Chafford hundred: Introduction

Pages 99-102

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.

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Chafford hundred, with 14 parishes, lies in the south-west of the county, extending from the Thames marshes north for about 13 miles to the clay uplands of South Weald. On the west the Weald brook and the river Ingrebourne formed part of the boundary with the liberty of Havering, while the eastern boundary with the hundred of Barstable included the river Mardyke. There were old towns at Grays Thurrock in the south, and Brentwood, formerly a hamlet of South Weald, in the north. Rainham village was a small port for coastal shipping. At Grays and West Thurrock the chalk outcrop provided materials for an ancient quarrying industry. The other parts of the hundred remained rural until the later 19th century. There are still farms and woods in the centre and north. There have been few great houses. The most notable were South Weald Hall, and Belhus, Aveley, demolished in 1946 and 1957 respectively. South Weald park, Thorndon park, and Upminster common have remained as open spaces.

During the present century an industrial area has grown up along the Thames. West Thurrock is now one of the largest cement-producing areas in Europe. Ferro-alloys are made at Rainham; oil and petroleum are stored at Purfleet in West Thurrock and Grays. The Ford Motor Co. has its British and European headquarters at Little Warley, near Brentwood, and depots at South Ockendon and West Thurrock. In the later 19th century, after the opening of the railway from London, Brentwood town began to spread south into Great Warley. At Rainham there was a little building in the later 19th century, and there has been much more since 1918. At Upminster suburban growth began about 1900. The great housing estate at Belhus, in Aveley and South Ockendon, was built by the London county council after the Second World War.

In 1086 Chafford hundred contained some 112 hides divided between 46 estates in 16 villages distinguished by separate names. (fn. 1) Most of the villages later gave their names to the parishes of the hundred, but there were exceptions. The Domesday Warley was later split into the parishes of Great and Little Warley. Thurrock became three parishes, two of which, Grays and West Thurrock, were in Chafford hundred, and the third in Barstable hundred. Part of Ockendon was later included in Cranham, and the remainder became the parishes of North and South Ockendon. Kenningtons became part of Aveley parish. Fingrith and 'Ginga', where the king held estates associated with one at Ockendon, became the parishes of Blackmore and Margaretting. (fn. 2) Blackmore and Margaretting were later in Chelmsford hundred, but the order of entries in Domesday Book makes it seem unlikely that they are listed under Chafford hundred by mistake. 'Limpwella' and 'Geddesduna' have not been definitely identified. (fn. 3) 'Limpwella', a small estate held of the bishop of Bayeux, may have been Imphy Hall in Buttsbury, later Chelmsford hundred. (fn. 4) 'Geddesduna', a one-hide estate held by Westminster Abbey, and recorded elsewhere as Ingeddesdoune, was probably in the northern uplands of the hundred. (fn. 5) It may be identical with Englands or Inglondes, an ancient estate in Little Warley which in the 17th century was said to comprise 120 a. or one plough-land, and which was always independent of the surrounding manors. (fn. 6)

Chafford was one of the Domesday hundreds with extensive marshland sheep pastures. (fn. 7) The pastures were appurtenant not only to the coastal villages of Grays and West Thurrock, but also to the inland villages of Childerditch, South Ockendon, Great and Little Warley, and to 'Limpwella'. Little Warley's marshland was about 8 miles away, at Corringham, in Barstable hundred, and survived as a detached part of the inland parish until the 19th century. 'Limpwella's' possession of sheep pasture is consistent with its suggested location in Buttsbury, for the main manor of Buttsbury was among the few in Chelmsford hundred possessing sheep pastures. (fn. 8)


From the 13th century onwards the hundred comprised the 14 parishes already mentioned. (fn. 9) In the Middle Ages the parishes were normally identical with the 'vills', but there were exceptions. The NE. corner of South Weald parish formed part of the Doddinghurst List in Barstable hundred. (fn. 10) Chafford hundred sometimes claimed it, as in 1565, when a dispute was heard in the Court of Wards, (fn. 11) but the List, which also included part of Kelvedon Hatch, seems to have remained in Barstable hundred down to the 19th century. (fn. 12) Brentwood, where a main-road township grew up in the 12th century, remained part of South Weald parish until the 19th century, but by the 16th century was being assessed for taxation as a separate vill. (fn. 13) Brook Street, another hamlet of South Weald, was also separately assessed in the 16th century and later. (fn. 14) In the 14th century Little Warley and Childerditch were sometimes assessed along with Great Warley. (fn. 15)

Three parishes in the hundred had detached parts, shown on 19th-century maps. (fn. 16) Little Warley has already been mentioned. Two small parts of South Ockendon were locally situated in Stifford, and there was a detached part of Stifford in South Ockendon. The eastern boundary of Grays Thurrock was interlocked with the boundary of Little Thurrock, in Barstable hundred, in a curious layered manner, suggesting ancient intercommoning. West Thurrock had two small salients in Stifford parish.

Chafford hundred remained always with the Crown. In the 13th century it was customarily farmed by the bailiff. In the period 1273–5 it was stated that under Henry III the farm had usually been £5, but that it had been increased to 20 marks by Richard of Southchurch, sheriff in 1265–7, (fn. 17) against whom the men of the hundred levelled various charges of extortion and defalcation, and especially that of failing to pay for provisions taken from them in 1267 for the use of the king's troops, then besieging London. (fn. 18) In 1292 the hundred was let to farm at £5 6s. 8d. for half a year. (fn. 19) In the later 17th century the profits of the hundred were valued at £2 1s. 5½d. (fn. 20) A hundred bailiff was first mentioned in 1225, (fn. 21) and an under-bailiff in the period 1265–7. (fn. 22) A high constable was named c. 1556 and later. (fn. 23)

The ancient meeting-place of the hundred was probably Chafford heath, in Upminster parish. (fn. 24) For certain administrative purposes Chafford hundred was grouped with neighbouring hundreds. In 1321 a commission of the peace was issued jointly for Chafford and Barstable. (fn. 25) From the 16th century the two hundreds were normally associated for such purposes as musters, taxation, the preservation of game, and poor-relief. (fn. 26) In 1586, when the county was split into six administrative divisions, Chafford was included in the southern division, along with Becontree and Barstable hundreds, and Havering liberty. (fn. 27) During the Civil War the southern division was placed under a parliamentary committee meeting at Romford. (fn. 28)

The competence of the hundred court was affected by liberties granted to the lords of individual manors. By a charter of Henry II, confirmed in 1286, the manor of Costed (Brentwood) in South Weald was quit of suit of the hundred, and of sheriff's and hundred bailiff's aids. (fn. 29) During the hundredal inquisitions in the years 1273–5 it was stated that the lords of Aveley, Brentwood, Cranham, North and South Ockendon, Rainham, and South Weald claimed the assize of bread and ale and the right of gallows. (fn. 30) The lord of Childerditch was said to have withheld suits at the sheriff's tourn and wardpence for the past 23 years. The view of frankpledge and the assize of bread and ale were being held by the lord of Upminster Hall manor by 1271. (fn. 31) Both the manors in Great Warley had the view in the later Middle Ages. (fn. 32) The manor of Tillingham in Childerditch was a member of that of est Tilbury, in Barstable hundred, the lord of which had the view and the assize by the year 1274–5. (fn. 33) From 1377, when Coggeshall abbey acquired Tillingham, courts leet were held jointly for the manors of Childerditch and Tillingham. (fn. 34) Henry III in 1253 granted to the Knights Templars quittance from all hundred pence, and to St. Bartholomew's hospital (Lond.), quittance from shire and hundred courts. (fn. 35) Those general grants presumably applied to the Templars' manor of Rainham, and to St. Bartholomew's Elmhouse estate in Rainham.


  • 1. V.C.H. Essex, i. 427–574. Occasional ambiguities in Domesday Book make exact totals impossible.
  • 2. Ibid. 433.
  • 3. Ibid. 458, 445.
  • 4. For the etymology: P.N. Essex, 244, 583.
  • 5. C. Hart, Early Chart. Essex, no. 72.
  • 6. See p. 176.
  • 7. V.C.H. Essex, i. 369.
  • 8. Ibid. 369, 504.
  • 9. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i. 148; Feud. Aids, ii. 194; E 179/108/150.
  • 10. Morant, Essex, i. 192; Map of Essex (1777) (hundred boundary).
  • 11. Wards 3/34; B.L., Add. Ch. 27447.
  • 12. Q/RP1 1–51 (Land Tax returns, 1781–1832). Kelvedon Hatch was mainly in Ongar hundred. Its connexion with the Doddinghurst List was not noticed when that hundred was dealt with in a previous volume: V.C.H. Essex, iv. 1 sqq.
  • 13. E 179/108/150; E.R.O., Q/RTh 1 and 5.
  • 14. Ibid.; cf. Norden's Map of Essex (1594).
  • 15. E 179/107/18 (lay subsidy, 1327).
  • 16. O.S. Map 6", Essex, LXXV, LXXXIII, LXXVII, LXXXV (1881 edn.).
  • 17. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i. 148, 156.
  • 18. Ibid. 148–9; H. M. Cam, Hundred and Hundred Rolls, 101.
  • 19. Cam, op. cit. 146.
  • 20. Cal. Treasury Bks. 1689–92, 239.
  • 21. Pat. R. 1216–25, 524.
  • 22. Rot. Hund. i. 148.
  • 23. E.R.O., Q/SR 2/37; 18/64.
  • 24. P.N. Essex, 133; Map of Essex (1777). See also below, p. 146.
  • 25. Cal. Pat. 1321–4, 61.
  • 26. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiv(1), p. 415; E.R.O., D/DP O4 and O5; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1627–8, 221; 1628–9, 134; 1631–3, 39; E.R. lxi. 63.
  • 27. B. W. Quintrell, 'The Divisional Committee for Southern Essex during the Civil Wars.' (Manchester M.A. thesis, 1962), 2,155.
  • 28. Op. cit. passim.
  • 29. Cal. Chart. 1257–1300, 333.
  • 30. Rot. Hund. i. 148–9, 156.
  • 31. S.C. 2/173/30.
  • 32. See p. 170.
  • 33. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i. 154; Red Bk. Exch. (Rolls Ser.), ii. 503; Cal. Inq. p.m. iv, pp. 148–9.
  • 34. E.R.O., D/DP M1099 sqq.
  • 35. Cal. Chart. 1257–1300, 237, 368.