Stondon Massey: Manor

Pages 242-245

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

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The early history of the manor of STONDON MASSEY has not been traced with certainty. Stondon is not mentioned in Domesday Book. It derived the suffix Massey from the family of Marcy and it has been suggested that in 1086 it formed part of the manor of Kelvedon Hatch (q.v.) then held by Ralph de Marcy. (fn. 1) That manor did perhaps include some land in Stondon, but the succession to Ralph's Navestock estate (q.v.), to which his Kelvedon Hatch estate probably became attached, suggests very strongly that the Marcys who became lords of Stondon were not his heirs. In the early 13th century the heir to this Navestock estate, in direct succession from Ralph (see Magdalen Laver), was another Ralph de Marcy; this last Ralph did not inherit Stondon.

The origins of the manor of Stondon are probably to be found not in Ralph de Marcy's estate in Kelvedon Hatch but in the manor held in 1086 by Serlo de Marcy in Margaret Roding. (fn. 2) This manor, which was held of Hamon dapifer as 1 hide and 15 acres was then worth £5. Serlo had a son Hamon living in 1131. (fn. 3) In the early 13th century, and probably by 1197, another Serlo de Marcy held the manor of Stondon as well as lands in Margaret Roding later known as Marks Hall. He had apparently succeeded a Hamon de Marcy. (fn. 4) The manor of Marks Hall constituted a chapelry dependent upon the rectory of Stondon Massey, to which it has continued to pay tithes until the present day. (fn. 5) It is thus probable that Stondon as well as Margaret Roding was held from the 11th century by the first Serlo de Marcy and his descendants.

In 1210-12 Serlo de Marcy held 1 1/3; knight's fee in Roding (i.e. Marks Hall). (fn. 6) He died before 1244 leaving as heirs his two sisters, Alice wife of John de Merk and Agnes, wife of Nicholas Spigurnel. In 1244 it was agreed between the sisters that Agnes and Nicholas and the heirs of Agnes should hold the manor of Stondon of Alice and John and the heirs of Alice. (fn. 7) In 1296 and 1308 it was reported that the manor was held of Ralph de Merk by knight service, the amount of which was said to be ¾ fee in 1296 and ½ fee in 1308. (fn. 8) In 1485 the tenure was said to be of the Duke of Bedford as of his hundred of Ongar, by 8d. rent for all services. (fn. 9)

Nicholas Spigurnel died before 1275 and was succeeded by his son Edmund. In 1275 an inquisition ad quod damnum was held relating to Edmund's proposed inclosure of his wood at Stondon. The verdict was that grave detriment would result from any inclosure of the great wood but none from inclosing a wood of 4 acres adjoining the manor house. (fn. 10) Edmund died in 1296 and was succeeded by his brother John who died in 1308. (fn. 11) John's epitaph, in Norman French, is said to have been visible in the parish church as late as 1768. (fn. 12) He was succeeded by his son Edmund who died in 1316 leaving as heir his infant daughter Joan, later wife of William Gobyon. (fn. 13) Joan and William were confirmed in their possession of the manor of Stondon in 1333. (fn. 14) She was still living in 1385 but by 1391 the lord of the manor was John Gobyon, perhaps her son. (fn. 15) John was still living in 1396 but was succeeded before July 1410 by William Gobyon. (fn. 16) By 1412, if not earlier, the manor had passed to Sir John Hende, who had been Mayor of London in 1391 and 1404. (fn. 17) He died in 1418 leaving two sons both named John, to the younger of whom he devised the manor of Stondon. (fn. 18) John Hende the younger died in 1464. (fn. 19) He had devised the manor, in default of his issue, to Joan daughter of his elder brother John and wife of Walter Wrytell, in tail, with remainder to Joan's mother Griselde, wife of John Hende the elder and daughter of Hamon Belknap, and Griselde's heirs. (fn. 20) Joan Wrytell died before her uncle John Hende and Stondon descended to John Wrytell her son, who died in 1485 leaving as his heir an infant son John. (fn. 21) In 1486 the king committed the custody of Stondon during John's minority to Sir Reynold Bray, Sir Edmund Shaa and John Shaa. (fn. 22) John Wrytell died in 1507 leaving an infant daughter and heir Juliana who died in 1509. (fn. 23) The manor then passed, according to the entail created by John Hende the younger, to Sir Edward Belknap son of Sir Henry Belknap (d. 1487) brother of Griselde Hende. (fn. 24) Sir Edward died in 1521 leaving as his heirs his four sisters. Stondon fell to the share of his sister Alice, wife of Sir William Shelley, a Justice of the Common Pleas. (fn. 25) Sir William died in 1548 having devised the manor to his eldest son John. (fn. 26) In 1550 John Shelley died leaving Stondon to his younger son William, then a minor. (fn. 27) About this time the manor may have been leased to Rainold Hollingsworth (d. 1573) whose brass is in the parish church. (fn. 28)

William, son of John Shelley, was an active Roman Catholic. He was imprisoned as a recusant in 1580 and spent most of the remainder of his life in confinement. Between 1580 and 1584 he was released several times on bail and during one of his periods of freedom he appears to have become implicated in the Throgmorton plot. (fn. 29) He was rearrested in 1584 for treason and in 1586 pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death. He was subsequently reprieved but his estates were declared forfeit and he remained in prison until 1596, when he was released in failing health, to die early in 1597. (fn. 30) He left no children and his heir was his nephew John Shelley. After William's death his widow Jane tried to obtain possession of Stondon Place, which was part of the estate and which she claimed as part of his marriage jointure. This tenement had been leased by William Shelley in 1582 to Lawrence and William Hollingsworth for 21 years. (fn. 31) In 1589 the Hollingsworths divided the property between them. Lawrence died soon after, leaving his share to his nephew John Hollingsworth, who sold it to William Hollingsworth, who thus became sole tenant under the Crown. William then mortgaged his lease to William Chambers and in 1593 he and Chambers assigned their interest in the property to William Byrd, the musician, for £300. Stondon Place then consisted of about 200 acres. Part of it had been sub-let to Dennis Lolly, whose lease expired in 1597. (fn. 32) In 1595 Byrd secured a Crown lease of the whole of Stondon Place for the lives of his three children successively. His position was remarkable: although a well-known recusant himself, he was willing to profit by the forfeiture of a fellow Roman Catholic and was allowed by the Crown to do so. (fn. 33)

Jane Shelley's attempt to regain her husband's property included an attempt to eject Byrd from Stondon Place. Her petition to Elizabeth I was unsuccessful but in 1603 James I issued letters patent securing her title to Stondon Place. (fn. 34) She then resumed her efforts to eject Byrd, but although she had been recognized by the Crown as the owner of the property his lease remained good and he remained at Stondon Place. (fn. 35) Meanwhile, in 1604, John Shelley had regained possession of the manor of Stondon, paying £11,000 to the Crown for this. Of that sum £1,000 went to Lord Howard of Effingham, who had been negotiating for the purchase of the manor, by way of compensation. Jane Shelley died in 1610 and shortly afterwards John Shelley sold his rights in Stondon Place to William Byrd, who continued to live there until his death in 1623. (fn. 36)

Stondon Place remained in the possession of the Byrds until about 1651 when it was bought by Thomas Coffin. From about 1638, however, they no longer lived there. In 1653 John Leech bought the property from Coffin and about 1655 Prosper Nicholas became the owner. (fn. 37) Nicholas died in 1689 and Stondon Place passed to his eldest daughter Martha, later wife of Dr. Josiah Woodward. Soon after 1700 she sold it to Richard How of Broxbourne (Herts.). (fn. 38)

John Shelley sold the manor of Stondon in about 1610 to Sir Nathaniel Rich. (fn. 39) He died in 1636 leaving Stondon to his nephew, also Nathaniel Rich. (fn. 40) He died in 1701 and was succeeded by his son Nathaniel, receiver-general of the Land Tax for Essex. (fn. 41) In 1706 an Act was passed enabling the latter to compound with the Lord Treasurer for the amount which he owed. (fn. 42) The manor of Stondon was then sold to Richard How, already the owner of Stondon Place. He rebuilt Stondon Place, which was henceforth the manor house. (fn. 43)

How died in 1708 and was succeeded in turn by his two sons Richard (d. 1723) and John (o.s.p. 1748). (fn. 44) John left Stondon to a distant relative, William Taylor of Much Hadham (Herts.). Taylor died in 1752 and was succeeded by his son William, who in accordance with John How's will assumed the additional surname of How. William Taylor-How (d. 1777) was succeeded in turn by his sisters Jane Taylor (d. 1793) and Ann. In 1816 Ann Taylor sold the manor, including Stondon Place, to Miss Joanna Hollingworth, an old friend. Shortly before this conveyance took place part of the Taylor estate had been detached. Cannon's Farm was sold to the Society of Friends and old Stondon Hall and its farm to the Revd. G. G. Stonestreet, later Prebendary of Lincoln. Miss Hollingworth died in 1829. During the last few years of her life she was joined at Stondon Place by Mrs. Ann Meyer, the widow of a wealthy Hamburg merchant who had been a cousin of Miss Hollingworth. After the death of Miss Hollingworth Mrs. Meyer bought the manor from the executors, the purchase money being divided under the terms of Miss Hollingworth's will among Mrs. Meyer's son and grandchildren. Mrs. Meyer died in 1841 leaving her estate to her grandson Philip Herman Meyer. P. H. Meyer enlarged the estate by the purchase of Chivers Farm (1842) and Gates (1848). In 1849 he owned land in the parish amounting to some 250 acres, (fn. 45) and in 1850 he further acquired Grove Farm, of 33 acres, which had belonged to the estate before 1814 and in 1838-42. He was not resident in the parish in 1849 but in 1857 he returned to live at Stondon Place. In 1861 he bought Stondon House and went to live there, letting Stondon Place to Capt. James Hastie. In 1866 Stondon House was burnt down; many manorial documents were destroyed with it. The house was rebuilt and Meyer died soon after, in 1870. The manor was held after his death by his widow, who in 1874 married Col. F. J. Baker. A manor court was held at Chivers in 1897, perhaps for the last time. Mrs. Baker was succeeded on her death in 1907 by her nephew H. J. Meyer. Before this, in 1904, Stondon Place and about 75 acres of land had been sold to Tyndale White, who had been the tenant from about 1885. (fn. 46) The house had been burnt down in 1877 and rebuilt a year or two later. White's house was thus the third of the name. H. J. Meyer was still stated to be lord of the manor in 1917 but by 1922 the manor had been acquired by Mr. A. S. Cochrane. (fn. 47) No substantial estate now (1954) remains attached to any of the former manor houses.

The oldest surviving manor house is Stondon Hall, which probably stands on the site of the original manor house. (fn. 48) It has for 250 years been merely a farm-house. The building is of two stories with tiled roofs, possibly built on an H-shaped plan but altered and seemingly partly rebuilt.

The principal (west) front has projecting gabled wings, the northern of which is partly timber-framed and retains some external plastering. This wing is probably the oldest part of the present building and may date from the 15th century. The projecting brick chimney on the north side was entirely built after bomb damage received during the Second World War. The southern wing dating from the early 17th century is of brick.

Internally there are beams, panelling, and doors of 16th- and 17th-century types and on the first floor in the north wing a plaster overmantel with twin roundarched recesses and surmounted by an entablature. The hall is now divided into two tenements. Behind it to the east are the remains of a moat now (1953) in course of being filled in.

The second manor house, Stondon Place, had originally been a farm-house but was rebuilt about 1707 (see above) and was the residence of the lord from then until 1861. This 18th-century house was completely destroyed by the fire of 1877. (fn. 49) A new building was erected on the same site a year or two later and this still survives. It is in Georgian style of two stories in red brick with round bays at each end of the main front. (fn. 50) It has a small lodge by the main entrance and extensive outbuildings. It is now untenanted and neglected and overgrown with creeper.

Stondon House, to which the lord of the manor moved in 1861, is said to have been built by Richard Jordan about 1740. (fn. 51) About 1824 it was leased by a Mr. and Mrs. Page for use as a girls' school. P. H. Meyer had lived there only five years when this house was burnt down. (fn. 52) It had been rebuilt by the time of Meyer's death in 1870. (fn. 53) The present house is a large building of brick with a slate roof and has extensive outbuildings. For some years after the Second World War it was empty and neglected but it is now occupied and is in good repair. (fn. 54)


  • 1. V.C.H. Essex, i, 503a and note 1.
  • 2. Ibid. 501a and b, note 4.
  • 3. Pipe R. 1130 (Rec. Com.), 54, 59.
  • 4. Feet of F. Essex, i, 10, 148; Red Bk. of Exch. (Rolls Ser.), 505; Pipe R. 1197 (Pipe R. Soc. n.s. viii), 74; Pipe R. 1201 (Pipe R. Soc. n.s. xiv), 70; Pipe R. 1202 (Pipe R. Soc. n.s. xv), 269; Pipe R. 1203 (Pipe R. Soc. n.s. xvi), 133.
  • 5. See below, Church.
  • 6. Red. Bk. of Exch. (Rolls Ser.), 505.
  • 7. Feet of F. Essex, i, 148. Cf. J. H. Round, 'Stondon Massey and its Chapelry', E.A.T. n.s. xv, 148-52. It was also agreed in 1244 that Alice and John de Merk should hold Serlo's land in Margaret Roding. It was from the Merks that Marks Hall took its name.
  • 8. Cal. Inq. p.m. iii, p. 197; ibid. v, p. 43.
  • 9. Cal. Inq. p.m. Hen. VII, i, pp. 61-62.
  • 10. C143/4/6.
  • 11. Cal. Inq. p.m. iii, p. 197; ibid. v, p. 43.
  • 12. Morant, Essex, i, 187.
  • 13. Cal. Inq. p.m. v, pp. 43, 278.
  • 14. Feet of F. Essex, iii, 28.
  • 15. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 545.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. Feud. Aids, vi, 445; A. B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, i, 81, 217.
  • 18. Morant, Essex, i, 188; Cal. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Com.), iv, p. 37.
  • 19. Cal. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Com.), iv, p. 323.
  • 20. Cal. Inq. p.m. Hen. VII, i, pp. 61-62.
  • 21. Ibid.
  • 22. Matls. Hist. Reign Hen. VII (Rolls Ser.), i, 474.
  • 23. C142/21/2; L. & P. Hen. VIII, i, p. 103.
  • 24. L. & P. Hen. VIII, i, p. 103.
  • 25. C142/36/69.
  • 26. Reeve, Stondon Massey, 31.
  • 27. C142/93/70.
  • 28. Reeve, Stondon Massey, 30; see below, Church.
  • 29. N. & Q. (10th ser.), iii, 441-3; Conyers Read, Sir Francis Walsingham, ii, 387.
  • 30. N. & Q. (10th ser.), iii, 441-3. He had lands at Michelgrove (in Clapham, Suss.) and jure uxoris in Herefordshire.
  • 31. Lawrence and William were cousins of Rainold Hollingsworth: Reeve, Stondon Massey, 30.
  • 32. E. H. Fellowes, William Byrd, 20.
  • 33. E. H. Fellowes, William Byrd, 20; and cf. 38-48.
  • 34. Ibid. 23.
  • 35. Ibid. 23, 30.
  • 36. Ibid. 23.
  • 37. Ibid. 33; Reeve, Stondon Massey, 41-42, 163.
  • 38. Reeve, op. cit., 42-43.
  • 39. Ibid. 36. See above, Worthies.
  • 40. Ibid.
  • 41. Morant, Essex, i, 188.
  • 42. C.J. xv, 357.
  • 43. Reeve, op. cit.
  • 44. The following descent is from Reeve, op. cit. 43-53, 151-3.
  • 45. E.R.O., D/CT 337.
  • 46. E.R.O., Sale Cat. 1923; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1886).
  • 47. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1917, 1922).
  • 48. For a photograph of the house c. 1900 see Reeve, Stondon Massey, 38.
  • 49. Reeve, Stondon Massey, 52.
  • 50. Ibid. It was evidently rebuilt on the pattern of the previous house: Reeve, Stondon Massey, 171-2.
  • 51. Ibid. 45.
  • 52. Ibid. 51.
  • 53. Ibid.
  • 54. Inf. from occupant.