Coggeshall, Great (St. Peter)

COGGESHALL, GREAT (St. Peter), a market-town and parish, in the union of Witham, Witham division of the hundred of Lexden, N. division of Essex, 3 miles (N.) from Kelvedon, and 44 (N. E.) from London; containing 3408 inhabitants, of whom 443 are in the hamlet of Little Coggeshall. This place is supposed by some to have been the Roman station Ad Ansam, and by others the Canonium of Antoninus, with the distance of which latter from Cæsaromagus its situation precisely corresponds: numerous vestiges of Roman antiquity have been discovered. The present town appears to have risen from the establishment of an abbey in 1142, by King Stephen and his Queen Matilda, for monks of the Cistercian order, and in honour of the Blessed Virgin; to the abbot and monks of which King John granted several privileges, including, probably, the power of life and death, as is inferred from the ancient name of one of the streets, still by some called Gallows-street. Henry III. granted them free warren, a weekly market, and an annual fair for eight days. The revenue of the abbey at the Dissolution was £298. 8.: the remains, which exhibit specimens of early English architecture, are now occupied as a farmhouse; the exterior has lancet-shaped windows in good preservation, and in the interior are some good windows and vaulted and groined roofs. Near the abbey is an ancient bridge of three arches, built by Stephen, over a canal cut for conveying water from the river to the monastery.

The town is situated near the river Blackwater, from which it rises gradually to a considerable elevation, and consists of several narrow streets; it was first lighted with gas in 1837, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water from springs in the neighbourhood. The manufacture of baize and serge, formerly extensive, is now extinct; the principal branch of trade is silkweaving, which has been established within the last 30 years. In 1838, Mr. John Hall erected a silk-throwing mill, capable of employing 500 persons, and Messrs. Westmacott and Co. have 100 looms at work weaving broad silks and velvets; in 1826, Mr. Bankes commenced the tambour-work on lace-net, in which about 300 females are engaged, and in 1838 introduced a number of machines for weaving lace-net. An extensive iron-foundry and steam flour-mill have been erected by Charles Newman, Esq. The place is noted for its vegetables and garden-seeds. The market is on Thursday: the market-place is spacious, and contained an old cross, which was taken down in 1787. A fair for cattle and pedlery is held on Whit-Tuesday.

Coggeshall anciently comprised the parishes of Great and Little Coggeshall, at present consolidated: in the latter were two churches, built by the monks; one for their own use, which has been entirely demolished, and the other for a parochial church, the remains whereof have been converted into a barn. The parish comprises by computation 2300 acres, 300 of which are woodland; the soil is various, in some parts a strong loam resting on a clay bottom, in others a stiff wet loam on a whitish marl, and in the neighbourhood of the town a rich deep loam of great fertility. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £11. 3. 4.; net income, £215; patron, Peter Du Cane, Esq., lord of the manor; impropriators, Charles Skingley, Esq., and Mrs. Caswell. The church is a spacious handsome structure in the later English style, with a large tower; the aisles are embattled, and strengthened with empanelled buttresses: the interior contains several ancient monuments. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, and Wesleyans. A school, under the direction of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, was founded in 1636, by Sir Robert Hitcham, Knt., who bequeathed land producing £300 per annum. Silver and copper coins of Ethelwulph, and a massive gold ring, have been dug up on the Highfields estate.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.