Analysis of Bishop Compton's census of 1676: Ongar Hundred

Page 311

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

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In a letter of 1676 to Henry Compton, Bishop of London, Archbishop Sheldon required the bishop through the various archdeacons, parish clergy, and churchwardens, to compile an ecclesiastical census. (fn. 1) Compton was to inquire (i) the number of persons 'or at least families' who by 'common account and estimation' inhabited the respective parishes, (ii) how many popish recusants 'or such as are suspected of recusancy' there were among such inhabitants and (iii) how many 'other dissenters' were resident in the parishes.

These instructions are patently ambiguous. In particular, since detailed information about the method of parochial compilation is lacking, it is not clear whether the first column of the manuscript (fn. 2) census relates to conformists, as the manuscript would seem to suggest, or to the total of inhabitants as in some dioceses they seem to be. It is equally difficult to know whether the returns include all adults over 16, or only males over 16, or all inhabitants including children, or families or (as seems to have been the case in some dioceses) a mixture of some of these.

Printed below are abstracts of the returns for most of the parishes in Ongar hundred. No figures are given for Norton Mandeville, Abbess Roding or Theydon Garnon, although the parish names have been entered. The parishes of Loughton and Navestock are missing from the return.

The rearranged abstracts are here reproduced as they appear in the returns together with some guesses, where possible, at their proper interpretation, based on a comparison with fiscal data derived from the Hearth Tax Assessments printed above. (fn. 3) In all cases the first column headed 'conformists' has been understood to refer to the conformist element in the parishes and not to the total of inhabitants, &c.


Conformists Papists Nonconformists Total Possible interpretation
Bobbingworth 86 .. .. 86 All adults
Chigwell 500 .. .. 500
Fyfield 210 .. .. 210
Greenstead 'Hamlet' 25 .. .. 25 All adults
Kelvedon Hatch 107 .. .. 107
Lambourne 100 .. .. 100 All adults
Laver, High 135 .. 10 145
Laver, Little 44 9 1 54 Total population
Laver, Magdalen 91 .. 9 100
Moreton 127 .. 3 130 All adults
Ongar, Chipping 213 .. 1 214 All adults
Ongar, High 198 .. 2 200
Roding, Beauchamp 79 .. 1 80 Total population
Shelley 56 .. .. 56 All adults
Stanford Rivers 490 10 .. 500 This figure seems too high even for total population
Stapleford Abbots 90 .. .. 90 All adults
Stapleford Tawney 83 .. .. 83
Stondon Massey 77 .. 3 80
Theydon Bois 100 .. .. 100
Theydon Mount 99 .. .. 99
Weald, North, Bassett 263 .. 1 264 Total population


  • 1. Engl. Hist. Doc. viii (ed. A. Browning), p. 411. The compiler of this table is indebted for assistance to Miss E. A. O. Whiteman.
  • 2. Preserved in the William Salt Library, Stafford.
  • 3. pp. 305 f.