Loughton: Manors

Pages 118-121

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

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Domesday Book mentions no fewer than six separate estates in Loughton and also two others, Alderton and Debden, which later became part of the parish of Loughton. A small holding of 20 acres in Loughton belonged to the manor of Havering: it had been held in 1066 by the reeve of King Harold and in 1086 was held by the reeve of King William. (fn. 1) Peter de Valognes had two manors in Loughton in 1086: each was worth 20s. (fn. 2) One of them, containing a hide and 30 acres was held of Peter by Ralph. Before the Conquest it had been held by Ulvric, a free man. The other, of 1 hide, was held in demesne. It had been held in 1066 by Leofcild. The descent of a part of these lands of de Valognes is traced below under Monk Wood. Some other parts became merged in the main manor of Loughton (see below).

An estate of 44 acres which had belonged to a free man before the Conquest was held in 1086 by W. Corbun of Robert Gernon; it was then worth 10s. (fn. 3) This also seems to have been later merged in the manor of Loughton.

By far the greatest part of the parish belonged in 1066 and 1086 to Waltham Abbey. The abbey's property was listed in Domesday book as four manors. Two manors were named Loughton: one contained 4 hides and 20 acres and was worth 40s.; the other contained 2½ hides and was worth 20s. (fn. 4) These manors were said to be in Becontree hundred. The other two abbey manors, Alderton and Debden, were in Ongar hundred. (fn. 5) Alderton consisted of 4½ hides and 10 acres and was worth £4 in 1086. Debden consisted of 3 hides and 40 acres and was worth 40s. All these lands in Loughton, Alderton, and Debden had been given to the abbey on its foundation in 1060 by Earl Harold. The gift was confirmed by Edward the Confessor in 1062. (fn. 6)

Waltham Abbey remained owner of most of the land in the parish until the Dissolution, and its property was known from the 13th century onwards as the manor of LOUGHTON. A detailed rental of about 1180 deals separately with the three estates although they had all belonged to the abbey for over a century. It lists 32 tenants in Alderton who paid £2 5s. 3½d. in money rents in addition to rents in kind and labour services. The tenants of Loughton numbered only 8, who paid 12s. 2½d. rent. There were 24 tenants at Debden paying 16s. 11½d. (fn. 7)

It was probably soon after this time that the abbey acquired the manor in Loughton which in 1086 had been held of Robert Gernon. This had descended with Gernon's other lands to Richard de Montfichet (d. 1202). He or his son Richard de Montfichet (II) (d. 1267) granted the Loughton estate to Waltham Abbey. (fn. 8) At the time of the grant there were two tenants of the manor, Edward Reyntot, who paid an annual rent of 2s. 4d., and John son of Roger de Pyrle, who paid 1s. Both these tenants held lands in the neighbourhood of the modern Pyrles Lane. (fn. 9) About the same time Waltham Abbey acquired further land from Reyntot and Pyrle themselves. (fn. 10) Another acquisition, early in the 13th century, was of onequarter of Monk Wood; the remaining three-quarters became the property of Stratford Abbey (see below, Monk Wood).

In about 1254 the manor of Loughton (now apparently including Alderton and Debden) was valued at £11 12s., of which £8 issued from the demesne and £3 12s. from rents. (fn. 11)

The property of Waltham Abbey was taken into the king's hands in 1540 on the dissolution of the abbey. The manor of Loughton was at that time occupied by John Stoner on an 80-year lease running from 1522. (fn. 12) Stoner died in the year of the dissolution and was succeeded as lessee by his son George. (fn. 13)

In 1551 the manor was given to Thomas Darcy, Baron Darcy of Chiche, as part of the endowment of his barony, created in that year. (fn. 14) A year later, however, he gave the manor back to the king in exchange for property in Surrey. (fn. 15) In 1553 Loughton was granted to Mary Tudor two months before she became queen. (fn. 16) The manor was thus again merged in the Crown. In 1558 it was annexed to the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 17) It remained part of the duchy until 1613. (fn. 18) George Stoner, who had inherited the lease of the manor, died in 1559. (fn. 19) His son and heir John Stoner built a house at Luxborough in Chigwell (q.v.) in which he usually lived. It was, however, at Loughton Hall that he entertained the queen in 1578. (fn. 20) He died in 1579 and the lease of Loughton passed to his daughter Susan and her husband Robert Wroth. Susan and Robert were probably established at Loughton Hall before Stoner's death. (fn. 21) Robert Wroth, knighted in 1597, was a large landowner, a forest official, and a Member of Parliament. (fn. 22) He entertained James I at Loughton Hall in 1605. (fn. 23) He died in 1606 and was succeeded by his son Sir Robert Wroth, who had married Mary, daughter of Robert, Baron Sidney of Penshurst, later Earl of Leicester, and niece of Sir Philip Sidney. Mary and her husband had literary interests and were intimate with a number of poets, including Ben Jonson, who dedicated 'The Alchemist' to Mary and 'The Forest' to Sir Robert. Mary was also a friend of the queen, Anne of Denmark. The Prince of Wales probably visited Loughton Hall in 1606 and it may have been through the influence of the queen that Sir Robert was permitted, in 1613, to purchase the manor of Loughton from the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 24)

In 1608 a survey had been made of all the timber on the demesne lands of the manor, (fn. 25) and in 1612 the whole manor was surveyed. (fn. 26) The latter survey gave the clear annual value of the manor as £517. Allowance was made in this estimate for a fee-farm rent of £58 and a further deduction of £192 for the feeding of the king's deer on the grounds of the manor. The manor house, recently repaired, with its orchard and grounds, was valued at £6 a year. There were 640 acres of pasture, 304 acres of arable, and 156 acres of meadow. The perquisites of the courts leet and baron were valued at £7, the bailiwick of the manor at £1 6s. 8d., and the rents of the 29 copyholders at £23. In addition to the demesne lands there was the moiety of a tenement called Hatfields, containing 24 acres. The timber trees in the manor were valued at £1,028; the lessee had the right of topping and lopping. (fn. 27) The waste of the manor consisted of 200 acres in Fair Mead, 1,000 acres in High Wood, and 100 acres in Monk Wood. In Fair Mead the ancient tenants of the manor and several inhabitants in adjoining manors claimed and usually had common of pasture for cattle without number at all times of the year, and the Loughton tenants also had common of estovers. In High Wood the ancient tenants had common of estovers, for which each paid annually a 'smoke hen' or 1s. in lieu. In Monk Wood the lessees of the manor had always taken the lops and the ancient tenants had common of pasture only. Sixty pollard oaks in Fair Mead and High Wood were valued at £24.

Sir Robert Wroth paid £1,224 for the manor, which remained subject to a fee-farm rent of £58, and for the advowson of the rectory (see below, Churches). (fn. 28) The fee-farm rent was not extinguished until 1814. (fn. 29) Shortly after purchasing the manor Sir Robert died (1614). His infant son died in 1616. (fn. 30) His estates were left heavily in debt and some of them had to be sold. Mary Wroth continued to live at Loughton Hall for some years, harried by creditors. (fn. 31) In 1621 she published Urania, a pastoral romance which caused her to be accused of libel. (fn. 32) The next heir to Loughton was Sir Robert's brother John Wroth, who died in 1642. (fn. 33) Before his death John settled the manor on John Wroth, son of his brother Henry. (fn. 34)

Loughton descended in the Wroth family until the death in 1738 of Elizabeth, wife of John Wroth (d. 1718), the fourth of his name to hold the manor. (fn. 35) The manor then passed to William, 4th Earl of Rochford, grandson of Elizabeth Wroth's sister Jane. (fn. 36)

John Wroth (III), who was lord of the manor from 1662 to 1708 was described as 'a blustering county justice and gentleman grazier'. (fn. 37) In 1688 he is said to have entertained Princess (later Queen) Anne at Loughton Hall when she fled from London during the revolution which deposed James II. (fn. 38) Between 1662 and 1667 the income from rents of the manor averaged about £700 a year. In addition to this over £700 was received during the whole period for fines and wood. (fn. 39) About 1700 the manor was said to be worth about £1,000 a year. (fn. 40) John Wroth (III) left 124 neat cattle, 12 horses, and over 200 sheep, Welsh and Weyhill, wool and wheat to the value of £117 and £170 respectively and 1,000 oz. plate, valued at £254. (fn. 41) A survey of 1739 gave the extent of the lands of the manor, including Monk Wood, but not the waste, as 1,319 acres. It had thus increased by 35 acres since 1612. (fn. 42) The largest farm, described as Jonathan Parker's tenure, was 455 acres. This ran from Wellfield across Rectory Lane to the Theydon Bois boundary. Alderton Hall farm was 267 acres. Elizabeth Gilderson's tenure was 224 acres stretching east of Chigwell Lane from the pound to the river. Loughton Hall farm was 202 acres from the hall south to the river. Debden Park covered 30 acres, Margery Field held 21 acres, Monk Wood was 101 acres, and the remaining area was made up of Loughton Warren (8 acres), Loughton Piece (5 acres), and the tenements of three cottagers. (fn. 43)

In 1745 the Earl of Rochford sold the manor to William Whitaker of Lime Street, London, an alderman of the City. (fn. 44) Whitaker died in 1752 and Loughton passed to his widow Anne, and on her death in 1770 to their daughter Anne Whitaker. (fn. 45)

Whitaker had not been living at Loughton Hall at the time of his death, the tenant then being a Mr. Roberts. (fn. 46) Miss Whitaker, however, did live there, 'a very formall lady of the old school or court, and reconned very rich, living in good style'. (fn. 47) She died in 1825, leaving the manor to John Maitland of Woodford Hall. (fn. 48)

The manor passed from John Maitland (d. 1831) successively to his son William Whitaker Maitland (d. 1861) and his grandson John Whitaker Maitland, who also became Rector of Loughton and died in 1909. (fn. 49) He was succeeded by his son William W. Maitland (d. 1926). In 1944 Cmdr. J. W. Maitland, M.P., son and heir of W. W. Maitland, sold Loughton Hall and 644 acres of land to the London County Council for the building of the Debden housing estate, which started soon after 1945. With a few short intervals Loughton Hall had been the home of the lords of the manor (including lessees under the Crown) since the 16th century.

In 1851 W. W. Maitland owned some 1,120 acres in Loughton. (fn. 50) The tithe on most of his demesne land appears to have been commuted long before this. (fn. 51) The estate was let out in 10 farms of which the largest were Alderton farm (about 360 acres), Loughton Bridge farm (about 300 acres), and Loughton Hall farm (about 200 acres). Debden Hall farm, of 164 acres, no longer formed part of the estate. In the 18th century it had passed into the possession of the Hamilton family, one of whom, Archdeacon Hamilton, was Rector of Loughton 1805–51. (fn. 52) In 1851 the farm was owned by John Williams. (fn. 53)

Between 1850 and 1930 the Maitland estate was gradually reduced by sales for building purposes, mainly in the neighbourhood of High Road. (fn. 54) The Revd. J. W. Maitland was prominent in the Epping Forest inclosure controversy. If his plans had been successful some 650 acres of the forest waste would have become his freehold property as the result of inclosure. In the event he received £30,000 for his rights in the 992 acres of forest waste. (fn. 55)

The court rolls of the manor of Loughton are described below (see Parish Government and Poor Relief).

The present Loughton Hall, which stands in the middle of the Debden housing estate and is used as a community centre, is a large red-brick mansion erected by the Revd. J. W. Maitland in 1878. (fn. 56) It was built on the site of an earlier house which was burnt down in 1836. The old house probably incorporated parts of a timber manor house of the 16th century or earlier. In 1602, during the tenancy of the first Sir Robert Wroth, the Commissioners of the Duchy of Lancaster made a report on the condition of the house. (fn. 57) This indicates a typical medieval or 16th-century establishment with many ancillary buildings including a detached gatehouse. It was then in poor repair, which suggests that it was already of considerable age. A large proportion of the estimated cost of repair was for carpentry and the quoted sum of £100 specifically excluded the value of 70 trees to be had from the manor. This makes it clear that the house was of timber and was to be restored in the same material.

In 1612 a new survey was made. (fn. 58) The accommodation, apart from outbuildings, now included a hall, buttery, kitchen, larder, bakehouse, pastryhouse, milkhouse, and wash-house, together with 'eight other lodgings with faire lodginge and greate roomes over the said roomes new built and redified at the chardgs of Sir Robert Wroth, the now farmer thereof'.The obligation of entertaining royalty and the higher standard of comfort demanded by the times had evidently induced the second Sir Robert to increase the number and size of the reception rooms. There is some evidence that further improvements were put in hand when the manor had at last been acquired by the Wroths in 1613: in 1630 it was stated that Sir Robert Wroth 'about sixteene yeres past' had built some part of Loughton Hall upon an old foundation. (fn. 59) The date on the front of the building at the time of the fire is said to have been 1616. (fn. 60) It seems possible that work was in progress at Sir Robert's death in 1614 and was completed two years later.

The description of a lodge in the forest, 'a faire house built on a Hill', which occurs in Lady Wroth's Urania, is thought to apply to Loughton Hall at the time of her marriage. (fn. 61) It includes a reference to the Lady's Walk, an avenue of trees leading up to the house from a bridge over the river. This was cut down during the Napoleonic Wars when a high price could be obtained for timber. (fn. 62)

No record has been found of alterations to the house between 1616 and 1825, but it cannot be assumed that none took place. The claim that parts of the interior, including a stone staircase, were designed by Inigo Jones should be taken with the usual reserve. (fn. 63)

After 1825, when the house became the property of the Maitlands, over £6,000 is said to have been spent on it. On 11 December 1836 the house was burnt down. Contemporary newspaper reports stated that 50 rooms were destroyed or damaged. (fn. 64) There had been two frontages, both 162 ft. long, and one at least of these had the date 1616 on the rainwater heads. The style is said to have been Elizabethan, modernized later, and the interior was adorned with Ionic and Corinthian orders. (fn. 65)

A picture of the building shows a very curious twostory front. (fn. 66) It appears to be of brick and is divided into five bays by a pilaster treatment in stone or plaster. Each pilaster consists of two tiers of coupled Doric columns supporting detached entablature blocks. The only horizontal members which are continuous across the front are a string course at the upper cornice level and the coping of the parapet. This parapet rises in the centre to form a small curvilinear gable. Each story has ten tall sash windows and the roof has gabled dormers. A central doorway with a scrolled pediment is surmounted by a niche. If this front dated from 1616 it is clear that the doors and windows were altered later. In general the features are more consistent with a date near the middle of the 17th century.

Alderton Hall is a timber-framed and weatherboarded building having two stories and attics. There is a main block with east and west wings. The oldest parts are the centre and the east wing, which date from the late 16th or early 17th century. The west wing was probably rebuilt early in the 18th century.

The present Debden Hall was built about 1930 to replace a previous building on the site which was demolished in the previous year. (fn. 67) A photograph of the earlier building (c. 1898 ?) shows a large house of two stories and attics having a pedimented doorcase and a long range of outbuildings. The house appears to have dated from the early 19th century. (fn. 68)

The two manors held in 1086 by Peter de Valognes probably included what later became known as MONK WOOD. In 1166 Philip de Snaring held 1/3; knight's fee and Geoffrey de Snaring ½ knight's fee, both of the honor of Valognes. (fn. 69) These tenements were probably in Loughton, for early in the 13th century the Snaring family held an important position in the parish, part of which was for a time named after them. (fn. 70) Before 1240 a wood in 'Loughton Snarryngs' had come to be divided between the abbeys of Stratford Langthorne and Waltham. Three-quarters of the wood had been granted to Stratford by Ralph de Assartis; the remaining quarter had been granted to Waltham by Geoffrey Reyntot and Roger Fitz Ailmar. (fn. 71) Ralph de Assartis is known to have been a tenant of Geoffrey de Snaring. (fn. 72) In 1236 he was holding 1/8 knight's fee in Loughton of the barony of Valognes. (fn. 73)

In 1240 an agreement was made between the abbeys of Stratford and Waltham concerning their timber rights in their jointly owned wood. When one abbot wished to fell timber in the wood he was to notify the bailiff of the other abbot. Four trees of equal value were then to be selected, of which Stratford was to take the first, second, and fourth choices, and Waltham the third. Trees not required for immediate felling might be marked by either abbey for future use. (fn. 74)

The portion of the wood owned by Waltham Abbey became merged from the 13th century in the main manor of Loughton (see above). The three-quarters owned by Stratford became known as Monk Wood and remained the property of that abbey until the Dissolution.

Like the manor of Loughton Monk Wood became part of the Duchy of Lancaster in the 16th century, and appears to have been leased along with the manor. In 1582 the wood was said to contain 53 acres but in 1612 its area was 101 acres of which 74 acres comprised Great Monk Wood and 27 acres Little Monk Wood. (fn. 75) There was sometimes doubt whether the wood was demesne or waste land. Historically there is little doubt that it was demesne. (fn. 76)

After the 16th century Monk Wood descended along with the manor of Loughton. In 1767, when Alderton Hall was leased, it was provided that the lessee should receive 1,000 faggots and 100 logs every year from the wood. In 1787 this was altered to 500 faggots and 250 logs. (fn. 77)

In 1851 Monk Wood contained 97 acres of which 73 acres were in Great Monk Wood and 24 acres in Little Monk Wood. (fn. 78)

There is a legend of Monk Wood which concerns a monk who murdered a maiden. (fn. 79)


  • 1. V.C.H. Essex, i, 430a.
  • 2. Ibid. 537 a, b. For Peter de Valognes see also North Weald.
  • 3. Ibid. 515b.
  • 4. Ibid. 446b.
  • 5. Ibid. 447a.
  • 6. Kemble, Cod. Dipl. iv, pp. 156–7. For a discussion of the bounds of Alderton and Debden in 1062 see P.N. Essex (E.P.N.S.), 65–66.
  • 7. W. C. Waller, Loughton, i, 17. The rental is in a Waltham Abbey cartulary, B.M. Cott. MS. Tib. c. ix. For Waller's comments on it see ibid. 11–17.
  • 8. Waller, Loughton, i, 159. For the Gernon-Montfichet descent see Stapleford Abbots.
  • 9. Ibid. 158, 29–30. The modern name of the lane is a return to the ancient form. For centuries it was known as Pooles and Poles lane.
  • 10. Ibid. 158.
  • 11. W. E. Lunt, Val. of Norwich, 521.
  • 12. Waller, Loughton, i, 36–37. The original lease was for 40 years. In 1535 this had been extended for a further 40 years.
  • 13. E.A.T. N.S. viii, 146–7.
  • 14. Cal. Pat. 1550–3, 136; Complete Peerage, iv, 78.
  • 15. Cal. Pat. 1550–3, 458.
  • 16. Ibid. 1553, 176. Mary had also acquired the manor of Stanford Rivers (q.v.).
  • 17. Ibid. 1557–8, 50.
  • 18. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1611–18, 187; Waller, Loughton, i, 62.
  • 19. E.A.T. n.s. viii, 147.
  • 20. Ibid. For the Stoners and Wroths see also Chigwell Hall in Chigwell.
  • 21. W. C. Waller, 'An Extinct County Family, Wroth of Loughton Hall', E.A.T. N.S. viii, 148.
  • 22. Ibid. 148–9.
  • 23. Ibid. 154.
  • 24. Ibid. 157–8, 162–3. In 1613 Sir Rbt. was holding a lease due to expire in 1685: Waller, Loughton, i, 59; C142/524/ 11.
  • 25. Waller, Loughton, i, 59.
  • 26. Ibid. 60–61, where the survey is printed in full.
  • 27. This was on the demesne lands and the lands held by tenants.
  • 28. E.A.T. N.S. viii, 163. The purchase price seems low but clearly takes into account Sir Robert's previous purchase of a long lease.
  • 29. Ibid.
  • 30. Ibid. 164–5.
  • 31. Ibid. 174–80.
  • 32. Ibid. 168–72; D.N.B. Wroth, Lady Mary.
  • 33. E.A.T. N.S. viii, 345–7.
  • 34. Ibid. 347.
  • 35. Ibid. 181, where the pedigree is given; in Waller, Loughton, ii, are printed the wills of many members of the family.
  • 36. E.A.T. N.S. viii, 181.
  • 37. Ibid. 351.
  • 38. Ibid.
  • 39. Waller, Loughton, i, 63–64.
  • 40. Ibid. ii, 39.
  • 41. E.A.T. N.S. viii, 352.
  • 42. Waller, Loughton, i, 64–65.
  • 43. Loughton Warren was where the Warren (house) now is. Loughton Piece was near it on the Buckhurst Hill boundary.
  • 44. E.A.T. n.s. ix, 14; E.R.O., D/DC 27 729–30.
  • 45. E.A.T. N.S. ix, 14.
  • 46. Waller, Loughton, ii, 47. Previous tenants had been a Jewish family named Suasso, emigrants from Holland: ibid. ii, 62.
  • 47. E.A.T. N.S. ix, 14.
  • 48. Ibid.; cf. G. H. R. Harrison, Genealog. Acct. of Maitland Family; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1952, 1681.
  • 49. Waller, Loughton, i, 65; E.R. xix, 50. The Revd. J. W. Maitland left a fortune of £126,000: E.R.O., T/P 13 iii.
  • 50. E.R.O., D/CT 225 (Tithe Award).
  • 51. See Churches.
  • 52. Waller, Loughton, i, 98–99; ii, 53.
  • 53. E.R.O., D/CT 225.
  • 54. Nat. Reg. Archives, Rep. on MSS. of Cmdr. J. W. Maitland.
  • 55. See above, Preservation of Epping Forest.
  • 56. Architect Eden Nesfield: N. Pevsner, Buildings of Eng. Essex, 261.
  • 57. Essex Naturalist, vii, 16.
  • 58. Ibid. 18.
  • 59. Ibid. 21.
  • 60. Newspaper reports on the fire, see below.
  • 61. E.A.T. N.S. viii, 173, quoting Urania ii, 297–8.
  • 62. Ibid.
  • 63. Lewis's Topog. Dict. 1844. It has been common practice to attribute any mature classical work of the first half of the 17th cent. to Inigo Jones. In this case there might be some justification for the claim because of the Wroth's connexion with the Earl of Pembroke and with the court of James I. Mary Wroth is known to have taken part in at least one court masque (the Masque of Blacknesse) for which Inigo Jones designed the costumes at the outset of his career.
  • 64. Essex Naturalist, vii, 20, quotes accts. from the Essex Standard and the Essex Herald.
  • 65. Ibid.
  • 66. E.A.T. N.S. viii, 345: from a watercolour then in the possession of Miss I. R. Maitland. See plate facing p. 226. The will of Miss Whitaker (pr. 1826) refers to the 'Saloon', gallery and 'King's Rooms' in the hall: E.R.O., T/P 13 i.
  • 67. Inf. from the present occupier of Debden Hall.
  • 68. E.R.O., Sale Cat. B. 9.
  • 69. Red Bk. of Exch. (Rolls Ser.), 360.
  • 70. Waller, Loughton, i, 156.
  • 71. Ibid.
  • 72. Ibid.
  • 73. Bk. of Fees, 579.
  • 74. Waller, Loughton, i, 156; Essex Naturalist, v, 174.
  • 75. Essex Naturalist, v, 177; and see above, Manor of Loughton.
  • 76. Waller, Loughton, i, 52, 10–11; cf. E.R.O., D/CT 255.
  • 77. Waller, Loughton, i, 11.
  • 78. E.R.O., D/CT 255.
  • 79. E. Hardingham, Lays and Legends of the Forest of Essex, 113.