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 economy of the estate of 1 hide and 25 a. that later became Bergholt Hall manor apparently contracted between 1066 and 1086, its value falling from £7 to £3. In 1066 there had been 2 ploughs on its demesne with 2 servi, and 2 ploughs on the land of 7 villani and 5 bordarii, but by 1086 both the demesne and the tenants had only 1 plough each, although there was then also woodland for 300 swine, 8 a. of meadow, and 1 mill. Similarly the berewick of ½ hide and 30 a. known as Bradfield had lost its single plough by 1086 and livestock numbers had fallen from 1 rouncey, 14 cattle, 148 sheep, 6 swine, and 32 goats to 4 cattle, 80 sheep, and 11 swine. The 7 free men who held ½ hide and 11½ a. and 2 a., meadow with 2 ploughs in 1066 had also lost 1 plough by 1086.
In contrast, on the ½ hide and 26½ a. that became the manor of Netherhall, later Cooks Hall, the number of bordarii increased from 2 to 6 and the manor's value increased from 20s. to 36s. There was also 1 plough, woodland for 15 swine, and 2 a. of meadow in 1086, but half a mill recorded in 1066 no longer belonged to the manor twenty years later. An associated estate of 31½ a. had 2 bordarii with ½ plough, wood- land for 16 swine, 3 a. of meadow, and a mill in 1066. By 1086 it had 6 bordarii and a servus, although the mill was not recorded and the value remained at 10s. Another small estate compris- ing 6 a. with ½ plough and 1 a. of meadow in 1066 had only 2 oxen in 1086, representing ¼ plough team, but the value had increased from 2s. 8d. to 5s. (fn. 1)
West Bergholt was one of the poorest parishes in the hundred in 1327 when the 13 taxpayers were assessed at 25s. 4½d., the highest individual assessment being 7s. ½d. (fn. 2) The relative wealth of the parish probably grew in the later middle ages as the cloth industry developed. Thirty men in 1524-5 were assessed on a total of £129 6s. 8d., two-thirds of them on goods. The highest individual assessments were £26 on land for John Sackville, lord of the manor, and £16 on goods for John Prestney, an important local farmer. (fn. 3)
The main area of early medieval settlement was probably west of the Colchester to Nayland road, incorporating the c. 500 a. demesne of Bergholt Hall manor as well as the c. 180 a. demesne of Cooks Hall which lay between the Bergholt Hall demesne and the river Colne. Although St. John's abbey held some land near Fordham, much of its estate surrounded Armoury farm on the north-east edge of Cestrewald, from which it, and other farms such as Bourne farm, were probably assarted during the middle ages. (fn. 4) Lands given to the abbey in the mid 13th century were inclosed with hedges and ditches, typically bore names in land or feld, and had detailed abutments, indicating a cleared and intensively utilized farming landscape. There were also inclosed meadows in strips abutting the Colne. (fn. 5) In the earlier 15th century the lessee of the Bergholt Hall demesne grew wheat, rye, and oats. (fn. 6) Pasture and woodland were important and the extensive heath provided common grazing. A West Bergholt man in partnership with two Suffolk skinners sold meat in Colchester in 1360, and 15th-century tenants of Bergholt Hall manor possessed horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and geese. (fn. 7)
In 1541-2 Bergholt Hall manor comprised 963 a.; 278 a., presumably the demesne, as leased, 283 a. as freehold, and 402 a. as copyhold, occupied respectively by 6 lessees, 18 freeholders, and 24 copyholders. (fn. 8) In 1545 the demesne portion had c. 100 a. of arable, c. 100 a. of pasture, c. 20 a. of meadow, c. 20 a. of wood, while in 1560 it had 91 a. of arable, 10 a. of pasture, III a. of woodland, and 12½ a. of meadow. (fn. 9) There was a warren in 1516 and three fish ponds in 1560. (fn. 10) In 1621 out of 22 freehold and customary holdings only one was over 100 a. and four over 50 a., while the majority were under 25 a. Many tenants, however, held land in neighbouring parishes. (fn. 11) In the 17th century c. 50 per cent of the demesne and c. 60 per cent of leased land was arable compared to about c. 75 per cent of tenanted land. (fn. 12)
In 1595 the custom on both manors gave a widow one-third of the holding as her dower. In 1720 the inheritance custom on Cooks Hall manor may have been Borough English (ultimogeniture). (fn. 13)
Cooks Hall comprised 50 a. land, presumably arable, 10 a. meadow, 40 or 80 a. pasture, 20 a. wood, and 100 a. brushwood in the 15th and 16th centuries. (fn. 14) In 1575-6 there were 14 free and 12 customary tenancies. (fn. 15) In 1696 a tenant provided wheat and rye as part of his rent. (fn. 16) In the later 18th century several farms were cultivated on a three-course rotation with two grain crops followed by a fallow which could be replaced by clover, turnips, peas, or beans. (fn. 17) Yields of wheat and barley were below average for the county in the 1790s. (fn. 18)
In 1801 the principal crops were wheat (348½ a.), barley (331½ a.), and oats (214 a.), with smaller amounts of turnips or rape, peas, and beans. (fn. 19) In 1843 the parish contained c. 1,693 a. of arable, to only c. 133 a. of pasture and meadow, c. 100 a. of wood, and c. 312 a. of roads, waste, and heath. The manorial demesnes, both farmed by lessees, remained the largest farms for most of the 19th century; in 1841 Bergholt Hall farm comprised 270 a. and employed 13 labourers, Cooks Hall farm 380 a. with 28 labourers. There were then another five farms of more than 100 a.: Cooks Mill, Newbridge Mill, Pond, High Trees, and Spreading Oak farms. Smaller farms, some originating from ancient freehold or copyhold tenancies, included Horsepits, Rookery, Highfields, Scarlett's, and Dairy farms. Manor farm was created on the inclosure of the heath in 1865. (fn. 20)
By 1841 the earlier three-course rotations had been replaced by a four course rotation of (1) wheat, (2) barley, (3) clover and beans, and (4) fallow. The fallow course had one third 'dead fallow', one third turnips, and one third tares. Grassland, mainly flat meadows along the Colne, was very productive. (fn. 21) In the mid 19th century the labouring population was badly affected by agricultural depression and the new Poor Law, and the parish became a centre of rural protest with the greatest concentration of incendiarism in the county. Among the victims were Robert Bradbrook and Thomas Daniell, two of the most important farmers and businessmen. (fn. 22)
The cereal acreage expanded after the heath was inclosed in 1865, the chief crops remaining wheat, barley, oats, and beans. In 1880 J. H. Round commented on the careful farming which had produced crops not only thick and rich but clear from weeds. The following agricultural depression, however, caused the cereal acreage to fall sharply by 1888. (fn. 23) In 1905 there was 1,333 a. of arable compared to 659 a. of perma- nent grass and 63 a. of woodland. (fn. 24) Dairying expanded in the late 19th century and many villagers kept cows: West Bergholt was known as a village of cowkeepers in 1930. Small farms such as Highfields and Pond farm concentrated upon dairying and pigkeeping in 1946. (fn. 25) In 1952 the 530-a. Cooks Hall farm cultivated over 100 a. of wheat, 140 a. of barley, 35 a. of sugar beet, and peas and beans for tinning. There was a herd of 200 cattle of which 90 were milked. (fn. 26)
In the early middle ages the eastern edge of the parish lay within the ancient wood of Cestrewald. The increase in the number of bord- arii between 1066 and 1086 suggests assarting in the late 11th century. (fn. 27) Much of the remaining woodland was managed; alder coppices were recorded c. 1240 and 1332. (fn. 28) There were poll- arded trees in 1458. (fn. 29) At the Dissolution 18 a. in three coppices, previously part of the St. John's abbey Armoury farm, were added to the Bergholt Hall woods. (fn. 30) By 1560 that manor had nine or more managed woods, totalling over 111 a. composed of oak, willow, alder, ash, beech, hazel, and other underwood. A 20 ft. wide drove road leading west from Bergholt Hall to Hillhouse, Bagland (formerly Bagnall), and Stiching woods survived in 1995. (fn. 31) Sixteenth- century tenants of Bergholt Hall manor were amerced for stealing the lord's timber, and for cutting timber, including oaks and crabtrees, on their holdings. (fn. 32)
The woodland was commercially important. In 1375 as many as 1,000 faggots were carried from Bergholt wood to Colchester, and in 1565 timber products such as boards were shipped from Bergholt Hall manor to London via Colchester. (fn. 33) The revenue from leased woodland, from sales of underwood, and from wood pasture amounted to a quarter of the total income on Bergholt Hall manor in 1430, and wood, meadow, and pasture comprised 40 per cent of the total valuation of the demesne farm in 1560. (fn. 34) In 1513 three men removed 38 cartloads of wood from the lord's common, possibly for the brickmaking industry, (fn. 35) whereas the tenants' common rights, as recorded in 1560, only entitled them to take two cart-loads of wood for fuel. (fn. 36) Tenants were ordered to fill in their dangerous sawpits in 1586. (fn. 37) The woods were still managed traditionally in 1871 when five hurdlemakers and woodmen lived in the parish. (fn. 38) In the 19th century the woods were full of timber, but had very inferior underwood and a large proportion of them were later grubbed up. (fn. 39)
In the earlier 16th century overgrazing affected the 110 a. of Bergholt common and 1 a. of Cooks Hall common upon which the tenants of both manors intercommoned. (fn. 40) In 1575-6 neither unmarried tenants nor under-tenants of Cooks Hall manor were allowed to feed more than four sheep or any cattle on that manor's common. (fn. 41) In 1587 and 1619 Bergholt Hall manor court forbade any tenant without a house and family to graze cattle on that manor's common. (fn. 42) Overseers, rangers or drivers, of that common, first recorded in 1632 were in 1651 instructed to drive the heath at least three times a year and to impound illegally grazed cattle. (fn. 43)
Encroachment on the heath apparently began in the earlier 17th century when cottages began to be illegally erected on both the Bergholt Hall manor and Cooks Hall manor wastes. By the mid 18th century many encroachments were sanctioned as long as they were registered in the manor courts. (fn. 44) Although a few 18th-century intakes were large additions to existing freeholds or copyholds, many were occupied by small cottages or shops. One poor squatter who illegally erected a cottage in 1736 later inclosed c. 2 a. of the surrounding waste to grow barley. (fn. 45) Other 18th century encroachments included one for a barn, another for a brick kiln, and a third for a house, but most were small and the heath was still largely uninclosed in 1777. (fn. 46)
About 1800 it was suggested that inclosure could treble the value of 160 a. of waste. In 1832 5 a. of waste was inclosed as allotments for the poor, many of whom had settled on the south of the heath by 1844. (fn. 47) In 1842 the remaining common (267 a. in 1863) was covered with short furze and partly clear, but very wet, grass. (fn. 48) It was inclosed in 1865, allottments being made to 179 persons, together with 2 a. for a new church, 3 a. for a recreation ground, and 5 a. for the parish poor. (fn. 49) The only opposition apparently came from gypsies camping on the heath. (fn. 50) Inclosure accelerated building development: in 1861 there were still only c. 20 cottages on the heath, but there were over 80 by 1871 and 134 by 1901. (fn. 51)
Clothmaking was an important local industry, two taxpayers surnamed fuller being recorded in 1327, (fn. 52) and both the water mills in the parish being used for fulling cloth in the 15th century and later. (fn. 53) West Bergholt joined Bocking, Dedham, and Coggeshall to obtain a special Act of Parliament in 1557 exempting them from an earlier Act confining cloth production to towns. (fn. 54) In 1602 three men were appointed as overseers of cloth in West Bergholt. (fn. 55) A fuller was recorded in 1575, a clothmaker in 1579, a tailor in 1594, weavers in 1584, 1607, and 1669, and a sayweaver in 1664. (fn. 56)
The mill recorded on Bergholt Hall manor in 1086 was probably that known as Newbridge mill in 1200. (fn. 57) In 1429 it was leased for 23s. 6d. a year. (fn. 58) Like other water mills on the Colne, it may have fulled cloth throughout the middle ages, and c. 1500 it was occupied by a fuller. (fn. 59) It was later occupied by the Colchester merchant and clothier John Christmas (fl. 1552) and by his son George (d. 1566). (fn. 60) The mill was alienated from Bergholt Hall manor in 1723-4. It presumably ceased fulling in the 18th century, and J. T. Argent, who inherited it in 1814, successfully expanded it as a corn milling business. In 1871 Argent's mill employed four men and one boy, and by 1886 it had both steam and water power. The Argent family sold the business in 1906 to Pulford's, and the mill operated until 1960 when it burned down. (fn. 61) The surviving mill house is a 16th-century timber-framed building with a later red brick front. (fn. 62)
Neither the mill on Cooks Hall manor in 1066, nor the half mill on an associated estate, was recorded in 1086, but both may have been on the site of the later Cooks mill. That mill was not recorded again until 1445 when there was a fulling mill on Cooks Hall manor. (fn. 63) It was a corn and fulling mill in 1597. (fn. 64) In the earlier 18th century there were two small mills on the site, but in 1766 the architect John Smeaton redesigned and enlarged them for their owner Mr. Hills, probably the Colchester baymaker Michael Hills. They were apparently converted to corn or oil mills c. 1780. (fn. 65) The mill was still in operation in 1869, but is thought to have burned down in 1873. It was no longer working in 1881. (fn. 66) The surviving house is an early 19th- century red-brick building with a south front of three bays and extensive late 20th-century additions to the north.
A windmill first recorded in 1575-6 stood on Windmill hill south of Chapel Lane. (fn. 67) In the 1690s George Osborne held it as a customary tenancy, but by 1722 it was a freehold. (fn. 68) The windmill may have been rebuilt in 1734 when John Balls paid a yearly rent of 6d. for a new building on Windmill hill, but it had been abandoned by 1843. (fn. 69) Springett's mill, a windmill, was erected by Robert Springett behind his beerhouse on the south side of the Colchester to Sudbury road in 1843. The mill was working in 1871, but was out of order by 1876 and had been demolished by 1941. (fn. 70)
Brickmaking was first recorded in 1513 when Robert Snowdon was amerced for digging clay for making bricks and tiles. (fn. 71) Another brickmaker was recorded in 1571, and by 1599-1600 more pits had been dug on the heath, probably for brick earth. (fn. 72) The industry expanded during the 17th century, perhaps encouraged by the expansion and rebuilding of Colchester. In 1608 brickmakers were using cartloads of furze from the heath to fire their kilns. (fn. 73) Four tenants of Bergholt Hall manor were amerced in 1619-20 for digging brickearth and there was a brickmaker on Cooks Hall manor in 1650. (fn. 74) A kiln at Garlands cottage, Bourne Road, appears to have been used continuously by the Bigesby family and their successors, the Nutman and Hurrell families, from c. 1650 to 1830. Production probably began under Samuel Bigesby (d. 1680), whose unfilled brickearth pits endangered the inhabitants' cattle in the 1650s. (fn. 75) There was probably another brickworks on Bergholt Hall manor at Coney Byes farm, formerly Brickhouse farm, where the surrounding field names indicate brick and tile manufacture. (fn. 76) Brickmaking also expanded on Cooks Hall manor where there were three holdings with kilns by 1691, and probably five kilns in all. (fn. 77) In the 1690s Daniel Shepherd had an unlicensed brick kiln on the waste for which he dug 100 loads of clay. (fn. 78) A potmaker was also recorded in 1663. (fn. 79)
Eighteenth-century kilns probably remained small family concerns similar to those at neigh- bouring Mile End. (fn. 80) In 1841 the main brick kilns were those on either side of the Colchester to Sudbury road owned by the brewer Thomas Daniell, who employed 11 brickmakers. In 1876 there was also a brickfield and kilns at Manor farm. The number of men employed in the industry peaked in 1871 but the Daniell's brickyard was still operating in 1891. (fn. 81) The West Bergolt Brick Tile and Pipe Works apparently shut between 1902 and 1906, and in 1917 the Newbridge brickfields were advertised for sale with 1,223 ft. of tram rails and points, a kiln, and 50,000 bricks. (fn. 82)
The Daniell family may have started brewing at Armoury farm in the later 18th century. Thomas Daniell, developed the business at Brewery, or Spreading Oak, farm from the 1820s. When he bought the freehold in 1840 it had a malting with a kiln, grinding house, brewhouse, and 24 a. of land. Although a substantial farmer, in 1848 Daniell was described as a brewer, maltster, brickmaker, and coal mer- chant. One son had joined him by 1872 and other sons ran the Castle Brewery in Colchester and the Donyland Brewery in Rowhedge. In 1877 the three Daniell's breweries combined as Daniell and Sons Ltd., becoming Daniell and Sons Breweries Ltd. by 1890. The brewery employed at least 10 brewers and maltsters in 1851, but it expanded in the following decades and production switched entirely to West Berg- holt in 1892. The workforce had grown to over 40 by 1900. (fn. 83)
In 1958 Truman, Hanbury, Buxton and Co. Ltd. took over the brewery and its 150 tied houses, including the Treble Tile and Queen's Head in West Bergholt. In 1959 brewing was switched to London, the West Bergholt plant being used as a distribution depot and bottling factory employing 150 people. In 1978 new offices and a service depot opened there, but the bottling plant shut down in 1982. (fn. 84) The offices and depot were closed in 1986 by the then owners Watney, Mann and Truman. (fn. 85) The Brewery comprises a 19th-century house and associated group of industrial buildings, all brick and slate and in many stages. (fn. 86) In 1989 part of the complex was demolished, but the main Brewery buildings were converted into houses and flats. (fn. 87)
Despite the clothmaking, brickmaking, and brewing, West Bergholt remained predomi- nantly rural until the mid 19th century. (fn. 88) As late as 1841 over three-fifths of the working population were farmers and agricultural labourers and many more were employed in agricultural support trades. By 1851, however, the proximity of Colchester was having a marked effect upon employment in the parish. Some women worked as outworkers for Colchester clothing factories, and by 1871 at least 40 women worked in the clothing industry; a similar number worked as launderesses. Many of the male shoemakers and cordwainers probably worked in the important footwear businesses in the town, and the many clerical and professional people recorded in the village during the 19th century presumably travelled to work in Colchester. (fn. 89)
The rapid growth of the village also en- couraged service trades and building. Grocers, butchers, bakers, coopers, poulterers, and dealers in tea and fruit were established by 1851, and increased in number in later decades. Alfred Diss, builder of the new Methodist Chapel (1878), Ebeneezer Villas (1884), and possibly the small Gothic Cottages (1880s), employed 9 car- penters, 9 bricklayers, and 8 labourers in 1881. (fn. 90) Fluctuations in the building industry were thought to have contributed to serious unem- ployment in the village in 1912. (fn. 91)
The arrival of the railway and the opening of Colchester North station near the boundary with West Bergholt provided new employment opportunities, 5 platelayers and 8 railway labourers living in the parish in 1891. The railway also encouraged market gardening, the two nurserymen and a market gardener present in 1891 probably employing many of the 19 gar- deners then living in the parish. Before the First World War the Colchester rosegrower Frank Cant owned land opposite the brewery. (fn. 92) In the 20th century several small businesses were established, among them R. J. Whitwell's trop- ical fish breeding and distributing business started in the 1940s which by 1962 employed 11 people and had 700 aquariums. It was still run- ning in 1995. (fn. 93) There was a plant nursery and a bulb company on Nayland Road in the same year. Proximity to Colchester's main railway station and road bypass made West Bergholt a desirable residence for commuters to London and Ipswich in the late 20th century. (fn. 94)