Theydon Garnon: Introduction

Pages 258-262

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.



Theydon Garnon adjoins Epping to the east. (fn. 1) The ancient parish boundary was a little to the east of Epping High Street, so that Theydon Garnon formerly included much of the town. (fn. 2) In 1840 the area of the parish was 3,161 acres. (fn. 3) In 1896 the part of Theydon Garnon lying within the Epping Special Drainage Area was included in the newly formed Epping Urban District. (fn. 4) The area affected comprised about 770 acres in the north-west of the parish, containing about threequarters of the population. This reduced Theydon Garnon to a completely rural parish. There were further transfers of small areas from Theydon Garnon to Epping Urban District in 1934 (fn. 5) and to Epping Upland in 1946. (fn. 6) In 1948 it was proposed by the county council that Theydon Garnon should be abolished as a civil parish by adding the part north of the railway to North Weald and incorporating the rest in Theydon Bois. (fn. 7) The main proposal was not approved by the Minister of Health. Theydon Garnon remained a parish and there were only minor boundary changes: the part of this parish north of the railway was transferred to North Weald (q.v.) and the parts of North Weald and Epping Upland to the south of the railway were added to Theydon Garnon. (fn. 8) In 1953 the area of Theydon Garnon was 2,342 acres. (fn. 9)

Most of the sections of this article relate to the whole ancient parish. The architectural descriptions, however, of those parts of the ancient parish which lie in Epping town and its suburbs to the east of the railway, and the history of nonconformist churches and of any industry in the Epping town portion of the ancient parish are reserved for treatment under Epping.

Theydon Garnon, the largest of the three Theydons, takes its distinctive name from the family of Gernon which held the capital manor from the 13th century. (fn. 10) From at least the late 16th century, and especially in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the parish was known also as Coopersale, (fn. 11) but this name was subsequently restricted to that northern part of the ancient parish served by the district church of St. Alban, Coopersale, consecrated in 1852. (fn. 12)

The southern boundary of Theydon Garnon is the River Roding. A stream which rises in the centre of the parish flows south to join the river near the eastern boundary. The ground rises from about 100 ft. above sea-level by the river to 350 ft. in the north of the parish. The extreme north-east is well wooded and includes Gernon Bushes, about 100 acres of ancient forest waste. The road from Passingford Bridge to Theydon Bois passes through the southern tip of the parish about ½ mile north of the Roding. From this a road runs north and west through Hobbs Cross, and over the stream at Mason's Bridge to Fiddlers Hamlet, Coopersale Street, and Epping. From Hobbs Cross a lane goes north-east to Toot Hill in Stanford Rivers. From Fiddlers Hamlet roads run east to Theydon Mount and west to Steward's Green and Ivy Chimneys. From Coopersale Street a road runs north to Coopersale Common. Fiddlers Hamlet, which takes its name from the Merry Fiddlers Inn, has been a centre of population at least since the 17th century. Coopersale Street has been a considerable hamlet since the 18th century or earlier. The village of Coopersale Common has developed mainly during the past century. The Epping-Ongar railway runs through the west and north of the ancient parish.

Garnish Hall, which stands on the site of the ancient manor house, is 1 mile south-west of Fiddlers Hamlet. Near it to the south are the parish church and the former rectory, now called Theydon Priory. Gaynes Park, a 19th-century mansion ½ mile east of Coopersale Street, stands in a wooded park near the site of the ancient manor house of Gaynes Park Hall. The third old manor house of the parish was Hemnalls. The site of this is not precisely known. It was in the north-west of Theydon Garnon, probably in the neighbourhood of the modern Hemnall Street, Epping. Coopersale House, formerly the centre of an estate owned by the Archer-Houblon family, lies to the west of the road between Coopersale Street and Coopersale Common. The parish school is on the road north of Fiddlers Hamlet. At Hobbs Cross are the former Fitzwilliam almshouses. (fn. 13)

In the Middle Ages, before the development of Epping town, Theydon Garnon was an ordinary rural parish, probably consisting of scattered farms and cottages. In addition to the three manor houses (fn. 14) there are known to have been medieval houses at Masons (now Bridge Farm), (fn. 15) Gardners, Little Thornhall, Hydes, Stonards, and Peak's Farm. (fn. 16) Bridge Farm stands south-east of Mason's Bridge. It is a late medieval timber house of a type which was formerly thought to be peculiar to Kent and Sussex but which has in fact a much wider distribution. In its original form it had an open hall in the centre, flanked by cross-wings of two stories. Instead of having the usual gabled fronts these wings are combined with the hall under a single roof, the line of the eaves being continuous along the front of the house. The side wings oversail at first floor level, but the central portion, having no upper floor, is in the same plane from ground to eaves. The wallplate at eaves level is carried across in front of this recessed portion and in an unaltered example there would be two large curved braces springing from the angle-posts of the side wings to support the plate. (fn. 17) At Bridge Farm the hall was subsequently divided into two stories and at the front the upper floor now oversails almost in line with the floors of the side wings. Probably at the same time a chimney was inserted in the north bay of the hall. That these features are later alterations is clear from the survival of the original roof timbers, including the main open truss with its arched braces, king-post, and four-way struts. These timbers are all blackened with smoke from an open hearth on the floor of the hall. A small section of the original front wall of the upper part of the hall still exists, together with the coved plaster of the former eaves.

The 16th- or early 17th-century fireplace in the central ground-floor room has a long oak lintel, forming a four-centred arch. One spandrel is carved with a shield and foliage; on the other side the carving has been cut away. At the south-east corner of the house is a slightly lower projecting wing, also probably of medieval origin. There is some evidence that here also the upper floor was inserted at a later date.

Gardners, ¾ mile south-west of Fiddlers Hamlet, is a timber-framed house, part of which may date from the 15th century. The remains of a king-post roof-truss were recorded here in 1920. (fn. 18) The main roof is probably of the 16th century and has curved wind-braces and queen-post trusses. On the ground floor an original window, now blocked, has moulded mullions. There is an altered 17th-century staircase with heavy turned balusters and some 16th-century panelling.

Hydes probably dates in its present form from the 16th century. External weather-boarding has recently been removed and much of the original timbering exposed. The front has two gables and a central gabled porch of two stories. The house is ½ mile south of the parish church.

Stonards is a timber-framed house probably dating from the 17th or early 18th century, though on the site of a medieval house. One end of it has been refaced in red brick. It is near the railway ½ mile west of Coopersale Street; the road formerly passed the farm, (fn. 19) but was evidently straightened when the railway bridge was built.

About 200 yds. south of the present Peak's Farm part of a rectangular moat survives. In 1838 there was a farm-house on this site, the property of the BowyerSmijths of Hill Hall in Theydon Mount (q.v.). (fn. 20) Peak's Farm, a timber-framed house mostly dating from the 18th century, formerly had a gabled wing of the 16th century or earlier. (fn. 21) In 1930 this was demolished and the present red brick wing was built. (fn. 22) The farm is in the extreme east of the parish, adjoining Hill Hall park.

By the middle of the 17th century the construction of the new road to Newmarket via Loughton and Epping (fn. 23) was probably causing increased building development in the Epping town part of Theydon Garnon. As early as 1613 and 1631 parishioners presented in the archdeacon's court for not attending church replied that they attended service in Epping, since it was nearer. (fn. 24) This is a good indication that the people on the western boundary of Theydon Garnon regarded themselves as belonging to Epping. (fn. 25) By this time also there was a small hamlet at the cross-roads to the north of Mason's Bridge. The name Fiddlers Hamlet for this part of the parish is of much later origin, but it is possible that the 'Merry Fiddlers' was already the focus of settlement in the 17th century. The inn itself probably incorporates part of a 17thcentury building. Another building which is known to have been erected in the 17th century is the block of almshouses at Hobbs Cross founded by Lady Fitzwilliam. Hill Farm, in the extreme south of the parish, is a timber-framed farm-house which may date from the 16th century or even earlier. It consists of a central block flanked by gabled cross-wings. In modern times timbering has been applied as a decorative feature. The dentilled barge-boards to the gables are original.

A large timber-framed house at Coopersale Street, formerly a farm, probably dates from the late 16th century. The front has two gables, the attic window on one side being original. A 17th-century addition to the south-west was once known as the brewhouse. The pedimented doorcase and the sash windows are 18th-century insertions. The annexe to the house is now the post-office.

Jacksons Farm, which formerly stood beside the Roding near Hill Farm, appears to have been on or near the site of the ancient Garnish Mill, and was known until about 100 years ago as Gernon Mill Farm. (fn. 26) It was demolished about 1950. (fn. 27) In 1920 the building was described as two tenements, probably of the 17th century, partly refaced with modern brick. A document temp. Henry VIII refers to a 'costlewe byldyng at a ferme callyd Garnouns myll, new bylded'. (fn. 28)

Chapman and André's map of 1777 shows hamlets at Fiddlers and Coopersale Street and also a line of houses on the west side of the road to the north of Hobbs Cross. (fn. 29) Development on the Epping side was continuing. Houses which probably date from the 18th century are the Home Farm and Elms at Fiddlers Hamlet, and Coopersale Lodge, about 100 yds. southeast of the post-office at Coopersale Street. All are timber-framed houses. The Elms has a modern redbrick front.

In 1801 Theydon Garnon had a population of 517. (fn. 30) There was a steady increase to 1,237 in 1851. There was a slight decrease in 1851-61 but this was subsequently arrested, probably by the extension of the railway from Loughton to Epping and Ongar in 1865. (fn. 31) Epping station, on the new line, was built about ¾ mile north-west of Fiddlers Hamlet, within Theydon Garnon parish, and North Weald station 1½ mile north-east of Coopersale Common. The population rose to 1,371 in 1891. This was the last census before the ancient parish was dismembered. Much of the 19th-century increase was due to the development of Epping town. At the 1901 census the reduced parish of Theydon Garnon had only 317 inhabitants (fn. 32) but there were 1,746 in the area of the ancient parish. (fn. 33) It should also be noted, however, that the part transferred to Epping Urban District included Coopersale Common, Coopersale Street, and Fiddlers Hamlet. At Coopersale Common there had been considerable development during the second half of the 19th century. This included the district church of St. Alban, built to meet the needs of this end of the parish. Other larger buildings dating from the 19th century include Theydon Bower, Gaynes Park, and Hobbs Cross Farm. Theydon Bower, near Epping railway station, is a large house standing on a hill. It is thought to have been built about 1800 (fn. 34) but there have been later additions at various times. It is of brown brick, partly roughcast. The style is consciously romantic; there is a castellated parapet and mullioned windows. Hobbs Cross Farm was built in the middle of the century by Sir William Bowyer-Smijth of Hill Hall to replace one nearer to Hill Hall which he demolished. (fn. 35) Coopersale Hall, which dates mainly from the 19th century, may incorporate parts of an earlier building. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was the home of the Chevely family. (fn. 36) A bell-cote on the roof contains a bell dated 1816. (fn. 37) The entrance front is of this period.

During the present century there has been much development at Coopersale Common, which appears to be something of a unit on its own, unlike the eastern parts of Epping that were also formerly in Theydon Garnon parish. St. Albans Road and Laburnam Road form a new layout north of the church and are entirely built up. Opposite the post-office are two pairs of council houses. The Coopersale Institute is a brick and roughcast building in St. Albans Road. On the east side of the main road there is a cricket ground.

This development within Epping Urban District is not paralleled by any increase of population in the present civil parish of Theydon Garnon. Since 1901 the population of the parish has declined and in 1951 was only 176. (fn. 38)

The road from Hobbs Cross to Toot Hill was probably part of the Roman road running south from Dunmow. In 1594, and probably for many years before this, the main road from London to Newmarket ran through Theydon Bois and Theydon Garnon via Abridge Bridge. (fn. 39) Early in the 17th century a new road was built through Epping Forest between Loughton and Epping and this took the place of the longer Abridge section of the route. (fn. 40) After that date none of the roads in Theydon Garnon seems to have been of more than local importance. Among the parish books are constable's accounts 1719-1868 with details of the constables' work in connexion with the parish roads, and surveyors' accounts 1810-36. (fn. 41) In 1581 the surveyors reported on those defaulting in their road service. (fn. 42) An interesting dispute over the number of days' work due from parishioners on the roads was heard in 1684. Andrew Partridge of Theydon Garnon declared that 36 years earlier he was hired to do two days' work in Waltham Lane, and he believed that two days was the rule for the parish. (fn. 43)

Theydon Bridge, alias Mason's Bridge, was described in 1641 as a cart bridge and the feoffees of Stonards were said to be responsible for its repair. (fn. 44) In about 1800 and 1835 it was listed as a county bridge. (fn. 45) In 1858, however, the county surveyor reported that after careful inquiries from local inhabitants he was unable to identify a bridge of this name, and he suggested Coopersale Bridge (although that had been repaired by the parish) or Daws Bridge. (fn. 46) In 1866 the county surveyor had identified the bridge correctly but there was some doubt whether the parish was not responsible for its upkeep. (fn. 47) In his report of 1866-7, however, Mason's Bridge was accepted by the county and by 1869 it had been rebuilt. (fn. 48)

A new brick bridge called Brook House Bridge was described by the county surveyor in 1858. It had been built since 1836. (fn. 49)

For communications in general Theydon Garnon has relied mainly on Epping. In the 18th and early 19th centuries there were coach services running through Epping along the London-Norwich road. The extension of the railway to Epping and Ongar (1865) has been mentioned above. In 1949 this line was electrified as far as Epping. (fn. 50)

As late as 1894 there was no post-office in Theydon Garnon. (fn. 51) By 1898 one had been set up at Coopersale Street, though it had no telegraph or facilities for dealing with money orders. (fn. 52) There are now post-offices at both Coopersale Street and Coopersale Common.

The public services provided for Epping have in general been available for the urban part of the ancient parish of Theydon Garnon. By 1886 the town had piped water, supplied by the Herts. and Essex Waterworks Co., and main drainage. (fn. 53) The water-supply was extended to the rural part of Theydon Garnon by the same company in 1898. (fn. 54) The Epping Special Drainage Area, which in 1896 became Epping Urban District, included Coopersale Common, Coopersale Street, and Fiddlers Hamlet. (fn. 55) There is now main drainage also in the present civil parish of Theydon Garnon. (fn. 56) Gas was first supplied in 1865 or 1866, (fn. 57) and electricity by 1933. (fn. 58) Electricity was extended to the rural parts of Theydon Garnon in 1950. (fn. 59)

Many of the landowners of the parish have been resident and have taken an active interest in its affairs. So far as can be judged the lords of Theydon Garnon manor were resident for much of the 13th to 15th centuries. The lords of Gaynes Park lived on their manor for part of the 14th century and probably at other periods in the Middle Ages; in the 16th century the Fitzwilliams were probably resident there. The Archers (later Archer-Houblons) of Coopersale were probably resident continuously from the 16th century to the 19th. Lady Fitzwilliam of Gaynes Park endowed the almshouses. Henry Archer of Coopersale founded another charity. Thomas Abdy, lord of the manor of Theydon Garnon, granted land for use as a potato ground for the poor and later substituted a voluntary free gift of bread. In general this parish is exceptionally well provided with charities endowed by the local landowners and resident gentry. (fn. 60) In the 19th century Miss Archer-Houblon built the village school, St. Alban's church, and the vicarage at Coopersale. (fn. 61)

In the Middle Ages the capital manor of Theydon Garnon was probably much larger than any other estate in the parish. This was, however, divided in the 16th century and from the 17th century Gaynes Park and Coopersale both increased. In 1840 the Garnish Hall property consisted only of 228 acres, while Gaynes Park and Coopersale each contained over 700 acres. (fn. 62) In the same year there were 19 farms in the parish containing more than 50 acres, 7 of over 100 acres and 1 over 200 acres. (fn. 63)

In Theydon Garnon, as elsewhere in the hundred, inclosure took place at an early date, and details of the process are lacking. One exception was Gernon Bushes, Coopersale Common. Some inclosure of forest waste appears to have taken place there between 1777 and 1838, (fn. 64) but a substantial part still remains. Mixed farming is carried on in the rural part of the parish. In 1838 there were estimated to be some 770 acres of arable, 1,740 acres of meadow or pasture, 264 acres of wood, and 100 acres of common (most of which was in fact woodland). (fn. 65)

A small mound just north of the railway near Stonards Farm is marked on the map of 1777 as Mill Hill. There was no mill there then, but a windmill is shown on the map about ½ mile farther north. Garnish Mill, on the Roding, has already been mentioned above. It was no longer operating in 1777. It may have been the mill on the manor of William son of Constantine in 1086. (fn. 66)

In 1305 the king granted to Hugh Gernon a weekly market and an annual fair at his manor of Theydon Garnon. (fn. 67) In 1872 a fair formerly held at Fiddlers Hamlet on 20 July was abolished at the petition of its owner, T. C. Chisenhale-Marsh. (fn. 68)

Robert Fabyan (d. 1513), chronicler, acquired Halsteads in Theydon Garnon on his marriage. (fn. 69) Sir Daniel Dun or Donne (d. 1617), M.P. for Oxford 1604 and 1614, an authority on marriage law, was lord of the manor of Theydon Garnon. (fn. 70) Sir John Archer (1598-1682), a justice of the Common Pleas, lived at Coopersale House. (fn. 71) Thomas Dimsdale (1712-1800), physician, who inoculated the Empress Catherine of Russia against smallpox, was born at Theydon Garnon. (fn. 72) Thomas C. Chisenhale-Marsh (1811-75) of Gaynes Park published an edition and translation of the Essex portion of Domesday Book. For John Molyns (d. 1591) see below, Church.


  • 1. O.S. 2½ in. Map, sheets 51/49, 52/40.
  • 2. O.S. 6 in. Map (1st edn.), sheets 1, lviii.
  • 3. E.R.O., D/CT 350.
  • 4. Co. of Essex (Epping &c.), Conf. Order, 1896.
  • 5. Essex Review Order, 1934.
  • 6. Co. of Essex (Rural Parishes), Conf. Order, 1946.
  • 7. Co. of Essex (Alteration of Rural Parishes) (No. 2), Order, 1948.
  • 8. Co. of Essex (Alteration of Rural Parishes) Confirmation Order No. 2, 1949.
  • 9. Inf. from Essex Co. Council.
  • 10. See below, Manors; P.N. Essex (E.P.N.S.), 83. Dr. Reaney errs in identifying Theydon Garnon with Theydon Paulyn; the latter was in fact identical with Theydon Mount (q.v.). For a note on the meaning of Theydon see under Theydon Bois.
  • 11. P.N. Essex, 23.
  • 12. See below, Church.
  • 13. See below, Charities.
  • 14. See below, Manors.
  • 15. E.R. xxxv, 198; Chapman and Andre, Map of Essex, 1777, sheet xvi.
  • 16. P.N. Essex, 23, 84-85 gives references to medieval tenants.
  • 17. Cf. house at Little Waltham: Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, plate p. 96, and Monks Barn, Newport, ibid. i, p. 204. See also Parsonage Farm, Theydon Bois. Bridge Farm differs from these examples in having a hipped roof. Another unusual feature is the incorporation of the screens passage in the north wing instead of in the hall itself.
  • 18. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 233.
  • 19. Chapman and André, Map of Essex,1777, sheet xvi.
  • 20. E.R.O., D/CT 350.
  • 21. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 233.
  • 22. Inf. from present occupier.
  • 23. See Loughton.
  • 24. E.R.O., D/AEA 27, f. 273; ibid. 38, f. 199.
  • 25. Their legal obligation to pay Theydon Garnon parish rates was of course unaffected!
  • 26. O.S. 1 in. Map (1st edn. 1805) quoted in E.A.T. n.s. xvii, 172; O.S. 6 in. Map (1st edn.), sheet lviii.
  • 27. Inf. from Mr. Padfield, present owner.
  • 28. E.A.T. n.s. v, 28.
  • 29. Chapman and André, Map of Essex, 1777, sheet xvi.
  • 30. For census figures 1801-1901 seeV.C.H. Essex, ii, 350.
  • 31. The opening of the railway had a similar effect on the population of North Weald (q.v.).
  • 32. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1906).
  • 33. V.C.H. Essex, ii, 350.
  • 34. Inf. from Mrs. Bell, present occupier. It is said to have been built by Lord Frankfort.
  • 35. Howard and Burke, Theydon Mount, p. x.
  • 36. E.R. xxxv, 198; Chapman and André, Map of Essex, 1777, sheet xvi. It has been suggested that it was formerly known as Little Gregories.
  • 37. Inf. from present occupier.
  • 38. Census, 1911-51.
  • 39. Norden, Map of Essex, 1594.
  • 40. For the new road see Loughton.
  • 41. E.R.O., D/P 152/10/1, 152/21/1.
  • 42. E.R.O., Q/SR 78/28.
  • 43. Ibid. 446/93.
  • 44. Ibid. 312/25.
  • 45. E.R.O., Q/ABz 2; ibid. Q/ABz 1.
  • 46. E.R.O., Q/ABz 3.
  • 47. E.R.O., Q/ABp 46.
  • 48. E.R.O., Q/ABz 3.
  • 49. Ibid.
  • 50. Inf. from London Transport.
  • 51. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1894).
  • 52. Ibid. (1898).
  • 53. Ibid. (1886).
  • 54. Inf. from Herts. & Essex Waterworks Co.
  • 55. See above.
  • 56. Inf. from Rector of Theydon Garnon.
  • 57. Inf. from Eastn. Gas Bd.
  • 58. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1933).
  • 59. Inf. from Eastn. Elec. Bd.
  • 60. See below, Charities.
  • 61. See below, Church, School.
  • 62. E.R.O., D/CT 350.
  • 63. Ibid.
  • 64. Chapman and Andre, Map of Essex, 1777, sheet xvi; E.R.O., D/CT 350.
  • 65. E.R.O., D/CT 350.
  • 66. Chapman and Andre, Map of Essex, 1777, sheet xvi; V.C.H. Essex, i, 563a.
  • 67. Cal. Chart. R. 1300-26, 62.
  • 68. Lond. Gaz. 9 July 1872, p. 3106.
  • 69. D.N.B.; E.H.R. iii, 318-21. For his will, with many references to Theydon Garnon, see New Chrons. of Eng. and France (ed. Ellis, 1811), iii-xiii.
  • 70. D.N.B. See below Manors, Church.
  • 71. D.N.B.; E.R. xxxi, 160-73, 179-94.
  • 72. D.N.B. He was perhaps the doctor mentioned below, Parish Govt. and Poor Relief, or a relative of that doctor.