History of Rochford

Rochford © Copyright The Francis Frith Collection 2005. http://www.francisfrith.com
North Street, Rochford, c.1950
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection.

History of Rochford >> White's Directory 1848

White's Directory of Essex 1848

ROCHFORD, a small ancient market town and polling place, gives name to the Hundred and Union of Rochford, in which it holds a central situation, on the river Broomhill, crossed by two small bridges, 4 miles North by West of Southend, 17 miles South East of Chelmsford, and 40 miles East by North of London.

Its parish contains 1722 inhabitants, and 1865 acres of land. The town is irregularly built, and the market house (not now used for that purpose,) is a wooden building, and bears the date of 1707.

The market is held on Thursday, and here are fairs on Easter Tuesday and the Wednesday after Sept. 29th, for toys, pedlery, and tailors' and glovers' goods.

The Union, and the the large workhouse, built here in 1837-'8. The County Court for this Hundred is held monthly, at the Old Ship Inn; and Petty Sessions every alternate Thursday, at the King's Head. Mr. William Swaine is clerk to both courts, for which accommodation is about to be provided in a neat Public Building, which will contain a large room for public meeting, exhibitions, concerts,etc.

At the Domesday Survey, Rochford was held by Suene, whose grandson, Robert of Essex, having forfeited his inheritance, this manor was bestowed by Henry II. on Guy Fitz-Eustace, who afterwards took the name of De Rocheford, from this estate.

His grandson, Guy de Rochford, had the privilege of a market granted him for this town, by Henry III., as well as wreck at sea. tumbrel, and other privileges, which were afterwards certified under a guo warronto, in the reign of Edward I.

His descendants held the manor till the failure of the heir general in 1340, and after that period it passed to the Bohun, Ormond, and other noble families.

The Earl of Mornington is now owner of most of the parish, and lord of the manor, which was purchased by one of his ancestors, Sir Richard Child, of Viscount Bolingbroke, in 1712.

A very singular custom connected with this manor is the holding of what is called the Lawless Court: its origin is uncertain; but tradition represents it as arising from a conspiracy against lord of the manor, projected during his absence, and overheard by himself on his way home. As a punishment, he ordered that all the tenants on his manor should ever afterwards assemble at a certain hour of the night, on the same spot where the conspirators met, and do homage for their lands.

The court is held in the open air, on King's hill, on the midnight or the first Wednesday after Michaelmas Day, and all the business is transacted in whispers; the minutes being, made with a coal, in place of pen and ink. The steward opens the court in as low a voice as possible, yet those tenants who neglect to answer are fined, and every absentee forfeits his rent for every hour's absence.

The time of assembling is from twelve till cock-crow. The parties previously meet at the King's Head. Rochford Hall, the manor house, now held by James Tabor, Esq., of Prittlewell, is an ancient and stately building, near the church, and it said to have been a residence of Anne Bulleyn.

It had an extensive park, and was repaired about 30 years ago, after being long in a ruinous condition.

Doggett, or Doccet, a reputed manor in this parish, is also the property of the Earl of Mornington; and about a mile west of the town is Grested Hall, a farm-house near the woods of Rayleigh and Noble's Green.

The town consists chiefly of four short streets, and was drained and otherwise improved some years ago. The Gas Works were constructed in I845, by a company of proprietors, to whom Mr. George Wood is solicitor.

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

The Church(St. Andrew,) is a large ancient fabric, consisting of a nave, aisles, chancel, and north chapel, with a lofty brick tower at the west end, said to have been erected by Lord Rich, but the arms of Boteler induce the belief that it was built by the Ormond family. Probably it was repaired and heightened by Lord Rich. A gravestone, in the north aisle, bears the date 1386.

The rectory, valued in K.B. at £20, and in 1831 at £600, is in the patronage of the Earl of Mornington and incumbency of the Rev. William Gardiner, M.A., who has a good residence, and 65A. of glebe.

Here is a large Independent Chapel, belonging to a congregation formed in 1730; and the Wesleyans have a small place of worship in the town.

The Parish has a National School, and various charities for the poor.

The Almshouses, erected by Lord Rich, about the year 1600, comprises six old tenements, for the residence of poor people, placed there by the lord of the manor. They have no endowment, though Robert Lord Rich, by will in 1617, directed his successor to settle upon them lands to the value of £60 per annum.

In 1604, Thomas Joselyn left for the poor of Rochford 15A. of land, at Hockley, now let for £20, which is distributed in coals, together with £21.11s., arising from about 14A. of land, near the town, given by unknown donors. On this land are two cottages and gardens, occupied rent-free by poor families.

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

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Rochford - 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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