A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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High Laver is a parish about 4 miles north-west of Chipping Ongar and 5 miles south-east of Harlow. (fn. 1) It has an area of 1,895 acres. (fn. 2) From the 18th century or earlier much of the population has been concentrated in the village of Matching Green and in the two hamlets of Thrushesbush, alias Threshers Bush, and Tilegate Green, all of which are situated on the borders of the parish. (fn. 3) There were 74 inhabited houses in 1801, 77 in 1811, and 80 in 1821. (fn. 4) In 1801 the population was 346. (fn. 5) By 1851 it had grown to 534. (fn. 6) It was a little below this level until the last decade of the century when there was a sharp decline to 386. (fn. 7) In the first half of the 20th century it rose gradually to 463 in 1951. (fn. 8)
The land is nearly 300 ft. above sea-level in the south-west, about 250 ft. in the north and 230 ft. in the east. The Cripsey Brook runs eastward across the northern part of the parish and then southward near the eastern boundary of the parish towards Moreton. The road from Ongar to Harlow enters the parish at High Laver Bridge. The former rectory (fn. 9) is on the north side of the road about ¼ mile from the bridge. The road then turns northward for about ½ mile to its junction with the roads leading eastward to Little Laver and northward to Matching Green. Along the road to Little Laver is the church (fn. 10) and to the north of the church on the east side of the road to Matching Green is High Laver Hall. (fn. 11) Behind church and hall is a windpump. About ½ mile north of High Laver Hall on the west side of the road to Matching Green is High Laver Grange. This has a fine barn, in one bay of which are two grotesque carved brackets of the 16th or early 17th century. About 1 mile north of High Laver Grange is Newhouse Farm, formerly Chalkpits, a timber-framed house which has been much restored but of which part may date from the 17th century. On the east side of the road north of Newhouse Farm there are thirteen council houses in two groups known as Culvers Cottages and Chalkpit Cottages. Beyond these is the village of Matching Green, the south side of which is just inside the parish boundary. Here there are several 19th-century brick houses, including the Chequers Inn.
From the east side of Matching Green a road runs south-east to Waterman's End, Little Laver, and the Rodings. On the west side of this road, immediately to the south of the parish boundary, is the chapel of ease (fn. 12) and, next to it, High Laver school. (fn. 13) Immediately to the south of the school the road is joined by another road leading south to Ongar. Near this junction on the north side of the road to Little Laver there are four pairs of council houses known as Hull Green Cottages.
From High Laver church the Harlow road runs west past Church Farm, formerly Whites, and Travellers Joy, formerly Herberts. Both these houses are timber-framed and may date from the 16th century; they have been much restored. A little beyond Travellers Joy the Harlow road is joined by Faggoters Lane which runs northward to Loyters Green. About ½ mile along Faggoters Lane is Faggoters Farm, a timberframed and roughcast house probably built in the 18th century. By the east side of Faggoters Farm is a footpath leading to the site of Otes. (fn. 14) On the Harlow road to the west of Faggoters Lane is Mashams, a timberframed house which may date from the 16th century. Beyond Mashams the road runs past Great Wilmores and Spinneys, formerly Little Wilmores, to Tilegate Green. At Spinneys, which stands on the north side of the road about ½ mile beyond Mashams, there are indications of a former moat. Tilegate Farm, on the north side of the road at Tilegate Green, may be of the 16th century but has a later farm-house built in front of it, the whole being much modernized; the restored barn has 16th-century timbers. Opposite Tilegate Farm a road leads southward to Magdalen Laver. There are two pairs of council houses on the west side of this road, which forms part of the southern boundary of the parish. Also on the west side of the road and just within the boundary are Magdalen Laver school, (fn. 15) built in 1862, and, next to it, a row of timber-framed cottages called Melanese Cottages, of which part may date from the 17th century or earlier.
West of Tilegate Farm the Harlow road turns northwest to Thrushesbush, alias Threshers Bush, on the western boundary of the parish. At Herds Farm, on the north side of the road ¾ mile north-west of Tilegate Green, there are indications of a former moat. The farm-house is probably of the 17th century and has an original brick chimney. West of Herds Farm is the John Barleycorn Inn, formerly the 'King's Arms', a timber-framed house of which part dates from the 17th century or earlier. The former Methodist chapel (fn. 16) is on the north side of the Harlow road at Thrushesbush, just outside the parish boundary.
The inhabitants of High Laver were several times indicted for the bad condition of their roads. In 1644 it was said that High Laver and Little Laver were to share the responsibility for the highway from Matching Green to Sheepcroft Bridge. (fn. 19) In 1776 the parishes of High Laver and Magdalen Laver agreed that 'the roads which these two parishes are obliged in conjunction to mend shall be equally divided and that the part which lies nearest to each parish shall be appropriated to it, by a post set up at the expense of both parishes, and marked on one side "M.L. mends thus far" and on the opposite side "H.L. mends thus far" '. (fn. 20)
High Laver was one of the villages served from Moreton when a postal receiving house was set up there in 1846. (fn. 21) A sub-post-office was opened at High Laver in November 1936, following a petition from the inhabitants. (fn. 22)
Water was supplied by the Herts. and Essex Waterworks Co. in 1912. (fn. 23) There is no sewerage system. (fn. 24) Electricity was laid on in part of the village in 1950. (fn. 25) A sports ground is used by the football club. (fn. 26)
High Laver has always been a rural parish devoted almost exclusively to agriculture. The owners of the capital manor never lived in the parish after the first decade of the 16th century. (fn. 27) The owners of Otes lived in the parish during most of the period 1614- 1767. (fn. 28) They were not resident from 1767 until shortly before 1841. (fn. 29) For a few years after 1841 they did live in the parish but ceased to do so before 1863 and were never resident again. (fn. 30)
In 1848 the parish consisted of 1,894 acres. (fn. 31) William St. Quintin owned 475 acres but farmed none of it himself. George Starkins Wallis owned, but did not occupy, High Laver Farm (340 acres). (fn. 32) John and Thomas Inkersole owned 223 acres of which Thomas farmed 74 acres. (fn. 33) There were two other substantial farms in the parish: Holts Farm (118 acres) and Tilegate Farm (100 acres). The respective owners, Joseph Davies and J. M. Gilbertson, did not occupy them. (fn. 34) There were five other farms of over 40 acres. (fn. 35)
High Laver has always been a parish of mixed farming with a heavy predominance of arable. In 1086 there were 10½ ploughs in the manor of High Laver; there was woodland for 200 swine and 37½ acres of meadow. (fn. 36) In 1847 there were estimated to be 1,428 acres of arable, 368 acres of pasture, and 12 acres of woodland. (fn. 37)
In the 17th and 18th centuries Otes manor house, the residence of the Mashams, was a large and wellknown dwelling which must have employed a considerable amount of domestic labour. In 1691 John Locke the philosopher (1632-1704) went to live there as a paying guest of Sir Francis Masham and his wife Damaris, who had been Locke's friend for some years. (fn. 38) He paid £1 a week for himself and his manservant and 1s. a week for his horse. (fn. 39) He was given two of the best rooms in the house and he remained until his death. (fn. 40) While he lived there Otes was 'one of the really important addresses in the world of European letters'. (fn. 41) Locke assembled there a library of nearly 4,000 volumes. (fn. 42) He also had 'his desk and his specially constructed chair, his meteorological instruments set up "in the Drawing Room", his telescope, his botanical specimens, and a great porous stone through which all the water he drank-and he drank nothing else-had to be carefully filtered'. (fn. 43)
From 1723 Otes was occupied by Samuel, 1st Baron Masham, and his wife Abigail who from 1707 until 1714 had been Queen Anne's friend and one of the most powerful persons in the country. (fn. 44) Abigail died in 1734. (fn. 45)