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Essex, England

Historical Description

Essex, a maritime county of England, bounded on the N by Cambridge and Suffolk, on the E by the German Ocean, on the S by Kent, on the W by Middlesex and Herts. Its boundary line along a great part of the N is the river Stour, along all the S is the river Thames, along much of the W is the rivers Lea and Stort. Its outline is irregularly four-sided, the longest line along the N, the shortest along the S. Its greatest length from north-east to south-west is about 63 miles, its breadth from N to S is 50 miles, its circuit is about 225 miles, and its area is 987,028 acres, making it the tenth English county for size. Its coast is so irregular and broken that the exact length of it cannot easily be ascertained, but including all on the Thames, and not reckoning estuaries, may be estimated at about 105 miles. Its chief headlands are the Naze, 5 1/2 miles S of Harwich, Foulness at the mouth of the Crouch river, and Shoeburyness at the mouth of the Thames. Shoals of sands lie off some parts, and numerous inlands, situated within the general coast-line, and divided by only narrow belts of water from the interior tracts, diversify others. The chief islands are Horsey near the Naze, Mersea at the mouth of Blackwater river, Wallasea and Foulness at the mouth of the Crouch river, and Canvey on the Thames. The seaboard is low, flat, and partly marshy, has suffered much devastation and fracture by encroachments of the sea, and except to a trifling extent at Harwich, Southend, and Purfleet, is protected from further injury by strong embankments. The tracts inland to the centre and further west are champaign, not totally flat but possessing many gentle hills and dales, and the tracts thence to the western boundary so roll and rise as to present continuous diversity of contour. The highest grounds are Langdon Hill and Danebury Camp, and these have an altitude of about 620 feet. Much of the surface, from combination of natural feature and artificial embellishment, exhibits a pleasing and ever-varying succession of rural landscapes. The chief rivers, besides those which run on the boundaries, are the Colne, the Blackwater, the Chelmer, the Crouch, the Roding, the Ingerburn, the Wid, and the Brain. The geognostic formation of much of the seaboard is fresh water deposit, of most of the rest of the county is London clay, and of the tract around Castle Hedingham and Thaxted, and thence to the northern and western boundaries, is chalk.

The soil throughout ths county is exceedingly various; on the seaboard both of the ocean and of the Thames is generally marshy with intermixture of gravel, in the district of the Rodings is strong wet loam, in the central and northern parts is variously strong and moist, light and loamy, in the western parts varies from tough clay upon brick earth to thin loam upon gravel, and in many places is either good meadow, light gravel, or rich loam. Much improvement has been done by draining, top-dressing, and other georgical practices. The farms are of many sizes, but may be stated to average from 150 to 200 acres, and some are held on lease at 7 to 14 years, but many are held by annual tenure. Wheat usually produces from 20 to 30 bushels per acre, barley about 34 bushels, oats about 36 1/2 bushels, beans about 27 bushels, potatoes about 300 bushels. Carraway, coriander, and teasel are grown in a conjoint or treble crop, coming to maturity at different periods, and the first yields about 4 1/2 cwt., the second about 12 cwt., the third about 6000 heads. Vegetables for the London market, especially potatoes, cabbages, turnips, and pease, are grown so extensively in some of the south-western tracts as to give these almost the appearance of market-gardens. Cabbages and turnips are largely cultivated in other parts also as food for live stock, the artificial grasses likewise receive much attention, and mustard, cole-seed, and some other peculiar crops are grown on marsh lands. Saffron was formerly so prominent a product around Saffron-Walden as to give its name to that town. Hogs of a small superior breed are reared for the London market. Sheep of the Southdown and other breeds, chiefly from Sussex and Wilts, are fattened. Calves, of breeds from Suffolk, from Devon, from other parts of England, and even from Scotland, are reared in great numbers for the London market. Dairy produce from the same breeds, particularly about Epping, Barking, and London, is an object of much attention. Essex cheese is celebrated in old balladry, and Essex butter has a high name in London, and is estimated by the dairymen at about 212 Ibs. a year per cow. Horses comprise many breeds, but more the Suffolk punch than any other, and many are sent from London to feed on the salt marshes.

The trade of Essex consists chiefly in its vegetable and animal produce, and receives great and constant stimulation from the county's vicinity to London. Commerce to any great distance is inconsiderable, and commerce to any quarter has no better ports than the inferior ones of Harwich, Maldon, and Colchester, yet the home commerce, including that to London, is very great. An oyster fishery, carried on all round the coast from the Colne river to Canvey Island, employes a large number of boats, and is of great value and importance. Other fisheries, and the catching of wild fowl, also are carried on. The woollen manufacture was formerly of some importance, but has become nearly extinct. Crapes are manufactured at Braintree, Bocking, and other places, and silk and crape at Halstead. Agricultural implements are also made on a fairly large scale at several places, and there are large powder mills at Waltham, The county has no important mineral product. In this estimate the Metropolitan districts are excluded. In the suburbs of London manufactures of all kinds are carried on, but these cannot be considered as indigenous to the county.

According to the census returns issued in 1893, the chief occupations of the people of the county were:—Professional, 17,864 males and 9111 females; domestic, 3320 males and 39,625 females; commercial, 46,739 males and 714 females; agricultural, 45,991 males and 654 females; fishing, 960 males; industrial, 113,355 males and 26,356 females; and "unoccupied," including retired business men, pensioners, those living on their own means, and others not specified, 49,794 males and 204,876 females; or a total in the county of 278,023 males and 281,336 females. The number of men employed in the leading industries were as follows;— Agricultural labourers, 34,382; general labourers, 19,762; seamen, 7609 ; boot and shoe makers, 3463; and farmers, 2984. The chief occupations of women were, domestic service, with a total of 31,440; and those of millinery and dressmaking, 8007. There were also in the county 501 blind persons, 502 deaf, 294 deaf and dumb, and 2280 mentally deranged.

Railways all connected with the G.E. system have numerous lines and branches within the county. A network of them lies in the corner adjacent to London, a line with several branches goes along the south coast to Southend, and there is also a branch from the main line of the G.E.R. from Shenfield and Hutton Junction to Southend; a great line goes through the central district by Romford, Brentwood, Chelmsford, and Colchester, into Suffolk, and sends branches to Maldon and thence on to Southminster, to Walton and Clacton, to Wivenhoe, and to Harwich; another line on the W goes north-north-eastward to Ongar; another line goes along all the west border, partly within Middlesex and Herts, and past Bishop-Stortford and the vicinity of Saffron-Walden toward Cambridge; a branch strikes eastward from this at Bishop-Stortford, and goes past Dunmow to Braintree; another branch goes from Braintree south-south-eastward to the branch from the central line toward Maldon; a branch goes from the Marks-Tey station of the central line northward into Suffolk toward Bury St Edmund; and a branch from the Chapel station of this goes west-north-westward past Halstead and Castle Hedingham to Haverhill. Connection with the Northern and Midland railways is effected via Peterborough. Excellent roads traverse all parts of the county. The Stour is navigable to Sudbury, the Colne to Colchester, the Blackwater to Maldon, the Chelmer to Chelmsford, the Thames to its utmost connection with the county, and several short canals facilitate and extend the inland navigation.

The county is divided for parliamentary purposes into eight divisions; it also includes the parliamentary boroughs of Colchester and West Ham, the latter consisting of two divisions. The county has one court of quarter sessions, and is divided into 17 petty sessional divisions. The boroughs of Colchester, Maldon, Saffron, Walden, Harwich, and West Ham, have separate commissions of the peace, and the three first-named have also separate courts of quarter sessions. The central criminal court has jurisdiction over certain civil parishes adjacent to London. All those civil parishes within the county of Essex, of which any part is within 12 miles of, or of which no part is more than 15 miles from Charing Cross, are within the Metropolitan police district. The county contains 410, and the county borough of West Ham one, entire civil parishes. There are also 3 civil parishes which are situated partly in other counties. The county contains 436 ecclesiastical parishes and districts and parts of 8 others, it is situated partly in the dioceses of Ely and partly in that of St Albans. It is in the south-eastern circuit, Chelmstord being the assize town. The county is governed by a lord-lieutenant and a county council, consisting of 84 members—viz., 21 aldermen and 63 councillors, The chief seats are Easton, Audley End, Terling, Mistley, Thorndon, Danbury, Belhus, Bigods, Berechurch, Boreham, Hadleigh, Dagnam, Debden, Down Hall, Dudbrook, Felix Hall, High Beech, Newton, Suttons, Roydon, Albyns, Belchamp, Birch Hall, Bower Hall, Champine Lodge, Colne Park, Coopersale, Copped Hall, Coptfold, Elsenham, Faulkbourn, Forest House, Gosfield, Greensted, Hallingbury, Hyde, Kelvedon, Langleys, Mark's Hall, Orsett, Priory, Skreens, Spaim Hall, Stisted, Warley, Warlies, Weild Hall, and Wivenhoe. Population (1801) 227,682, (1821) 289,424, (1841) 344,979, (1861) 404,834, (1881) 576,434, (1891) 785,445.

The territory now forming Essex was inhabited in the ancient British times by the Trinobantes. It yielded early and easily to the sway of the Romans, and was included in their province of Flavia Cæsariensis. It and Middlesex, and parts of Herts and Beds, formed a kingdom during a period of the Saxon heptarchy, and this, from its relative situation to the other Saxon kingdoms, bore the name of East Seaxa or East Sexe, which passed by corruption first into Exsessa and next into Essex. East Seaxa was the least and weakest of the Saxon kingdoms, lay generally subordinate first to Kent, afterwards to Mercia, and became in 823 a province of Wessex. Sebert or Saebyrht, who occupied its throne in 593, was its first Christian king, and was nephew of St Augustine's convert, Ethelbert of Kent, and founded the cathedral churches of London and Westminster. The Danes frequently attacked or overran East Seaxa between 878 and 1016, and Canute in the last of these years fought his great battle with Edmund Ironside at Assandune in Essex, a place identified variously with Ashdon and Ashingdon. Colonies of subjugated Northmen were planted in Essex and East Anglia, and the inhabitants of these territories were treated more favourably than those of any other part of England by the Danish dynasty. The people of Essex submitted readily to the Norman Conquest, and they thenceforth made only three notable separate appearances in the great mutations of the country—they began the insurrection which culminated in Wat Tyler's Rebellion, they rose under Colonel Far and Sir Charles Lucas to support Charles I., and they took part with Fanshaw in 1659 to promote the restoration of Charles II. The ancient British Ermine Street traversed part of the west border of Essex, and a Roman road crossed the county from Colchester, by way of Coggeshall and Dunmow, to Bishop-Stortford. Ancient British camps or barrows occur at Ruekolt, Bluntswalls, Ambreys, Walbury, Grime's Dyke, Bartlow Hills, and Roman stations stood at Canonium, Camalodunum, Cæsaromagus, and Durolitum. Old castles are at Colchester, Clavering, Hadleigh, Heddingham, Walden, Ongar, and Stansted-Monfichet; old mansions, or parts of them, are at Havering, Nether Hall, Mark's Hall, Heron Hall, Creping, and Upminster; old churches are at Thaxted, Walden, Inworth, East Ham, Greensted, and other places; and remains of monastic houses are at Waltham, Barking, Stratford, Colchester, Bileigh, Titley, Latton, Little Leighs, and Bychnacre. Essex gave the title of Earl till 1184 to the De Mandevilles; from 1199 till 1216 to the Fitzspiers; from the 13th century till 1372 to the De Bohuns; in the latter part of the 14th century till 1397 to Thomas Duke of Gloucester; from 1443 to 1454 to William Parr; from 1461 till 1539 to the Bourchiers; in 1540 to Thomas Cromwell; from 1572 till 1646 to the Devereux, and from 1661 till the present time to the Capels.

Essex South-Eastern Parliamentary Division was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 69,837. The division includes the following;—Brentwood (part of)— Rainham, Wennington, Dengie—Althorne, Asheldam, Bradwell-near-the-Sea, Burnham, Cold Norton, Creeksea, Dengie, Fambridge (North), Hazeleigh, Heybridge, Latchingdon, Mayland, Mundon, Purleigh, St Lawrence, Southminster, Steeple, Stow Marks, Tillingham, Woodham Mortimer, Woodham Walter; Orsett—Aveley, Bulphan, Chadwell, Corringham, Fobbing, Horndon-on-the-Hill, Laindon Hills, Mucking, Ockendon (North), Ockendon (South), Orsett, Stanford-le-Hope, Stifford, Thurrock (Grays), Thurrock (Little), Thurrock (West), Tilbury (East), Tilbury (West); Rochford— Ashingdon, Barling, Benfleet (South), Canewdon, Eastwood, Fambridge (South), Foulness, Hadleigh, Havengore Marsh, Hawkwell, Hockley, Leigh, Paglesham, Prittlewell, Rawreth, Rayleigh, Rochford, Shoebury (North), Shoebury (South), Shopland, Southchurch, Stambridge (Great), Stambridge (Little), Sutton, Thundersley, Wakering (Great), Wakering (Little).


Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Archives and Libraries

Essex Record Office,
Wharf Road,
Chelmsford,
CM2 6YT
email:ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk


Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

List of Registration Districts in Essex from 1837 to 1974.


Directories & Gazetteers

The Historical Directories web site have a number of directories relating to Essex online, including:
Kelly's, Pigot, Slater, etc.

We have transcribed the entry for Essex from the following:


Historical Geography

A listing of the Hundreds in Essex, with the parishes contained in them.


Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Essex is available to browse.

The Essex pages from the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 is online.


Maps

Old map of Essex circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)

Old map of Essex circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)


Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers covering Essex online:


Parishes & places

Abberton
Abbess Roding
Abbots Stapleford
Abridge
Aldborough Hatch
Aldersbrooke
Aldham
Alphamstone
Alresford
Althorne
Ardleigh
Arkesden
Ashdon
Asheldham
Ashen
Ashingdon
Audley End
Aveley
Aythorpe Roding
Ballingdon cum Brinxdon
Bardfield Saling
Barking
Barking Side
Barling, or Barling Magna
Barnston, or Bimston
Barstable
Bartlow End, Steventon End, or Little Bartlow
Barwick Hall
Basildon
Battle Bridge
Baythorne End
Beauchamp Roding
Beaumont cum Moze
Beazley End
Beckton
Becontree
Beeleigh
Belchamp Northwood
Belchamp Otton
Belchamp St Paul
Belchamp Walter
Benfleet
Bentfieldend
Berden, Berdon, or Beardon
Berechurch
Berners Roding
Bicknacre
Billericay
Birch
Birdbrook
Birds Green
Bishops Stortford
Black Notley
Blackmore
Blacktail
Blakehall
Bobbingworth or Boringer
Bocking
Boreham
Borley
Bowers Gifford
Boxted
Bradfield
Bradwell
Bradwell next Coggeshall
Braintree
Brentwood
Brightlingsea
Brook Street
Broomfield
Buckhurst Hill
Bulmer
Bulvan or Bulfan
Bures
Bures Mount
Bures St Mary
Burnham
Burnt Mill
Buttsbury
Buxey Sand
Canewdon
Cann Hall
Canning Town
Canvey Island
Castle Hedingham
Chadwell
Chadwell St Mary
Chadwell Street
Chapel
Chatley
Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation
Chelmsford
Chickney
Chignal
Chigwell
Chigwell Lane
Chigwell Row
Childerditch
Chingford
Chipping Hill
Chipping Ongar
Chrishall
Church End
Church Gate
Church Street
Clacton on Sea
Clavering
Coggeshall
Colchester
Cold Norton
Collier Bow
Colne
Colne Engaine
Colne Valley
Colne Wakes
Coopersale
Copford
Copt Hall
Corbetstye or Corbets Tey
Cork Knot and Cork Sand
Cornish Hall End
Corringham
Cranham
Creeksea, Cricksea, or Crixea
Crossing
Cutler Shoal
Dagenham
Danbury
Debden or Depden
Dedham
Dengie
Doddinghurst
Dovercourt
Down Hall
Downham
Dunton or Dunton Waylett
Earls Colne
East Donyland
East Ham
East Hanningfield
East Mersea
East Thurrock
East Tilbury
Easthorpe
Eastwood
Elmdon
Elmstead
Epping
Epping Forest
Fairsted
Faulkbourn
Felstead
Finchingfield
Fingringhoe
Fobbing
Ford End
Ford Street
Fordham
Foulness
Foxearth or Foxheard
Frating
Freshwell
Frinton on Sea
Fryerning
Fyfield
Gabbards
Galleywood Common
Gallions Reach
George Lane
Gidea Hall
Goldhanger
Goldmers Gat
Good Easter
Gosfield
Grange Hill
Grays
Grays Thurrock
Great and Little Potton
Great Baddow
Great Bardfield
Great Bentley
Great Braxted
Great Bromley
Great Broxted
Great Burstead
Great Canfield
Great Chesterford
Great Chishall
Great Clacton
Great Coggeshall
Great Dunmow
Great Easton
Great Henny
Great Holland
Great Horkesley
Great Leighs
Great Maplestead
Great Oakley
Great Parndon
Great Saling
Great Sampford
Great Stambridge
Great Tey
Great Totham
Great Wakering
Great Waltham
Great Warley
Great Wigborough
Great Yeldham
Green Street
Greenstead (Brentwood)
Greenstead (Colchester)
Greenstead Green
Guestingthorpe
Gunfleet Sands
Hacton
Hadleigh
Hadstock
Hainault Forest
Halfway Reach
Halstead
Harlow
Harold Wood
Hartford End
Harwich
Hastingvood
Hatfield Peverel
Havering atte Bower
Hawkspye Green
Hawkwell
Hazeleigh
Helion Bumpstead
Hempstead
Herongate
Heybridge
Heydon or Haydon
High Beech
High Easter
High Laver
High Ongar
High Roding
Highgate
Hill Hall
Hinckford
Hockley
Holland Haven
Holyfield
Hornchurch
Horndon on the Hill
Horndon, East, or East Thoradon
Horsey Island
How Green (Purleigh)
How Green (Sandon)
How Street
Hutton
Hythe
Ilford
Ingatestone
Ingrave
Inworth
Jarvis Hill
Kelvedon
Kelvedon Hatch
Kirby Cross
Kirby le Soken
Knotts Green
Kronos
Laindon
Lamarsh
Lambourne
Langdon Hills
Langenhoe
Langford
Langham
Langley
Langleys
Latchingdon
Latton
Lawford
Laxborough
Layer Breton
Layer Cross
Layer de la Hay
Layer Marney
Lea Bridge
Leaden Roothing or Leaden Roding
Lee Chapel
Leigh
Leith Hill
Lexden
Leyton
Leytonstone
Lindsell
Listen
Little Baddow
Little Bardfield
Little Bentley
Little Braxted
Little Bromley
Little Burstead
Little Canfield
Little Chesterford
Little Chishall
Little Clacton
Little Coggeshall
Little Dunmow
Little Easton
Little Henny
Little Holland
Little Horkesley
Little Laver
Little Leighs
Little London (Berden)
Little London (Finchingfield)
Little Maplestead
Little Oakley
Little Parndon
Little Saling
Little Stambridge
Little Tey
Little Totham
Little Wakering
Little Waltham
Little Warley
Little Wigborough
Little Woodham
Little Yeldham
Littlebury
Littlebury Green
Loughton
Low Street
Magdalen Green
Magdalene Laver
Maldon
Maldon All Saints
Maldon St Mary
Maldon St Peter
Mallow Green
Manningtree
Maplin Sands
Margaret Roding
Margaretting
Marks Tey
Markshall
Mashbury
Matching
Mayland
Medusa Channel
Mersea
Messing
Middle Mead (Dengie)
Middle Mead (Little Baddow)
Middle Street
Middleton
Mile End
Mill Green
Milton
Mistley
Molehill Green
Monk Street
Moor Hill
Moreton
Morrell Roothing
Morris Green
Moulsham
Mountnessing
Mucking
Mundon
Navestock
Nazeing
Netherhall
Netteswell
New Sampford
Newendon
Newland St Lawrence
Newport
Nine Ashes
Noak Hill
Nobles Green
North Benfleet
North End (Barking)
North End (Great Waltham)
North End (Halstead)
North End (Saffron Walden)
North Fambridge
North Ockendon
North Shoebury
North Weald Bassett
Northey Island
Northwood
Norton End
Norton Mandeville
Old Ford
Orsett
Ostend
Ounsley Green
Ovington
Paglesham
Panfield or Pantfield
Parswick
Passingford Bridge
Peartree Green
Pebmarsh
Peering
Peldon or Peltington
Pentlow
Perry Appletree
Perton End
Pewit
Pewit or Pewett Island
Pinners Green
Piots Green
Pirgo or Pyrgo
Pitsea
Plaistow
Pledgdon
Pleshey
Pond Street (Chrishall)
Pond Street (Wendon Lofts)
Potters Street
Prittlewell
Purfleet
Purley
Queen Street
Quendon
Radwinter
Rainham
Ramsden Bellhouse
Ramsden Crays
Ramsey
Ramsey (Steeple)
Ravenstock Green
Rawreth
Rayleigh or Raleigh
Rayne
Rettendon
Richmonds Green
Ridding
Ridducks Hill
Ridgewell
Rivenhall
Robin Hood End
Rochford
Roding Morrell
Rodings, Roothings, or Rudings
Romford
Rough or Ruff
Roxwell
Roydon
Rugley Green
Rundells
Runsell
Runwell
Ryehill
Saffron Walden
Salcott
Saltcoats
Sandon
Sea Reach
Sewards End
Sewardstone
Shalford
Sharpness
Shelley
Shellow Bowells
Shenfield
Shoeburyness
Shopland
Shortgrove
Shouldham
Sible Hedingham
Silverend
Silvertown
Slysted Street
Smiths Green (Debden)
Smiths Green (Takeley)
Snaresbrook
South Benfleet
South Fambridge
South Hanningfield
South Ockendon
South Shoebury
South Weald
Southchurch
Southend on Sea
Southey Green
Southminster
Spital
Springfield
Squirrels Heath
St Osyth
Stambourne
Stanegate
Stanford le Hope
Stanford Rivers
Stanstead Mountfitchet
Stanway All Saints
Stanway St Albright
Stapleford Abbots
Stapleford Tawney
Stebbing
Steeple Bumpstead
Steeple or Steeple cum Stangate
Stifford
Stinted
Stock or Harvard Stock
Stondon Massey
Stow St Mary
Stratford
Strethall
Sturmere
Sutton
Swan Street
Temple Marsh
Tendring
Terling
Thames Haven
Thaxted
The Blackwater
The Can
The Chelmer
The Colne
The Crouch
The Naze
The Pant
The Roding
The Roman
The Stort
The Ter
The Widford
Theydon Bois
Theydon Garnon or Gernon
Theydon Mount
Thornwood
Thorpe le Soken
Thorrington
Thunderley
Thundersley
Tilbury Fort
Tilbury juxta Clare
Tillingham
Tilty
Tiptree Heath
Tollesbury
Tolleshunt Darcy
Tolleshunt Knights
Tolleshunt Major or Beckingham
Toothill
Toppesfield
Twinstead
Tyrrells Hall or Torrells Hall
Ugley or Oakley
Ulting
Upminster
Upsall
Upton and Upton Park
Vange or Range
Via Devana
Victoria Docks
Virley or Salcott Virley
Wallasea
Wallet Sound
Waltham Abbey
Walthamstow
Walton le Soken
Wanstead
Warley Common
Weeley
Wenden Lofts
Wendens Ambo
Wennington
West Bergholt
West Donyland or Berechurch
West Ham
West Hanningfield
West Horndon
West Mersea
West Rocks
West Thurrock
West Tilbury
Wethersfield
Whips Cross
White Colne
White Notley
White Roding
Wicken Bonant
Wickford
Wickham Bishops
Wickham St Paul
Widdington
Widford
Willingale Doe
Willingale Spain
Wimbish
Witham with Chipping Hill
Wivenhoe
Wix, Weeks, or Wikes
Wood Street
Woodford Bridge
Woodford Green
Woodford St Mary
Woodford Wells
Woodham Ferrers
Woodham Walter
Wormingford
Wrabness
Writtle
Map of Essex