A History of the County of Essex: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1966.
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The three Epping manors mentioned in Domesday clearly do not account for the whole of the ancient parish, and it is suggested elsewhere that the great manor of Waltham, held in 1086 by the Bishop of Durham, must have extended into Epping. (fn. 1) During the Middle Ages Waltham Abbey greatly enlarged its estates in Epping, Waltham, and Nazeing. This process culminated in 1350 with the acquisition of Copped Hall. In the 16th and 17th centuries most of the manors in the parish changed hands frequently, but in the 18th and 19th centuries the Conyers family and their successors, the Wythes family, built up a large estate around their mansion of Copped Hall.
In 1086 the total area of the manors in Epping, so named, was about 5½ hides. (fn. 2) The arable land was being worked by some 4½ plough teams. There was woodland for some 180 swine. There was very little meadow except on Ranulf's manor, where some of it probably lay by the Lea, in Nazeing. Livestock on the three manors included 12 'beasts', 26 swine, 46 sheep, 8 goats, and a rouncy. (fn. 3) The manors had few tenants. On that belonging to Waltham were only 2 bordars and 2 serfs. On Osbern's manor were 2 villeins and 2 bordars. Even Ranulf's manor, threequarters of which was in Nazeing, had only 7 villeins and 9 bordars. These Domesday figures, if read in conjunction with those relating to the manor of Waltham, (fn. 4) suggest that in 1086 much of what was later the parish of Epping was sparselypopulated forest. The history of the forest, so far as it concerns Epping, is described below. (fn. 5) In and after the 12th century there was much forest clearance.
By c. 1235 the manor of Epping belonging to Waltham Abbey had some 50 tenants. Of these Osbert at Brook held 1½ virgate, and Adam at Fortey 1 virgate. (fn. 6) The other tenements were smaller; more than half of them were about 2 a. Most of these smallholders dwelt on the heath, where the market (fn. 7) was soon to be established. The rental from which this information comes also lists the tenants' services in detail. Much of the manorial hay came from Nazeing Mead by the river Lea. (fn. 8) Mowing and making hay in this meadow, and carting it to the manor as far as Cobbin's Bridge, figure in the services of nearly every tenant.
There is no evidence that open-field agriculture was ever practised at Epping; it is more likely that most of the land—and certainly that reclaimed from the forest—was always farmed in severalty. The few available figures suggest that in the Middle Ages arable farming predominated in the parish: on most manors there was little meadow and pasture. (fn. 9) By the end of the 18th century the proportion was very different. Ogborne (1814) stated that there were then in Epping a total of about 6,000 a., of which 4,800 a. were meadow and pasture, 500 a. common or forest and the remainder arable and inclosed wood. (fn. 10) These were only rough estimates, since the total area of the ancient parish was, in fact, only 5,319 a., but even when allowance is made for this the figures are striking. About this time a good deal of arable in south-west Essex was being converted to pasture. (fn. 11) No doubt this was happening at Epping; but dairy-farming was already well established in the parish before then. (fn. 12) The main cause of the conversion to pasture was no doubt the proximity of London, which provided a large and growing market for dairy products. The change had probably been going on at Epping throughout the 18th century, though there are few figures to prove this. The process is illustrated at Shingle Hall. In 1303 that manor had contained 120 a. arable, 8 a. meadow, and 4 a. pasture; in 1563 there were 160 a. arable, 20 a. meadow, and 60 a. pasture; by c. 1750 there were 40 a. arable, 40 a. meadow, and 120 a. pasture. (fn. 13) In the early 19th century Epping was well known for its excellent butter, which fetched the highest prices in London. (fn. 14) The local farmers did not favour any particular breed of cow, but seem to have relied on good pastures and a high standard of cleanliness in their dairies. (fn. 15) Epping pork and sausages were also well known. (fn. 16)
During the second quarter of the 19th century the amount of arable land in the parish appears to have increased. In 1840 there were some 1,300 a. compared with 2,900 a. meadow and pasture. (fn. 17) At this time the largest local landowner was H. J. Conyers, of Copped Hall, an irascible squire whose devotion to hunting became legendary. (fn. 18) His farm leases show his desire to preserve game, but do not suggest a deliberate policy of bringing more land under the plough. (fn. 19)
Besides the pasture on individual farms there was extensive grazing on the common wastes of the parish. These included some small patches of grassland, but they were mainly woodland, and all fell within the legal limits of the Forest of Essex, now known as Epping Forest. The Epping Forest Act (1878) placed all the commons in the parish, except Rye Hill, under the protection of the City of London, and thus ensured their preservation. (fn. 20) Rye Hill Common was presumably omitted because most of it lay in Little Parndon parish. This common was ploughed up during the Second World War and has since been inclosed. (fn. 21)
Until the early 19th century one of the main outlets for the dairy produce of Epping and district— and indeed for a much wider area—was the town's own market. (fn. 22) After the first railways were built the town and the market declined but with the extension of the branch line from Loughton to Epping and Ongar in 1865 the development of the town (fn. 23) continued and the market revived, though perhaps more slowly. These events probably affected local dairy farming. In 1876 Epping butter and sausages were still being made, but were said to have lost their previous supremacy. (fn. 24) The proportion of arable to grassland in the parish did not, however, change very much. In 1905 the parish of Epping Upland (an area somewhat smaller than the ancient parish of Epping) contained some 1,100 a. arable to 2,500 a. permanent grass. (fn. 25)
The growth of stage-coach traffic in the 18th century, and the prosperity it brought to Epping are described above. (fn. 26) This trade declined after 1840, but it returned in the present century with motor transport. In the 19th century Epping also began to develop as a holiday resort, mainly for Londoners. This originated in the sports connected with Epping Forest, especially fox-hunting and stag-hunting. The 'Cockney Hunt' on Easter Monday is well known from Tom Hood's satire. (fn. 27) From 1805 to 1808 and again from 1813 to 1853 the Essex Hounds were kennelled at Copped Hall, under the mastership of H. J. Conyers. (fn. 28) In 1848 Epping was said to be 'much resorted to in the summer months by parties from London'. (fn. 29) The holiday industry was facilitated by the opening of the railway to Epping and its continuance ensured by the preservation of the forest.
By 1848 the town, though still very small, had a wide range of trades, including a bird-stuffer, a brewer, a maltster and 4 brickmakers. (fn. 30) A brewery, on the north side of Lindsey Street, was established in 1840 and ceased brewing in 1907. (fn. 31) The building was later used as a store. (fn. 32) In 1840 there was a brickfield to the west of the High Street, in or near the position later occupied by the National School in St. John's Road. (fn. 33) A brickfield at Epping Plain was worked for most of the 19th century by two successive masters, Robert Harvey and Charles Foster. (fn. 34) The Station Brickworks, belonging to William Cottis & Sons, was in operation from c. 1894 to 1937 or later. (fn. 35) The firm of Cottis, founded in 1858, had as its original and principal business iron founding and the manufacture of agricultural implements. It was the largest employer of labour in Epping. (fn. 36) In the present century several other firms have established engineering works at Epping.
A windmill at Shingle Hall manor was mentioned in 1303. In 1595 and 1624 there were two windmills belonging to the manor of Eppingbury. (fn. 37) In and after 1635 only one is mentioned. (fn. 38) This was at Bell Common, next to the former bowling-green. (fn. 39) It still existed in 1840 but had disappeared by c. 1895. (fn. 40) In c. 1777 there was a windmill at the northern end of High Street, opposite Maltings Lane. (fn. 41)
MARKETS AND FAIRS.
In 1253 the king granted to Waltham Abbey the right to hold a market every Monday at Epping Heath, and an annual fair there on the vigil, feast, and morrow of the Ascension. (fn. 42) In 1575 the queen granted to the lord of the manor a Friday market and two annual fairs, one on Whit Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, the other on the vigil, day, and morrow of All Souls (1–3 November) with the right to hold piepowder courts. (fn. 43) This grant, which superseded that of 1253, stated that the market and fair had long been disused because the original times were inconvenient. In 1671 the king confirmed to the lord of the manor the charter of 1575 and granted him in addition a Thursday cattle market and two fairs, one on 2 and 3 April, the other on 2 and 3 September. (fn. 44) Ownership of the markets and fairs descended with the manor until the 20th century. The Friday market continued to be held on that day until after the First World War, when it was changed back to Monday. (fn. 45) It was bought by Epping Urban District Council in 1955 from the owners of the manor. (fn. 46) The Thursday market had died out by c. 1768. (fn. 47)
The April and September fairs granted by the 1671 charter had evidently ceased by c. 1768, if indeed they were ever established. Those in Whit week and November continued and in the 19th century there was also a fair in the second week of October. Another fair, for wool, was held annually from 1837 for nearly 40 years. The statute-fair, for hiring servants, was practically extinct by the mid19th century. (fn. 48) Fairs seem to have ceased at Epping between 1903 and 1925. (fn. 49)
There are occasional references to the market in records of the 16th century and later. In 1578 a man was prosecuted for selling unwholesome meal there. (fn. 50) In 1664 two higglers were said to have forestalled the market by buying goods for re-sale. (fn. 51) One of these had bought butter; this is an early reference to what became an important trade. By the end of the 18th century Epping dairy produce, much of which went to London, was well known. (fn. 52) Some of it was sold direct to dealers, or at Waltham Abbey market, but Epping market was clearly an important distributing centre. (fn. 53) What was sold there in addition to dairy produce is not entirely clear. A pig-market certainly existed in 1795 and later. (fn. 54) In the early 19th century geese were being brought into the town in large numbers. (fn. 55) Some were probably sold in the market, but many were driven on to London or were sold by dealers in Epping working from their own premises, the most important of which was the Old Goose Yard, behind the High Street on the west side. (fn. 56)
Both the goose-dealers and others sometimes profited from the existence of the market while evading market tolls. Dwellers in the High Street sometimes erected illicit stalls in front of their houses: presentments of this offence occur in the court rolls of Eppingbury from the 16th century. (fn. 57) In 1771 the lord of the manor took legal advice concerning the erection of stalls outside the normal market area. (fn. 58) In 1807 he brought an action against the keeper of the Sun Inn for running an illicit pigmarket, and in 1821 and 1829 prosecuted other persons for encroachments on the market. (fn. 59) How successful these actions were is not clear.
In the mid-19th century the market declined. In 1887 it was said to be 'almost obsolete, one stall is a rarity'. (fn. 60) By this time, however, the railway had been extended to Epping, and this probably explains why the market revived. In 1890 livestock and other goods were being sold there. (fn. 61) The market is still (1962) held on Monday in the High Street, but the sale of cattle ceased in 1961. (fn. 62)
A market house was mentioned in 1666. (fn. 63) Two market houses were in existence in 1741. (fn. 64) One was replaced by stalls in 1781. (fn. 65) The other was demolished in 1845. (fn. 66) That building, shown in a print of 1818, (fn. 67) stood on the west side of the High Street, north of the church, on the site of the present carpark. (fn. 68) A butter cross, said to have been removed in 1781, stood in the High Street near the present police station; it gave its name to Buttercross Lane. (fn. 69)
The whole of the ancient parish of Epping lay within the Forest of Essex. The eastern boundary of the parish was also the forest boundary, as defined by the perambulations of 1301 and 1641. (fn. 70) The boundary was marked by a 'purlieu bank', part of which still exists on the south side of Bell Common near the forest. (fn. 71) This ran through the town immediately east of the High Street, and probably accounts for the fact that the houses on that side of the street are at a higher level than those on the west side. Under the Epping Forest Act of 1878 the remains of the bank were placed under the protection of the Conservators of the Forest. (fn. 72) In the Middle Ages Epping, like the other parishes in the hundred, was in the forest bailiwick of Waltham. In the 16th century, when the bailiwicks were replaced by 'walks', Epping Walk was formed, including the whole of Epping parish and the northern part of Waltham Holy Cross. The forestership of Waltham hundred, and that of Epping Walk, were attached to Copped Hall. (fn. 73)
In 1086 much of Epping was probably woodland, (fn. 74) but in and after the 12th century there was much clearance. In 1189 Richard I granted Waltham Abbey over 1,000 a. assarts in south-west Essex. (fn. 75) Of these only 60 a. were specifically stated to be in Epping, but some of the assarts in Waltham, Sewardstone, and Nazeing probably extended into Epping. Similar grants were made at various dates in the 13th and 14th centuries to enable the abbey to enlarge Harold's Park, Copped Hall Park, and probably Wintry Park. (fn. 76) During the late 16th and early 17th centuries a number of assarts were made in Epping without licence: some of these were reported by a Royal Commission in 1620, and in the following year the king confirmed them to various owners, on certain conditions. (fn. 77) By c. 1641 the woodland in Epping parish covered an area little larger than it does to-day. (fn. 78) During the next two centuries, however, there were occasional small inclosures from the forest. (fn. 79)
In 1840 there were two large areas of forest in the parish: the Little Forest (192 a.) south-west of the town, and the Great Forest (or Wintry Wood) (307 a.) to the north-east of it. There were also pieces of common waste, totalling about 50 a., at Rye Hill, Thornwood, Severs Green, Gibbons Bush Common, Epping Long Green, and at the northern and southern approaches to the town. (fn. 80) Under the Epping Forest Act (1878) all these areas, except Rye Hill Common, came under the protection of the City of London, as Conservators of the Forest, and thus remain uninclosed common. (fn. 81)
The ways leading from the cultivated areas to the wastes were closed by gates, usually called hatches. Forteyhatch, mentioned in 1270, (fn. 82) must have been in Bury Lane, where later stood Bury Lane Gate. (fn. 83) Wolverycheshatch occurs in 1410; (fn. 84) it was on the manor of Hayleys and probably closed the way to Thornwood Common. Shingle Hall hatch, also mentioned in 1410, (fn. 85) no doubt stood in the lane leading from Shingle Hall to Severs Green. Clayhatch, mentioned in 1464, 1601, and 1654, was near Claygarth (now Takeleys). (fn. 86) A gate in Bury Lane and another in Lindsey Street were removed about 1850. (fn. 87)
The occupiers of ancient tenements in Epping had the right of grazing their cattle on the grass commons and the forest wastes. (fn. 88) In the Great Forest their rights of common were shared with the men of Theydon Garnon, in spite of the fact that Theydon was outside the forest. (fn. 89) From the Little Forest their beasts could range over the whole of the main forest area. A reeve appointed by the court of the manor of Eppingbury (fn. 90) branded the cattle with the Epping mark, an 'E' turned on its back, surmounted by a dot and a crown. (fn. 91) As late as the 17th century some tenants also had rights of estovers, but these had lapsed by the time of the Epping Forest Commission. (fn. 92)
The forest was a fruitful source of timber. In 1342 Waltham Abbey had licence to cut £200 worth in Epping and other parishes. (fn. 93) In 1649 the government ordered four men, including James Fogg of Epping, to mark timber suitable for naval use. (fn. 94) Fogg was still engaged on this work in 1651. (fn. 95) Illicit felling sometimes occurred. In 1670 William, Lord Grey, the lord of the manor, was presented at a forest court for cutting down 150 trees in Wintry Wood during the past five years. (fn. 96) Presentments for similar offences were occasionally made at manor courts. (fn. 97)
The principal manor courts were those of Eppingbury and Priestbury (or Epping Presbiter). These, though nominally separate, were always under the same lord. The court of Eppingbury had leet jurisdiction over the southern part of the parish, including the town, and also functioned as a court baron. Priestbury had only a court leet, which governed the Upland. It was held under a maple tree on the road between Eppingbury and the parish church, probably at the point shown as 'Cut-maple' on Chapman and André's Map of 1777. (fn. 98)
Court rolls survive for Eppingbury and Priestbury for 1270 and occasional years in the 15th and early 16th centuries. (fn. 99) There are also several registers containing extracts from court rolls of the 14th and 15th centuries. (fn. 100) A continuous series of court rolls runs from 1541 to 1817. (fn. 101) During that period the courts leet met annually, usually in Whit week or the week after Trinity. There were 15–20 jurors for Eppingbury and 8–12 for Priestbury. The courts exercised jurisdiction over the assizes of bread and ale, petty criminal cases, nuisances, roads, bridges, and the market. They also enforced the common and forest regulations. During the 16th and 17th centuries the courts were fairly active, but their later proceedings were of a formal nature.
During the years 1577–93 there were occasional presentments in the leets for illicit gambling. This may reflect the Puritan views of Sir Thomas Heneage, lord of the manor from 1572 to 1595. In the same period, and in the early 17th century, infringements of the assizes, fighting, and drunkenness were often presented.
The leets regularly appointed a constable for the town and another for the Upland. (fn. 102) In 1643 the town constable was accused of negligence in collecting poor and other rates, and in 1646 the same man was fined £5 for inefficiency and contempt of court. Two aletasters were appointed for the town throughout the period of the rolls, and up to 1652 a leathersealer also. There are references to the duckingstool, cage, and pillory in 1609, to the stocks in 1624 and 1800, and to two manorial pounds in 1781. The cage still existed in 1840 when it was in the High Street opposite St. John's chapel. (fn. 103) At the end of the 19th century there was a pound immediately south of Wintry Park Farm, to the west of the main road. (fn. 104)
Three other manors in the parish had courts baron, but not courts leet. The court rolls of Campions survive for 1490–1594, 1633, and 1639– 1847, (fn. 105) those of Chambers for 1573–1847, with gaps, (fn. 106) and that of Shingle Hall for 1566–1795, with gaps. (fn. 107)
The only surviving parish records earlier than 1834, apart from those relating to the chapel and charities, are overseers' rates for 1665 and 1757–62, and overseers' accounts for 1737–8 (the town only) and 1757–64, and rates for 1757–62. (fn. 108) A little information concerning parish government before the 19th century comes from these and other sources. There were two churchwardens, two overseers, and, from 1652 or earlier, two surveyors of roads. (fn. 109) In the early 17th century the constables, although they were manorial and not parish officers, took some part in rate-collection, as is shown by the court-roll reference of 1643, quoted above. From at least as early as 1655 the overseers collected the rates. In 1627 a former churchwarden was accused of embezzling £15 'stock for the poor'. (fn. 110) From 1759 the parish clerk was being paid a salary.
In 1757 the parish was paying quit-rents for a poorhouse and also for a pest-house. A workhouse was apparently built, or bought, in 1761. In 1776 it had accommodation for 20. (fn. 111) The workhouse and pest-house were on the north side of Lindsey Street, in the positions approximately indicated by field names on the tithe map of 1840. (fn. 112) Workhouse field was near the present Woodberry Down; pest-house field was about 400 yds. south of Wintry Park Farm. One of the buildings had been conveyed to the parish in 1714. (fn. 113) Both buildings had disappeared by 1840. In 1757–64 regular out-relief was being given to some 30 paupers. During that period a parish doctor was employed. There was an epidemic of small-pox in 1759–60, and many of the victims were sent to the pest-house.
The overseers' rate of 1665 appears to have yielded about £20. (fn. 114) In 1757, when separate rates were being levied for the town and the Upland, a 6d. rate yielded £87, of which £51 was from the town. There were four such rates, and one of 3d. in that year, producing in all about £390. In 1761 the total was £439. In 1776 it was £373, and the average of the years 1783–5 was £527. (fn. 115) In 1816 the rate was £1,580, and in 1821 it was £1,863. (fn. 116)
In 1836 the parish became part of the Epping Poor Law Union and a Union Workhouse (now St. Margaret's Hospital) was built on the south side of the Plain, then in Theydon Garnon parish.
The growth of Epping created problems of public health which became urgent about 1853. (fn. 117) In that year a local doctor, Joseph Clegg, complained to the Board of Health about the need for sewage and waterworks. He had to campaign for nearly 20 years before such works were started. In the absence of a local board of health, responsibility for sanitation was divided between the Epping Poor Law Union and the parish vestries of Epping, Theydon Garnon, and Theydon Bois. Clegg was opposed by those who considered his proposals unnecessary or extravagant in such a small town. They included the Vicar of St. John's, Epping, Thomas Tuck, and two large landowners, Thomas Chisenhale-Marsh of Gaynes Park, and John Archer-Houblon of Coopersale. (fn. 118) Two of his strongest supporters were J. Teesdale Davis, the Congregational minister, whose daughter had died of fever, and Benjamin Winstone, Quaker and local historian. (fn. 119)
Clegg's first approach to the government seems to have been fruitless. In 1856 the Epping vestry appointed a nuisance removal committee, but this did little. During the next ten years there were cases of cholera, typhoid, and other diseases spread by bad sanitation. In 1867, when the death rate in Epping was the highest in Essex. (fn. 120) Clegg complained to the Home Office under section 49 of the Sanitary Act (1866). (fn. 121) That section empowered the Home Office, after such a complaint, and due enquiry, to order a local authority to carry out sanitary works, and, in default, to supersede the local authority, carry out the works, and levy a rate to pay for them. Epping was one of only 7 places in the country where the section was fully applied.
The Home Office decided that Clegg's complaint was justified, but that no remedy was possible until there was a single local authority for the district. He then submitted a ratepayers' petition demanding a special drainage district, under the Sewage Utilization Act (1867), (fn. 122) and in 1868 the Home Office ordered the formation of such a district for Epping town and its environs. A sewer committee for the district was duly elected, but its members refused to act, and in November 1868 they all resigned. In the same month the Home Office ordered that water works should be started within a month. When that time limit expired it immediately put in hand a scheme not only for water works but also for sewage works, which had not been covered by the order. This technical error — later rectified — gave colour to the local belief that the government was acting ultra vires, and in 1870 two local solicitors (fn. 123) challenged the Home Office by an action in the Queen's Bench. When the action failed the way seemed clear for the completion of the works. By 1872 an artesian well had been sunk, a water tower built, water mains laid throughout the town, and main sewers over a large part. But there were still great difficulties. The well was yielding only one third of what had been expected, and even this supply could not be used because no service pipes had been laid to individual premises.
Under the Local Government Act (1872) the guardians of Epping Union became the Rural Sanitary Authority for the district. The government pressed them to take over the water and sewage works, together with the debt — £11,900 at 5 per cent. — incurred in their construction. The R.S.A. at first refused to accept liability, saying that the works were useless, but in 1878 they finally agreed to pay part of the debt over a period of 20 years. (fn. 124) To assist repayment they sold the water works in 1879 to a private firm. (fn. 125)
The R.S.A. continued to govern Epping until 1896, when Epping Urban District was formed from parts of the civil parishes of Epping, Theydon Garnon, and Theydon Bois, following the lines of the special drainage district of 1868. The residue of Epping became the civil parish of Epping Upland. (fn. 126)
In 1879 the Epping Rural Sanitary Authority sold the water-tower, well, and engine at Epping to William Russ and Charles Minns, civil engineers, who had obtained powers under the Herts. and Essex Water Order (1879). (fn. 127) In 1880 the property was acquired by Edward Easton, who in 1883 formed the Herts. and Essex Waterworks Company. The Epping works, compulsorily erected by the government at great expense, as described in the previous section, had been lying virtually useless since 1872. In 1884 the new company supplied only 392 consumers, and earned £678. By 1886 it was supplying Epping town and several places from a good artesian well at Sawbridgeworth (Herts.). (fn. 128) Some householders, however, would not use the main supply, but continued to draw drinking water from polluted shallow wells. (fn. 129) The company began to supply Epping Upland about 1900. The centre of that parish is still (1961) without piped water. (fn. 130)
The construction of the sewage works at Epping was also described above. In 1892 it was reported that many houses in the town were still using cesspools. (fn. 131) The Rural Sanitary Authority laid sewers in St. John's Road and Chapel Road in 1894—5. (fn. 132) Main drainage was provided for most properties in Epping Upland in 1949. (fn. 133)
The Epping Gas Co. was formed in 1862 and began to supply gas about 1865. (fn. 134) In 1911 it became part of the Bishop's Stortford and District Gas Co., which in 1949 was merged in the Eastern Gas Board. Since c. 1904 gas has been supplied to part of Epping Upland, but most of that parish is still without it. (fn. 135) Electricity was first provided at Epping town in 1928 and at Epping Upland in 1938, by the County of London Electric Supply Co. The northern fringe of Epping Upland is still (1961) without a supply. (fn. 136)
St. Margaret's Hospital, The Plain, was previously the workhouse of the Epping Union. The Cottage Hospital, Bell Common, was opened in 1912. (fn. 137) The Literary Institute has been described in a previous volume of this History. (fn. 138)