A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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In 1066 SHELLEY was held by Levedai as a manor and as 80 acres and was worth 60s. (fn. 1) In 1086 it was held by Rainald of Geoffrey de Mandeville and was worth £4. (fn. 2) The manor was subsequently held of the Earls of Essex, the heirs of Geoffrey de Mandeville, by the service of one fee, until the death of Humphrey, Earl of Essex, in 1373. (fn. 3) It was then assigned in dower to Joan, widow of Humphrey. (fn. 4) She died in 1419. (fn. 5) Afterwards the manor was held in chief of Henry V whose mother Mary (d. 1394) was a daughter and coheir of Earl Humphrey. (fn. 6) Thereafter the manor continued to be held in chief of the Crown.
The tenant Rainald devised the manor to his daughter Aubrey who in 1134 was the widow of Eustace de Sellea and whose son and heir was Eustace. (fn. 7) In 1182 William de Selflege, son of Emma, died in possession of Shelley and some other manors. (fn. 8) His inheritance was divided between his two daughters. (fn. 9) Shelley was allotted to his elder daughter Amy, wife of Oger Fitz Oger. (fn. 10) Her heir was her son Peter Fitz Oger from whom the manor descended to his daughter Emma and afterwards to his granddaughter Joan de Saunford, daughter of Emma and wife of Waleran de Monceaux. (fn. 11) On Joan's death without issue in 1278 there were two claimants to Shelley. (fn. 12) One was Aveline, wife of Roger de Lees and daughter of Geoffrey de Cruce, son of Mirabel, sister of Peter Fitz Oger. (fn. 13) The other was Sir William de Clovile, the origin of whose claim is not clear but who apparently had some connexion with a sister of one of the family, probably another sister of Peter Fitz Oger. (fn. 14) Whatever the basis of his claim, Sir William evidently expected difficulty in establishing his right to Joan's lands. In 1280 he agreed to enfeoff Queen Eleanor, the king's consort, of all the lands of Joan de Saunford to which he could establish his claim, saving for himself and his heirs Joan's lands in Suffolk. (fn. 15) In 1281 William seems to have established his claim to the lands and Queen Eleanor was presumably enfeoffed with them, according to the agreement, for a consideration of 250 marks. (fn. 16) Eleanor may in her turn have disposed of her right to these lands to the king's brother Edmund, for in 1286 Edmund acknowledged the manor of Shelley to be the right of Alan Waldesef and Aveline his wife to hold to them and their joint issue with remainder to the right heirs of Aveline. (fn. 17) Aveline wife of Roger de Lees seems to have married Alan Waldesef as her second husband but to have had no issue by him, for on her death in 1299 John de Legh was named as her son and heir. (fn. 18) In 1302 John de Legh was recorded as holding 2 fees in Shelley and Frinton. (fn. 19) In 1349 this or another John de Legh evidently held the manor of Shelley. (fn. 20) In 1374 Thomas de Legh was reported as holding 2 fees in Shelley worth £10. (fn. 21) In 1422 John de Legh died in possession of the manor of Shelley. (fn. 22) He was succeeded by his son Thomas who died in 1439 leaving as his heir an infant son Thomas. (fn. 23) In 1509 Thomas Legh died, (fn. 24) having settled the manor on his son Henry and Margaret, wife of Henry, with remainder to Giles, son of Henry and Margaret. (fn. 25) Henry had died in 1494 and Giles de Legh therefore succeeded to the manor in 1509. (fn. 26) In 1538 Giles conveyed the estate to Sir Richard Rich, afterwards 1st Baron Rich. (fn. 27) Rich died in 1567 leaving as his heir Robert, 2nd Baron Rich, who settled Shelley on his eldest son Richard when Richard married Katherine Knevett. (fn. 28) Richard died, without issue, before his father who was succeeded on his death in 1581 by his second son Robert, 3rd Baron Rich. (fn. 29) In 1582 Lord Rich conveyed the manor of Shelley to John and Thomas Green and William Stane. (fn. 30) John Green died in 1595 and was succeeded as lord of Shelley by his sixth son Robert Green. (fn. 31) Robert died in 1624 and was succeeded by his son John. (fn. 32) The Green family still held the estate at the end of the 17th century. Hadsley Green died in 1699 leaving a son John who died in infancy. (fn. 33) The manor was then divided between the two daughters of Hadsley Green, Sarah and Mary. (fn. 34) In 1715 in anticipation of the marriage of Mary Green to Andrew Trebeck, later the first Rector of St. George's, Hanover Square (Mdx.), (fn. 35) it was agreed that the half of the manor which Mary inherited from her brother should be put in trust for Andrew Trebeck during his life and, after his own and Mary's death, for their eldest son and his male heirs. (fn. 36) The marriage settlement also provided that Andrew Trebeck should increase the estate by the purchase of lands to the value of £800. (fn. 37) Andrew Trebeck died in 1759. (fn. 38) Mary survived until at least 1769. (fn. 39) By the end of 1764 James Trebeck, son and heir of Mary and Andrew, had secured possession of the half of the manor inherited by his aunt Sarah subject to the payment of an annuity of £30 to her for life and to the payment of £375 on her death to Bernard Baker, who may have been her grandson. (fn. 40) In November 1764 James Trebeck mortgaged his interest in the manor to Mary Grosvenor for £600. (fn. 41) In 1771 he mortgaged the manor to Samuel Evans for £600 and within the next eighteen months he borrowed further sums from Evans, making the total debt in January 1773 £3,000. (fn. 42) In the years 1762-4, when James Trebeck lived in the parish of St. George, Hanover Square, part of Shelley manor house was let to John Brecknock; the other part of the house was let with the manor farm to Robert Tabrum. (fn. 43) In 1768 Trebeck was appointed Rector of St. Michael's, Queenhithe (Lond.). (fn. 44) He must have sold his Shelley estate soon after the period of heavy mortgaging, for by May 1780 it was owned by Thomas Richards. (fn. 45) In 1790 Richards was succeeded by Edward Kimpton, Vicar of Rogate (Suss.), who was apparently his nephew. (fn. 46) In November 1799 it was reported that the lord of the manor was Harvey Kimpton who was apparently the son of Edward Kimpton. (fn. 47) Harvey Kimpton held the estate until his death in 1817. (fn. 48) Elizabeth Kimpton, probably the widow or daughter of Harvey, then held the estate until 1819-20 when it was purchased by James Tomlinson, a London solicitor. (fn. 49) In 1839 the manor farm consisted of 168 acres of which 138 acres were arable. (fn. 50) The Tomlinson family held the manor until 1902 or soon after. (fn. 51) In 1899 the estate was put up for sale by auction. (fn. 52) At that time there were three copyhold tenants who paid rents totalling £1 3s. 6d. a year and two freeholders who paid a total of 5s. 2d. a year in rents. (fn. 53) At the time of the auction most of the land belonging to the estate was let to John Harvey who did not, however, occupy Shelley Hall. (fn. 54) The estate was apparently not sold in 1899 but by 1906 it had come into the ownership of W. A. Fleming who held it until after 1914. (fn. 55) By 1922 it belonged to James Kerr who is still (1953) the owner. (fn. 56)
Shelley Hall, a timber-framed structure, has been remodelled at various times. The oldest part is at the south end where there was originally a 15th-century hall of two bays, open to the roof. The hall has subsequently been divided and two ceilings inserted so that the only evidence of its existence is in the roof space. Here the original roof timbers, blackened by smoke from an open hearth, still remain and the two bays are divided by a 15th-century truss. The square king-post has a moulded cap and four-way struts. The hall may originally have been flanked by two cross-wings but if so the one on the south side has disappeared, the south wall at this end of the house being of more recent construction; the wing on the north side, probably the service wing, survives in a somewhat altered form. The present dining-room fireplace with other blocked fireplaces adjacent to it may represent the base of the medieval kitchen chimney.
Late in the 16th century the house was remodelled, almost certainly by John Green who acquired the property in 1582 and had a very large family. (fn. 57) The open hall was divided into two stories each of which was divided into two or more rooms. The plastered walls of one of the upper rooms were painted with the black and white stencilled decoration of the period. Later still a lower ceiling was inserted above the first floor, so that the paintings have disappeared in the room itself (now the first floor landing) but are still visible in the loft above. They consist of running designs on the timber studs with panels of a conventionalized flowers on the plaster between. (fn. 58) One panel shows a large bird, probably a cock. (fn. 59)
Also in the late 16th century the north wing was altered, the roof being reconstructed to give a gabled attic, and a second wing, of approximately the same size, was built beyond it. This second wing has a large external chimney. The doorway beside the chimney, now the back door of the house, has a four-centred oak lintel carved with the date 1587. The other feature of this period is the carved oak chimney-piece in the staircase hall. As there is no chimney connected with it, the assumption is that it has been moved from elsewhere, probably from some other position in the house. (fn. 60) The overmantel has pairs of round-headed arches flanking a central panel and the whole is enriched with arabesque and jewel ornament.
The present dining-room was fitted with panelling during the first half of the 18th century. There is a splayed bay window on the east side and the opposite wall has been splayed also to give an eight-sided room.
A writer of about 1770 evidently did not consider that Shelley Hall was 'a good house'. (fn. 61) Considerable alterations took place in the first half of the 19th century; the staircase and many of the windows appear to be of this date. In about 1835 the Hall was described as 'now a handsome residence of moderate size . . . retaining very little appearance of antiquity'. (fn. 62) In 1869 it was encased in gault brick with red-brick dressings (fn. 63) and the porch was added. (fn. 64) The two red-brick additions to the west date from 1933. (fn. 65)
Among the farm buildings is a three-bay open shed, probably of the 18th century, with its hipped tiled roof terminating in a dove-cote.