History of Great Totham

Great Totham © Copyright The Francis Frith Collection 2005. http://www.francisfrith.com
The Junction, Great Totham, c.1965
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection.

History of Great Totham >> White's Directory 1848

White's Directory of Essex 1848

TOTHAM (GREAT) is a widely-scattered village, with many good houses, from 3 to 4 miles North by East of Maldon, and its parish comprises 786 souls, and 3322A. of land, rising from the vale of the Blackwater, and extending northward to Broad Street Green, Tiptree Heath, and the lofty summit of Beacon Hill.

Osey Island (242A.) in the estuary of the Blackwater, nearly 5 miles South East of the church, is a detached member of this parish.

The highest grounds have a light and gravelly soil, but in the lower parts a rich loamy soil prevails, mostly resting on gravel, which is in some places 40 feet deep. In boring for water at the May Pole public-house, about 30 feet of gravel were succeeded by 200 feet of greyish clay, with occasional mixtures of siliceous sand, and below it was solid rock.

At Domesday Survey, the parish belonged to Hamo Dapifer, and it afterwards passed to the Fitz-Hamon, Lucy, Nevill, Plantagenet, Bourchier, Beroff, Martin, Marney, and other families.

W.P. Honeywood, Esq., is now lord of the two manors, called Great Totham and Gibbecrakes, which were purchased by one of his ancestors; the former of Joseph Martin, Esq., in 1765, and the latter of the Aylett family, in 1749. Gibbecrakes has been modernized to Gibcracks.

J.H. Pattisson, Esq., Mr. Isaac Foster, Mr. J. Ruggles, and many smaller owners have estates in the parish, both free and copyhold: the latter generally subject to fines of 1½ year's rent on change of tenants.

Great Totham Hall, now a farm house, near the church, was modernized in 1825. It was the seat of the Martins during most of last century, and has been surrounded by a moat, which is still perfect in three of its sides.

Lofts, a farm house on Broad Street Green, is on the site of an ancient moated mansion, which was a seat of the Bullocks in the 16th and 17th centuries. Traces of a moat are also seen round the farm house called Frerne or Frians.

The farm house, called Mountains, commands extensive views of the surrounding country, and the creeks and bays of the ocean; but the most expansive prospect of land and water is from BEACON HILL, where there is a neat house, market garden, and nursery, belonging to J.H. Pattisson, Esq., of Witham.

This hill rises about 700 feet above the level of the sea, and commands a delightful view in every direction over a wide extent of picturesquely undulated country, in which are seen 36 churches, the towns of Chelmsford, Maldon and Braintree, the German Ocean, and the estuaries of the Colne and the Blackwater. From the observatory on the top of the house the prospect is considerably extended and in the southern horizon may be seen, if the day is fine, some of the Kentish hills, and the smoke of the steamers on the Thames.

A large elm tree, near the house, is used as a land mark by mariners to guide their course in the Blackwater. A signal beacon was placed on the hill, at the time when Napoleon threatened to invade England, but it was removed after the peace of 1815.

For many years, the hill is supposed to have been used by smugglers, for giving signals to their vessels when and where to discharge their cargoes. Smuggling transactions were formerly extensively carried on the,Essex coast. but they have been but rare occurrences since the establishment of the present efficient coast guard.

St. Peter's Church - exterior
St. Peter's Church, Great Totham
© Copyright John Salmon contributor to the Geograph Project and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Great Totham Church (St. Peter,) stands near the centre of the parish, and has a neat brick nave and chancel, whitened and tiled, a south porch, and a wooden belfry, containing two bells, and crowned by a small spire.

It was enlarged and much improved in 1826, chiefly at the expense of the present incumbent, who has since inserted a handsome new east window. The Norman style prevails in the building, but most of the windows have been modernized. On the floor are two figures in brass, of the two wives of Richard Coke, Esq., dated 1606.

This church was appropriated to the nunnery of Clerkenwell, by Sir Hugh de Nevill, about 1220. The discharged vicarage, valued in K.B. at £10, and in 1831 at only £95, is in the patronage of W.P. Honeywood, Esq., who is is also impropriator of the great tithes. The Rev. T.F. Gower, B.A., is the incumbent, and has 2A. of glebe, and a neat residence, rebuilt in 1757. The tithes were commuted in 1840, the rectorial for £450, and the vicarial for £178 per annum. More than 200 acres are tithe free.

For repairing the church here, John Goddeshalf left a house and 19A. of land, at Little Braxted, now let for £17 a year.

In the parish are two small dissenting chapels, one built by Mr. James Cottee in 1839, and now belonging to Wesleyans; and the other by Isaac Foster in 1828.

The latter gentlemen built a neat School in 1844, with a house for the teacher, at the cost of £200; and here is a small school, supported by the vicar.

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Great Totham - Cary's New and Correct English Atlas, 1798

Great Totham - 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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