Stanford Rivers: Introduction

Pages 208-210

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

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Stanford Rivers is a large parish whose north-east boundary is ½ mile south-west of Chipping Ongar. (fn. 1) The soil is Boulder Clay and London Clay with small patches of gravel. The part of the parish to the north of the stream which flows into the Roding at Wash Bridge, and which includes Toot Hill and Ongar Park Wood, may originally have been part of the parish of High Ongar, and may have become part of Stanford Rivers about 1280. (fn. 2) Like many other parishes in this area Stanford Rivers is made up mainly of scattered farms and cottages. There are two hamlets, one in the east and the other in the north-west, both some distance from the parish church. The population density never seems to have been unusual for the area, although until the 19th century the population was larger than that of High Ongar, a parish adjacent and of similar area. (fn. 3) Population in 1801 numbered 740. It rose to a peak of 1,082 in 1851 and then gradually declined. In 1951 it was 802. (fn. 4) There has been a slight increase since 1911, due to council housing and private building after the break-up of the Bishops Hall estate.

The land in the parish varies in height from about 100 ft. above sea-level in the south to over 300 ft. at Toot Hill in the north-west. The River Roding forms the eastern and southern boundaries of the parish. A stream flows east across the north of the parish to join the Roding at Wash Bridge. Several smaller streams join the river farther south. Ongar Park Wood, in the north-west, is a mile long and ¼ mile wide. A mile south of this is Knightsland Wood, and farther southeast are Twentyacre Wood and Tenacre Wood. The main road from Chipping Ongar to London passes south-west through the parish. Lying along this road, at a distance of 2 miles from Chipping Ongar, is the hamlet of Little End. There have been houses here at least since 1777. (fn. 5) A recent group of council houses has been built here. The factory of Piggott Bros. & Co., tent and tarpaulin makers, is on the east side of the main road at Little End. (fn. 6) Opposite the factory is the site of the former Congregational church, and also the present rectory. Stanford House, which lies near the factory to the south, is of 18th-century date possibly with an older core. It has brick walls, to which imitation half-timbering has been applied recently. It was the home of Isaac Taylor (see below). A mile northeast of Little End is Littlebury (see below). Wash Farm, at Wash Bridge, is the name given on modern maps to Bridge Farm, alias Bridge House Farm (see below, Bridges and Piggsland). The part of the main road to the south-west of Little End has been known since at least the 17th century as Hare Street. (fn. 7)

The main road is joined at Little End by a road running north-west to Toot Hill. Stanford Hall (see below) and the church lie beside this road ½ mile from Little End. The old rectory is ½ mile south-west of the church. The school, and Steward's Farm, are on the road between the church and Toot Hill.

Toot Hill is now the main centre of population. Does Farm here is of late 16th-century origin, faced with brickwork in the 19th century. It has a cruciform chimney-stack with five polygonal shafts. A cottage on the north side of the road about ¼ mile east of Does was part of a larger building at one time divided into three tenements. (fn. 8) The east end, including a central chimney, was destroyed by fire within the last 20 years. It is of the 15th or early 16th century and is of timber construction, plastered and weather-boarded. Also at Toot Hill is a small cottage with one gabled cross-wing which may be of the 16th century or earlier. On both sides of the 'Green Man' at Toot Hill is a layout of 16 post-1945 council houses.

In the extreme south of the parish the main road is joined by a road which leads to Navestock and crosses the Roding by Shonks Mill Bridge. Half a mile northwest of the bridge is Lawns Farm. The house is of late 16th- or early-17th-century date, much restored. It is timber-framed and plastered and has a tiled roof. The front is flanked by two gables oversailing at firstfloor level. North of Lawns is Wayletts, another timber-framed and plastered house, probably of the 17th century. Traceys Farm (see below) is ½ mile north-west of Wayletts. Murrells is on the north-west side of the main road, to the north-east of Traceys. It also is timber-framed and plastered. The front has been entirely rebuilt after receiving severe damage from a flying bomb in 1944. The house probably dates from the 16th century, but may have incorporated parts of an even older house. (fn. 9) Berwick Farm (see below, Barwicks) is in the west of the parish near Twentyacre Wood. The site of Bellhouse (see below), once the main manor house of the parish, is a mile east of Berwick.

The railway from Epping to Chipping Ongar passes through the north of the parish. North Weald station is just inside Stanford Rivers in the north-west, and Blake Hall station similarly in the north.

There are frequent references to the condition of bridges in Stanford Rivers. In 1566 Stewards Bridge, with land on both sides belonging to a Mr. Steward, was in need of repair. (fn. 10) This may have been the bridge described later as Hawkes or Hackes Bridge and as Hallyngford. (fn. 11) Stewards Bridge was frequently presented in the manor court during the reign of Elizabeth I as needing repair. (fn. 12) The great bridge between Stanford Rivers and Navestock, Shonks Mill Bridge, is treated under Navestock (q.v.). Wash Bridge was taken over by the county in 1830. (fn. 13) In 1858 it was described in detail by the county surveyor. (fn. 14)

The coach and carriers from Chipping Ongar were calling at Stanford Rivers in 1848 and 1863. (fn. 15)

The railway stations at North Weald and Blake Hall were probably opened as soon as the line to Chipping Ongar was completed in 1865. There was a coal merchant's wharf at Blake Hall Station in 1869. (fn. 16)

Stanford Rivers had a postal receiving house in 1793. (fn. 17) It was on the daily horse ride shown on the post-office map of 1813. (fn. 18) In 1848 the post-office was at the 'White Bear'. (fn. 19) By 1896 there was a sorting office. (fn. 20) Toot Hill had a sub-post-office in 1863. (fn. 21) There was a telephone service at Stanford Rivers by 1926. (fn. 22)

There was a resident police constable at Stanford Rivers from 1906. (fn. 23) Two new police houses were built at Hare Street in 1954.

Water was supplied to parts of the parish in 1949 by the Herts. and Essex Waterworks Co. (fn. 24) There is sewerage in part of Stanford Rivers. (fn. 25) Electricity was laid on in part of the parish in January 1951. (fn. 26) There is no local supply of gas, but the parish is traversed by an untapped trunk main. (fn. 27)

There is a village hall at Hare Street and a parish room at Toot Hill, both dating from 1921. (fn. 28) A branch of the county library was opened in April 1927. (fn. 29)

In 1086 the main manor of Stanford was a large and important estate containing a total of 20 ploughteams. (fn. 30) Little Stanford contained 1 plough-team. (fn. 31) There was another ½ plough-team on the estate formerly held by a freeman. (fn. 32) At the time of Domesday 5½ plough-teams were employed on the demesne, but the number had dropped steadily since 1066. There was estimated to be woodland sufficient to feed a total of 520 swine. This suggests that Stanford was less densely wooded than Chipping Ongar (q.v.) immediately to the north. From the 11th century until the 16th the lords of the capital manor never seem to have been resident. This, and the size of the parish, explain why so many subordinate estates grew up. Even after the Petres had settled at Bellhouse there does not seem to have been a large demesne farm. Their estate was mostly let out to tenants farming 100-300 acres. (fn. 33) In 1842 there were 17 farms in the parish with 90 acres or more. (fn. 34) The largest, of 703 acres, was a comparatively new creation, of which the nucleus was Stanford Hall farm. (fn. 35) The others were between 90 and 320 acres. There were also a number of smaller holdings. There were 400 acres of woodland (mostly in Ongar Park Wood). The remainder of the parish contained cultivated arable and grassland in roughly equal quantities. A field of 13 acres near Stanford Hall to the west was named Hop Gardens; but it was then being used for pasture. (fn. 36)

There is little to show how and when inclosure took place in the parish. In 1579 Bartholomew Combers, blacksmith of Stanford Rivers, was granted permission by the queen, as lord of the manor, to build a cottage and forge on a piece of waste ground in the manor called Bridges Green. (fn. 37) The Tithe Map (1842) shows traces of former open meadow: strips or 'pieces' in Hollingford Mead, running down to the Roding, in the south-east of the parish. (fn. 38)

In 1086 there was a mill in the main manor of Stanford. (fn. 39) There was one at Littlebury in 1260. (fn. 40) Its tithes were granted about that time to Thoby Priory. (fn. 41) In 1701 there was a water-mill at Littlebury. (fn. 42) The present Littlebury Mill appears to be of early-19th-century date. It is weather-boarded on a brick base. In 1946 it changed over from water to electric power, and in 1952 the mill-stream was filled in, so that the water now follows the original course of the Roding. (fn. 43) In 1777 there was a windmill between Littlebury Hall and the main road. (fn. 44) This is shown on the Tithe Map but it may not then have been in operation. (fn. 45) The former Shonks Mill is treated under Navestock (q.v.). The map of 1777 shows this watermill beside Shonks Bridge, and also a windmill a little to the west. (fn. 46) This windmill, like that at Littlebury, is marked on the Tithe Map, but had disappeared 30 years later. (fn. 47) There was also a windmill at Toot Hill in the 19th century. It was built about 1824. (fn. 48) In 1829 it was badly damaged by lightning and the miller was seriously injured. A lithograph drawing of the mill, showing him gazing at the damage, was sold for the benefit of him and his family. (fn. 49) The mill was soon working again and continued to operate until about 1900. It was finally demolished in 1935. (fn. 50) It was a wooden post-mill turned by hand. The four brick piers which formerly supported the cross-trees at the base of the mill can still be seen on the site. The single-story weather-boarded mill cottage, probably built about 1824, still exists. The mill stood on the north side of the road leading to Greenstead Green.

Spinning was carried on in the parish workhouse from 1770 to about 1800. (fn. 51) The brick and tile works to the south of North Weald station existed in 1871-3. (fn. 52) A transmitting station of the Marconi Wireless Telegraphy Co. operated in the parish in about 1926-9. (fn. 53) The factory of Piggott Bros. & Co., tent and tarpaulin makers at Little End, was formerly the Ongar Union workhouse. It was converted to its present use after the union was dissolved in 1930. The central range of brown gault brick has three stories and a basement, also a splayed projecting bay at the back. It was built in about 1830-1 as the workhouse of the voluntary poor law union which preceded the Ongar Union. The side wings, in a slightly pinker brick, were added a few years later (see plate facing p. 233).

Most of the eminent men who have been connected with Stanford Rivers were rectors of the parish; these are mentioned below (see Church). Isaac Taylor (1787-1865) artist, author, and inventor, is usually known as Isaac Taylor of Stanford Rivers. He was the son of Isaac Taylor of Ongar (1759-1829). (fn. 54) He settled at Stanford House in 1825 and lived there for the rest of his life. (fn. 55)


  • 1. O.S. 2½ in. Map, sheet 52/50. Total area 4,413 acres.
  • 2. See below, Church, and High Ongar, Church.
  • 3. See below, pp. 300 f. For the Domesday population see V.C.H. Essex, i, 466b, 467a. For some comparisons see High Ongar.
  • 4. Inf. from Essex County Council; V.C.H. Essex, ii, 350; Census Reps. 1911 f.
  • 5. Chapman and André, Map of Essex, 1777, sheet xvii.
  • 6. See below, and also Parish Govt. and Poor Relief.
  • 7. P.N. Essex (E.P.N.S.), 78.
  • 8. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 222.
  • 9. Cf. Morant, Essex, i, 154.
  • 10. E.R.O., Q/SR 20/6. This bridge was probably near Steward's Farm.
  • 11. See Navestock, p. 142.
  • 12. E.R.O., D/DP M1127.
  • 13. E.R.O., Q/ABz 1.
  • 14. E.R.O., Q/ABz 3.
  • 15. White's Dir. Essex (1848), 437; ibid. (1863), 744.
  • 16. E.R.O., D/P 140/5.
  • 17. Cary's English Atlas, 1793.
  • 18. See Chipping Ongar, p. 158.
  • 19. White's Dir. Essex (1848), 436.
  • 20. P.M.G. Minutes 1896, vol. 573, min. 1191.
  • 21. Ibid. 1863, vol. 25, min. 274.
  • 22. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1926).
  • 23. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1906, 1933).
  • 24. Inf. from Herts. & Essex Waterworks Co.
  • 25. Inf. from the rector, the Revd. J. H. Ward.
  • 26. Inf. from East. Elec. Bd.
  • 27. Inf. from East. Gas Bd.
  • 28. Inf. from the rector.
  • 29. Inf. from the County Librarian.
  • 30. V.C.H. Essex, i, 466b.
  • 31. Ibid. 467a.
  • 32. Ibid. 466b. For the Domesday tenants and their predecessors see below, Manor.
  • 33. See various manors, below.
  • 34. Morant, Essex, i, 50.
  • 35. E150/303/7.
  • 36. CP25(2)/262, East. 36 Eliz.
  • 37. E.R.O., D/DP T167/1.
  • 38. W. A. Shaw, Knights of England, ii,156.
  • 39. E.R.O., D/DP M1 126-30.
  • 40. E.R.O., D/DP A33/1.
  • 41. Ibid. D/CT 327.
  • 42. Inf. from the present tenant of Berwick Farm.
  • 43. Cal. Close, 1447-54, 483.
  • 44. C141/7; Cal. Inq. p.m. Hen. VII, i, p. 38. A Philip Malpas of the parish of St. Andrew, Cornhill, died in 1469: P.C.C. Wills 1383-1558 (Brit. Rec. Soc.), ii, 551.
  • 45. Ibid.
  • 46. See below, Church. For Grene see also Stanford Hall, above. He probably acted as bailiff of the manor of Stanford Rivers.
  • 47. P.C.C. Wills 1383-1558, i, 237.
  • 48. CP40/1203 m. 680.
  • 49. CP25(2)/262, East. 36 Eliz.
  • 50. E.R.O., D/DP A33/1-3.
  • 51. Chapman and Andre, Map of Essex, 1777, sheet xvii.
  • 52. E.R.O., D/DSd F3.
  • 53. E.R.O., D/CT 327.
  • 54. Ibid.
  • 55. P.N. Essex (E.P.N.S.), 78. manor.