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 THEYDON BOIS was held by Hacun as a manor and as 3½ hides and 80 acres. In 1086 it was held in demesne by Peter de Valognes. An additional 2 hides and 1½ virgate, previously held by 7 freemen, had by 1086 also been acquired by Peter, who claimed to hold the property by exchange. He was also tenant in chief of ½ hide and 40 acres, which had formerly belonged to Ulwin. Peter had it in mortgage by the king's permission. It was held of him by Walter. (fn. 1) The tenancy in chief of these estates descended in the Valognes family like North Weald Basset (q.v.) until the death of Gunnore, whose second husband was Robert Fitz Walter. Fitz Walter, who died in December 1235, appears to have held part of the barony of Valognes, including Theydon Bois, in right of his wife, after her death. (fn. 2) He also outlived their daughter and heir Christine, widow of William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, and after his death Theydon Bois evidently passed to Christine, wife of Peter de Maule, one of the coheirs of Christine de Mandeville. (fn. 3) As the tenant in chief of the manor Christine de Maule was a party to its conveyance about 1288-97 to Waltham Abbey (see below).
In 1166 Osbert son of Ralph de Wetmere held 1 knight's fee in Theydon Bois of Geoffrey de Valognes, while William de Bosco held 1 fee of the new feoffment. (fn. 4) The subsequent history of the first of these fees has not been traced, but in 1235-6 a William de Bosco was holding in Theydon Bois what was variously described as 1 fee and as ½ fee. (fn. 5) The manor must have continued in the same family, for in 1248 Hugh de Bosco released his right in the advowson of Theydon Bois (see Church) and the manor was later in the possession of a Henry de Bosco, who died holding it. (fn. 6) Henry was succeeded by John, son of Peter de Tany, a nephew. John de Tany in or before 1289 enfeoffed Reynold, Abbot of Waltham, with the manor. (fn. 7) It was then agreed that Christine de Maule was to receive £5 from the abbey after the death or removal of each abbot, by way of compensation for the loss of the feudal incidents due to her as tenant in chief. This transaction was contrary to the Statute of Mortmain (1279). The parties evidently realized this after it had been concluded and took steps to secure the abbey's title. It had been provided by the statute that where land had been alienated to a religious house the tenant in chief, if he acted within a year, might occupy the property concerned. Christine de Maule therefore pleaded the statute and renounced the agreement with Waltham Abbey. She next enfeoffed Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham, and Richard de Cokham, Rector of Lambourne, Essex, with the manor of Theydon Bois. (fn. 8) In 1297 Bek, Cokham, and Peter de Tany all released their rights in the manor to the abbey, and the king confirmed their grants. (fn. 9) The account in the Waltham Abbey cartulary from which much of the above has been taken adds that Christine had excluded her son and heir William from the manor and assigned it to William's son Henry, but that in spite of this assignment Henry was never seised of any service from the manor, in whose time there were three abbots, Reynold, Robert, and John (elected 1302, died 1307). Henry assigned his right in the manor to Agnes de Valence, but this was void since he was not legally seised. (fn. 10) Some light is thrown on this statement by the history of the manor of Gregories (see below). The abbey certainly seems to have successfully resisted any claims by Henry de Maule or Agnes de Valence.
Meanwhile, in 1293, Henry, son of the previous owner Henry de Bosco, had arraigned an assize against Peter de Tany, alleging unlawful disseisin of the manor by Tany and others. (fn. 11) Tany's counsel stated that Henry was illegitimate, having been born while his father was in deacon's orders. The jurors found that Henry was indeed illegitimate but on the ground that his parents had not been married at the time of his birth. The title to the manor was again challenged in 1313 and on this occasion a charter of 1308 was produced whereby Lawrence de Theydon Bois acknowledged that he had released his right in the manor, which had been of Henry du Boys his father. (fn. 12)
Theydon Bois was retained by Waltham until the dissolution of the abbey in 1540. The manor thereupon passed to the Crown and in May 1540 was granted for life, together with other manors formerly belonging to the abbey, to Robert Fuller, the last abbot. (fn. 13) He died later in 1540, (fn. 14) and the manor was again vested in the Crown until July 1543, when it was granted for life to John Soda, the king's servant, presumably that John Soda whose will was proved in November 1551. (fn. 15) In his will, dated 1545, Soda described himself as born in Catalonia, but dwelling at that time in the City of London in the service of the Lady Mary, the king's daughter. In December 1551 Theydon Bois was granted to Sir Thomas Wroth, one of the four principal gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, for which he was to pay 36s. a year in respect of the knight service due from the manor and also £5 18s. 3½d. a year at the Court of Augmentations. (fn. 16)
Wroth died in 1573, leaving Theydon Bois to his son Robert, who held it until his death in 1606. His son, another Sir Robert, died in 1614. James, son of the last Sir Robert, was an infant at his father's death, and died in 1616. (fn. 17) In his will Sir Robert provided that Theydon Bois and other estates should be vested in his uncle, brother, and cousin, all named John Wroth, to be sold as they thought fit to pay off his large debts. (fn. 18) In 1616 the manor was accordingly conveyed to Edward Elrington, the owner of the impropriate rectory and the advowson. (fn. 19)
Elrington died in 1618. His heir was his son, another Edward. (fn. 20) An Edward Elrington was holding the manor in 1652 but by March 1657 John Smart and two others were being named as lords. (fn. 21) This confirms Morant's statement that Elrington sold the manor to John Smart about 1656. (fn. 22) In 1670 Smart bought out the fee farm rent of £5 18s. 3½d. reserved in the royal grant of 1551 for a payment of £115 6s. 9d. (fn. 23) What happened to the other rent of 36s. is not clear. Since it had been connected with the knight service due from the manor it may have lapsed with the abolition of feudal tenures.
There is no reference to Theydon Bois in John Smart's will, which was proved in 1679, (fn. 24) but the manor seems to have passed to his son John Smart who must have died shortly afterwards, for Benjamin Smart, brother of the younger John, in his will proved in 1684, stated that he and his other brother Joseph acquired the manor under the will of John Smart their brother. (fn. 25) Benjamin left his moiety to Joseph, who thus held the whole of the manor, apparently until his death in 1702. (fn. 26) Joseph's son and successor Benjamin was still lord of the manor in 1753. (fn. 27) In 1762 the lord of the manor was John Hopkins, who was dead by 1773, when his trustees Benjamin Bond and William Jacomb were named as lords. (fn. 28) The manor was held in 1783 by Elizabeth Bond, widow, and in 1789 by John Hopkins Dare, then an infant. (fn. 29)
J. H. Dare died in 1805, leaving his estate in trust for his mother Elizabeth, then wife of John Marmaduke Grafton, and his half-sister Elizabeth Grafton, who were to take the name and arms of Dare. Grafton did so in the same year and died in 1810. His widow died in 1823 and was succeeded by her daughter, the above Elizabeth, then wife of Robert Westley Hall. R. W. Hall took the name and arms of Dare and died in 1836, being survived for some years by his widow. Their son and successor, Robert Westley Hall Dare, in 1853 obtained a private Act of Parliament authorizing the sale of parts of his estate, in order that he might settle in Ireland, his wife's country. (fn. 30) Theydon Bois, however, remained in the family. R. W. H. Dare died in 1866 and was succeeded by his son Robert Westley Hall Dare who in 1901 sold Theydon Bois to Gerald Buxton. Buxton was succeeded on his death in 1928 by his son Lt.-Col. Edward North Buxton. (fn. 31) In 1850-1 the Hall Dare estate included 781 acres in Theydon Bois and 47 acres in Loughton. (fn. 32)
The Elrington family was settled at Birch Hall in Theydon Bois before they acquired the manor in 1616 (see above) and from that date Birch Hall was the manor house. In 1633 Edward Elrington sold Theydon Hall, which must previously have been the manor house, to Frances Muscott, by the name of the site of the manor of Theydon Bois. (fn. 33) This conveyance was accompanied by litigation, as Thomas Smith claimed that Elrington had concluded a bargain with him. (fn. 34) In 1644 Frances Muscott settled Theydon Hall upon her daughter Charity, wife of George Duncombe. (fn. 35) The estate was subsequently owned by George Meggott, certainly by 1680 when he claimed tithe from certain properties in the parish. (fn. 36) His son Robert Meggott married Anne daughter of Gervase Elwes. Their son John, born in 1714, was heir to his uncle Sir Hervey Elwes and took the name and arms of Elwes in 1751, succeeding to Sir Hervey's estates on his death in 1763. (fn. 37) Both Sir Hervey and John Elwes were notorious misers. John disposed in his will (dated 1786) of property worth about £500,000. He had inherited property in London about the Haymarket and built Portland Place, Portman Square, and much of Marylebone. He died in 1789 and was succeeded by his grand-nephew John Timms, who took the name and arms of Hervey-Elwes in 1793. (fn. 38) The descendants of John Hervey-Elwes owned Theydon Hall until 1919. (fn. 39) The property has since been broken up. The house is now owned by Mr. Gordon Norton and the farm-yard by Mr. Webster of Parsonage Farm. (fn. 40)
In 1850 the Theydon Hall estate consisted of 425 acres in Theydon Bois. (fn. 41) It also included 149 acres in Theydon Garnon when the tithes of that parish were commuted in 1840. (fn. 42) The owner of the estate also owned part of the tithes on his property. (fn. 43)
The front range of the present Theydon Hall was rebuilt or added during the last quarter of the 18th century. It consists of a main two-story block of yellow brick flanked by single-story wings. The round-headed doorway has fluted pilasters and a good semicircular lead fanlight. To the left of the doorway the frontage breaks forward to form a two-story bay. The marble fireplaces, cornices, and doorcases of the principal rooms have ornament of the Adam type. The style is reminiscent of the great building schemes which were being carried out in London at this period and this part of the house may well be the work of John Elwes. At the back is a timber-framed structure which is thought to be the earlier house. It appears to date from the second half of the 17th century. It is now derelict.
The former manor house of Birch Hall lay between Birch Hall Farm and the present mansion. By the end of the 18th century it had been demolished and in 1848 the site was known as 'Old House Ground'. (fn. 44) The present house is of red brick. It was built in 1892. (fn. 45) The two lodges and several of the cottages in Coppice Row appear to be of the same period.
The manor of GREGORIES occupied the northeast corner of the parish and probably took its name from Gregory son of Ralph who held ¼ knight's fee in Theydon of the barony of Valognes in 1235-6. (fn. 46) This Gregory may be identical with the Gregory de Theydon who was a verderer of the Forest of Essex in 1250. (fn. 47) The manor was originally known as that of Theydon Bois, without anything to distinguish it in name from the capital manor. On one occasion during the 15th century it was actually found necessary to show that the two manors were distinct. (fn. 48)
A document drawn up in a 15th-century lawsuit traces the history of the manor from Amy, wife of Henry Boys, who alienated a tenement and lands in Theydon Bois to her son Harry. He conveyed to Stephen Morice, who in turn conveyed to Gilbert son of Gregory de Theydon. (fn. 49) The difficulty in accepting this descent is that the property could not have been held by Gregory, from whom the manor was probably named. Perhaps, however, the tenement referred to in the 15th-century descent was added to an earlier holding which was already in the possession of Gregory in 1235-6. In 1591 an estate that was probably the manor of Gregories was said to be held of the manor of Theydon Bois by knight service. (fn. 50) This and the other evidence strongly suggests that Gregories was originally part of the capital manor of Theydon Bois.
A Gilbert de Theydon was holding lands in Essex in 1291 (fn. 51) and in 1299 the homage and service of Gilbert de Theydon from his tenement in Theydon Bois were conveyed with the manor of Hertingfordbury (Herts.) by Henry de Maule to Agnes de Valence. (fn. 52) This conveyance is probably that mentioned in the Waltham Abbey cartulary as being without legal force (see above). Gilbert de Theydon was dead by 1299. (fn. 53) His heir was his son Gilbert, then a minor. Agnes de Valence claimed the right of wardship and seized the estates of Gilbert. (fn. 54) Before January 1301, however, Walter de Huntyngfeld appears to have acquired the custody of the lands, and to have forfeited it to the king for his default before the justices of the Bench against Henry de Enefeld who vouched him to warranty against Rose, Gilbert's widow. (fn. 55) Agnes de Valence died in 1308. The inquisition taken after her death makes no mention of any rights in Theydon Bois. (fn. 56) Later in the Middle Ages Waltham Abbey appears to have been exercising rights of overlordship over Gregories. (fn. 57)
In 1323 Gilbert son of Gilbert de Theydon, for a consideration of 40 marks, conveyed to William de Clyf, clerk, the manor of Theydon Bois (i.e. Gregories) and 60 acres of land in Theydon Garnon and Epping Heath, of which property one-third was in reversion only, it being held by Thomas de Chetingdon of London and his wife Joan, in dower. (fn. 58) In 1324 there is the note of a final concord (which may not actually have been levied) by which William de Clyf conveyed the same property to Robert Spynay and his heirs. (fn. 59) In 1326 the property, apparently without any part then in reversion, was conveyed by Richard de Clyf to Alice Spynay, to hold for her life with successive remainders to her son William and his heirs, and then to James, his brother, and his heirs. (fn. 60)
In 1340 John de Goldingham and three others, presumably feoffees, conveyed the manors of Theydon Garnon (q.v.) and Theydon Bois (i.e. Gregories) to William Gernon and Isabel his wife, with remainder to their son Thomas and his heirs. The fine is endorsed with the claim of Gilbert, son and heir of Gilbert de Theydon. (fn. 61) From 1340 until the death of Elizabeth Hampden in 1538 the manor of Gregories descended along with that of Theydon Garnon.
By a fine levied in 1345 John Colepepir granted Gregories to Walter Colepepir for life with remainder to Thomas son of William Gernon, Lucy his wife, and Thomas's heirs. On this occasion Alice Spynay put in her claim. (fn. 62) It will be seen that this fine differed in detail from that concerning Theydon Garnon levied at the same time. In 1450-1 Simon Wythiale alleged that one Tylby, a clerk, had enfeoffed John Wythiale, citizen and goldsmith of London, and his heirs of the manor of Gregories and that Simon Wythiale his son, entering the property after his father's death, had been disseised by John Prince. Prince, however, won the case, the jury finding that Wythiale had not been so disseised. (fn. 63) About 20 years later John son of the above John Prince was defendant in a suit brought by William Floure, which was apparently an echo of the above. In 1472 Floure granted to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and two others the manor of Gregories, which he claimed to have held jointly with John Kilpek, also a goldsmith of London, by feoffment of Thomas Wythiale, another goldsmith. (fn. 64) Floure entered the lands and when Prince re-entered upon them brought an action against him and John Jenyn, the farmer of the manor. The evidence suggests that an attorney had delivered seisin of the manor to Thomas Averry by virtue of an alleged feoffment from Floure to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Averry, Thomas Wythiale, and another. Averry was a violent man and three times attacked Prince, once actually within Theydon Garnon church. Prince finally appealed to the mother of the Duke of Gloucester (who was also the mother of the king) and she wrote to the duke, whose men had participated in these assaults. It was then agreed that the matter should be submitted to arbitration. The details of the settlement have not been discovered, but they were clearly in Prince's favour. (fn. 65) It was during this dispute that the documents proving the separate identities of the manors of Theydon Bois and Theydon Bois alias Gregories and setting out the early descent of Gregories were drawn up.
On the division of Elizabeth Hampden's estate Gregories passed to Christopher Carleton in right of his wife Jane. He died in 1549 or 1550 and Jane later married Francis Michell. (fn. 66) In 1591 it was presented at the manor court of Theydon Bois that Jane Michell had died holding 200 acres of the manor by knight service. This was almost certainly Gregories. Her heir was found to be John Carleton, a son by her first husband. The jury added that part of the land, the exact quantity being unknown, had been conveyed to the use of Francis Michell. (fn. 67) In 1638 Gregories was held by George Carleton and was settled upon him and his wife Olive for their lives with remainder to Sir Ralph Freeman, who paid £1,000 to Alexander Carleton. (fn. 68) In May 1643 Freeman convenanted to stand seised of the manor of Gregories for life, with remainder to his youngest son George. George Carleton may have been dead by this time; he was certainly dead by April 1644, when his will was proved. (fn. 69) In 1649 the settlement of 1643 was revoked and the property, subject apparently to the life interest of Olive, now the wife of John Rivers, was sold to Fulk Wormlayton of Wapping (Mdx.) distiller, and William Hiccocks of Southwark, brewer, for £1,690. It was agreed between Wormlayton and Hiccocks that each should enjoy half the property with no right of survivorship and that within 30 days after the death of Olive Rivers the property should be divided between them according to the disposition of four arbitrators. It was further covenanted that neither party should attempt to buy out Olive's life interest. (fn. 70) In 1650 John and Olive Rivers leased to Wormlayton for Olive's life and for £240 certain rooms, including the hall, the great parlour with the larders or butteries adjoining, two cellars, and three chambers, part of the house called Gregories, with other buildings and about 200 acres at an annual rent of £60. In 1652, presumably on the death of Olive Rivers, the property was divided, Wormlayton taking the lands included in his lease and Hiccocks the remainder, together with the manorial rights.
Fulk Wormlayton was dead by 1676 and was succeeded by his son John (d. ante Sept. 1680) (fn. 71) and grandson of the same name who in 1727 sold the property to Jacob Houblon of Bobbingworth for £3,000. During the lives of the two John Wormlaytons mortgages were often raised on the property. In 1735 the property was settled upon the marriage of Jacob Houblon with Mary Cotton, becoming subsequently absorbed in the Coopersale estate in Theydon Garnon (q.v.). (fn. 72)
The other half of Gregories, including the manorial rights, descended from William Hiccocks (d. 1674) to his grandson of the same name. (fn. 73) In 1709 it was conveyed by a John Hiccocks to John Hyett, who died in 1719 leaving it to his grandson John, son of his deceased son Thomas. (fn. 74) In his will John Hyett the elder provided that the manor should be charged with an annuity for apprenticing poor boys. (fn. 75) The manor was still held by the Hyetts in 1759, when Elizabeth Hyett was party to a conveyance, but by 1777 it was apparently owned by the Crewe family. (fn. 76) In 1783 it was sold by John Crewe of Bolesworth Castle (Chesh.) to John Tysoe Read of London, banker, whose assigns sold it in 1785 to Daniel Giles of London. (fn. 77) Giles died in 1800 and was succeeded by his son, Daniel Giles of Youngsbury (Herts.). (fn. 78) In 1849 the manor was owned by Lady Louisa Giles Puller of Youngsbury. (fn. 79) It had presumably descended with the manor of North Weald (q.v.). In 1850 Lady Puller's estate consisted of 159 acres in Theydon Bois, then occupied by Thomas Mills. (fn. 80)
About 600 yds. east of the end of Gregories Lane is a rectangular moat which probably represents the site of the medieval manor house of Gregories. A field beyond the end of the lane was known in 1848 as 'Gregory's Garden'. (fn. 81) The present farm of Great Gregories was in existence in 1848 but the farm-house appears to have been rebuilt early in the 20th century. A farm in Gregories Lane was known in the 19th century as Little Gregories. (fn. 82)