A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Moreton is a parish about 3 miles north of Chipping Ongar. (fn. 1) Its area is 1,474 acres. (fn. 2) In 1946 a small detached part of Moreton (½ acre) lying immediately to the north of Bobbingworth Lodge was incorporated into the parish of Bobbingworth. (fn. 3) A detached part of Magdalen Laver (5.6 acres) still lies in Moreton, to the north-west of High Laver Bridge. An unusual number of moated sites and of pre-18th-century houses confirms other evidence which indicates that Moreton was formerly an important place in the area. There were 63 inhabited houses in 1801, 73 in 1811, and 69 in 1821. (fn. 4) In 1801 the population was 360. (fn. 5) By 1851 it had grown to 544; then it declined to 378 in 1901. (fn. 6) By 1931 it had risen again to 471 but in 1951 it was only 411. (fn. 7) The soil is mainly Boulder Clay but there are patches of London Clay and glacial gravel.
The land rises from about 170 ft. above sea-level in the south-west to 280 ft. in the north-east. Cripsey Brook, a tributary of the Roding, flows through the south-western part of the parish and forms a small part of the southern boundary at Moreton Bridge. At Padlers End, ¼ mile south-west of the bridge, are several small 18th- and early-19th-century cottages and four pairs of council houses. Moreton Bridge Road enters the parish at Moreton Bridge and runs northward to join the Fyfield Road at Moreton End, the main centre of population. Moreton End includes some attractive groups of 18th-century houses. The White Hart Inn at the road junction may be of 16thcentury origin. At its east end the first floor oversails and is supported on curved brackets. It has been altered at various times. Opposite the 'White Hart' is the 'Nag's Head', a roughcast early-18th-century building with a moulded eaves cornice. Rose Cottage and the Castle House Stores form another group of the same date. Part of Ivylands, at the Moreton Bridge end of the village, has a pedimented door hood and may be of the 18th century or earlier. Black Hall, also known as Guildhall Cottage, (fn. 8) stands immediately north of Ivylands. From Moreton End the Harlow road runs northward. There are five pairs of council houses on the west side of this road. On the east side about ¼ mile farther north is the site of Church Farm, (fn. 9) from which a footpath, formerly North Lane, leads eastward to join Fyfield Road at Maltings Farm. Farther along on the west side of Harlow Road is a late-18th-century weather-boarded house, now called Crispins. This is said to have been built on the site of the Castle Inn (fn. 10) and the Castle House Stores, now moved to Moreton End, occupied part of it for many years. (fn. 11) Nearly opposite Crispins is a row of thatched cottages, apparently of early-18th-century date. From here Harlow Road runs north-west past the Congregational chapel (fn. 12) to High Laver Bridge while Mill Road runs north past Moreton Mill. (fn. 13) There are two pairs of council houses on the road north of the mill.
From Moreton End Fyfield Road runs east past the village school, (fn. 14) a red-brick police house built in 1951, and a small cottage which has an oversailing gable-end and may be of the 16th or early 17th century. Opposite the cottage stands the rectory. (fn. 15) The church (fn. 16) is immediately north-east of the rectory. Opposite the church is a lane to Nether Hall and Upper Hall. (fn. 17) About ¼ mile farther along the Fyfield road is Maltings Farm, a low two-story cottage, probably converted from an 18th-century malt kiln. (fn. 18) Beyond Maltings Farm stands Hill Farm, a small timber-framed house of the 15th century. It originally had an open central hall of two bays, flanked by cross-wings to east and west. These have overhanging gables at the front of the house and still exist more or less in their original form. A ceiling has been inserted in the central block and the roof raised, so that the ridge level is now higher than that of the side wings. The moulded wall posts and arched braces of a central truss are visible on the ground floor, but the upper part of the truss is missing. The hall originally had a screens passage at its east end and the roughly four-centred head of its front entrance is still in position. The east wing retains an arch-braced roof truss above the first floor. It has a king-post and steeply cambered tie-beam. The rebuilding of the upper part of the hall probably took place in the late 16th or early 17th century, and the four-centred arch of a fireplace of this date was observed in 1919. (fn. 19) Both this chimney and that at the west end of the house have diagonal shafts.
At Hill Farm Fyfield Road is joined by a road running northward to Little Laver. About ¼ mile along this road stands Newhouse, a timber-framed house on a moated site, probably built in the 16th century. It retains original panelling and a brick fireplace with a moulded three-centred arch. The farm has a timber barn of the same date.
In this area of the parish are several disused roads (fn. 20) and the sites of several former houses. Spencer's Hoppet, north-west of Newhouse, contained a house from at least the middle of the 14th century but by 1840 it was only pasture land. The last of its farm buildings was taken down about then by the tenant, Henry Clarence. (fn. 21) South of Newhouse a lane leads eastward to Greens, a timber-framed house on a moated site, rebuilt probably in the 17th century. From Greens a footpath, formerly a lane, leads southeast past a moated site where Tanner's Cottage (fn. 22) formerly stood, and thence to join Fyfield Road near Embley's Farm, a timber-framed house of the 17th or early 18th century which may once have been two cottages.
Just before Fyfield Road leaves the parish it is joined by a lane running southward past Harriets and Cross Leys to Bundish Hall. (fn. 23) Stacey's, which was situated nearly opposite to Harriets, is said to have lost the last of its farm buildings through a gale in 1834. (fn. 24) Cross Leys is a timber-framed house on a moated site, rebuilt probably in the 17th century, and encased in brickwork in the late 18th or early 19th century. There is an old timber barn.
Bundish Hall is on the parish boundary, near its southern extremity. (fn. 25) To the west, on the other side of the Cripsey Brook, stands Wood Farm on the road from Moreton to Shelley. This farm, formerly Southend Farm (fn. 26) or Henhouse Farm, (fn. 27) has an 18th-century farm-house.
The inhabitants of Moreton were at first responsible for the upkeep of Moreton Bridge which spans the Cripsey Brook where it forms the boundary between the parishes of Moreton and Bobbingworth. (fn. 28) At a vestry meeting held in 1761 the parishioners of Moreton agreed that a new cart bridge should be built in place of the old horse bridge and that, having obtained an estimate of the cost of a timber and of a brick bridge, they should meet the parishioners of Bobbingworth to determine of what materials it should be built. (fn. 29) A combined meeting took place in May 1762 when it was agreed that the money raised should be spent on the bridge only and that each parish should 'make their way to the bridge at their own expense'. (fn. 30) It was also agreed that work on the bridge should begin immediately. (fn. 31) A grant of £30 was made from county funds towards the building. (fn. 32) By 1783 the bridge had become a county charge and in the same year it was ordered that it should be rebuilt with brick according to the plan prepared by John Johnson, the county surveyor. (fn. 33) In 1857 the county surveyor described it in detail. (fn. 34)
A postal receiving house was set up at Moreton in 1846 to serve the surrounding villages; the receiver was to have £4 a year and a messenger 12s. a week. (fn. 35) There is now a post-office in the village. The telephone service was established in 1927. (fn. 36) A police officer is stationed in the village. (fn. 37)
Water is supplied by the Herts. and Essex Waterworks Co. (fn. 38) There is no sewerage but a site for a pumping-station has been agreed on. (fn. 39) Electricity was provided in 1951. (fn. 40) The village hut was built in 1920. (fn. 41) A branch of the county library was opened in April 1929. (fn. 42)
Moreton has always been a rural parish devoted mainly to agriculture. Few of the large landowners have lived there. The owners of Upper Hall were never resident except possibly for a few years after 1349. (fn. 43) During the whole of the period 1342-1832 the owners of Nether Hall were not resident except in the time of William Cozens, lord of the manor from 1775 until 1790, and even he did not live at the manor house or farm the main part of the estate. (fn. 44) W. H. Alger, lord of the manor from 1829, was resident at the Hall by 1840 and both he and his son, who died in 1900, farmed most of the estate. (fn. 45) The owners of Bundish Hall did not live in Moreton in the middle of the 16th century; there is no further evidence about their place of residence until 1780, when the owner was not resident. (fn. 46) After Richard Eve purchased the estate in 1787 it was occupied by members of the Eve family. (fn. 47)
In 1840 W. H. Alger owned 256 acres in Moreton of which he farmed 197 acres himself. (fn. 48) J. H. Frere of Upper Hall owned 246 acres but farmed none of it himself. (fn. 49) Bundish Hall Farm, then owned by the trustees of the late J. Chaplin, and occupied by W. Eve, consisted of 166 acres of which 107 acres lay in Moreton. (fn. 50) There were two other substantial owners in the parish; J. White owned Wood Farm (153 acres) which he farmed himself, and E. F. Maitland owned, but did not occupy, Newhouse Farm (129 acres). (fn. 51) There were three other farms of over 40 acres. (fn. 52)
Moreton has always been a parish of mixed farming. In 1086 there were 5 plough teams in the manor, woodland for 400 swine and 20 acres of meadow. (fn. 53) In the late 12th century the manor contained a flax ground. (fn. 54) In the 18th century there was a malt kiln in the parish, situated probably at the east end of North Lane. (fn. 55) In 1838 it was estimated that there were 1,151 acres of arable, 273 acres of pasture, and 11 acres of woodland. (fn. 56)
There was once a water-mill on the Cripsey Brook near Padlers End. The mill house was demolished about 1860. (fn. 57) Moreton windmill is still standing but ceased working about 1932. (fn. 58) It is of a type formerly common in the area: a weather-boarded post mill, turned by hand, with the base enclosed by a brick 'round house'. At the base of the central post are three cross-trees instead of the more usual two. It is said that the mill was formerly at Bishop's Stortford and was erected in Moreton early in the 18th century. (fn. 59) The central post is dated 1715 and 1821. (fn. 60) The mill was reroofed in 1918. (fn. 61) After it ceased working it was given by Messrs. C. and A. Gould to the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. (fn. 62) In 1951 one sail came off and another had to be removed for safety. (fn. 63) The thatched mill house is partly occupied as an office for Messrs. C. and A. Gould.
In about 1885 it was said that until 1832 a fair was held in the village annually on 1 May (fn. 64) but that 'having degenerated from its former social gathering into an annual disorderly assembly, an edict was issued by the magistrates for its abolition. (fn. 65) . . . Mr. George Rogers of Upper Hall (fn. 66) attended personally in the village with the constable to force obedience to the edict, but the ancient fair still tries to lie on private premises. (fn. 67)