Little Laver: Introduction

Pages 97-98

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

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Little Laver is a small parish about 5 miles to the north of Chipping Ongar, (fn. 1) with an area of 964 acres. (fn. 2) In 1428 it contained fewer than 10 households. (fn. 3) There were 15 inhabited houses in 1801, 20 in 1811, and 16 in 1821. (fn. 4) In 1801 the population was 90. (fn. 5) By 1841 it had grown to 128. (fn. 6) It declined in the next 30 years to 104, then rose to 124 in 1891. (fn. 7) At the end of the century it fell just below 100 and has since remained about this level. (fn. 8) In 1951 it was 96. (fn. 9)

The land is about 280 ft. above sea-level in the east and 230 ft. in the west. Three streams run across the northern half of the parish. There is a small area of woodland on the north-east boundary. The road from High Laver to Abbess Roding crosses the western boundary of the parish and runs eastward. On the south side of the road, about ½ mile from the boundary, is Church Farm, where there is part of a large moat. Farther east are Little Laver Mill and the Mill House. (fn. 10) Beyond the mill the road is joined by a road which runs southward to Moreton. On the east side of the road junction is the Red House, a timber-framed farmhouse of the 18th century or earlier. To the south of the Red House, on the west side of the Moreton road, is the former rectory. (fn. 11) East of the Red House on the road to Abbess Roding is the village hall. (fn. 12) To the south of the road on the eastern boundary of the parish is Envilles. (fn. 13)

Nearly opposite the village hall a road runs northwest to Matching Green. On the west side of this road is Gosling Hall, a two-story timber-framed building probably of the 15th century. It originally consisted of an open hall of two bays with a two-story cross-wing at its north end. The south end of the hall block may be a later addition. In the 16th or early 17th century a chimney was built in the south bay of the hall, a ceiling was inserted and the roof was renewed and possibly raised. The lower part of the arched braces to the tiebeam of the original hall roof-truss can still be seen in the ground floor room of this block. A cambered tiebeam, originally having arched braces, is also partly visible above the first floor room of the cross-wing. The gabled east end of this wing oversails and has curved supporting brackets. An external chimney on the north side, partly rebuilt recently, has diagonal shafts and is probably of the 16th or early 17th century. Beyond Gosling Hall to the north are the church (fn. 14) and the old manor house, now called the Grange. (fn. 15) Farther north there is a windpump on the west side of the road. Opposite this is a long drive north-east to Little Laver Hall. (fn. 16) To the north of the drive on the road to Matching Green are Stone Cottages, formerly the parish poorhouse. (fn. 17) About ¼ mile farther north is Hull Green farm-house, which is probably of 18th-century date. From Hull Green the road turns westward and forms the parish boundary for a short distance before joining the road from Matching Green to Ongar. South of the junction the Ongar road, called at this point Water Lane, forms the western boundary of the parish for about a mile. On the east side of this road is Waterman's End House, a timber-framed building of the 18th century or earlier. North of the house is a pair of 18th-century cottages. South of Waterman's End House, on the same side of the road, is a brick house which until 1886-90 (fn. 18) was the Leather Bottle Inn. (fn. 19)

Postal facilities were extended to Little Laver when a receiving office was set up at Moreton in 1846. (fn. 20) Water was supplied by the Herts. and Essex Waterworks Co. in 1912. (fn. 21) Electricity was supplied to one end of the parish in 1950. (fn. 22) There is a village hall, erected in 1891. (fn. 23)

Little Laver has always been a rural parish devoted mainly to agriculture. The Collins family, owners of the manors of Little Laver Hall and Envilles for a century or more after 1559, lived in the parish at least during the period 1599-1671. (fn. 24) It is not clear whether the owners were resident in the period immediately after the Collinses disposed of the estates. The owners of Little Laver Hall certainly did not live in the parish from 1714 until after the Meyers acquired the estate in 1804-5. (fn. 25) Christian P. Meyer, who succeeded to the estate in 1828-9, was resident by 1848 and since his time the owners of this estate have always lived in the parish. (fn. 26) Whether the owners of Envilles did so in the first three quarters of the 18th century is not clear; certainly they were not resident between 1780 and 1897. (fn. 27)

In 1848 the parish consisted of 968 acres. (fn. 28) C. P. Meyer owned 270 acres of which he occupied only 15 acres. (fn. 29) John Maryon Wilson owned 249 acres but farmed none of it himself. (fn. 30) The only other substantial owner in the parish was Thomas Poynder who owned, but did not occupy, Hull Green Farm (119 acres). (fn. 31) There were two other farms of over 40 acres. (fn. 32)

Then, as now, there was mixed farming in the parish, with a marked predominance of arable. In 1847 it was estimated that there were 716 acres of arable, 150 acres of pasture, and 23 acres of woodland. (fn. 33)

There has been a windmill on the site of the present mill since the first half of the 17th century. (fn. 34) From the late 18th century until the First World War the mill descended from father to son, four consecutive millers being named Stephen Roast. (fn. 35) The first of these, who died in 1797, is said to have left money for his son to build the present mill. (fn. 36) This was originally a weatherboarded post mill of the usual local pattern. The tall brick base, about 20 ft. high, is an improvement said to date from about 1860. (fn. 37) The wooden superstructure was raised on jacks and props and a second story was added to the round house (fn. 38) giving extra height and storage space. It thus became a combination of smock and post mill and appears to be the only example known of this type. The fantail was also added about 1860. A miller named Hart (fn. 39) succeeded the last of the Roasts but the mill ceased working soon after 1930. (fn. 40) It is now the property of J. Brace & Sons of High Ongar and is used for storage purposes by their tenant. (fn. 41) The Mill House, which stands west of the mill, is a timberframed building probably dating from the 17th century.


  • 1. O.S. 2½ in. Map, sheets 52/50, 52/51.
  • 2. Inf. from Essex County Council.
  • 3. Feud. Aids, ii, 205.
  • 4. Census, 1801, 1811, 1821.
  • 5. V.C.H. Essex, ii, 350.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Ibid.; Census, 1911 f.
  • 9. Census, 1951.
  • 10. See below.
  • 11. See below, Church.
  • 12. See below, School.
  • 13. See below, Manor of Envilles.
  • 14. See below, Church.
  • 15. See below, Manor of Little Laver Hall.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. See below, Parish Government and Poor Relief.
  • 18. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1886, 1890).
  • 19. The location of this inn in Chapman and André, Map of Essex 1777, plate xii, appears to be wrong. According to this map there was at that time a building on the site later occupied by the Leather Bottle Inn but the name of the inn was attached to a building about 1 mile farther south on a site now occupied by America farm in High Laver. As there was undoubtedly a Leather Bottle Inn in Little Laver by 1769 it is almost certain that on the map of 1777 the name was attached to the wrong building: E.R.O., D/CT 210; 6 in. O.S. Map (1st edn.), plate xlii; 2½ in. O.S. Map, sheets 52/50, 52/51; E.R.O., Q/RLv 24-82.
  • 20. P.M.G. Mins. 1846, vol. 87, p. 5.
  • 21. Inf. from Herts. & Essex Waterworks Co.
  • 22. Inf. from East. Elec. Bd.
  • 23. See below, School.
  • 24. E.R.O., D/P 147/1/1; ibid. Q/RTh 1 & 5.
  • 25. See below, Manor of Little Laver Hall; E.R.O., Q/RPl 685 f.
  • 26. See below, Manor of Little Laver Hall; E.R.O., D/CT 210; Kelly's Dir. Essex, 1859 f.
  • 27. See below, Manor of Envilles; E.R.O., Q/RPl 685-737; ibid. D/CT 210.
  • 28. E.R.O., D/CT 210.
  • 29. Ibid.
  • 30. Ibid.
  • 31. Ibid.
  • 32. Ibid.
  • 33. Ibid.
  • 34. E.R.O., Q/SR 281/9; D. Smith, English Windmills, ii, 49.
  • 35. D. Smith, English Windmills, ii, 49.
  • 36. Ibid.
  • 37. E.R. xl, 163.
  • 38. D. Smith, English Windmills, ii, 49.
  • 39. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1926).
  • 40. E.R. xl, 163.
  • 41. Inf. from present tenant.