A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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'Kelvedon Hatch: Introduction', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred, (London, 1956) pp. 63-65. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol4/pp63-65 [accessed 4 March 2024]
Kelvedon Hatch is 3 miles south of Chipping Ongar and 4 miles north-west of Brentwood, on the east bank of the Roding. (fn. 1) It contains 1,683 acres. The soil is mainly London Clay with some patches of Boulder Clay and Bagshot beds. The land slopes up from the river to a height of about 350 ft. above sea-level in the south-east and 300 ft. in the north-east. Two tributaries flow into the Roding in the north of the parish through shallow valleys. The parish was part of the ancient forest of Essex and the suffix 'Hatch' by which it is distinguished from Kelvedon in Witham hundred probably refers to a forest gate. (fn. 2) Considerable areas of woodland still survive and there are also parks attached to three big houses. The main road from Ongar to Brentwood enters the parish in the north-west by Langford Bridge and runs south-east. In the south of Kelvedon Hatch it crosses a stretch of land which was formerly open common but now largely inclosed. The boundary of the common on the west side followed a line 50 to 100 yds. back from the present road. On the north it was bounded by the road now called School Lane and on the east it extended to Fox Hatch in Doddinghurst parish. This accounts for the apparently haphazard arrangement of the older houses, which bears little relation to the modern road. There has been considerable development in this area during the past 150 years and it now forms the village centre of the parish. From the village roads also run west to Navestock and east to Blackmore and Stondon Massey.
There were three ancient manors in Kelvedon Hatch. The capital manor was centred on Kelvedon Hall, a mile south-east of Langford Bridge. The ancient parish church was beside the hall and the 18th-century building which replaced it still stands there, though disused and ruinous. In the 17th and 18th centuries the manor house which dominated the little church was owned by Roman Catholics, the Wrights, who were buried in the parish church and erected sepulchral monuments there but worshipped secretly in the chapel which they had built in the hall itself. The other old manors were Myles's, ½ mile north-east of Kelvedon Hall, and Germains, ¼ mile south of the hall. None of the medieval manor houses has survived. The present Germains dates from the 16th century and Kelvedon Hall from the 18th, while old Myles's was demolished in 1837. (fn. 3) These three manor houses were all in the north or centre of the parish, but medieval houses also existed farther south at Hatch Farm, Brizes, Priors, and Woodlands. (fn. 4) Priors is on the main road ½ mile east of Germains. The other three are in or near the modern village of Kelvedon Hatch. Only Woodlands now retains medieval features. It is a timber-framed house about 50 yds. west of the main road and south of the Eagle Inn, and probably dates from the late 15th century. It has been partly demolished so that the original construction is exposed. It consists of a singlestory hall with smoke-blackened timbers and a twostory cross-wing at the south end. The latter is of three bays, divided above the first floor by king-post trusses with two-way struts. The hall also has a king-post and the remains of what was possibly a second truss. Chimneys which may have been inserted in the 16th or 17th century have recently been demolished. In the 18th century the house was weather-boarded and the older windows replaced by sashes. Hatch Farm, on the north side of the former common, and about 100 yds. east of the modern parish church, is a timberframed house probably dating from the second half of the 16th century. The house was originally L-shaped with the staircase in the north wing, but there is now a later addition in the angle between the wings. At the junction of the two wings is part of a large original chimney-stack with a moulded capping. The interior retains a staircase, plasterwork, and door-frames of the original date. In the 18th century the roof of the main wing was rebuilt and two sides of the house faced with red brick. Sash windows and Georgian doorways were inserted. Parts of a moat are in existence to the north and east of the house.
Priors is held by local tradition to have been rebuilt early in the 17th century by the brothers Richard and Anthony Luther. (fn. 5) It was originally a timber-framed structure, but the front was refaced in red brick, probably in the second half of the 18th century. Brizes was also rebuilt in the 18th century. Morant (1768) refers to it as 'a good old house ... built by Thomas Bryce, citizen and mercer of London, about 1498'. (fn. 6) This earlier house had, however, been replaced before Morant's time by the present mansion. The exact site of the previous house is not known. In the grounds of the present house, about 75 yds. from the road, is a small moated site. It does not appear, however, that the island could have accommodated a medieval house of any size and the moat itself may be an ornamental feature of the 18th century.
The present house was probably built about 1720: this date is said to be on one of the rainwater heads. (fn. 7) At that time the property was owned by the Glascock family. (fn. 8) The building is of three stories and has an imposing front of nine bays. The centre projects slightly and is surmounted by a pediment. The porch, which may be a later addition, is of the Roman Doric order and is supported on four columns. Above the doorway is a round-headed niche. The house was evidently altered late in the 18th century when the interior was remodelled. The hall has a Venetian arch enriched with plaster ornament and behind this is a fine double staircase. The staircase window is round-headed and fitted with painted glass. These alterations were probably carried out for William Dolby, who succeeded his brother Charles as owner of Brizes in 1781. (fn. 9) In 1788 William Dolby employed Richard Woods, who in 1771 had carried out ornamental alterations to the gardens at Myles's (see below) to replan those of Brizes. The plan made by Woods still exists. (fn. 10) It included 'an alcove seat or temple', 'the truss Paladian bridge', plantations of oak, chestnut, pine, and elm and other features, covering 74 acres. Most of these features were adopted. (fn. 11)
By the 16th century there were probably a number of other houses around the common in the south of the parish. One of these, Dodd's Farm to the south of Church Lane, is of much the same date as Hatch Farm. It is an L-shaped building, timber-framed and plastered. There are two large external chimneys of a similar type to those at Hatch Farm, and in this case the short octagonal shafts are original. Internally there is said to be a fireplace of the 16th century. (fn. 12)
Poor's Cottages, (fn. 13) which date from the 17th century, were also built at the common, which suggests that by that time the common was the most important centre of population in the parish. By 1777 there were many houses round the common and also a windmill. (fn. 14) The mill was in use until the First World War but was demolished about 1916 as it was thought to be a landmark for zeppelins. (fn. 15) It was a weather-boarded smock mill. The mill house still exists, on the east side of the main road nearly opposite the 'Eagle'. It is a singlestory cottage dating from the mid-19th century. During the 18th century Kelvedon Hall, Myles's, and Brizes were all rebuilt as imposing Georgian mansions and the medieval parish church was also rebuilt.
The building of houses at the common had been facilitated by small inclosures made there, and no doubt also by the existence of common rights. The inclosures seem to have been carried out by purely local arrangement, through the manor courts. Examples of such inclosures occur in the case of Poor's Cottages (see above) in the 17th century and again in 1786. (fn. 16) By 1838 the common was wholly in private ownership, though perhaps not physically inclosed. (fn. 17)
During the 19th century there was further building at the common. The village school and post-office were both set up there. When the railway from London through Brentwood to Colchester and East Anglia was built in the 1840's the road between Ongar and Brentwood took on a new importance and this probably increased the concentration at the common, through which the road ran. In 1893 a new parish church was built in the village and the old church beside Kelvedon Hall became disused. Other 19th-century buildings were Mushroom Hall, the Church House, and a nonconformist mission hall (now the village hall). (fn. 18) Mushroom Hall is a single-story house in the 'picturesque' style of the early 19th century. It lies about 100 yds. east of the main road near the mill house.
Building at the common has continued in the 20th century. On the east side of the main road opposite Brizes are two rows of single-story terrace houses known as The Thorns and The Briars. These and The Avenue, a similar block on the road to Doddinghurst, were built early in the century. There are ten pairs of council houses on the north side of Church Lane. A red-brick police house was completed in 1953. Some new bungalows are now being built to the south of School Lane.
The population of the parish was 297 in 1811. It rose steadily to 502 in 1851 but subsequently declined to 361 in 1901. (fn. 19) Since then it has again increased, to 542 in 1931 and 557 in 1951. (fn. 20)
Until recent times communications between Kelvedon Hatch and the outside world were poor. In particular there seems to have been no good road to Brentwood (fn. 21) until the 19th century. It is now a class A road, although still very narrow in places. In the Ongar direction the present main road was altered between 1777 and 1800. (fn. 22) This eliminated a right-angle turn to the west of the present road. Part of the existing drive to Myles's follows the line of the old road. After the opening of Brentwood railway station coaches running to the station from Ongar passed through Kelvedon Hatch. Today there is a good bus service to Brentwood and a choice of two routes to Ongar.
The most direct road to Ongar crosses the Roding by Langford Bridge. In 1351 it was said that John Pekkebrigge, lord of Kelvedon Hatch, and his tenants in High Ongar were to repair the bridge. (fn. 23) It is not clear who Pekkebrigge was and what was his manor. The nearest manor to Langford Bridge was Myles's and there is no other evidence that Pekkebrigge was lord of this. He may, however, have been a lessee. He was probably identical with John Peghbrigg (1356) whose park is thought to have given its name to Park Wood in Kelvedon Hatch, which is not far south of the bridge. (fn. 24) In 1570 the owners of the lands adjoining the bridge, Mr. Wood on one side and George Preston and Thomas Auger on the other, were held responsible for its repair. (fn. 25) In 1582 the bridge was said to be in ruins. Kelvedon Hatch parish was to pay part of the cost of repair, but it was not known if Chipping Ongar should pay the other part. (fn. 26) Uncertainty as to the responsibility for repair continued until about 1673- 4 when it was said to be a charge on the county. (fn. 27) In 1773 the bridge was again in need of repair. It was proposed that it should be rebuilt in brick, but it was eventually decided to rebuild in timber at a cost of £140. (fn. 28) In 1857 Langford Bridge was described by the county surveyor as a timber structure of considerable span. Its condition was then good. (fn. 29) It was restored in 1878-9 and about 1913 was replaced by the present concrete bridge. (fn. 30)
In 1845 an official post-office was established at Kelvedon Common. (fn. 31) In 1848 the office was at William Nutt's. (fn. 32) A telegraph office was set up in 1885 and the telephone service in 1923. (fn. 33)
Piped water has been supplied since 1935 by the Herts. and Essex Waterworks Co. (fn. 34) There is no main drainage. (fn. 35) Kelvedon Hatch was in the area of the original Romford Gas Co. but powers to supply the parish were not obtained until 1935. (fn. 36) There is now a supply to part of the parish. (fn. 37) There is no electricity except in a few outlying farms. (fn. 38)
Early in the present century the Church House was used as a Working Men's Club and coffee house. (fn. 39) In 1953 a newly formed village hall committee bought from the owner of Reed's Stores the building once used as a mission hall. The same committee holds 6 acres, formerly part of the charity lands, on the south side of School Lane. This has been sown with grass for a playing field and is the intended site of a new hall. (fn. 40) A branch of the county library was opened in 1928. (fn. 41) A police officer is stationed at Kelvedon Common. (fn. 42) The first reference to a constable there is in the directory of 1908. (fn. 43)
The ownership of the land in Kelvedon Hatch was from the 16th to the 20th century mainly in the hands of two families, the Wrights of Kelvedon Hall and the Luthers (and their heirs the Fanes). In 1838 John Fane and J. F. Wright between them owned almost 1,300 acres, leaving less than 400 acres for all other owners. (fn. 44) Two other properties contained more than 50 acres: Brizes (76 acres) and 83 acres forming part of the Waldegrave estate (see Navestock). Until the death of J. F. Wright in 1868 he and his family usually lived in the parish. For long periods between 1600 and 1900 the Luthers and Fanes were also resident in Kelvedon Hatch, and so were the owners of Brizes, the third of the big houses of the parish. Their mansions with the ornamental gardens must have provided a good deal of employment during the 18th and 19th centuries. Apart from such domestic work, agriculture has been the main occupation in the parish. In 1838 it was estimated that there was about the same quantity of arable land in the parish as meadow and pasture- some 700 acres in each case-while there were 193 acres woodland. There were some seven farms in the parish, mostly small. (fn. 45) Other occupations have been those incidental to agriculture. The existence of a village smithy is attested as far back as 1729, when the effects of the smith, which had been distrained upon for arrears of rent, were bought by the churchwardens of Stanford Rivers. (fn. 46) There was still a blacksmith in the parish in 1906. (fn. 47) The mill at Kelvedon Common has been mentioned above. In 1845 the miller also kept the 'Eagle'. (fn. 48)
Although Kelvedon Hatch had resident gentry in the 19th century it is clear that they did not provide the vigorous leadership in parish affairs that might have been expected. The most important reason for this was that the Wrights were Roman Catholics. Their lack of interest in the village school may be inferred from the early difficulties of the school and from the fact that a compulsory school board had to be established in order to provide a permanent school building.