Chipping Ongar: Agriculture

Page 166

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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In the 11th century much of Chipping Ongar was woodland. The 'wood of Ongar' mentioned in 1044 in the will of Thurstan has been mentioned above. (fn. 1) In 1086 the manor of Ongar contained woodland for 1,000 swine. (fn. 2) There were then 36 pigs on the manor. This was not a large number, but it is likely that pig keeping in this area was of some importance in the 12th century and later, for in 1213 Robert Peverel, farmer of Ongar, was ordered to supply the king with 138 sides of bacon from his bailiwick. (fn. 3) Peverel's account for 1209-10 shows that he was then keeper of Stanford Rivers as well as Ongar. (fn. 4) The rents of assize of the manors then amounted to £16 1s. 6d. During the year he had stocked the manors with 20 oxen and 32 horses at a cost of £24 10s. 6d. He had also bought for sowing 162 quarters of oats, costing £9 16s. 8d., 1½ quarters of barley for 2s. 3d., and beans costing 2s. 6d.

In about 1243 the manor of Ongar was said to contain 374½ acres of (arable) land, of which 200 acres were worth a total of £5 a year, and 174½ acres were worth in all £2 18s. 2d. There were 7 acres of pasture worth 7s. and 28 acres of meadow, of which 18 were worth 30s. a year and 10 were worth 11s. 8d. (fn. 5) There were rents of freemen and villeins worth £3 12s. 3d. (fn. 6) and the villeins owed a total of 14001/3 labour services a year, worth 68s. 6d. (fn. 7) There were 2 mills, one of them driven by water, worth 40s. and a dovehouse worth 2s. (fn. 8) This inquisition had been made on the death of Maud de Lucy. About this time, in 1243, the king ordered the sheriff to buy oxen for 4 ploughs to till the demesne lands formerly held by Maud in Stanford and Ongar. (fn. 9)

In 1294 the manor contained 200 acres of arable, worth £5 a year, 12 acres meadow worth 24s., a park worth 20s., 2 mills, one driven by wind and the other by water, worth £5, and pasture worth 3s. (fn. 10)

In 1372 there were in the manor 140 acres of arable worth 23s. 4d., 20 acres of meadow worth 20s., 30 acres of poor pasture worth 10s., and 'a certain pasture called le Park containing 40 acres' worth 1 mark. There was also a broken-down windmill. (fn. 11)

In 1386 there were 160 acres of arable worth 40s. 8d. a year, 12 acres of meadow worth 24s., and 42 acres of pasture worth 21s. The rents of assize were worth 27s. and the rents of 3 capons at Christmas were worth 6d. in all. (fn. 12) The same figures were given in returns made in 1392 and 1395. (fn. 13)

At the death of James Morris in 1597 the manor included a water-mill, a parcel of land called Betts, a tenement of about 30 acres called Tufftsfield, situated in 'boro field', a meadow called Rye meade, 4 parcels of meadow, pasture, and moor called Le Mores in High Ongar, occupied by Henry Barnard, and a croft called Parsons acre. (fn. 14) A mill was mentioned in 1618 as appurtenant to the manor. (fn. 15)

In the 17th and 18th centuries hop-growing was carried on in Ongar. In 1639 there was a dispute, heard at Quarter Sessions, concerning a crop of hops that had been grown on 3½ acres of 'hoppground' in the parish. (fn. 16) Defoe, writing in 1722 described Ongar as part of an area 'famed for husbandry and good malt, but of no other note'. (fn. 17)

In 1838 the area of the parish was estimated at 480 acres, of which 193 acres were arable and 273 acres meadow and pasture. (fn. 18) The Castle Farm, owned by Sir John Swinbourne and occupied by William Coe, contained 168 acres. There were two smaller farms, of 97 and 62 acres, the Bowes House, with its gardens and pleasure grounds, covered 99 acres. Apart from these there was no tenement of more than 5 acres.

There is hardly any evidence as to how and when inclosure was carried out in this parish. A very small inclosure of waste ground in about 1800 is mentioned below. (fn. 19)


  • 1. See above, Manor.
  • 2. V.C.H. Essex, i, 467a; see also 375.
  • 3. Rot. Lit. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i, 145. The bacon was evidently intended for shipment to France, no doubt to feed the king's troops.
  • 4. Pipe R. 1210 (Pipe R. Soc. n.s. xxvi), 206.
  • 5. C132/File 1.
  • 6. These figures are not entirely clear.
  • 7. Cl32/Filel.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Cal. Lib. R. 1240-5, 188. In 1086 there had been 2 ploughs in demesne at Ongar, and 5 at Stanford Rivers.
  • 10. C133/File 67. The park was probably Ongar Park in High Ongar.
  • 11. C135/File 230.
  • 12. C136/File 47.
  • 13. Ibid. File 76, File 107.
  • 14. C142/258/74. At least part of Le Mores (Moors) was in Norton Mandeville (q.v.).
  • 15. CP43/143 rot. 38.
  • 16. E.R.O., Q/SR 308/22.
  • 17. V.C.H. Essex, ii, 445. Hops are still found growing wild in the neighbourhood: inf. from Mr. D. W. Hutchings of Ongar. For the 19th-cent. brewery at Marden Ash see High Ongar.
  • 18. E.R.O., D/CT 262.
  • 19. See Parish Government and Poor Relief, below.