Theydon Mount: Introduction

Pages 275-276

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

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Theydon Mount, the most easterly of the three Theydon parishes, lies between Theydon Garnon and Stapleford Tawney at a distance of 3 miles from Epping and 15 miles from London. (fn. 1) The second part of its name is derived from the hill near its centre upon which stand the church and Hill Hall. It has also been called in the past Theydon Paulyn, Theydon Lessington, and Theydon Briwes, from the names of former lords of the manor. The form Theydon Parva (Little Theydon) has also been used. (fn. 2) Theydon Mount is a small rural parish that has been dominated for four centuries by the great mansion of Hill Hall, formerly the seat of the Bowyer-Smijth family, and now an open prison for women. Although so near to London the parish remains entirely rural, and sparsely populated. The area was given in 1838 as 1,500 acres. (fn. 3) Later calculations put it as 1,564 acres. (fn. 4) In 1086 there were 1 villein tenant and 17 bordars in the manor of Theydon Mount. (fn. 5) In 1428 the parish appears to have had a smaller population than at Domesday: it was specially exempted from taxation because there were less than 10 households. (fn. 6) The population was 193 in 1801. (fn. 7) It rose to a peak of 249 in 1831 and then declined steadily to 123 in 1901. The population in 1951 was 162. (fn. 8)

The parish is long and narrow, running from north to south for over 3 miles with an average width of less than ½ mile. The Roding forms the southern boundary. From there the land rises steeply to a height of over 250 ft. at Hill Hall, which stands in a large park. The parish church, ¼ mile south-east of the Hall, adjoins the park. Farther north the ground falls away but rises again to 300 ft. at Mount End and over 350 ft. near the North Weald boundary. There are several patches of woodland in the north of which the largest is Beechet Wood. Apart from Hill Hall with its prisoners the main centres of population are at Mount End, which contains the former parish school, now used as a village hall, and on Mount Hill. A map of 1777 shows a few houses at Mount End. (fn. 9) Some of the surviving houses there appear to date from the first half of the 18th century.

From Mount End roads run north-east to Stanford Rivers, east to Stapleford Tawney, south-east to the church, south-west to Hobbs Cross in Theydon Garnon (a farm lane), and west to Coopersale and Epping. The approach to Hill Hall is by a drive off the Stapleford Tawney road. (fn. 10) North Farm, at the Mount End cross-roads, appears to date from the first half of the 18th century. Tarlings, nearly opposite the north lodge of Hill Hall, was formerly a smithy. (fn. 11) About ¼ mile south-east of North Farm is the site of a former brick and tile works. The new rectory has recently been built here. (fn. 12) Near the rectory, in the lane leading to Beechet Wood, are two pairs of council houses. Coleman's Farm, ¼ mile east of Hill Hall, is about 50 years old. There was a building on this site in 1777, then called Cotes. (fn. 13) Near Coleman's, on the edge of Hill Hall park, is Icehouse Plantation, which probably takes its name from the former icehouse of Hill Hall. This may have dated from the 17th or 18th century. (fn. 14) In the extreme south of the parish is Skinners, a timberframed house to which a gabled brick front was added late in the 19th century. In the dairy is the threecentred arch of a former oak doorway in which a mullioned window has been inserted. This suggests that the house dates from the 16th century or earlier. Brook House, ½ mile west of Skinners, probably dates from the early 18th century. (fn. 15)

The lane from Mount End to Hobbs Cross and part of the road from Mount End to Stanford Rivers follow the line of a Roman road. Roman remains were found in this area in the 19th century. (fn. 16) The Hobbs Cross road was presented at Quarter Sessions in 1582-3 as a 'noisome way'. (fn. 17) The road to Coopersale, which now passes to the north of North Farm, is shown on the 1777 map as farther south. (fn. 18) Between 1777 and about 1800 Hill Hall park was extended to the east. This involved the diversion of the road so as to bring the church within the park, from which it was fenced off in 1953-4. (fn. 19) About this time the old rectory near the church was demolished (fn. 20) and (perhaps somewhat later) the former manor house of Mount Hall was also taken down. (fn. 21)

For transport and postal services Theydon Mount has depended upon Epping and Romford. Piped water is supplied by the Herts. and Essex Waterworks Co. (fn. 22) but there is no main drainage. (fn. 23) Electricity was supplied by the Eastern Electricity Board in 1950. (fn. 24) A branch of the county library was opened in 1935. (fn. 25) The village hall is the former school.

From the 15th century until the 20th most of the and in the parish was in the hands of a single owner. With the building of Hill Hall in the 16th century the parish became more than ever dominated by the manor house. In 1838 Sir John Smijth owned all but some 70 acres of the parish. (fn. 26) The Hill Hall estate had increased in size since 1700, when three other owners had land in the parish. (fn. 27) During its four centuries as a private house Hill Hall must have provided substantial opportunities for local employment. Those of the inhabitants of the parish not employed there were mainly engaged in agriculture. There has been very little industry in Theydon Mount. The market and fair granted to Paulinus de Theydon in 1225 (see below, Manor) did not survive into modern times. One industry, brick- and tile-making, appears to have gone on (perhaps intermittently) from the 16th century to the 20th. The brick-works to the north of Hill Hall was still in operation in 1914. (fn. 28) It was perhaps the successor of the works from which bricks were provided about 1580 for the completion of Hill Hall itself, (fn. 29) and of the brick kiln 'on the top of Mount Hill' in 1655. (fn. 30)


  • 1. O.S. 2½ in. Map, sheets 51/49, 52/40.
  • 2. P.N. Essex (E.P.N.S.), 82-83, 85, which, however, wrongly assigns the form Theydon Paulyn to Theydon Garnon. For the meaning of Theydon see Theydon Bois.
  • 3. E.R.O., D/CT 351.
  • 4. O.S. 6 in. Map (1st edn.), sheets 1, lviii.
  • 5. V.C.H. Essex, i, 490b.
  • 6. Feud. Aids, ii, 205.
  • 7. For census figures 1801-1901 see V.C.H. Essex, ii, 350.
  • 8. Census, 1951.
  • 9. Chapman and André, Map of Essex, 1777, sheet xvi.
  • 10. For Hill Hall see Manors, below.
  • 11. O.S. 6 in. Map (1st edn.), sheet lviii.
  • 12. See Churches, below.
  • 13. Chapman and André, Map of Essex, 1777, sheet xvi.
  • 14. Cf. Icehouse Wood near the site of Bellhouse in Stanford Rivers.
  • 15. 'Brock House', mentioned 1600 (E.R.O., Q/SR 149/43), may have been on this site.
  • 16. Proc. Soc. Antiq. (2nd ser.), ii, 184-6; iv, 446.
  • 17. E.R.O., Q/SR 84/24.
  • 18. Chapman and André, Map of Essex, 1777, sheet xvi.
  • 19. Ibid. Cf. O.S. 1 in. Map (1st edn.).
  • 20. See Churches, below.
  • 21. In 1838 there was only a cottage on the Mount Hall site: E.R.O., D/CT 351; and see below, Manors.
  • 22. Inf. from Herts. & Essex Waterworks Co. About 1900 Mount End was supplied with piped water from a well dug by Sir William Bowyer-Smijth: Howard and Burke, Theydon Mount, xi.
  • 23. Inf. from Rev. E. B. Rees.
  • 24. Inf. from Eastn. Elec. Bd.
  • 25. Inf. from County Librarian.
  • 26. E.R.O., D/CT 351.
  • 27. J. J. Howard and H. F. Burke, Theydon Mount, xi.
  • 28. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1914).
  • 29. See Hill Hall.
  • 30. E.R.O., D/DSh T2.