1902 Encyclopedia > Essex

Essex




ESSEX, the tenth in size of the English counties, is situated on the S.E. coast, and is consequently bounded on the E. and S.E. by the North Sea. On the S. it is separated from Kent by the river Thames, on the W. from Middlesex and Hertfordshire by the Lea and .the Stort, and on the N.E. from Suffolk by the Stour, while on the N. it is conterminous with Cambridgeshire.

Essex contains 1,055,133 acres, or 1648 square miles. The population in 1851 was 369,318; in 1861, 404,834 ; and in 1871, 466,436 (233,903 males and 232,533 females). The increase is found to be almost entirely in the south-western corner of the county contiguous to the metropolis,—the parish of West Ham, which by the last census contained 62,919 inhabitants, being now estimated to have about 110,000. The coast has an exceedingly irregular outline, and, short as it is, it is deeply indented by estuaries of no less than three rivers—the Stour at Harwich, the Blackwater and Colne at Maldon, and the Thames ; and as may be suggested by this fact, the seaboard entirely lacks the bold and rugged beauty of the shores of the west of England. The rivers, with the exception of the Thames, are insignificant ; and so far as they are navigable they are useful chiefly for the transport of agri-cultural produce. Harwich is the only considerable har-bour, but Wivenhoe, on the Colne, is celebrated for its yacht-building. The sea has within historic times en-croached upon the land; and near Walton, on the Naze, ruins of buildings have been discerned at low water on a shoal known as the West Rocks, five miles out. On the cliffs of Walton are to be found interesting geological remains. In the parish of Dagenham there is a large tract at a lower level than the river, protected by an extensive dyke, which was restored in 1723 at an expense of nearly £42,500.

The Crouch, the Blackwater, and the Colne all supply favourite beds for oyster layers; and lawsuits to determine the right of dredging in these rivers have been pending for years. Barking sends out a large fleet of fishing smacks in the pursuit of turbot, soles, cod, &c.
Geologically the county rests almost entirely upon the London clay, which has been frequently pierced and found to be of great thickness. At Lamarsh, during the con-struction of the Stour Valley Railway, parts of a fossil elephant were discovered in a gravel stratum 14 feet below the surface. The soil of the southern and eastern portions is mostly of a rich alluvial character, with occasional traces of gravel; the Roothings in the centre are clay; but the northern district is sound loam, becoming lighter as it approaches Cambridgeshire. The landscape varies in like degree, the flat, uninteresting, but fertile grazing grounds near the coast and rivers providing a strong contrast to the undulating and frequently hilly neighbourhoods of Danbury, Baddow, Wickham, Weald, Laindon Hills, Havering, Warley, and Hedingham.





The roads of this county could hardly be surpassed; with a clay soil foundation, they have for generations been re-paired with flints picked by women and children from the surface of the fields,—an industry which will die out under the new Education Acts. Gravel is difficult of access, and some of the inland towns are purchasing granite for their streets; near Good Easter and Chignal, not ten miles from Chelmsford, the road surveyors are driven to the expedient of collecting pebbles from the brooks. With the exception of chalk for lime (mainly obtained at Ballingdon in the north and Grays in the south), septaria for making cement, and clay for bricks, the underground riches of the county are meagre, and it is to agriculture that we must look for the internal resources of Essex.

For the large quantity and the fine quality of both its wheat and its barley Essex has long been famous. Essex wheat is one of the standard quotations of the London markets, and thousands of quarters are exported to the north of England, as well as to France, for seed purposes ; the Essex Rough Chaff, the Nursery, the Golden Drop, and the Taunton Dean, all flourish in perfection. What the barley lacks in delicacy of appearance and in fineness of skin, it makes up for in weight and size of berry, and in its kindly nature in malting. Beans are a prolific crop in most parts of the country, and pease, both for harvesting and for picking green for the London market, produce abundantly. The enormous importations from Russia and Sweden have caused farmers to neglect the cultivation of oats, and to turn their attention to the growth of the more lucrative barley; and the acreage of mangel-wurtzel and of kohl-rabi is gradually increasing, to the diminution of the more precarious turnip crop. The system of agriculture has undergone changes so great that the men of two generations ago could scarcely now recognize the face of the country, nor comprehend the routine of the farm. The extrava-gantly high and wide fences and the cramped little fields have given way to a more intelligent scheme; the anti-quated four-course shift is seldom heard of except in covenauts controlling the last period of leases; long fallows are abandoned; steam cultivation has become general; the sickle is replaced by the reaping-machine, and other machines are employed to mow the grass, and shake it out, gather it, and even to " cock" it and elevate it to the stacks; in like manner the cereal crops are sown, hoed, reaped, stacked, and thrashed by a force superior to, and cheaper than, manual power; and the employment of women and gangs of children in the fields, once so general, is now the excep-tion. The generous treatment of the land by the farmers of the county has been followed by corresponding concessions on the part of the landowners; and although the recent Agricidtural Holdings Act has become nearly a dead letter owing to landlords "contracting themselves out of the Act," yet there is for the most part a mutual good feeling between owner and occupier, and in cases where leases are granted the covenants are practical and liberal. It is probable, however, that in no county in England is the phrase " farming by the custom of the country" so vague and elastic as in Essex ; the system which is successful " on the flat" in the district north of Finchingfield and Rad-winter would be ruinous or impossible in Dengie Hundred, with its deep furrows drawn by powerful and costly teams between the narrow reaches of Purleigh, Mundon, and Latchingdon; notwithstanding, both districts produce excellent crops. Not the least interesting feature in the agriculture of the county is the rapid disillusion which has taken place with regard to the growth of certain varieties of farm produce, which it was supposed could only be raised on certain soils and in certain districts,—notably the culti-vation of root crops and of barley, which now take their place in the ordinary rotation nearly throughout Essex. There are, it is true, localities particularly favourable to certain crops, and at Castle Hedingham, at Sible Heding-ham, and Coggeshall, and at Peering we find seed-growing practised both for the farm and the garden; at Wethers-field, Shalford, Hedingham, and Booking are hop-grounds, which are, however, gradually dying out; Tiptree Heath supplies large quantities of fruit, used principally by the London traders for preserving ; the teasel and the aromatic seeds, coriander and caraway, have well-nigh disappeared; onions, French beans, cabbages, potatoes, indeed all kinds of vegetables, are produced at Barking, Bainhim, Aveley, and the neighbourhood, whence they are transferred by road to Covent Garden Market. Agricultural horses are imported from Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, and Belgium, comparatively few being bred at home. Several herds of shorthorns have been established, but thousands of store bullocks are introduced from Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Ireland, and Wales; of sheep there are but few distinct flocks; the pig tribe is represented by a high-class Berkshire type,—the " improved Essex," a breed introduced by the late Fisher Hobbs, having become absorbed by frequent crossing. From the comparative dryness of the climate Essex does not excel in pasturage, and in consequence the majority of farmers devote their attention to winter grazing, and fatten their stock upon roots, cut hay, bean-meal, pease-meal, and vast quantities of oilcake, usually of American manufacture. The county possesses one of the largest and most in-fluential agricultural associations in the kingdom, number-ing between 800 and 900 members, and giving away from ¿£1500 to ¿£1900 annually in prizes, many of which are open for competition to all England ; the chamber of agriculture has 600 subscribers. Attempts at sewage farming have been made in several localities, but in most cases the sewage farm is looked upon as a necessary evil. Many of the minor towns have their sewage farm attached, but the disposal of the drainage usually exhausts any possible remuneration for the excessive outlay.

Essex, which was at one time famous for the extent of its forests, has for many years been decreasing its acreage of woodland. Epping Forest, which is of the estimated extent of 60,000 acres, has been in jeopardy of encroachment, but by the " Epping Forest Act, 1871," a board of commissioners was appointed for the better management of the lands : the corporation of the city of London has acquired by purchase the freehold interest of waste land belonging to the lords of the manor, thus, at an outlay of £50,000, securing 800 acres for the benefit of the public for ever; the Ancient Court of Verderers has also been revived, and consists of an hereditary lord warden together with four verderers elected by freeholders of the county. The celebrated Fairlop oak, which measured 45 feet in girth, was blown down in 1820 ; the largest now standing is only 18 feet in girth. Hainault Forest was disafforested in 1851.

The landowners of Essex number 22,305, of whom 14,833, or 66| per cent., hold less than one acre each, the proportion for ail England being 71 per cent. The gross estimated rental is put at £2,166,077, or £2, 5s. 6fd. per acre, as compared with £3, 0s. 2|d. for all England. From the return of 1873 we find that of owners possessing more than 5000 acres each, Lord Petre, Thorndon Hall, owns 19,085 acres; Lord Braybrooke, Audley End, 9684; Executors of Lord Maynard, Easton Lodge, 8617; Lord Rayleigh, Terling Place, 8536; the Governors of Guy's Hospital, 8400; Sir T. C. C. Western, Felix Hall, 7875; R. B. Wingfield Baker, Orsett Hall, 7579; J. Archer Homblon, Great Hallingbury, 7127; J. Jolliffe Tufnel, Langleys, 6582; Mrs Honywood, Markshall, 6436; Colonel Bramston, Skreens, 6318; Executors of T. G G. White, Berechurch Hall, 5600; Crown property, 5526; the Governors of the Charter House, 5481; Sir C. Du Cane, Braxted Park, 5409; the Countess Waldegrave, Dudbrook, 5108.

The manufacturing establishments in the county com-prise the various iron works at Chelmsford, Colchester, Maldon, Colne, Halstead, and Rayne (which supply agri-cultural implements for local use), important crape factories at Booking and Halstead, a large manufactory of rich damasks and satins for furniture at Booking, and a con-siderable jute factory at Barking. There are also Govern-ment gunpowder mills at Waltham Abbey.
The county forms nineteen " hundreds," each comprising several parishes, and one " liberty," that of Havering-atte-Bower, which includes Hornchurch and Romford. . The " liberty " has a special jurisdiction of its own, indepen-dent of the county, having its own high steward, magis-trates, clerk of the peace, coroner, and quarter sessions for the trial of offences committed within the borders of three parishes.

The principal towns are Colchester (population, 26,343), Chelmsford (9318), Maldon (population of parliamentary borough, 7151), Romford (6335), Harwich (6079), Halstead (5783), Barking (5766), Saffron Walden (5718), Braintree (4790), Witham (3347), Dunmow (3342). For parlia-mentary purposes the county is divided into three constitu-encies, east, south, and west, each returning two members; the borough of Colchester also sends two representatives to the House of Commons, while Maldon and Harwich elect one each, making a total of ten members. There are 250 justices of the peace for the county, which is divided into 18 petty sessional divisions. There are 17 poor law unions, 10 local boards of health, and 62 school boards. A large camp at Colchester, usually containing 3000 infantry and 1000 artillery and cavalry, is the headquarters of the eastern district of England, Great Warley being the military centre for Essex. Two regiments of militia are established, the Essex rifles and the West Essex regiment, having their head-quarters at Colchester and at Chelmsford respectively.

According to the recent alterations in the arrangement of the circuits, Essex, Herts, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridge-shire, and Huntingdonshire are included in the south-eastern circuit, formed by the amalgamation of the home circuit with a portion of the Norfolk circuit. Ecclesiastically Essex be-longs to the new diocese of St Albans, instead of Rochester, as formerly. The new see, which also embraces Herts, has a population of 659,152, and an area of 2268 square miles. The county lunatic asylum is situated between Brentwood and Warley barracks; there is an infant orphan asylum at Wanstead, and a seaman's orphan asylum at Snaresbrooke.





Essex is comparatively poor in prehistoric remains, but for this it is richly compensated by the variety and value of its Roman and mediaeval antiquities. The so-called Dane-pits not improbably belong to the pre-Roman period : they are almost certainly shafts sunk for chalk, and we know that at a very early date this material was ex-ported from Britain to the Continent. By some antiquaries Lexden is regarded as the site of the British town of Camulodunum, and certain mounds are identified with its defences. We know from history that within the present boundaries of Essex the Romans had not only their great central post of Camulodunum, but also stations called Durolitum, Caesaromagus, Canonum, Iceanum, and Othona. The site of several of these, however, is still matter of debate. Durolitum was possibly at or near Romford, no Roman remains having been found at Layton, which was once selected from a very superficial similarity of name; Caesaromagus is usually identified with Chelmsford, and Iceanum with Chesterford; and there is little or no doubt that Othona, the Ithanceaster of Bede, was situated near Bradwell. Roman military works have been recognized at Danbury, Tilbury, Harwich, Pleshy, &c, Roman dwelling-houses discovered at Chelmsford, at Sunken Church Field, near Hadstock, at Ridge well, &c, and Roman cemeteries or tombs at Chelmsford, Chesterford, Hadstock, Bartlow, Coggeshall, and Wormingfield. At Wormingfield alone hundreds of urns have been exhumed. Large quantities of Roman ware have turned up at Stifford and Canvey Island; and Hallingbury church is far from the only building that has been indebted to the Roman brickmakers. Of Roman works of art discovered in the county perhaps the most remarkable are the Colchester Sphinx and an effigy of a centurion unearthed in the same town. A Roman road connected London with Camulodunum, and another ran from Camulodunum to Cambridge, and sent off a branch to St Albans. It is supposed by many antiquaries that Saxon masonry can be detected in the foundations of several of the Essex churches, but, with the exception of Ashing-don church tower, believed to have been erected by Canute after bis victory over Edmund Ironside, there is certainly no very recognizable building belonging to that period. This is probably to be in part ascribed to the fact that the comparative scarcity of stone and the unusual abund-ance of timber led to the extensive employment of the latter material. Many of the Essex churches, as Black-more, Mountnessing, Margaretting, and South Bemfleet, have still massive porches and towers of timber; and St Andrew's church, Greenstead, with its walls of solid oak, continues an almost unique example of its kind. Of the four "round churches" in England one is in Essex at Little Maplestead ; but it is both the smallest and the most modern. The churches of South Weald, Hadleigh, Blackmore, Heybridge, and Hadstock may be mentioned as containing Norman masonry; Southchurch, Danbury, and Boreham as being partly Early English , Ingatestone, Stebbing, and Tilty for specimens of decorated architec-ture ; and Messing, Thaxted, and Saffron Walden as speci-mens of the Perpendicular. Stained glass windows have left their traces in several of the churches, the finest remains being those of Margaretting, which represent a tree of Jesse and the daisy or herb Margaret. Paintings have evidently been largely used for internal decoration : a remarkable series, probably of the 12th century, but much restored in the 14th, exists in the chancel of Cop-ford church ; and in the church at Ingatestone there was discovered in 1868 an almost unique fresco representa-tion of the seven deadly sins. The oldest brasses preserved in the county are those of Sir William Fitz-Balph at Pebmarsh, about 1323 ; Bichard of Beltown, at Corringham, 1340 ; Sir John Gifford, at Bowers Gifford, 1348 ; Ralph de Kneyton, at Aveley, 1370 ; Robert de Swynbourne, at Little Horkesley, 1391 ; and Sir Ingelram de Bruyn, at South Ockendon, 1400. The brass of Thomas Heron, aged 14, at Little Ilford, though dating only from 1517, is of interest as a picture of a schoolboy of the period. Ancient wooden effigies are preserved at Danbury, Little Leighs, and Little Horkesley.

Essex was rich in monastic foundations, though the greater number have left but meagre ruins behind. The Benedictines had an abbey at Saffron Walden, nunneries at Barking and Wickes, and priories at Monk's Colne and Hedingham ; the Augustinian canons had an abbey at Waltham (see WALTHAM ABBEY), priories at Thoby, Blackmore, Bicknacre, Little Leighs, Little Dunmow, and St Osyth; there were Cistercian abbeys at Coggeshall, Stratford, and Tilty; the Cluniac monks were settled at Prittlewell, the Premonstratensians at Beleigh Abbey, and the Knights Hospitallers at Little Maplestead. Barking Abbey is said to date its first origin from the 7th century, the most of the others arose in the 12th and 13th centuries. Besides the keep at Colchester there is a fine Norman castle at Hedingham, and two dilapidated round towers still stand at Hadleigh. Ongar, the house of the De Lacys, and Pleshy, the seat of the earls of Essex, have left only mounds behind them. Havering, the palace that was occupied by so many of our queens, is replaced by a modern house ; Wickham, the mansion of the bishops of London, is no more; and Theobald's Park, the splendid creation of Lord Burleigh, has shared the same fate. New Hall, which was successively occupied by Henry VIII., Elizabeth, the earl of Essex, George Villiers duke of Buckingham, and Cromwell, is now a nunnery of the order of the Holy Sepulchre. Audley End, the mansion of Lord Braybrook, whose name is so well known in connexion with Essex antiquities, is a noble example of the domestic architecture of the Jacobean period; Layer Marney is an interesting proof of the Italian influences that were at work in the time of Wolsey. Horeham Hall was built by Sir John Cutt in the reign of Henry VII., and Gosfield Hall is of about the same date.

Its position in the south-eastern corner of England, and its con-tiguity to the metropolis, have given Essex no small prominence in the general history of England. The Romans of the first invasion (55 B.C.) received the nominal submission of its British inhabitants, the Trinobantes, who also occupied portions of what are now Middlesex, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, and Cambridge. We have nu-mismatic evidence of no inconsiderable civilisation among this tribe in the following generation : Cunobelin or Cymbelineis well known from his coins, and his son Caractacus is the great hero of the national defence against the second Roman invasion. The defence, as is well-known, was futile : Camulodunum, the Tnncbantian capital, was captured ; and Aulus Plautius made it the seat of a magnificent temple to the honour of Claudius the emperor. Dur-ing the great Boadicean rebellion, the Romans were driven from their post with terrible slaughter, but they soon recovered their ground and rapidly colonized the country. How thoroughly they took root can be read to this day in the relics they have left. When the Saxons from over the sea began to make raids on the decadent colony, Essex formed part of the domain of the count of the Saxon Shore; and not long after the withdrawal of the Roman forces it was occupied by the men whose name it still bears, the East Seaxa or East Saxons. Their separate dynasty continued till about 823, when they were incorporated with the rising power of Wessex, which was destined to widen into England. By the peace of Wedmore, Essex was recognized by Alfred as part of the Danish territory of Guthrum, but the Danes were expelled by Alfred's son, Edward the Elder. They have probably left a few traces of their presence in such names as Danbury and Dane-holes ; but there is hardly a by to be met with among the numerous Saxon fords, wealds, hams, thorps, burys, and ings. The futile attempt of Mellitus left the Christianization of the East Saxons to Cedd, who is said to have formed churches at Tilbury and Ithaneeastre in the latter part of the 7th century. In 991 a great battle was fought at Maldon against the Danes, made memorable for ever to English-men by a Saxon song which celebrates the valour of Brihtnoth and his peers ; and it was probably at Ashington on the Crouch that in 1016 Cnut and Edmund Ironside met in what the early chroni-clers call the battle of Assandun. In 1045 Essex was part of the earldom of Harold. The family of Swene of Essex, who was in possession of a large part of the county at the time of the, Con-quest, kept its ground for nearly a century. A new earldom created by Stephen was held by the Mandevilles till 1227, passed by mar-riage to the Bohuns, and went with the daughter of Humphrey de Bohun to Thomas of Woodstock, son of Edward III. Through his daughter it passed to William Bourchier, but the male line failed in 1540. The earldom was next assigned to Thomas Cromwell and William Parr, and from 1571 to 1646 it was held by the family of Devereux. Two years after the death of the last earl, who had joined the Parliamentary party, the city of Colchester was besieged and captured by the Parliamentary forces ; and throughout the struggle the people of Essex were mainly or. the popular side. After the Res-toration, Arthur Capel was created Earl of Essex, and that family is still in possession of the title. Of the celebrities of Essex it is sufficient to mention Samuel Purchas, Joseph Mead, John Ray, Joseph Strutt, Philemon Holland, Dr William Gilbert, Thomas Tusser, Francis Quarles, Thomas Gainsborough, and Dick Turpin.

Literature.—John Norden, Speculi Britannios Pars: an Hist, and Qeogr. Descrip, of the County of Essex, 1594 (edited for the Camden Society by Sir Henry Ellis, 1840, from the original MS. in the Marquis of Salisbury's library at Hatfield); Nicholas Tindal, Hist, of Essex, 1720; Silas Taylor, Hist, and Antiq. of Harwich, to which is added a large appendix containing the nat. hist, of the sea-coast and country about Harwich, by Sam. Dale, 2d. ed., London, 1732; J Fanner, History of the Town and Abbey of Waltham, 1735; Nathaniel Salmon, The Hist, and Antiq. of Essex, Lond. 1740,—based on the collections of James Strangman of Hadleigh (v. Trans, of Essex Arch. Soc., vol. ii.); Morant, Hist, and Antiq. of the County of Essex, London 1768; Peter Muilman, New and Complete Hist, of Essex from a late Survey, by a Gentleman, Chelmsford, 6 vols., 1770-1772, London, 1779; Richard Gough, Hist, of Fleshy, Lond. 1803-1805; Elizabeth Ogbourne, Hist, of Essex, with Biogr Notices of the most Disting. and Remark. Natives, London, part i., 1814; Excursions through Essex, illustr. withone hundred engravings, Lond. 2 vols. 1818; Tilomas Wright, Hist, and Topography of Essex, 1831; W. H. Black, Eastbury Illustrated. Lond. 1834 (engravings byT.H. Clarke); W. Berry, Pedigrees of Families in Essex, 1841; A. Suckling, Antiq. of the County of Essex, 1845 ; William White, Historical Gazetteer and Directory of Essex, 1848, and 2d ed., 1863; James Hadfield, Gothic Architecture of Essex, 1848 and 1856; Buckler, Twenty-two of the Churches of Essex architecturally described, Lond. 1856; Dale, Annals of Coggeshall, 1863; Davids, Nonconformity in Essex in 1660-1602, Lond. 1863; Chisenhall-Marsh, Translation of Domesday Book for Essex, 1865; Murray's, Handbook for Essex, Suffolk, &c, 1870; 2d ed. 1875 ; B. S. Clarke, " The Labourers of Essex," in /. of Statist. Soc. of London, 1870; W. Palin, Stifford and its neighbourhood, past and present, 2 vols., 1871-2; W. J. Scott, Dunmow Parish Antiquities, 1873; J. G. Watson, The Tendring Hundred in the olden time, 1877; and the Transactions of the Essex Arch Soc. from the year 1858. An account of various MS. collections connected with the county is given by H. W. King in vol. ii. of the Transactions, 1863. (C. P. W.)



Search the Encyclopedia:



About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Sitemaps
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us



© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries