A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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By far the most eminent of Stondon's worthies was William Byrd (1543-1623), the musician, who lived for the last 30 years of his life at Stondon Place. (fn. 1) The history of his residence there is one of frequent bickering with his neighbours.
Sir John Hende (d. 1418), lord of the manor of Stondon, was Mayor of London in 1391 and 1404. (fn. 2) His two sons, both named John, were sheriffs of Essex, the elder in 1443 and 1447 and the younger in 1456. (fn. 3) Walter Wrytell, son-in-law of the elder John Hende, was sheriff in 1469 and 1471. (fn. 4) Sir Edward Belknap (d. 1521), a later lord of the manor, accompanied Henry VIII to the French war in 1513 and was knighted at Tournai. In 1520 he was one of the special commissioners responsible for preparing the Field of Cloth of Gold and received a letter from Wolsey instructing him to ensure that the cardinal's tent was pitched in a dry place. (fn. 5) Rainold Hollingsworth (d. 1573), a wealthy resident of Stondon, was one of the royal commissioners for dealing with church goods under Edward VI. His brass is in the parish church. (fn. 6) Sir Nathaniel Rich (d. 1636), another lord of the manor, was a Member of Parliament, Merchant Adventurer of London, and a Puritan who promoted colonial enterprises in America. (fn. 7) His nephew and successor Col. Nathaniel Rich (d. 1701) fought for Parliament in the Civil War. He was a close friend of Cromwell but eventually quarrelled with him and was deprived of his command. (fn. 8) Nathaniel Ward (1578- 1652), Rector of Stondon 1623-33, was deprived of the living by Laud for nonconformity. He subsequently emigrated to New England and helped to draft the 1641 Code of Laws for the colony of Massachusetts. He returned to England in 1647 and spent the last four years of his life as Rector of Shenfield. (fn. 9)
The Puritan connexion in Stondon represented by the Riches and Nathaniel Ward is an interesting parallel to the Roman Catholic connexion. Byrd was a Roman Catholic and so also was William Shelley (d. 1597), lord of the manor of Stondon, whose religion led him to plot against Elizabeth I and to imprisonment in the Tower. (fn. 10) William was the grandson of Sir William Shelley (d. 1548), a justice of the Common Pleas and son-in-law of Sir Edward Belknap. (fn. 11)
Sir John Hende and Sir Nathaniel Rich represent a connexion with London trade which was shared by several other men of less individual distinction. These include Andrew Bridham (d. 1442) of Stondon and St. Michael's, Cornhill, John Wheler (d. 1521), and George Webb (d. 1579). (fn. 12) Richard Hall (d. 1541), citizen and ironmonger of London, lived for a number of years in Stondon and left legacies for some of its people. (fn. 13) John Carre (d. 1570), whose brass is in the parish church, became a member of the Ironmongers' Company under the sponsorship of Hall, whose brother John was his godfather. (fn. 14) Henry Giles, nephew of Carre, was his apprentice and duly joined him in the company. (fn. 15) He inherited a large sum of money under Carre's will and used some of it to found the almshouses in Stondon. (fn. 16)
John Oldham, rector from 1791 until his death in 1841, had studied law before entering the church. He was for many years a county magistrate and was nicknamed 'Chief Justice Oldham'. (fn. 17) He is said to have designed the impressive rectory built about 1800. Altogether he made a lasting impression in this part of Essex during his long incumbency.
From 1849 to 1936 the rectory was held in succession by E. J. Reeve (d. 1893) and his son Canon E. H. L. Reeve (d. 1936). Both were good friends to the parish and E. H. L. Reeve became its historian. (fn. 18)