Norton Mandeville: Introduction

Pages 150-151

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

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The modern parish of Norton Mandeville lies to the north of High Ongar and is bounded on the north by Willingale. (fn. 1) Its present area is 1,318 acres. Until late in the 12th century Norton was apparently included in the parish of High Ongar. (fn. 2) During the later Middle Ages the parish of Norton may have included Forest Hall and Newarks Norton, but in and after the 16th century those places became together a detached part of the parish of High Ongar (q.v.). At the Tithe Commutation (1847) Norton Mandeville contained 757 acres. (fn. 3) The County of Essex (Review of Rural Districts and Parishes) Order, 1939, provided that Forest Hall and Newarks Norton should be merged in Norton Mandeville. This was confirmed by the Minister of Health in 1946. (fn. 4)

Norton Mandeville has always been a small rural parish with few inhabitants. (fn. 5) In 1801 the population was 93. (fn. 6) In 1951, after the enlargement of the parish, it was only 202. (fn. 7) The soil is Boulder Clay with a patch of glacial loam at Norton Heath.

The River Roding forms the western boundary of the parish. A tributary of the Roding which rises near Dodd's Farm in the east of the parish flows west and south and forms the southern boundary for part of its course. From the river and the stream the land slopes gently upwards to the east and north. Forest Hall (see under High Ongar) is in the west of the present parish of Norton Mandeville, lying in a wooded park of about 200 acres. About 200 yds. north of it is the site of the original manor house of Forest (formerly Foliots) Hall. Little Forest Hall, ½ mile north-west of the present Forest Hall, probably dates from the 17th century. The north end is timber-framed and plastered and is of that period. Haif a mile north-east of Forest Hall is the site of Newarks Hall (see High Ongar) which was demolished during the Second World War to make room for the large airfield which extended into this parish from Willingale. (fn. 8) Offin's Cottages, a mile southeast of Newarks, are a pair of timber-framed and plastered cottages of 16th- or early-17th-century origin with an oversailing gable-end to the east supported by curved brackets. Near these cottages to the east is Spriggs, where two sides of a moat still exist. The present 19th-century farm-house incorporates old timbers which may have come from an earlier house.

Norton Heath is in the extreme east of the parish. It consists of about 12 acres of unfenced woodland with a number of small ponds and a road running diagonally through the centre. It has always been common land, and the hamlet around it has for long been the main centre of population, although it is 2 miles from Norton Hall and the parish church. The road that links the heath with the hall and the church to the west, formerly known as the Causeway, was mentioned in a charter of about 1260, and gave its name to Great Causeway field and Little Causeway field which in 1740 lay to the south of the road about ¼ mile from the church. (fn. 9)

The building now known as Norton Manor House stands at the north-west corner of the heath. (fn. 10) It is a mid-17th-century timber-framed house and is built on a half H-shaped plan with two projecting wings at the back. Adjacent to the northern wing is a small staircase wing containing an original staircase with moulded finials to the newels and heavy turned balusters. There are three brick chimneys, each with three octagonal shafts joined at the heads with moulded brick capitals. Two tablets on the south chimney have the date 1650 and the initials E.s A. (fn. 11) Considerable extensions took place early in the 18th century, and much original work has been obliterated by a very thorough restoration of about 1900. (fn. 12)

The main road from Chipping Ongar to Chelmsford passes through Norton Heath and for a short distance forms the parish boundary. Ladyland is a timberframed and plastered farm-house on the north of this road. It probably dates from the early 17th century with additions in the 18th century and later. Readings, near Ladyland to the west, was probably the White Horse Farm of 1740. (fn. 13) It is of red brick, the back dating from about 1780 and the front having been added by John Caton (fn. 14) in the mid-19th century. The White Horse Inn itself stands on the south of the road and is therefore in High Ongar parish. It is of colour-washed brickwork and is of mid-18th century date with early-19th-century additions. Between Readings and Ladyland is a single-story roughcast cottage formerly a toll house dating from about 1830. (fn. 15) A small red-brick forge on the west of the heath, probably built early in the 19th century, was closed in 1944. (fn. 16) Several of the cottages round the heath are of 18th-century origin. Also at the heath are the church hall and the Congregational church. Near the heath, on the road to the parish church, are nine pairs of council houses of various dates. Dodd's Farm is near these houses to the west. Parsonage Farm is ¼ mile east of the church.

In 1086 a considerable proportion of the manor of Norton was woodland. (fn. 17) By about 1250, however, forest clearance must have given the parish something like its modern appearance. Most of the fields mentioned in the charter of about 1260 can be identified on the parish map of 1740 (see below, Manor). By the time of the tithe award (1847) there were rather more, and smaller, fields than in 1740, but there have been no important changes since then. In 1740 there were four farms in the parish of over 50 acres but only one of these, Norton Hall farm (264 acres), was over 100 acres. (fn. 18) The size of the farms has tended to increase since then. From about 1864 to 1919 all the western part of the parish belonged to the Forest Hall estate, and life at this end of the parish must have centred on Forest Hall, a great house with a private saw-mill and its own gas-works. (fn. 19) As late as 1939 Forest Hall continued to offer opportunities of employment, though no longer the centre of a large estate, but since 1943 it has been empty.

The parish is supplied via Ongar with water purchased from the Herts. and Essex Waterworks Co. (fn. 20) Electricity was first supplied in February 1943. (fn. 21) There is no gas supply. Letters were formerly received from Ongar, and more recently from Ongar and Ingatestone. (fn. 22) The parish has always depended mainly on road transport. The nearest railway station for London is at Chipping Ongar, about 3½ miles from Norton Heath, and for north Essex and E. Anglia at Ingatestone, about 5 miles away.


  • 1. O.S. 2½ in. Map, sheets 52/50, 52/60.
  • 2. See below, Church.
  • 3. Tithe Redemp. Com. Recs. Norton Mandeville Tithe Award and Map.
  • 4. County of Essex (Rural Parishes) Confirmation Order, 1946.
  • 5. Some early taxation statistics, given below, pp. 300 f., must be used with caution in view of the possibility that the parish included Forest Hall and Newarks Norton in the Middle Ages.
  • 6. V.C.H. Essex, ii, 350.
  • 7. Census, 1951.
  • 8. Inf. from Mr. K. McCorquodale.
  • 9. For the charter of c. 1260 and the map of 1740 see below, Manor.
  • 10. The name is recent. This was not an ancient manor house. In 1740 it was called Readings: E.R.O., D/DCc P1.
  • 11. In 1662 Edward Sandford was taxed on a house at Norton Mandeville having 8 hearths: E.R.O., Q/RTh 1 mem. 24. No other house in the parish had as many hearths.
  • 12. Inf. from Mr. E. H. S. Walde, the present occupier.
  • 13. E.R.O., D/DCc P1: Map of Norton Mandeville 1740.
  • 14. Inf. from Mrs. McKinlay, present occupier.
  • 15. For details of its sale, 1870, see E.R.O., D/TE 13.
  • 16. Inf. from daughter of former blacksmith.
  • 17. V.C.H. Essex, i, 375, 503a.
  • 18. E.R.O., D/DCc P1: Map of Norton Mandeville 1740. There were 84 acres in the parish belonging to Forest Hall, High Ongar. The fields at Norton Heath were smaller than those farther west, and included some of strip shape, suggesting previous open field cultivation in this part of the parish.
  • 19. See High Ongar.
  • 20. Inf. from Herts. & Essex Waterworks Co.
  • 21. Inf. from Eastn. Elec. Bd.
  • 22. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1845 f.).