History of Witham

Witham © Copyright The Francis Frith Collection 2005. http://www.frithphotos.com
Witham, 1900
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection.

History of Witham >> White's Directory 1848

White's Directory of Essex 1848

WITHAM, a small, but handsome and well-built market town, is pleasantly situated on the high road from London to Colchester, near the confluence of the small river Brain, or Guith, with the Blackwater; and mostly on the south-eastern side of the Eastern Counties railway, where there is a commodious Station, at the junction of that line with the Maldon, Witham, and Braintree Railway, now fast approaching completion. It is distant 38 miles North East of London, 14 miles South West by West of Colchester, 8 miles North East of Chelmsford, 6 miles North by West of Maldon, and 7 miles South South East of Braintree.

It has a small market every Tuesday for corn, cattle, etc., and pleasure fairs on the Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week, and on June 4th and 5th. The latter is held at Chipping Hill, an old detached part of the town, on the other side of the railway, where the parish church is situated; but a new church has recently been built in the town.

Witham gives name to the Hundred and Union; and to a large Justice and Police Division. Sessions are held here every alternative Tuesday. Newland street, the great thoroughfare, where the market is held, has many good houses, inns and well-stocked shops, and is connected with Bridge street, by the bridge over the small river Brain. These, and the few cross street, are mow well paved, and lit with gas.

The Gas Works were established in 1834, at the cost of about £850, and a similar sum was expended in 1847, in making a new gasometer, and in extending the gas pipes to Chipping Hill and the Railway Station. The charge for lights is 10s., and for cooking purposes only 6s. per 1000 cubic feet.

The Parish of Witham had only 2186 inhabitants in 1801, but in 1831 they had increased to 2735, and in 1841, to 3158 souls, including 138 in the Union Workhouse, and 18 in the private Lunatic Asylum, which was established here in 1819, by Mr. Tomkin, surgeon, and has room for 30 patients. The parish contains 3633 acres of land, but only 3100 acres are tithable, and of these, 2400 acres are arable, and 156 acres woodland.

Witham is of considerable antiquity, and Newland street is said to have been first built; by Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great. Some antiquaries say the name of the place, in the time of the Ancient Britons, was Guith-avon, (separating river,) from the small river Guith, or Brain, which divides the town, and falls into the Blackwater, about half a mile east of the town.

The parish church and some or the oldest houses, are at and near Chipping Hill, about half a mile North West of the town, where the market was anciently held, and where there is a bold eminence, on which there were formerly traces of a circular camp, defended by a double vallum.

A mineral spring, near Witham Place, was formerly much celebrated, and Dr. Tavernier, a learned physician, who resided here, published an essay on its virtues, but it ceased to be noticed more than 30 years ago.

The parish is in several manors, of which the following are their names and their lords - Newlands and Great Witham, Capt.P.P. Du Cane; Powers Hall, or Little Witham, John Alfred Wigan, Esq.; Howbridge Hall, Samuel and Stephen Pitt, Esqrs.; the Vicarage or Hog end, belonging to the Vicar; and Blunts Hall, of which Lord Rayleigh is lord. The latter extends into the parishes of Terling and Hatfield Peverel.

Among the other principal landowners are J.H. Pattisson, Esq., Jonathan Bullock, Esq., Rev. H. Do Cane, Captain Du Cane, Mrs. Catherine Oliver, (owner of Freeborns, Benton Hall, and Rukestones farms,) J.E. Walford, Esq., Rev. C. Warren, W.W. Luard, Esq.,Mra. A. Clark, (owner of Chantry Wood, 105A., and Isham's farm,) and Messrs. James and John Beadel. The soil is mostly free, and partly copyhold.

The lordship of Great Witham, or Newland, was held by Earl Harold, and afterwards by Eustace, Earl of Boulogue, who married William the Conqueror's sister. It was then called the Honor of Bononia, or Bonanda, and was one of the four ancient Honors in this kingdom. King Stephen granted it to the Knights Templars, and after the dissolution it passed to various families.

The customs in the manors of Newland and Chipping are remarkable; the owner of freehold lands being obliged to pay one year's value of the property upon every death and alienation, for a certain fine; unless he was born in the manor, in which case he pays a double quit-rent only. There are also copyholders and leaseholders, who hold by copy of court roll for longer or shorter term, as the lord may choose, and pay arbitary fines.

The other manors have been held by many different families. In the reign of Henry III., Geffrey de Lyston held land here by the service of carrying flour to make wafers, on the King's birthday, whenever his Majesty was in the kingdom.

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

Witham Grove, the seat of the Rev. Henry Du Cane, is a fine old mansion of red and black brick, on the south side of Newland street, with pleasant grounds; and on the opposite side of the road, is a beautiful avenue of trees, about a quarter of a mile in length and open to the public. The Princess, afterwards Queen Charlotte, landed at Harwich, in 1761 and in her way to London, stayed at Witham Grove, then the seat of the Earl of Abercorn, and previously of the Barwells, who built it, and were eminent baize manufacturers.

Witham House, nearer the centre of the same side of Newland street, is a large brick building, with tastefull pleasure grounds behind it. It is the seat of J.H. Pattisson, Esq., and among its pictures is a fine one of Rural Amusements, by Sir Thomas Lawrence. The Pattisons have been settled in this neighbourhood before than two centuries. The late William Henry Pattison, Esq., who died, January 8th, 1848, aged 73, was for many years an eminent attorney, and in the latter part of his life, on active magistrate of the county. He was universally respected, and to him and his predecessors the town is indebted for many improvements, since 1730. Several of the largest houses were built by them, and a few years ago, the late Mr. P. gave to the public land which now forms Guithavon street and the New road.

Witham Lodge, a neat mansion with pleasant grounds, about a mile South West of the town, is the seat of W.W. Luard, Esq. Witham Place, near Chipping Hill, was the seat of the late Capt. Rook, and now belongs to Robert Bretnall, Esq. This estate was given by Roger Bacon to St. John's Abbey, Colchester, and was granted by Henry VIII., to George Tresham. in the l7th century, it was let by the Southcote family, on a long building lease, to Lord Stourton, who made great improvements in the house and grounds which were occupied by the Earl of Barcourt, about 1780. The late Mr. R. Bretnall purchased the estate in 1800. The mansion was very extensive, and contained a Catholic Chapel, but it has been reduced to about one-third of its former magnitude, though it is still a large residence; now unoccupied.

Witham Parish Church, (St. Nicholas,) is at Chipping Hill, about half a mile north of the town. It is a lofty and spacious structure, consisting of a nave, side aisles, chancel, and porch; with a tower at the west end. The walls are of ancient bricks and flints, except the upper part of the tower, which was formerly of wood, but was exchanged for brick in 1743.

The nave and chancel display some good specimens of the decorated and perpendicular style, and have undergone many alterations. The east window has recently been restored, and the whole building thoroughly repaired and beautified. The chancel is separated from the nave by a rood screen, and the staircase which led to the rood loft now leads to the pulpit. There the staircase which led to the rood loft now leads to the pulpit.

There were formerly two chantries here, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. The latter was founded in 1397, and well endowed, for a chaplain to pray for the soul of Lady Joana de Bohun, Countess of Hereford, and others. On the north side of the chancel is an elegant monument, bearing recumbent effigies of Judqe Southcote, of Witham Place, and his lady.

A white marble mural monument has kneeling figures of Sir Thomas Nevill and his lady, dated 1593. There are also several handsome mural monuments belonging to the Pattisson and other families. One in in memory of William Henry Pattisson, jun., and his wife, who were married August 22nd, 1832, and unfortunately drowned together, on the 20th of the following month, in the Lac de Gauve, in the Higher Pyrenees. In memory of his late respected father, another neat tablet was erected in 1848.

The vicarage, valued in K.B. at £22.Os.7d., and in 1831 at £488, has a large and handsome residence, 103A.1R.26p. of glebe, and a small manorial jurisdiction. The Rev. John Bramston, M.A., is the incumbent, and the Bishop of London, is patron, and also appropriator of the rectory, now held on lease by John Shaw Manley, Esq.. who has £820 a year in lieu of tithes. The vicar's tithes have been commuted for £285 per annum. Two-thirds of the tithes of Blunts Hall estate (450A..) belongs to Peter Wright, Esq., and have been commuted for £75 per ann.

The parish church being at the distance of half a mile, the want of a chapel of ease in the town had long been felt in 1842, when All Saints' Church, in Guithavon street, was built by subscription, at the cost of about £5000, on land given by the late W.H. Pattisson, Esq. The latter also gave £100 towards the building, and his son, J.H. Pattisson, Esq., gave £150. Among the other principal contributions to the building and endowment were- £250 from the Church Building Society; £250 from the Essex Church Building Society; £1000 given by the Du Cane family; £1O5 by J. Brown, Esq., the architect; and £100 by Mrs. Sims.

This new church is a large building, in the early English style, of dressed black flint, with white brick quoins, etc. It has a bell hung over the western gable, and contains 700 sittings, of which 400 are free, but it has at present no galleries. A house for the minister is about to be erected, on land given by J.H. Pattisson, Esq.

print published 1834

Here is a small Catholic Chapel, in the house of the Priest, in the town are Chapels belonging to the Independents, Baptists, and Society of friends, the first rebuilt in 1840, at the cost of £1700, by a congregation formed in 1715; and the second built in 1828, at the cost of £220. Witham Literary Institution was established in Nov., 1844, and has now has 3 patrons, 170 members, and a library of about 1000 volumes. It has lecture, reading, and news rooms, and is liberally encouraged by most of the gentry of the town and neighbourhood. Lord Rayleigh is its president, and Mr. Henry Garrett is the librarian.

In the same year was commenced the Witham Labourers' Friend and Agricultural Society, which has now about 80 members and holds an annual meeting, at which there is a ploughing match, and prizes are awarded to the best ploughman, and for the finest vegetables, etc.

Sir John Suckling, a celebrated wit, courtier, and dramatist, was born here in 1613, and spent £12,000 in raising and supporting a troop of horse for King Charles.

Witham Division Benefit Building and Investment Society, was established in 1846, in £120 shares, to be realized by monthly subscriptions of 10s. It holds its meetings on the last Tuesday of every month, and Messrs. Blood and Douglas are its solicitors, and Mr. James Corder is its manager and secretary. A fashionable assembly, called Witham Ball, is held every winter, at the White Inn, and is attended by a large number of the gentry of the neighbourhood.

As already noticed, the chalybeate spring, called Witham Spa has bee a disused more than 30 years, though it was once in as much repute us the Hockley Spa. The revival of this spa, and the establishment of baths, would be of great use to the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood.

Here is a Cricket Club, also several Friendly Societies, a Savings' Bank, and various Almshouses and Charities for the poor.

The National Schools form a handsome building, in the Tudor style, built in 1842, in lieu of the old one. They are supported by subscription, the small payments of the scholars, and the rent of a large house at Chipping Hill, let for £35 a year, and bequeathed in l681, by Catherine Barnardiston, in trust for the support of a church lecturer, or a schoolmaster, or for want of these, to be applied to the relief of poor widows. There is a house for the master and mistress, and in connexion with it is an Infant School.

The British Schools, in Maldon road, were built in 1837, at the cost of £850, and in connexion with them there is an Infant School, at the Independant Chapel. These schools are numerously attended, liberally supported by subscription, but the scholars pay from 1d. to 3d, each per week.

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

Witham - 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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