History of Braintree

St Michael's Church, Braintree, 1900, Essex.  (Neg. 46244)  © Copyright The Francis Frith Collection 2005. http://www.francisfrith.com
St Michael's Church, Braintree, 1900
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection.

History of Braintree and Bocking >> White's Directory 1848

White's Directory of Essex 1848

BRAINTREE, a well built and improving market town, is partly in its own parish, and partly in that of Bocking, and extends about two miles on both sides the high road, southward from the river Pant, or Blackwater, to the small river Brain; 12 miles North by East of Chelmsford, 6 miles South by West of Halstead, 9 miles East of Dunmow, 15 miles West by South of Colchester, 8 miles North East of Witham, and 40 miles, North East of London.

It is a polling place, and the chief place of election for the Northern Parliamentary Division of Essex, and the head of a large Union and County Court District.

The northern part of the town, extending to the river Blackwater, is in Bocking parish, and the southern part in Braintree parish, but some of the streets in the heart of the town are in both parishes.

The town rises boldly from both rivers, and the principal street is a great thoroughfare, and has many good houses, inns, and well stocked shops, as also have some of the other streets. It contains about 7000 inhabitants, and is now being considerably improved on its south-eastern side, where a new road has been made, and a handsome Station erected, as the terminus of the Maldon, Witham, and Brainree Railway, which was furnished in 1848, and crosses the Eastern Counties Railway at Witham. This railway is about 14 miles in length, and has cost its proprietors about £40,000 per mile.

Braintree Parish contains 2242 acres of land, and 3670 inhabitants; and Bocking Parish extends over 4198 acres, and had 3437 inhabitants in 1841; but part of the houses of the latter parish are in Bocking Church Street and High Garret, at the distance of from 1 to 3 miles north of the market place.

The woollen manufacture, which formerly flourished here, disappeared many years ago, but is succeeded by the silk manufacture, which employs a great number of the inhabitants.

Four firms, who have also have establishments in London, have large silk factories here, and one of them (Courtauld and Co.,) employ about 600 hands in throwing and in making silk and crape. Some women and children of the town and neighbourbood are partially employed in making straw plat; and here are two breweries, several maltings and corn mills, an iron foundry, and a large brush factory.

The market, held every Wednesday, is well supplied with corn, cattle, and all sorts of provisions; and here is a handsome Corn Exchange, built in 1839, at the cost of about £3000, raised in £25 shares, and having a neat front of the Ionic order. Two annual fairs for cattle, etc., are held on May 8th and October 2nd.

The large Workhouse, and the officers, of Braintree Union are located here. Here are Gas Works, and the streets are well paved. Petty Sessions are held at the White Hart Inn, every alternate Wednesday, for South Hinkford Police Division, for which a Police Station was built here in 1843. Messrs. Veley and Cunnington are clerks to the magistrates.

The COUNTY COURT, for the recovery of small debts, owing in the parishes of Bocking, Braintree, Bradwell, Cressing, Finchingfield, Black and White Notley, Panfield, Pattiswick, Rayne, Great Saling, Shalford, Stisted, and Wethersfield, is held monthly at the White Hart; and Mr. E.G. Craig is the clerk, and Mr. W.C. Kirkham, bailiff for this district.

BRAINTREE is variously called in old records Branketre, Branchetren, Bromptre, etc. In the Confessor's reign, most of the parish was held by the Bishop of London; but at the Domesday Survey, only part of it was held by the Bishop, and the rest by Hamo Dapifer, and Richard, son of Gilbert, Earl of Clare. In 1190, William Santa Maria, Bishop of London, obtained a grant for a weekly market and an annual fair, at Braintree, which was then divided into three manors, viz., the BISHOP'S, NAYLINGHURST, and MARKS, which have since been held by various families.

The manorial rights now belong to T.M. Gepp, Esq., of Chelmsford; and the principal land owners are George Stingley, (owner of Marks Farm, etc.,) Robert Rolfe, Esq., John Gosling, Esq., Richard Lacey, Esq., and the Master and Fellows of Clare Hall, Cambridge. The latter own lands called Hubbalds and Mallands. A farm of 10A.2R.9P., belongs to a charity at East Ham, and here are many smaller owners.

BOOKING was held by two Saxon thanes, who gave it in 1006 to the priory of St. Saviour, in Canterbury. At the dissolution of the religious houses, it was granted to Roger Wentworth.

The Devisees of the late Rev. John Thomas Nottidge, are now lords of the manor, and owners of Booking Hall estate; but a great part of the parish belongs to other proprietors. Dorewards, Bradfords, and Harries estates belong to W.P. Honeywood, Esq.; Bovingdon Hall estate is the property of the Corporation of the Sons of Clergy; Bocking Park and the Lodge farms belongs to the Earl of Essex; and C.S. Onley Esq., S. and C. Tabor, Esq., G. Gosling, Esq., Mrs. Rankin, and several smaller owners have estates and neat houses in this extensive parish.

High Street, Braintree © Copyright Footstepsphotos 2006. http://www.footstepsphotos.co.uk/index.html
High Street, Braintree
Low resolution copy courtesy of Footsteps' Shop on Ebay. Quality postcards of Essex.

Braintree is said to have anciently been a hamlet to the parish of Rayne, and it rise as a town, is supposed to have been owing to its convenient situation on the high road from London to Suffolk and Norfolk, and to the building of inns and lodging houses for the reception of the numerous pilgrims who passed through it in the days of superstition, to the shrines of St. Edmund and our Lady of Walshingham.

After the Reformation the town was deserted by these periodical visitors; but it soon afterwards obtained consequence from the Flemings who settled here in the reign of Elizabeth, after being expelled from the Netherlands by the Duke of Alva. These refugees introduced here the bay and say, and other woollen manufactures, which continued to flourish here till the latter part of last century, but gave place many years ago to the silk manufacture.

The town is in the line of the Roman road, which led from Colchester to St. Albans. In 1828, the late Mrs. Tabor's gardener, when digging near that part of tbe road which is the boundary of Braintree and Bocking, found a large quantity of Roman coins, mostly brass and partly silver. Several urns and other antiquities have been found near the same place; and some years ago, an urn filled with Roman coins, chiefly of the Emperor Vespasian was found at High Garret. About the same time, a coin, or medal, of Antonius was found in Braintree.

Samuel Dale, M.D., a celebrated antiquary and botanist, was originally an apothecary at Braintree, and died at Booking, in 1739, aged 80. He published a Pharmacopoeia and Materia Medica, which passed through numerous editions. Ray, the distinguished naturalist, went to school in Braintree.

James Challis, M.A.., the present professor of astronomy at Cambridge University, is a native of Braintree, where his father was a mason.

In the year 1844, there were three incendiary fires in the town and neighbourhood; one at Rayne Lodge, on March 16th; one on March 18th, when 19 cottages were burnt, in Coggeshall road; and another on April 8th when a building near the Wheat Sheaf was set on fire.

Chapel Hill, Braintree © Copyright Footstepsphotos 2006. http://www.footstepsphotos.co.uk/index.html
Chapel Hill, Braintree
Low resolution copy courtesy of Footsteps' Shop on Ebay. Quality postcards of Essex.

BRAINTREE CHURCH (St. Michael,) is a spacious structure of flint and stone, standing on the south aide of the town, on an elevated site, which appears to have been a military camp. It consists of a nave, chancel, and lofty side aisles with a tower at the west end, surmounted by a tall spire.

The building was commenced in the reign of Edward III., as appears from the arms which decorate it, of the neighbouring gentry who contributed towards the erection; and also from the will of John de Naylinghurst, who, in 1349, left a black bullock "towards the work of the church." It was afterwards greatly enlarged, particularly in the reign of Henry VIII. when the roof was heightened, and the south aisle built.

The expense of these alterations was partly defrayed by the receipts of three plays acted in the church, and entitled St. Swithin, St. Andrew, and Placy Dacy, or St. Ewestacy.

On the walls are many neat tablets, and in the vestry is a long list, written on vellum, of persons who died here of the plague in 1665.

The church is a fine specimen of early English and perpendicular architecture, but it is in a very dilapidated condition, the long pending "Braintree Church-rate case," having delayed those extensive repairs which are necessary for the preservation of the edifice.

Dissenters are very numerous and influencial in the town, and their concientious opposition to church rates, ought to be palliated by voluntary subscriptions among all classes, for the necessary reparation of this sacred fabric, which is highly ornamental to the town.

The rectory was appropriated, in 1416, by the Bishop of London, to the monastery of the Charter House. After the Reformation was passed to Richard Lord Rich, who gave it as part of the endowment of the Felsted Charities, to which it yields about £686 per annum. The vicarage, valued in K.B. at £12.13s.4d., and in 1831 at £227, is in the patronage of Lady Stuart, and incumbency of the Rev. B. Scale, M.A. The tithes were commuted in 1847.

church - exterior
St Mary the Virgin Church, Bocking.
© Copyright Paul Farmer contributor to the Geograph Project and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Bocking Church (Virgin Mary,) stands in Bocking Church street, about 2 miles North of Braintree church. It is a stately fabric of flint and stone, situated on high ground, and forming a conspicuous object at a considerable distance.

It is fine specimen of the architecture of the time of Edward. III., and has a nave and chancel with side aisles, and a tower at the west end, containing six bells. Before the Reformation it contained three altars and five chantries. It was throughly repaired in 1814, and will seat 1500 hearers. In the south aisle are effigies of a man and woman, supposed to represent some of the Dorewardfamily, who flourished here in the 14th and 16th centuries.

The benefice is a rectory and deanery, valued in K.B. at £35.10s.8d., and in 1831 at £923, in the patronage of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and incumbency of the Rev. Henry Carrington, M.A., who is commonly styled Dean of Bocking, and has a fine old residence, called the Deanery, and 108A. of glebe. Bocking is the head of the Archbishop's peculiars, in Essex and Suffolk, for which the dean is commissary; but all peculiar jurisdictions are, or will soon be abolished by the ecclesiastical commissioners.

The Independent Chapel, at Bocking End, adjoining Braintree, is a large and handsome building which was erected in 1707, but greatly enlarged and partly rebuilt in 1818, at the cost of about £2000. It has sittings for more than l600 hearers, and during the last 47 years, it has been under the ministry of the Rev. Thomas Craig.

The new Independent Chapel in Braintree, is a large and elegant structure of white brick and Bath stone. It has 1600 sittings, and is under the ministry of the Rev. John Carter. It was built in 1832, in lieu of the old chapel, which was built in 1788, and enlarged in 1813, and stood in the burial ground in Back lane, now well enclosed, and having in its wall on inscription showing where the front of the chapel stood. The site of the new chapel was given by the present minister.

The Baptist Chapel, in Braintree, is a neat brick building, erected in 1830, at the cost of £1500, in lieu of the old chapel which belonged to a congregation formed in 1680. The Rev. David Rees is the minister.

A small chapel, in Bocking, is used by the Wesleyans, belongs to John Gosling, Esq.; and in Rayne road is an old Friends' Meeting House.

There are in the two parishes several National, British, and Infant Schools, numerously attended on week days and Sunday, and supported by the various denominations, who also subscribe liberally to Bible, Missionary, and other institutions for the propagation of religious knowledge.

Here are also several school endowments, and various charities for the relief of the poor.

Braintree and Bocking Literary and Mechanics' Institution, was established in 1845, and occupies rooms in Rayne Road, where it has a library of about 1000 volumes, and a well supplied reading room. There are upwards of 200 members. The Rev. Sir J. P. Wood is the president, and Mr. Thomas Hammond, secretary.

Here is an Harmonic Society, possessing much musical talent; and also a Temperance Society with a numerous list of members. Balls and Assemblies are occasionally held in the large and elegant room at the White Hart Inn, and the Corn Exchange is sometimes used for concerts, lectures, and exhibitions.

The large Hundred of Hinckford has an Agricultural Society and Conservative Club; and also a Savings Bank, but the head office of the latter, and the anniversary meetings of the former are held at Castle Hedingham.

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Braintree - Cary's New and Correct English Atlas, 1798

Braintree - First Series Ordnance Survey Map 1805

This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth. Licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence BY-SA-4.0

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