Chigwell: Other occupations

Pages 23-24

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.



From medieval times men with interests in London have made their country homes in Chigwell, (fn. 1) and the indigenous population, when not engaged in agriculture, has been largely occupied in catering for their needs, either in goods or services. In the second half of the 17th century four cordwainers, a butcher, a weaver, a mason, a carpenter, and a brickmaker are named in various records. (fn. 2) They are typical of the tradesmen generally until late in the 19th century. In 1848, in addition to the usual shopkeepers, there were a pianoforte maker (at Chigwell Row), a violin-bridge maker (at Chigwell), and a brewer. (fn. 3) A map of 1858 shows 'Hainault Brewery' in the position of the present Forest Cottages, near the 'Maypole' at Chigwell Row, (fn. 4) but it seems to have closed soon after. (fn. 5)

In 1851 there were 1,294 persons over 14 years of age in the parish, of whom 438 were engaged in agriculture, 320 were domestic servants or gardeners, 221 were professional business people or gentry, 155 local tradesmen, 60 were engaged in the building trades, 35 were licensed victuallers or their servants, 19 were police, forest keepers, or other officials, 11 carriers, 8 were still at school, and 27 unemployed paupers. One house, Rolls, had 15 servants, another 10, and 5 houses had 6 or 7. (fn. 6)

There is evidence of brickmaking from the 17th century onwards. In 1668 Sir Eliab Harvey of Rolls was granted a royal licence to inclose land near his house to make bricks. (fn. 7) A brickworks at Luxborough has operated intermittently for nearly a century, and bricks have been made at the lower end of Buckhurst Hill since 1870. (fn. 8) Much of the output of these works was used for local building. Both works have been owned in recent times by Messrs. W. and C. French Ltd. of Buckhurst Hill, a business which was started by Mrs. Elizabeth French in the 1860's, with a fleet of carts largely occupied in supplying gravel to parish authorities for roads. From this beginning it has risen to be one of the largest public works contractors in the world. The head office is still at Buckhurst Hill. (fn. 9)

From 1800 until 1843 a watch-making business was carried on at Marchings in Gravel Lane by John Roger Arnold. (fn. 10) He was the son of John Arnold (1736?-99), a noted watchmaker who made a number of improvements in the design of chronometers. (fn. 11) J. R. Arnold was associated with Dent and Arnold of the Strand, London, and in 1821 patented, from Chigwell, an improved expansion balance for chronometers. (fn. 12) His foreman, Thomas Prest (d. 1852), started business on his own account at Chigwell Row in 1821. (fn. 13) He patented in 1820 the attached winding movement of watches, as opposed to the detached key. (fn. 14) His business was continued by his son Thomas Prest (d. 1877). (fn. 15)

In recent years planning authorities have not considered the parish suitable for industrial development, except for a small area in lower Buckhurst Hill. (fn. 16) Local employment has therefore been mainly confined to agriculture, the distributive trades, and catering for visitors to Epping and Hainault Forests. (fn. 17)

A hiring fair was being held at Chigwell on 30 September each year in the period 1792 to about 1860. It had ceased before 1888. (fn. 18)

The best-known inn at Chigwell, the 'King's Head', has been mentioned above (see p. 20). The present 'Maypole' at Chigwell Row was built in front of an earlier house. (fn. 19) There has been an inn there at least since 1770, and the old house, now demolished, can be traced back to 1505. (fn. 20) In 1843 the 'Maypole' served over 2,000 customers from Fairlop Fair after the magistrates had refused permission for refreshments to be sold in the neighbourhood of the fair. (fn. 21) At Buckhurst Hill the 'Roebuck' now stands slightly south of its former site, where it stood at least since 1770. (fn. 22) It was popular in the late 19th century as a resort of Londoners visiting Epping Forest. The 'Bald Faced Stag' has been traced by name back to 1752. (fn. 23) It was probably the house of Richard Dennis who in 1720 described himself as a victualler. (fn. 24) The 'Bald Hind' at Grange Hill was known in 1770 as the 'Bald Faced Hind'. (fn. 25) The 'Jolly Wheelers' near Woodford Bridge first appears by name in 1778. (fn. 26)


  • 1. Court Rolls: E.R.O., D/DDa M 1-13, D/DEs M80-109, D/DU 97/1-9; Wills and other records.
  • 2. Abstracts of records in possession of the author.
  • 3. White's Dir. Essex (1848).
  • 4. E.R.O., D/DLo P5.
  • 5. No brewer is mentioned in Kelly's Dir. Essex (1859).
  • 6. H.O. 107/1770, 195/1. Wives and children over 14 have been included under their husbands' or fathers' occupation unless stated to have been otherwise employed.
  • 7. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1667-8, 72.
  • 8. E.R.O., D/P 166/11/34-51; Kelly's Dirs Essex, passim; personal knowledge.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. E.R.O., D/DEs M81; Par. Reg.; personal knowledge.
  • 11. D.N.B.
  • 12. Pigot's Dir. London, (1817-32); E.R. lvi, 79.
  • 13. E.R.O., D/DEs M81.
  • 14. E.R. lvi, 78; M.I. in Chigwell churchyard.
  • 15. M.I. in Chigwell churchyard.
  • 16. W. Essex Reg. Planning Schm. 1933, p. 105.
  • 17. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1879-1933); personal knowledge.
  • 18. Rep. Com. Mkt. Rts. [C. 5550], p. 161, H.C. (1888), liii; White's Dir. Essex (1848); Kelly's Dir. Essex (1859).
  • 19. E.R.O., D/CT 78.
  • 20. E.R.O., D/DEs M95; Q/RLv 25.
  • 21. Dickensian, xv, 147.
  • 22. E.R.O., Q/RLv 25; D/CT 78.
  • 23. Authentick Tryals of John Swan and Elizabeth Jeffryes. They were hanged for murder near this house.
  • 24. Archd. Essex, 89 Goates.
  • 25. E.R.O., Q/RLv 25.
  • 26. Ibid.