acre; works and customary payments were worth 20s. a year. (fn. 17) In 1439 Easthorpe manor contained 300 a. of arable land worth 2d. an acre, 80 a. of pasture worth 4d. an acre, and 20 a. meadow worth 18d. an acre. (fn. 18)

Merchants and gentlemen from Colchester and other towns invested in land and houses in Easthorpe, which was conveniently close to the London-Colchester road: for example, John Tyall (d. 1500), draper of Colchester, Philemon Pilgrim, clothier of Bocking c. 1600, and Samuel Wells of Aldgate, East London, in 1744. (fn. 19) Many owners of Foulchers, later Easthorpe Green farm, lived in other Essex parishes. (fn. 20)

From the 16th century to the 18th the farming was mixed. Sheep, cattle, and pigs were reared, and barley and wheat grown. (fn. 21) In 1706 grey peas, clover, hay, fruit, and garden produce were also recorded. (fn. 22) In the 18th century the main farms were Easthorpe Hall (233 a.) running from north to south across the middle of the parish, and Badcocks of a similar size in the east of the parish. Parts of other farms, including Birch Holt, Scotties, and the Trowel and Ham- mer, probably later called Brooms, and lands of the Harrison family of Copford and the Rounds of Birch, extended into Easthorpe. (fn. 23) Small orchards were frequently recorded at farms and larger houses, for example, in 1637 at the rectory house, Scotties, and Winterfloods, in 1708 at Easthorpe Hall, and in 1807 at Badcocks. (fn. 24)

The proportion of arable land increased, and by 1841 amounted to 750 a., or 88 per cent of the parish. Easthorpe Hall and Badcocks remained the largest two farms; the others were Easthorpe Green, Canfields, Brooms, Birch Holt, Little Badcocks, Hazells, and Scotties. The farms were leased to tenant farmers. (fn. 25) In 1835 the tenant at Scotties, who had been making losses, was suspected of growing more than two consecutive grain crops; the land was 'foul' and not highly cultivated, but the build- ings were mostly good. The tenant also farmed 60 a. belonging to a different owner and 42 a. of his own. By 1865, however, the land was 'clean and creditably farmed'. (fn. 26)

In 1851 there were 4 farmers and 28 agricul- tural labourers, and in 1871 there were 4 far- mers, 2 farm bailiffs, and 43 agricultural labourers, 10 of whom were employed by the farmer at Easthorpe Hall. (fn. 27) The chief crops were wheat and barley. (fn. 28) In the 1870s farmers strongly discouraged their workers from joining the National Agricultural Labourers' Union. (fn. 29) Agricultural depression caused the number of farm labourers to fall to 27 by 1891; there was also a cattle dealer. (fn. 30) The trend in the late 19th century and the early 20th was towards mixed farming with sheep, pigs, and poultry reared and crops grown. Some Scottish farmers moved into the parish. In 1933 Badcocks, Easthorpe Hall, Scotties, and Easthorpe Green farms were all more than 150 a.; Little Badcocks and Little Birch Holt were smaller. In the 1930s Joseph Smith Farms Ltd. employed c. 20 men at Scotties 240-a. farm tending 20 milk cows, 5 horses, c. 6 sows, and poultry; cereals, sugar beet, and hay were grown. (fn. 31)

By 1999 there were fewer farms but they were usually over 1,000 a. and farmed by tenants for land agents. At Scotties the main crops were wheat, and oil seed rape for cling film manufac- ture; lesser crops were linseed, beans, and also borage, the oil of which was used for pharma- ceutical purposes and electrical instruments. Four full-timers and two part-timers were employed. At Little Badcocks, where pigs had been kept until c. 1985, wheat, barley, rape seed, and sugar beet were grown. (fn. 32)

Besides occupations connected with farming there were the usual village craftsmen and trad- ers, for example, a ploughwright in 1618, a butcher in 1621, (fn. 33) and two chandlers in 1777. (fn. 34) Wills survive of a tailor (d. 1612) and a clothier (d. 1675). (fn. 35) Recorded occupations included a maltster, a shopkeeper/shoemaker, and a black- smith who kept a beerhouse (1848), a thatcher (1851), two wheelwrights and a butcher (1871), and a teacher (1891). Of the women, a few worked in domestic service and by 1891 five were tailoresses or dressmakers. (fn. 36) The parish was considered an attractive residential area for commuters from 1930 or earlier. In the later 20th century many people commuted to work in London, Colchester, or nearby towns. (fn. 37)

The mill recorded in 1247, was probably that on Great Birch manor. (fn. 38)


  • 1. Guildhall MS. 9628, box 3; P.R.O., C 3/401/46; Cal. Pat. 1429-36, 234.
  • 2. V.C.H. Essex, i. 466.
  • 3. Med. Essex Community, 23.
  • 4. E.R.O., T/A 427/1/7, ff. 36-7, transcript of P.R.O., E 179/108/154.
  • 5. E.R.O., Q/RTh 1, rot. 20.
  • 6. V.C.H. Essex, i. 466.
  • 7. E.R.O., D/CT 124; ibid. D/DHt T 519.
  • 8. P.R.O., C 139/93, no. 47.
  • 9. E.R.O., D/CT 124.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. V.C.H. Essex, i. 466.
  • 12. E.R.O., D/DU 463/1.
  • 13. P.R.O., C 139/93, no. 47.
  • 14. E.R.O., D/CT 124.
  • 15. V.C.H. Essex, i. 466.
  • 16. Above, Birch, Econ.
  • 17. P.R.O., C 133/5, no. 3.
  • 18. Ibid. C 139/93, no. 47.
  • 19. E.A.T. n.s. xxi. 260; P.R.O., C 2/Jasl/C4/23; E.R.O., D/DHt T96/6.
  • 20. E.R.O., D/DR T92.
  • 21. Cal. Assize Rec. Essex, Eliz. I, 255, 558; P.R.O., C 2/Jasl/Tii/25; Essex Wills, i. 210; E.R.O., D/ABW 24/147; D/ABW 38/48.
  • 22. E.R.O., Q/SBb 40/39-40.
  • 23. Ibid. D/DHt T347; D/DRe T12; ibid. T/M 178, T/M 381.
  • 24. Guildhall MS. 9628, box 3; E.R.O., T/A 366; ibid. D/DHt T347.
  • 25. E.R.O., D/CT 124.
  • 26. Ibid. D/DR E18, E21.
  • 27. P.R.O., HO 107/1782; ibid. RG 10/1691.
  • 28. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1866 and later ends.).
  • 29. A. F. J. Brown, Meagre Harvest, 46, 94.
  • 30. P.R.O., RG 12/1415.
  • 31. E.R.O., Sale Cat. B3466; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1933); inf. from Mr. J.K. Melrose.
  • 32. Inf. from Mr. 1. Melrose.
  • 33. E.R.O., Q/SR 221/48, 234/168.
  • 34. Ibid. Q/SBb 291/53; Q/SR 221/48, 234/168.
  • 35. Ibid. D/ABW 13/231; D/ABR 9, f. 447.
  • 36. White's Dir. Essex (1848), 123; P.R.O., HO 107/1782; ibid. RG 10/1691, 12/1415.
  • 37. E.R.O., Sale Cats. B926, D1133.
  • 38. Cal. Inq. p.m. i, p. 292.