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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THE ancient parish of Wivenhoe, c. 3 miles south-east of Colchester on the east bank of the river Colne where it widens to form an estuary, covered 1,549 a. (627 ha.). (fn. 1) Its port in the south-west corner of the parish, which served Colchester from the 16th century or earlier until the 19th, developed into a small town. Wivenhoe became an urban district in 1898, and remained so until 1974 when it became part of the new Colchester district, later designated borough. (fn. 2) Natural boundaries were formed by streams on the east and north-west, Wivenhoe and Whit- more heaths on the north-east, and the river Colne and its marshes on the west and south. In 1734 woodland formed part of the eastern boundary. (fn. 3) About 69 a. of parochial marshland on the west bank of the Colne, known as Old Heath common or meadow, was isolated when the river was improved, probably in the Middle Ages; that land was bounded on the west by the old stream of the Colne. (fn. 4) The civil parish boundary was altered slightly in 1897 when c. 15 a. from Elmstead was added to the south- east corner, and in 1934 when Old Heath meadow was transferred to Colchester bor- ough. (fn. 5) By 1990 all of the Essex University site at Wivenhoe park had been removed from the civil parish. (fn. 6)
From the river Colne in the south and west of the parish the land rises gradually to over 30 m. across much of the north and east of the parish. There are views across to Mersea Island from the higher parts. Much of the parish is glacial gravel and sand, but there is glacial loam in the north-east and in a small pocket south of Wivenhoe lodge in the north-west. A band of London clay is exposed along the Colne valley, and bands of alluvium extend alongside the river, except on the site of the quay and early town where there is an outcrop of sand and gravel. (fn. 7)
The road from Col- chester to Elmstead and Walton-on-the-Naze cuts off the north-eastern corner of the ancient parish. A little further south the road from Colchester to Alresford runs from west to east across the parish, with a branch running south- east towards Brightlingsea from which a road turns south-west and then south to reach Wivenhoe quay. (fn. 8) The de Veres built a road known as The Entry, which became a public road before 1566, from the Colchester road just south of Wivenhoe Cross to their manor house c. ½ mile further south, providing a more direct route to the quay. (fn. 9) Minor roads link the main roads and the river. In 1734 they included a lane running west from The Entry to a crossing on the river Colne leading to Old Heath called Butchers bridge, where the river was only 6 yd. wide at low water; West Street was then com- monly called Hogg Lane, and East Street known as Love Lane. (fn. 10)
Horsedrawn traffic could cross the river Colne at low tide between The Quay and Fingringhoe at Wivenhoe ferry bridge, described as 11 yd. wide in 1734, although in the 17th century the causeway there had been frequently reported as in need of repair or obstructed. (fn. 11) The lord of Wivenhoe manor held the rights to the ferry. (fn. 12) Ferry House still stood at the bottom of Black Buoy Hill in 1995. (fn. 13) In the 20th century the Wivenhoe to Fingringhoe ferry boat service was owned by Colchester borough council, which closed it in the 1950s when the number of pass- engers declined with the increase in car ownership. (fn. 14)
By 1718 there was a ferry and moveable bridge or ford, accessible only at low tide, over the Colne between Wivenhoe and Rowhedge. The bridge may have been rebuilt in 1725, when it was held by a carpenter. (fn. 15) A road linked the ferry hard to the upstream shipyard at the west end of the town. In 1866 it was in a 'disgraceful state' and the Tendring Hundred Railway Co. re- placed it with a new road, which had tollgates in 1888. (fn. 16) The ford and ferry were still in use in the early 20th century, but, with increasing traffic and dredging of the river, had become dangerous, and there were demands for a bridge. (fn. 17) A temporary bridge, opened by George V in 1916, was demolished after the First World War. (fn. 18) The ferry was operated by Rowhedge Ironworks for their employees until c. 1963, and then run privately from 1964 to 1968. (fn. 19) A volun- tary group, the Wivenhoe Ferry Trust, was running weekend ferry services between Wivenhoe, Rowhedge, and Fingringhoe in 1992. (fn. 20) In 1811 a quarterly amount was being paid for Ardleigh bridge, presumably a county bridge, perhaps where the Colchester-Elmstead road crosses a stream. (fn. 21) A flood barrier across the river Colne, 130 m. wide with two steel floodgates, built by the National Rivers Authority, became operational in 1993. (fn. 22)
Wivenhoe port was an important part of Colchester port from the 16th century until the late 19th when the river was not navigable for larger ships upstream of Wivenhoe. (fn. 23) In 1584 the lord of Wivenhoe manor was entitled to levies on ships for anchorage in the port, driftwood, and 'royal fishes' (pisces regales). (fn. 24) Water transport connected Wivenhoe with London. (fn. 25) In 1713 two Colchester packet boats went weekly from Wivenhoe to London with cloth and returned with wool for the Colchester cloth industry. (fn. 26) Ships sailed to London, Gainsborough (Lincs.), and Hull weekly, and occasionally more often, in 1832. (fn. 27) A steam ship sailed twice a week from Wivenhoe to London from 1837. (fn. 28) Three pilots lived in the parish in 1863. (fn. 29)
The Tendring Hundred Railway opened a line from the Hythe to Wivenhoe in 1863, run- ning six passenger trains daily in each direction. By 1867, despite disputes with the Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea Railway, it had extended the single track line to Walton, running three or four trains a day between Colchester and Walton with Sunday services only in summer. Trains were still running in 1995. The Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea Railway opened a line from Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea in 1866; it was closed in 1964. (fn. 30)
In 1827 there was a daily post coach to London, (fn. 31) and in 1843 a daily carrier to Col- chester. (fn. 32) Three carriers carts went daily to Colchester in 1863, and one still operated in 1933. (fn. 33) By 1920 there was a regular motor bus service connecting Brightlingsea, Wivenhoe, and Colchester. (fn. 34)
Post went to and from Colchester daily in 1832. (fn. 35) There was a post office by 1853, probably the one which was in Queen's Road in 1887, and a sub post office at Wivenhoe Cross by 1906. In 1871 telegraph wires connected the railway to the post office. (fn. 36) About 1900 the National Telephone Co. employed one operator at its exchange at 88 High Street for its seven sub- scribers; by 1925 there were over 50 subscribers and by 1930 c. 150. (fn. 37)
POPULATION, SETTLEMENT, AND DOMESTIC BUILDINGS.
A Neolithic arrowhead and a bronze spearhead have been found in the parish, and some linear features may indicate prehistoric settlement. (fn. 38) The place name, Wivenhoe, meaning Wifa's ridge or spur of land, (fn. 39) suggests early Anglo-Saxon settlement. In 1066 Wivenhoe manor had a recorded popu- lation of 14, presumably heads of households, which increased to 28 by 1086. (fn. 40) By 1377, when 167 people paid the poll tax, Wivenhoe was one of the most populous parishes in Lexden hun- dred. (fn. 41) Sixty custompotts or ale tolls were paid in 1407 to the lord of Wivenhoe manor, suggest- ing at least 60 households. (fn. 42) In 1459 the popu- lation included a Dutchman, and one was buried in 1585. (fn. 43) In 1524 a total of 94 people was assessed for subsidy, Wivenhoe having the third highest number assessed in Lexden hundred; 48 were at Wivenhoe manor, 28 were in the town including a Frenchman, and another 18 were described as labourers. (fn. 44) In 1525 forty-two were assessed, apparently all in the town. (fn. 45) Plague may account for the high number of deaths in 1603-4. (fn. 46) There were 197 households in 1671. (fn. 47)
In 1723 the rector reported a population of c. 110 families, which if accurate indicates a fall in population, (fn. 48) but in 1758 about 161 houses were assessed for window tax, suggesting sub- sequent growth. (fn. 49) In 1766 the rector reported 182 houses. (fn. 50) Eighteenth-century burials, which included those of victims of smallpox epidemics in 1726, 1762, and 1776, exceeded church baptisms, but there may have been many noncon- formist births in addition, and immigration apparently exceeded emigration, so that popu- lation increased to 1,093 in the 1801 census. (fn. 51) The population grew to 1,672 in 1851 and 2,424 in 1901, though men away at sea were apparently sometimes omitted. In 1901 in population Wivenhoe was second only to Great Coggeshall in Lexden hundred, but the rate of increase at that time was well below the national average. (fn. 52) Population fell slightly to 2,193 in 1931 as the maritime industries declined, but rose again to 2,729 in 1961. Wivenhoe was the fastest growing town in Essex in the following decade, its popu- lation reaching 5,316 in 1971, the opening of Essex University being an important factor. (fn. 53) The population in 1991 was 6,650, excluding c. 400 living in the Dene Park estate area, the part of Wivenhoe which had expanded east into Elmstead. Wivenhoe was then the fourth most populous parish in Colchester borough. (fn. 54)
Early settlement developed round the quay in the south-west corner of the parish, and the church and manor house just north of it. The rest of the parish contained mainly scattered farms, except for a few houses at Wivenhoe Cross about a mile north of the quay. Apart from the high street which runs northwards along the spur of high ground the pattern of roads is irregular. West Street may represent an early limit of building above the river foreshore which would then have turned south-eastwards to leave Anchor Hill (perhaps once a market-place) and most of the ground between the churchyard and the quay above high water. A narrow strip of flatter land, which is probably reclaimed marsh and foreshore, widens to the east and west around the gasworks site and Bath Street.
Surviving houses of the 17th century and earlier are all timber framed and fairly numer- ous. The valley slopes around the churchyard appear to have been densely built up and there was a scatter of early housing along High Street as well as the early houses on the dispersed farm sites amongst the old enclosures. Two medieval open halls have been identified, at Wivenhoe Lodge and 84-90 High Street, and others may survive beneath the many steep roofs in the vil- lage. There are also jettied frontages to a number of buildings, including the back wing of Anchor House and the corner of West Street and Anchor Hill, which appear to be 16th century, and Garrison House and the range facing the river to the east of Quay Street which are 17th cent- ury. Those of later date have or had character- istic large triangular dormers above an eaves jetty.
Nos. 84-90 High Street were built in the 15th century as a single house with a three-roomed plan. The two-bayed hall has a crown-post roof and the service rooms and a staircase were at the south end. In the 17th century a stack and upper floor were put into the hall and the range was continued southwards by one bay. By the early 19th century it had been divided into several houses and the front was encased in brick. In the middle of the century a new block was built in front of the two northern bays. The other three bays were reunited as one house in the late 20th century.
Garrison House was built in the 17th century with a long room on the first floor which, with its position adjacent to the churchyard, suggests that it may have had a communal purpose. The north side has elaborate pargetting to the first floor jetty and similar brackets to a deep eaves above which there was formerly a row of large attic dormers. (fn. 55) A later brick wing, now a separ- ate house, abuts the west end of the south side.
In the early 18th century two houses dominated the town: Wivenhoe Hall, the manor house on the west side of High Street, and a new mansion built just south of the Hall by Matthew Martin, M.P. for Colchester 1722-7 and 1734- 41 and director of the East India Co. Apart from Martin's mansion and another, Wivenhoe Park, built in the north west of the parish in 1759, (fn. 56) there appears to have been relatively little new building in the 18th century.
Activity picked up again early in the 19th century. For smart new work, such as the Manse in High Street and the river frontage of the Colne Marine and Yacht Co.'s premises on The Quay, grey brick, presumably imported, was used whilst local red brick continued to be used for less important elevations and structural work such as chimney stacks. The house at the corner of East Street and Alma Street appears to have a timber frame which has been cased to the front in grey and provided with sash windows and a classical porch whilst the side elevation is in red brick.
The number of houses in the parish increased considerably during the 19th century, mostly south of Wivenhoe Hall. By 1831 Wivenhoe House, 'a handsome modern white brick man- sion', had been built east of High Street by William Brummell, brother of Beau Brummell. (fn. 57) The greatest number of houses were in short terraces of red brick cottages. Alma Street was built east of the church between 1840 and 1860. (fn. 58) The Wivenhoe House estate was acquired by Thomas Harvey, shipbuilder, who demolished the house in 1861 and divided the grounds into building plots in Queen's, Paget, and Anglesea Roads. (fn. 59) Following the construction of the rail- way line and station in 1863, on or near the site of Martin's mansion, the Tendring Hundred Railway built Station Road to link the station with High Street. (fn. 60) Clifton Terrace and the Grosvenor and Station hotels were built by 1876. (fn. 61) The absentee lord of the manor, N. C. Corsellis, had some houses for his tenants built in the 1870s on Anchor Hill near the quay. (fn. 62)
In the later 19th century some slightly larger houses filled in some of the gaps in High Street. (fn. 63) In 1897 thirty-one plots of land on the Corsellis estate in Belle Vue Road were sold for building, leaving a strip of land along the front- ages which the new Wivenhoe urban district council used to widen the road c. 1898. (fn. 64) Before the First World War there was further development on the east side of The Avenue and in Stanley and Ernest Roads. In 1927 Wivenhoe Hall was demolished and the land sold as build- ing plots. (fn. 65) Small numbers of houses, including 16 council houses, were also built in Rectory, Stanley, Manor, and Belle Vue Roads and in The Avenue north of Belle Vue Road before the Second World War. (fn. 66)
In 1946-7 prefabricated houses were provided in Stanley Road, Rectory Road, and The Avenue by the Ministry of Housing and Local Govern- ment. (fn. 67) From 1948 a council estate was developed west of The Avenue on the former Corsellis Park estate. (fn. 68) Council and private housing gradually created an almost continuous built-up area from Wivenhoe Cross to The Quay. In 1964 some land near The Quay was zoned for industrial use. By 1970 houses had been built on the east of the main road on the Dene Park estate south-east of Belle Vue Road and on the Vine Farm estate east of Wivenhoe Cross, while residential development stretched on the west from the Cross to Wivenhoe wood. (fn. 69)
Much of the rest of the parish remained farm- land. A few labourers' cottages were built in the 19th century by H. J. Gurdon-Rebow of Wiven- hoe Park (fn. 70) and N. C. Corsellis of Wivenhoe Hall on their farms. Wivenhoe Park estate had been sold in 1902, but it continued as farmland until it was broken up in 1962, when part of it became the site of Essex University. (fn. 71)
By 1995 there had been some further expansion round the edges of the built-up area. Open space was retained at King George V playing fields, opened in 1935, and at Wivenhoe wood, 16 a. of which were bought by the council from a local developer in 1973. (fn. 72) The University grounds helped to maintain a wedge of open space between Wivenhoe and Colchester.
Many of the lords of the manor were resident at least for part of the time and took some part in local parish life, although their social networks stretched much farther than the parish. (fn. 73) The Suttons held other estates in Essex and Suffolk, the powerful de Vere family seated at Castle Hedingham had interests all over the county and beyond, the Townshends' seat was at Raynham (Norf.), and the Corsellises also held Layer Marney manor. (fn. 74)
In 1568 'unlawful' games of alleys, cards, and slidethrift were played, probably in an inn. (fn. 75) Fifteen inns were recorded in 1712, 9 in 1762, 8 inns and taverns and 4 beerhouses in 1863, and 8 public houses and 4 restaurants in 1978. (fn. 76) The Sun, the Cross Keys, the Swan formerly the Maidenhead, the Anchor, and the Ship, copyholds recorded between 1766 and 1777, may all have been inns. (fn. 77) The Black Buoy for- merly Black Boy, listed in 1758, was owned in the early 19th century by Thomas Harvey, ship- builder; it was refurbished in 1984. (fn. 78) The Falcon just north of the church had a warehouse, brew- ery, and bowling green in the 18th century, and accommodated meetings of the vestry, a friendly society, and the Wivenhoe Association against Housebreakers, besides auctions and bank- ruptcy conferences; the landlord arranged cricket matches and dances, and ran a post chaise service. (fn. 79) Parts of the two-storeyed building date from the 17th century and earlier. Eleven different friendly societies meeting at inns were recorded between 1793 and 1855. (fn. 80) Between 1855 and 1934 doctors' clubs, self-help organiz- ations collecting money from their members to pay to doctors' practices, met, usually at public houses. (fn. 81)
Social attractions in Wivenhoe included an annual toy fair. (fn. 82) A cricket match was played in 1765, sailing matches were held from 1796, and the play The School for Scandal was performed in 1798. (fn. 83) The salt-water baths, set up by Horace Flack in 1752 in Bath Street and taken over by Thomas Tunmer, surgeon, in 1756, attracted visitors from surrounding places and even London. The baths were still operating in 1772 but apparently closed soon afterwards. (fn. 84)
Capt. Daniel Harvey (d. 1793), who was an acquaintance of the Rebows at Wivenhoe Park, commanded a series of revenue cutters from 1774, all named Repulse, in the local war against smuggling. (fn. 85) The painter, John Constable, painted Wivenhoe Park in 1816 on a social visit to the Rebows. (fn. 86) The river crossings connected Wivenhoe socially, as well as economically, with parishes on the other side of the Colne: Joseph Page, a farmer from Fingringhoe, frequently took part in social events in Wivenhoe; in the 19th century the Havens family of East Dony- land owned The Yachters Arms and several houses in Wivenhoe. (fn. 87)
In the 19th century and early 20th Wivenhoe became nationally known for its yachting and regattas, attracting people from beyond the county, many arriving by rail. The new hotels provided accommodation for yachting visitors. Cheap railway fares were available for yachts- men in 1905. (fn. 88) After 1993 the annual regatta was centred on Wivenhoe Sailing Club's new head- quarters below the flood barrier. (fn. 89) The names of the successful yachts Rosabelle, Vanessa, and Britannia were commemorated in streets on the council housing estate. (fn. 90)
Fetes were held in Wivenhoe Park grounds from 1851, and Prince Albert inspected local troops there in 1856. Soldiers camped there in the First and Second World Wars. (fn. 91) By the early 20th century social and sporting activities in the parish included those run by church and politi- cal organizations as well as cricket, football, yachting, lawn tennis, cycling, gymnastics, hockey, shooting, quoits, billiards, brass bands, and amateur dramatics. (fn. 92)
Library facilities were provided consecutively by a Free Institute 1872-82, a Reading Club 1883-1914, and by the Colchester Co-operative Society in the early 20th century. (fn. 93) A branch of Essex County library was opened in 1965 on the site of the National school in High Street. (fn. 94) By the will of Charles G. Nottage 1852-94, yacht owner, the Nottage institute, including a library, was established in 1897 on Black Buoy Hill to teach navigation skills and provide a secular social centre for seamen. In 1947 it moved, with its museum, to premises on The Quay. The classes in the later 20th century were attended by amateur yachtsmen rather than pro- fessionals. (fn. 95)
The Ancient Order of Foresters opened the Foresters' Hall in The Avenue in 1904; a cinema was opened in it in 1927, but closed in 1930. The hall was converted to housing in 1987-8. (fn. 96) The William Loveless Hall was opened in High Street as a public hall in 1963. A number of professional artists have lived in the town since the Second World War, and Wivenhoe Arts Club was opened in 1966. (fn. 97) Sir John Martin- Harvey (1863-1944) son of John Harvey of the local Harvey shipbuilding family, lived at Quay House, Rose Lane, for short periods. He became an actor manager in 1899 and was well known for his adaptation of Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. (fn. 98) The Wivenhoe Society, an amenity society, was formed in 1966. (fn. 99)
In the rising of 1381 most or all of the court rolls of Wivenhoe manor were burnt. (fn. 100) In 1462, during the Wars of the Roses, John de Vere, 12th earl of Oxford, and his son were beheaded for supporting the Lancastrians. (fn. 101) In 1470 and 1471 at least 8 Wivenhoe men joined the earl of Oxford and his brother Thomas de Vere in supporting the resto- ration of Henry VI. (fn. 102)
The earthquake of 1884, the epicentre of which was near Abberton south-east of Wiven- hoe, caused damage in Wivenhoe to St. Mary's church, the Congregational church, the gas- works, and houses on and near The Quay, but there were no fatalities. (fn. 103) Minor flooding has always occurred quite frequently in the marsh- land alongside the river, (fn. 104) where the houses at The Quay and later the railway lines were vul- nerable. In 1953 the shipyards were swamped and 43 houses were flooded, but only one, the isolated Toll Gate House on the marshes near Rowhedge ferry, was made uninhabitable. The railway line and embankment between Wiven- hoe and the Hythe was put out of action for two days, and the line to Brightlingsea was out of use for almost a year. (fn. 105)
In the coalminers' strike in 1984 miners, supported by students and trades unionists, pick- eted Wivenhoe port to try to prevent coal being imported from abroad. (fn. 106)