Bobbingworth: Introduction

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

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'Bobbingworth: Introduction', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred, (London, 1956) pp. 9-10. British History Online [accessed 13 April 2024]


Bobbingworth, commonly called Bovinger, is a parish immediately to the north-west of Chipping Ongar. (fn. 1) The middle element in the name of the parish suggests early Saxon settlement. (fn. 2) Bobbingworth now has an area of 2,595 acres. (fn. 3) It was formerly 1,642 acres but was increased in 1946 by the incorporation of the detached part of High Ongar lying immediately to the west of Bobbingworth and of the detached part of Moreton (½ acre) lying to the north-east of Ashlyns (see below). (fn. 4) In 1801 the population was 216. (fn. 5) By 1841 it had grown to 357; then it declined to 270 in 1901. (fn. 6) In the first half of the 20th century it was a little above 300 until the incorporation of the detached part of High Ongar brought it to 483 in 1951. (fn. 7)

The land rises from about 150 ft. above sea-level in the east and 200 ft. in the north to 330 ft. in the extreme south-west. A stream flowing into the Cripsey Brook forms part of the northern boundary. Reynkyns Wood lies on the western boundary. The road from Chipping Ongar to Epping enters the parish by Ackingford Bridge over the Cripsey Brook and runs north-west. About 200 yds. from Ackingford Bridge Pensons Lane, formerly called Pinings or Pinions Lane, runs south-westward to Greenstead. Nearly ½ mile farther along on the north side of the Ongar-Epping road lies Waterend Farm, a building probably of the 17th century but with additions on three sides of late 18th-century or early 19th-century date. Bilsdens (fn. 8) is ¼ mile west of Waterend, to the south of the road. About 1 mile from the bridge the main road is joined by Blake Hall Lane which leads north to the village of Bobbingworth. Blake Hall (fn. 9) stands in a park to the east of the lane. The rectory (fn. 10) is near the north entrance to the park. About 100 yds. farther north a small gate leads to a thatched and weather-boarded tithe barn of the 17th or 18th century. At this point the lane branches, one branch, known as Gainthorps Road, running northwards towards Moreton, and the other, known as Church Road, running westwards past the church and school. (fn. 11) The church is on the south side of Church Road immediately to the west of Gainthorps Road. A short lane divides the church from the school on the west and leads south to Bobbingworth Hall. (fn. 12) On the south-east side of the churchyard is an incomplete moat, suggesting the presence of an earlier manor house.

On the east side of Gainthorps Road, some 400 yds. from the church, stands Gainthorps Cottage, a timberframed house recently converted from two tenements; it dates from the 16th or early 17th century. A little farther along this road are four pairs of council houses. Opposite these houses a lane leads westward to Newhouse, a timber-framed farm-house, of the 16th or early 17th century, built on a half-H plan. The wings originally projected to the north with a small staircase block in the angle of the east wing. (fn. 13) There are two pairs of council houses on the lane leading to Newhouse Farm.

Hobban's Farm is ½ mile west of the church, to the north of Church Road. It is an 18th-century house, similar in appearance to Bobbingworth Hall. Opposite Hobbans, Church Road is joined by a road running south to Lower Bobbingworth Green and Greenstead. At the Green is Sayers Farm, a square red brick house apparently rebuilt in the middle of the 19th century. At Notts Corner, about 300 yds. west of Hobban's Farm, Church Road is joined by a road which runs north to Padler's End and by Mill Road which runs south from Notts Corner to meet the Epping-Ongar road at the hamlet of Bovinger Mill. Here the singlestory brick and roughcast buildings, including the present post-office, standing to the north of the site of the old mill, formed the mill-house and an adjoining bakery. (fn. 14)

About ¼ mile north of Notts Corner on the east side of the road to Padler's End stands Muggin's Farm, an 18th-century house. About ¼ mile farther north a lane leads west to Bobbingworth Lodge, a farm-house of the 17th century, much altered about 1920. A fine brick chimney-stack with six octagonal shafts was damaged by blast in 1944 and later rebuilt to its original design.

Five pairs of council houses stand on the east side of Moreton Bridge Road, in the north-east corner of the parish, near Moreton Bridge. Ashlyns is in the northwest, and Cold Harbour in the south-west, of the present parish of Bobbingworth. (fn. 15) Wardens Farm, to the south of Bovinger Mill, is timber-framed and weatherboarded and probably dates from the second half of the 17th century. It is built on a half-H shaped plan with wings projecting to the north-west. The front was faced with brickwork in the 18th century. Ashlyns, Cold Harbour, and Wardens were all in High Ongar parish until 1946.

References in the sessions rolls to communications in Bobbingworth chiefly relate to Ackingford Bridge. (fn. 16)

In 1582 and in 1600 Pinings Lane, from Ackingford Bridge to Greenstead Green, was said to be in decay, the parish of Bobbingworth being responsible for its upkeep. (fn. 17) In 1618 it was said that Bobbingworth and Shelley shared the responsibility for the highway leading from Ongar via Shelley Bridge to Moreton. (fn. 18) This road evidently then, as now, lay partly in Bobbingworth, partly in Shelley, and partly on the boundary between these two parishes.

The London-Ongar railway, which was opened in 1865, runs across the south of Bobbingworth. (fn. 19) Blake Hall station on this line is situated about 1 mile south of Lower Bobbingworth Green in the parish of Stanford Rivers.

Postal facilities were extended to Bobbingworth when a receiving office was set up at Moreton in 1846. (fn. 20) It had its own sub-post-office in 1874. (fn. 21) According to the county directories letters came through the Ongar office.

Water was supplied in the village by the Herts. and Essex Waterworks Co. in 1899. (fn. 22) Two of the four pairs of council houses in Gainthorps Road have a sewerage system. (fn. 23) There is no supply of gas, (fn. 24) but electricity was laid on in 1951. (fn. 25) There is a small parish room, and a large army hut at Blake Hall can be used for meetings. (fn. 26) A branch of the county library was opened in February 1939. (fn. 27) The football and cricket clubs have their own grounds. (fn. 28)

Bobbingworth has always been a rural parish devoted almost exclusively to agriculture. The large landowners were all resident in the parish from the last quarter of the 16th century until the beginning of the 18th century. (fn. 29) It is not clear whether the owners of Blake Hall were resident in the parish during the first quarter of the 18th century. By 1735 the lord of the manor, Richard Clarke, lived at the manor house but did not farm the estate. (fn. 30) He let Blake Hall manor farm to Robert Crabb and Bilsdens farm to Samuel Corney. (fn. 31) These two farms continued to be let until after Capel Cure purchased the estate in 1789. (fn. 32) After John Poole sold the manor of Bobbingworth to Charles Houblon in 1708, the owners of Bobbingworth Hall were generally not resident in the parish until J. A. Houblon sold the estate to Capel Cure in 1834. (fn. 33)

In 1840 the parish consisted of 1,628 acres. (fn. 34) Capel Cure of Blake Hall owned 1,058 acres of which he farmed nearly 700 acres himself. (fn. 35) He let Water End Farm (297 acres) to Jonathan Lewis, and Hobban's Farm (61 acres) to G. Pavitt. (fn. 36) This Capel Cure, son of the purchaser of Blake Hall, was a conscientious farmer and landlord. After his father's death in 1816 he kept a notebook recording his farming activities and the entries show him to have been energetic and methodical. (fn. 37) He toured his estate personally and carefully noted down the area of the individual farms, their state of cultivation, the condition of the buildings, the repairs which he had ordered, and the industry of the tenant farmers. (fn. 38) He put a new tenant into Bilsdens in 1827, some three years after he had observed that this farm was 'shamefully mismanaged'. (fn. 39) But he was kind and encouraging to industrious tenants. On a rent day in 1828 he gave a rebate of £10 to one tenant 'who is an industrious man, with a large family'. (fn. 40) At the end of his estate notebook Capel Cure copied a well-known passage from Sydney Smith: 'there are so many temptations in the life of a country gentleman to complete idleness, so many examples of it, and so much loss to the community from it, that every exception to the practice is deserving of great praise'. (fn. 41) Capel Cure himself was certainly one of the exceptions.

In 1840 there were only two other substantial owners in the parish; J. Stacey owned Perrils Farm (89 acres) and Sayers Farm (112 acres), both of which he farmed himself, and G. Thistlewood owned, but did not occupy, Newhouse Farm (119 acres). (fn. 42) There was only one other farm of over 40 acres. (fn. 43)

Then, as now, there was mixed farming in Bobbingworth. A three-course rotation of crops was generally followed, wheat, barley, and either beans or clover being the usual crops. (fn. 44)

In 1848 there were in the parish a cornmiller, who was also a baker, and a land surveyor. (fn. 45) The windmill was a wooden post-mill, turned by hand, with a brick 'round house' below. (fn. 46) It probably dated from the 18th century and the post, which was inscribed '1640', may have been an earlier one reused. (fn. 47) The mill became disused between 1912 and 1914. (fn. 48) The upper part of it was blown down in 1923; (fn. 49) the round house stood for some time afterwards.

The land surveyor mentioned in 1848 was Jonathan Lewis. (fn. 50) It was probably the same Jonathan Lewis who drew up some of the local tithe maps at this period and who did much surveying and other work for Capel Cure on the Blake Hall estate. (fn. 51)

This estate, totalling some 3,800 acres in Bobbingworth and other parishes, (fn. 52) must have employed a considerable amount of domestic as well as agricultural labour in the middle of the 19th century.


  • 1. O.S. 2½ in. Map, sheet 52/50.
  • 2. Chief Elements in Eng. Place-Names (E.P.N.S. i (2)), 42.
  • 3. Inf. from Essex County Council.
  • 4. Census Retns. 1931; County of Essex (Rural Parishes) Confirm. Order 1946.
  • 5. V.C.H. Essex, ii, 350.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Census Retns. 1911 f.; Inf. from Essex County Council.
  • 8. See below, Manor of Bilsdens.
  • 9. See below, Manor of Blake Hall.
  • 10. See below, Church.
  • 11. See below, Schools.
  • 12. See below, Manor of Bobbingworth.
  • 13. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 22.
  • 14. Inf. from Mrs. Burling at 11 Bovinger Mill, opposite site of old mill.
  • 15. For Ashlyns see High Ongar.
  • 16. See Chipping Ongar, p. 157.
  • 17. E.R.O., Q/SR 80/58, 149/43.
  • 18. E.R.O., Q/SBa 1/32.
  • 19. See Chipping Ongar, p. 158.
  • 20. P.M.G. Mins. 1846, vol. 87, p. 5.
  • 21. Ibid. 1874, vol. 132, min. 4759.
  • 22. Inf. from Herts. & Essex Waterworks Co.
  • 23. Inf. from Canon E. H. Gallop, Rector of Bobbingworth.
  • 24. Ibid.
  • 25. Inf. from East. Elec. Bd.
  • 26. Inf. from Canon Gallop.
  • 27. Inf. from County Librarian.
  • 28. Inf. from Canon Gallop.
  • 29. See below, Manors of Bobbingworth, Blake Hall, Bilsdens.
  • 30. E.R.O., D/DCc T1/3.
  • 31. Ibid.; D/P 127/8.
  • 32. E.R.O., Q/RPI 685-700.
  • 33. See below, Manor of Bobbingworth.
  • 34. E.R.O., D/CT 38.
  • 35. Ibid.
  • 36. Ibid.
  • 37. E.R.O., D/DCc E6.
  • 38. Ibid.
  • 39. Ibid.
  • 40. Ibid.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. E.R.O., D/CT 38.
  • 43. Ibid.
  • 44. E.R.O., D/DCc E6.
  • 45. White's Dir. Essex (1848), 414.
  • 46. E.R. xl, 163. Photograph at E.R.O.
  • 47. Ibid.
  • 48. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1912, 1914).
  • 49. Inf. from Mrs. Burling.
  • 50. White's Dir. Essex (1848), 414.
  • 51. E.R.O., D/DCc E6. The evidence suggests that J. Lewis may have been Cure's estate manager. He also acted as overseer of the parish for many years before 1827 (see below, Parish Government and Poor Relief).
  • 52. See below, Manor of Blake Hall.