Stanway: Economic history

Pages 266-270

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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In 1066 Stanway was the centre of an estate which included land in Lexden and one of the Layers. Stanway manor itself was assessed at 5½ hides, and 16 sokemen held another 2 hides; 2 villani and a woman, holding ½ hide, 1 a., and 18 a. respectively, were taken away from the manor between 1066 and 1086. In the northern quarter of the later parish, Berton manor was assessed at ½ hide. On the demesne of Stanway manor there were 3 ploughs in 1066 and 1086; the livestock in 1086 comprised 20 cattle, 59 swine, 260 sheep, and 11 horses. The 12 villani and 6 bord- arii in 1066 had 13 ploughs; their successors, 9 villani and 9 bordarii, had only 2½ ploughs in 1086, a drastic and unexplained reduction not found elsewhere on the manor, the 16 sokemen having 2½ ploughs in 1066 and 1086, and the villanus with ½ hide having ½ plough at both dates. Despite the loss of 3 tenants and 10½ ploughs, the whole manor, like others on the royal demesne, had risen in value, from £22 in 1066 to £33 and a £3 fine in 1086. At Berton there was 1 plough in 1066, only ½ plough in 1086, and the manor had fallen in value from 10s. to 5s. (fn. 1)

The northern parish boundary may have orig- inally followed strips or furlongs in open fields, but any such fields had been inclosed by the earlier 13th century when most of the land given to Waltham abbey was in small arable closes. Only one holding, 8 a. in Huffield, seems to have been part of a larger field. (fn. 2) In the south-eastern quarter of the parish, Colchester abbey's Cham- bers tenement still contained 1 a. of uninclosed land in Bodewell field in the late 14th century. (fn. 3) The right to common of pasture, which John de Burgh in the mid 13th century reserved to his men and his nearest neighbours, and the pasture for 100 sheep belonging to Gosbecks which the abbot of Colchester reserved to himself in 1263, may have derived from common rights on fallow fields. (fn. 4) Godithehythe in Stanway field, on the other hand, appears to have been an early compact estate assessed at a hide, and Wykeland, in Stanway and Lexden, a dairy farm like the wicks within Colchester liberty. (fn. 5)

Stanway, like other parishes around Col- chester, contained heath which was used as rough grazing. In 1254 Roger of Gosbeck claimed common of pasture over c. 400 a. of heath and wood. (fn. 6) In the mid 13th century John de Burgh granted to Waltham abbey common for 120 sheep on Wyldenhey and Stanway heaths. (fn. 7) In 1364 St. John's abbey claimed tithe of all animals pasturing on Gosbecks heath. (fn. 8)

The woodland in Stanway in 1086 was assessed as sufficient for 100 swine. (fn. 9) Thomas Belhus was accused in 1291-2 of wasting woods at Wyldenhey and Shrub, (fn. 10) near the eastern boundary of the parish. The fields on Waltham abbey's estate called Brach, Longbrach, and Sorctbrach in the 13th century had probably been cleared from woodland, as had Stubbings, on Stanway manor demesne in 1357. Three crofts next to Shrub wood held by St. John's abbey in the late 14th century may have been assarts. (fn. 11) Nevertheless in the later 15th century the portion of Shrub wood within Olivers manor, between the Maldon and Layer roads, contained c. 160 a., Kirton wood on the same manor 50 a., and Oliver's wood 52 a. In 1368 a St. John's abbey estate in Stanway and the sub- urbs of Colchester, perhaps Gosbecks, contained 40 a. of wood. (fn. 12) In 1426 there was 200 a. of coppiced wood on Stanway manor demesne, 20 a. of which could be felled each year. Waltham abbey's demesne in 1455 included a grove in which tenants trespassed, one man with 24 pigs. (fn. 13)

In 1338 the 160 a. of arable on Olivers manor was worth 3d. an acre, the 8 a. of pasture 4d. each, and the 6 a. of meadow 18d. each. (fn. 14) In the late 14th century the uninclosed acre on Cham- bers tenement and land in crofts near Shrub wood was similarly worth 3d. an acre, but other arable there was valued at 4d.-5d. an acre, and meadow at 4s.-5s. (fn. 15) The poorest land seems to have been on the Stanway manor demesne, on either side of the later Warren Lane, where in 1426 the 100 a. of arable was worth only 1d. an acre, the 40 a. of pasture 2d. an acre, and the 16 a. of meadow 12d. an acre. At the same date Robert Tey's 50 a. of arable in Stanway and Marks Tey was valued at 4d. an acre, his meadow at 2s. an acre. In 1459, although the value of the arable had doubled to 2d. an acre, Stanway manor was worth nothing beyond its outgoings. (fn. 16)

Thirty-two people, including the almoner of St. John's abbey, were assessed for subsidy in 1327 at a total of 43s. 6d., a slightly higher than average number of subsidy payers for the hun- dred but an about average payment. There were no outstandingly wealthy inhabitants. In 1319 Isolde Belhus had paid the highest amount, 6s. 2d., and three men, including Richard Bastard, were assessed at over 4s. (fn. 17) In 1327 the highest assessment was 6s. 6¾d. on Robert of Rochford, a prominent knight who held extensive lands in Essex but had no other known connection with Stanway. (fn. 18)

In 1420 John Doreward held not only Stanway and Olivers manors, but also Belhus (200 a.) and three other freeholds totalling 300 a. of arable and 8 a. of meadow. (fn. 19) By 1501 the Stanway manor demesne covered 400 a. of arable, 300 a. of pasture, 40 a. of meadow, and 60 a. of wood, and before 1533 Thomas Bonham had increased his holding in Stanway by the acquisition of Bastards (c. 100 a.) and five other freeholds (33 a.), all in the northern quarter of the parish. His estate, like his successor's in 1601, probably extended into Copford, Lexden, Birch, and Fordham. (fn. 20) In 1524 and 1525 Bonham was by far the wealthiest man in the parish, assessed on £200 worth of goods. His house- hold, 11 men in 1524 and 8 in 1525, was assessed separately from the rest of Stanway. In both years the largest assessment after Thomas Bon- ham's was that of James Rampton, on £15 worth of goods. One man was assessed on land in 1524, 14 on goods, and 10 on wages; in 1525 the number assessed rose to 27. (fn. 21)

Sixteenth-century wills suggest mixed farm- ing: (fn. 22) one testator in 1530 left 5 seams of wheat and 5 of maslin as well as at least 6 cattle, 8 ewes, 4 oxen, and 8 horses; another in 1514 had at least 10 cows, and a third in 1565 at least 17 sheep and 4 lambs. (fn. 23) There was a hop yard on Stanway manor in 1685. (fn. 24) Several people, par- ticularly in Little Stanway, held land in the neighbouring parishes of Copford, Fordham, and Great Tey. (fn. 25)

In 1685, of the c. 810 a. on the Stanway manor demesne c. 286 a. were 'arable and pasture' (per- haps arable land commonable after harvest) and c. 146 a. arable as against c. 210 a. pasture, c. 14 a. meadow and c. 70 a. meadow and pas- ture, suggesting mixed but mainly arable culti- vation. (fn. 26) Olivers, on better soil and extending outside the parish, contained c. 600 a. of arable to only 80 a. of pasture and 19 a. of meadow in 1733. (fn. 27) At Gosbecks in 1719 the mainly arable land required extensive manuring, but by 1758 it was the 'very best improved' in the parish. In 1759 a four-course rotation seems to have been followed, as 20 a. of the 77 a. of arable were to be left fallow, planted with clover or rye grass. Another farm was producing 'abundance of turnips' in 1763. By that date there were 17 prin- cipal farms in the parish, including Stanway Hall, Bellhouse, Bastards, Gosbecks, and Shrub Walnut tree farms, and two farms at Olivers. (fn. 28)

Stanway heath survived as rough pasture and a source of heather and broom until 1791. It was common to residents and tenants of the manor in 1711, and rights of common for horses, cattle, and sheep were confined to tenants in 1720. Use of the heath and other areas of common was governed by the Stanway manor court. There is no evidence for stinting. (fn. 29) In 1790 Humphrey Bellamy bought out the common rights of his copyholders by enfranchising the copyholds, and 234 a. of heath had been inclosed by 1792. (fn. 30)

There was still c. 100 a. of wood on Stanway manor demesne in 1685, and 110 a. on Olivers manor in 1733. (fn. 31) At Shrub, 47 a. of wood had probably been converted to arable and meadow by c. 1690. (fn. 32) The remainder of Shrub wood had been cleared by the mid 18th century, when the chief areas of tithable woodland were Chitts wood (c. 58 a. including 18 a. in Lexden), Goll grove (c. 21 a. or more), Olivers wood (at least 30 a.), and Stubbing or Bellowes Hangings (c. 25 a.). (fn. 33) Chitts wood had been cleared by 1787, and much of Olivers wood by 1807. (fn. 34) In 1817 the woodland in the parish was of little value and was not cut regularly. (fn. 35)

Although most of the working population were labourers, (fn. 36) the usual village craftsmen were recorded in the 16th, 17th, and 18th cen- turies. John Levyng in 1518 owned a smith's shop, a glover made his will in 1557, and a shoe- maker and a carpenter were recorded in the 1590s. (fn. 37) Cordwainers died in the parish in 1681 and 1708, a tanner in 1705, and a tailor in 1782; butchers, all members of the Everett family, died in 1717, 1726, and 1779. (fn. 38) The clothier who made his will in Stanway in 1638 had, however, worked in Coggeshall. (fn. 39) In 1775 there were 2 chandlers, 2 victuallers, and 1 butcher in Stanway, and there was a second butcher by 1781. (fn. 40) A brick kiln at Olivers, in use from the 17th century to c. 1800, was probably not a com- mercial kiln, but bricks were being made for sale at another kiln in the parish in 1766. (fn. 41)

In 1801 the parish was chiefly arable. The main crop was wheat, grown on 664 a., followed by barley (341 a.) and oats (261 a.); 397 a. were sown with turnips or rape, and small amounts of peas, beans, rye, and potatoes were grown. (fn. 42) In 1813 Stanway's dry, sandy and gravelly loam was ideal for turnips, but the yields of wheat, barley, and oats were all below average for the county. (fn. 43)

In 1817 the naturally infertile sandy gravel needed heavy manuring with Colchester town muck; the best land lay west of Warren Lane and at Olivers and Gosbecks. Most of the parish was well farmed on a rotation of (1) fallow and dung for turnips (2) barley or oats (3) clover (4) wheat, and (5) oats, beans, or peas. Olivers, Little Olivers, Bellhouse, Street, and Beacon End farms were farmed on a four-course rotation of (1) turnips (2) barley (3) clover (4) wheat. The grass was poor, and the few sheep which were kept were grazed outside the parish in summer and wintered on turnips. In all there were 2,973 a. of arable, 111 a. of meadow, 71 a. of pasture, and 106 a. of wood in the parish. (fn. 44) The rotation at Gosbecks in 1821 was (1) fallow sown with turnips or cole seed (oilseed rape), (2) barley or oats, (3) clover or trefoil, (4) wheat. (fn. 45)

In 1851 there were 15 farms ranging in size from 700 a. farmed from Catchbells in London Road and probably extending into Copford, down to 50 a. In 1861 there was a 970-a. farm at the Heath. The 14 farms for which acreages were given in 1871 ranged from 430 a. at Walnut Tree and one of the farms in London Road down to 30 a. By 1881 Walnut Tree farm at Shrub End had increased to 530 a. and Stanway Hall farm contained 450 a., but the next largest farm was only 220 a., and four farms contained less than 100 a. Despite the predominance of arable land, there were two sheep salesmen in the parish in 1851, and four shepherds in 1871. (fn. 46) In 1905 only two farms covered more than 300 a. and most land was farmed by tenant farmers. The main crops were oats (642 a.), wheat (597 a.), barley (215 a.), and turnips and swedes (208 a.); smaller acreages were under peas, beans, potatoes, mangold, kohl rabi, rape, and cabbage, and a few acres were under rye, lucerne, and sugar beet. Although there was only 375 a. of permanent grass, totals of 122 cattle, 793 sheep, and 353 lambs were kept, with 443 pigs. There was 54 a. of woodland, 6 a. of which was cop- pice. (fn. 47) Despite the loss of agricultural land to housing from the late 19th century, there were still 10 farms in the parish in the 1930s, includ- ing Stanway Hall, Bellhouse, Oldhouse, and Judds farms, each over 150 a. (fn. 48) The first com- bine harvester in Essex was used at Gosbecks c. 1936. (fn. 49) In 1975 the remaining agricultural land in the parish was used mainly for cereal production, although there were orchards on the former heath and a dairy farm at Stanway Hall. (fn. 50)

Two seed-growers, one in London Road the other at Shrub End, were recorded from 1878 until the 1930s. (fn. 51) Frank Cant and Son, rose- growers, bought c. 24 a. of glebe land near London Road in 1928, and in 1976 the former White Hart inn became their head office. It became the Stanway Garden Centre in 1991. (fn. 52)

In 1851 the 150 agricultural labourers in Stanway made up 55 per cent of the working population, but the proportion had declined to 33 per cent by 1891. Farms in the parish employed a total of 147 men and boys in 1851, and 127 in 1871. Domestic service was the next largest employer, numbers rising from 32 ser- vants and 7 grooms in 1851 to 54 servants and 4 grooms in 1891. The 16 bricklayers and labourers recorded in 1891 were presumably employed by C. Coppins, bricklayer, who had a business in Stanway in the 1890s. Only 6 women worked in the clothing trade, presumably for Colchester tailoring firms, in 1871, c. 21 in 1891. (fn. 53)

A toy fair on 23 April was recorded in 1756 and 1792. In 1863 it was apparently a small fair, and it was not recorded in 1888, although it was listed in directories until 1937. (fn. 54) In the mid 20th century it was remembered as a sheep fair on Swan green, but it had been forgotten by 1992. (fn. 55)

There was a mill on Stanway manor in 1066 and 1086. (fn. 56) A mill on the southern boundary of the parish had closed by the late 14th century, when its pond was worth more as pasture than as a mill pond. (fn. 57) In 1546 Robert North held a mill on Roman river just south of Stanway bridge. (fn. 58) In 1617 its pond flooded the adjoining land and road. (fn. 59) The mill was recorded until 1731, but by 1746 it had become a house. (fn. 60) A water mill on the Stanway Hall estate in 1731 and 1769 (fn. 61) may have been worked by the miller who died in 1706, and was probably the bay or fulling mill south of Heckford bridge recorded in 1773. (fn. 62) It was still a bay mill in 1817, but had ceased by 1839. (fn. 63) A bay ticking miller worked a 'land mill' in the parish c. 1750, (fn. 64) and there was a 'mill house' on Street farm in 1817. (fn. 65) The miller recorded in 1866 and 1870 operated a steam mill at the former Bottle House at Shrub End. (fn. 66)

The lord of Stanway manor had a gravel pit in 1695. (fn. 67) In 1817 there was a pit on the former heath. (fn. 68) A gravel merchant at Beacon End in 1851 and a gravel proprietor in the same area in 1881 presumably exploited the small pit recorded there in 1875, or the pit at King Coel's kitchen which seems to have been worked c. 1850. (fn. 69) Colchester Corporation operated a pit in Workhouse field from c. 1915, and in the 1930s there were also pits in Maldon Road and on Abbots farm. (fn. 70) Collier Bros., sand and gravel merchants, operated gravel pits in Villa Road and Church Lane from c. 1935. (fn. 71) They were succeeded by St. Ives Sand and Ballast Co. Ltd. and before 1975 by Amey Roadstone, whose successor ARC (Southern) worked a large pit in Church Lane in 1995. A pit at Shrub End, opened by a local builder F. Hutton c. 1934, was bought by Hoveringham Gravels Ltd. in 1962, and by 1975 was almost worked out. About 1963 Hoveringham bought Stanway Hall farm, and by 1973 was operating a quarry and ready-mixed concrete plant in Warren Lane. A local firm, A. J. Brush and Sons, started excavations c. 1970 at Bellhouse Pit which was taken over by Francis Concrete Ltd. in 1975 or 1976. By 1977 plan- ning permission had been given for gravel extraction from over 300 a. at Warren Lane and Stanway Hall. In the 1980s Tarmac Roadstone (Southern) Ltd. acquired both Hoveringham and Francis Concrete, and c. 1986 the Stanway Hall and Bellhouse pits were amalgamated. (fn. 72) From the early 1970s the worked-out area of the Bellhouse pit has been a major waste-disposal landfill site. (fn. 73)

The Co-op supermarket developed a site at Fiveways on the eastern edge of Stanway in 1971. (fn. 74) In 1976 warehouses were constructed off the nearby Peartree Road, and in 1983 the Peartree Business Centre was built. (fn. 75) In 1994 the firms based there included pump and fan manufacturers. (fn. 76) The large Tollgate shopping centre was built on part of the former Judds farm gravel pit south of London Road between 1988 and 1990, and expanded in 1995. (fn. 77)


  • 1. V.C.H. Essex, i. 417, 432, 558.
  • 2. B.L. Harl. MS. 4809, ff. 89v., 91, 92v.
  • 3. E.R.O., St. John's abbey ledger bk., f. 228 and v.
  • 4. Colch. Cart. ii. 403-4; B.L. Arundel MS. 145, f. 32; cf. V.C.H. Essex, ix. 256.
  • 5. Colch. Cart. i. 201; Cat. Anct. D. i, A519; V.C.H. Essex, ix. 383.
  • 6. E.R.O., St. John's abbey ledger bk., f. 17.
  • 7. B.L. Harl. MS. 4809, f. 95.
  • 8. E.R.O., D/DSy 21.
  • 9. V.C.H. Essex, i. 432.
  • 10. P.R.O., E 32/13, rot. 27d.
  • 11. B.L. Harl. MS. 4809, ff. 92, 97; E.R.O., St. John's abbey ledger bk., ff. 74v., 228.
  • 12. E.R.O., St. John's abbey ledger bk., ff. 118v., 162.
  • 13. P.R.O., C 139/31, no. 61; ibid. SC 2/173/82.
  • 14. Ibid. C 135/53, no. 17.
  • 15. E.R.O., St. John's abbey ledger bk., f. 228 and v.
  • 16. P.R.O., C 139/31, nos. 59, 61; C 139/172, no. 18.
  • 17. Med. Essex Community, 21-2; E.R.O., T/A 564.
  • 18. Med. Essex Community, 2-3, 47, 96; Cal. Inq. p.m. viii, p. 80.
  • 19. P.R.O., C 138/52, no. 104.
  • 20. Cal. Inq. p.m. Hen. VII, ii, p. 257; P.R.O., C 142/55, no. 1; ibid. C 2/Jas1/D12/11; Feet of F. Essex, vi. 32.
  • 21. P.R.O., E 179/108/154, 174.
  • 22. e.g. E.R.O., D/ABW 31/27; D/ABW 46/4; D/ACR 2, ff. 77, 126v.; D/ACR 3, f. 112; D/ACR 4, f. 131.
  • 23. E.R.O., D/ABW 23/12; D/ACR 2, f. 3; Essex Wills, viii, p. 92.
  • 24. E.R.O., D/DE1 T275.
  • 25. e.g. ibid. D/ACR 1, f. 42v.; D/ACR 2, ff. 77, 89; D/ACR 4, f. 131.
  • 26. Ibid. D/DE1 T275.
  • 27. P.R.O., CP 43/602, rot. 30.
  • 28. E.R.O., D/DSr T1, T7; ibid. D/P 43/3/24-5.
  • 29. Ibid. D/DHt M67-8; D/DSy 3.
  • 30. Ibid. D/DE1 T269, T269A, T272.
  • 31. Ibid. D/DE1 T275; P.R.O., CP 43/602, rot. 30.
  • 32. E.R.O., D/P 246/1/2; D/DE1 T390.
  • 33. Ibid. D/P 43/3/24.
  • 34. Ibid. T/M 283; ibid. D/P 43/28/1.
  • 35. Ibid. D/P 43/3/28.
  • 36. Ibid. D/P 43/1/1.
  • 37. Ibid. D/ACR 2, f. 89; D/ABW 23/107; Cal. Assize Rec. Essex, Eliz. I, pp. 399, 445.
  • 38. Wills at Chelm. (Index Libr.), ii; iii. s.v. Barnard; E.R.O., D/DHt T250/2; ibid. D/P 43/1/1.
  • 39. E.R.O., D/ABW 55/23.
  • 40. Ibid. Q/SBb 281/13, 305/37.
  • 41. C.A.G. Bull. xxvii. 19; xxviii. 7-20; Ipswich Jnl. 9 Aug. 1766.
  • 42. E.A.T. 3rd ser. v. 199.
  • 43. A. Young, General View of Agric. in Essex, i. 25, 73, 323, 343, 352.
  • 44. E.R.O., D/P 43/3/28.
  • 45. Ibid. D/DSr T1.
  • 46. P.R.O., HO 107/1782; ibid. RG 9/1103; RG 10/1691; RG 11/1798; E.R.O., D/DU 445/9.
  • 47. P.R.O., MAF 68/2121.
  • 48. E.R.O., D/DE1 T267; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1933, 1937).
  • 49. P. Wormell, Essex Farming 1900-2000, 63, 162.
  • 50. A. G. Booth, 'Study of Sand- and Gravel-Working at Stanway' (E.C.C. Rep.), 10: copy in E.C.L. Colch.
  • 51. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1878 and later edns.).
  • 52. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., CMM/1/9; Eve. Gaz. 8 June 1976; E.C.S. 10 May 1991.
  • 53. P.R.O., HO 107/1782; ibid. RG 10/1691; RG 12/1415; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1894, 1898 edns.).
  • 54. W. Owen, Authentic Account of All Fairs in Eng. and Wales (1756), 32; Rep. R. Com. on Market Rights and Tolls [C 5550], p. 162, H.C. (1888), liii; White's Dir. Essex (1848), 127; ibid. (1863), 141; cf. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1878 and later edns.).
  • 55. E.C.S. 4 Dec. 1992; inf. from Revd. A. F. Bell, rector 1961-94.
  • 56. V.C.H. Essex, i. 432.
  • 57. E.R.O., St. John's abbey ledger bk., f. 228 and v.
  • 58. Ibid. D/ABW 27/17; ibid. D/DE1 P27/1.
  • 59. Ibid. Q/SBa 1/29; Q/SR 218/17.
  • 60. Ibid. D/DHt M68; D/DE1 T275; D/DWv T80; D/DB T1594.
  • 61. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., EMD 2/1/11; Ipswich Jnl. 30 Dec. 1769.
  • 62. E.R.O., D/ABR 15, f. 193; ibid. D/P 43/3/26; Essex Map (1777).
  • 63. E.R.O., D/P 43/3/28; ibid. D/CT 329; cf. E.A.T. n.s. x. 53, which appears to have confused the two mills.
  • 64. E.R.O., D/ABR 24, f. 115.
  • 65. Ibid. D/P 43/3/28.
  • 66. P.O. Dir. Essex (1866, 1870); E.R.O., D/DU 714/18-19; K. G. Farries, Essex Windmills, iii. 95.
  • 67. E.R.O., D/DHt M68.
  • 68. Ibid. D/P 43/3/28.
  • 69. P.R.O., HO 107/1782; ibid. RG 11/1798; E.R.O., D/CT 329; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Essex XXVII. 10 (1881 edn.); E.C.C., SMR 12541.
  • 70. E.R.O., D/Z 2/14/34-9; ibid. C/T 193; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1926 and later edns.).
  • 71. E.R.O., D/Z 2/14/37.
  • 72. Booth, 'Study of Sand- and Gravel-Working at Stanway', 2-4; Dir. Quarries, Pits, and Quarry Equipment (1994); E.C.S. 12 Oct., 16 Nov. 1973; 19 Dec. 1975; Eve. Gaz. 29 Aug. 1977; inf. from Mr. R. Hilton of Tarmac Roadstone. Above, plate 51.
  • 73. E.C.S. 17 Jan. 1997, 5 June 1998, 25 Sept. 1998.
  • 74. Eve. Gaz. 12 Apr. 1971.
  • 75. E.C.S. 12 Nov. 1976; Eve. Gaz. 17 Oct. 1986.
  • 76. Kompass UK (1994/5).
  • 77. E.C.S 8 May 1987, 5 Jan. 1990, 20 Jan. 1995; above plate 53.