History of Writtle

Writtle © Copyright The Francis Frith Collection 2005. http://www.frithphotos.com
St John's Green, Writtle, c.1960
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection.

History of Writtle >> White's Directory 1848

White's Directory of Essex 1848

WRITTLE, a large and well-built village, pleasantly situated on the west side of the river Can, 2 miles West by South of Chelmsford, has a spacious Green, ornamented with a sheet of water; and a small one, called St. John's Green. It has many good houses, and a large brewery; and had formerly a weekly market.

Its parish is the largest, and one of the finest in the county, comprising no less than 8672 acres; of which, 5705A. are arable, 1644A. in pasturage, 748A. wood, and 319A. in open commons, etc.

It increased its population from 1599 in 1801, to 2521 souls in 1841, and includes the hamlets or districts of Oxney Green, Edney Green, Highwood, and parts of Cook's Mill Green, from 1 to 4 miles West and South West of the village. The four quarters of the parish are styled - Town Quarter, Roman's Fee, Highwood, and Bedell's End; and contain many scattered houses, etc., bearing different names, and some of them fine specimens of old domestic architecture.

The Highwood quarter adjoins Blackmore, and is a picturesque woodland district. The arable lands in all parts of the parish, produce excellent crops of wheat. The soil is similar to that of Moulsham; and hops have been cultivated here.

Wittle is conjectured to have been a Roman Station. Gibson supposes it is the site of Canonium; and Morant, and some other antiquiries have placed here the Caesaromagus of the Itinerary. Others have placed the latter at Dunmow, and the former at Widford, where Roman bricks and tiles have been found. The road from London to Chelmsford, etc., is said to have passed through Writtle, until Maurice, Bishop of London, erected Moulsham Bridge, about A.D. 1100.

Near the village is a square plot of ground, enclosed by a moat, and supposed to have been the site of a palace erected by King John, about the year 1211; but no relics have been discovered to prove that the Romans had a station here.

In the time of Edward the Confessor, the extensive lordship of Writtle belonged to Earl Harold, and it was afterwards held by the Conqueror. It has since been held by various noble families, but it often reverted to the Crown, till Queen Mary granted it, and other estates, to Sir William Petre, Kt., an ancestor of Lord Petre, the present lord of the manor.

The parish is mostly freehold, and a great part of the soil belongs to J. Attwood, Esq. M.P., J.A. Hardcastle, Esq. M.P., and many smaller proprietors. The court baron is held at a farm called the Lordship, and the court leet in a building on the little Green, where a market house formerly stood.

The parish has a charter for two fairs, on Whit Monday and Oct. 10th, but the latter has long been obsolete, and the former only affords a few stalls of toys, etc. Writtle Races, supported by Lord Petre and other gentlemen, are held on Oxney-Green, in July.

The Rectory is a manor belonging to New College; and the manors of Morehall and Bowers belong to Wadham College, Oxford. Nine manors have at different times been parcelled out of the noble lordship of Writtle, which, with Roxwell parish, forms a liberty, which has its own coroner, and was anciently one of the royal forests. The 'bayliship of Writtle, and half hundred of Chelmsford, was anciently held by the service of keeping the king's forests. There were here two parks, viz:- Osterly or Horsfrith, which was disparked some centuries ago; and Writtle Park, which still remains, and has a fine old Elizabethan mansion and beautiful gardens, belonging to Lord Petre, and occupied by the Hon. Frederick Petre.

This seat adjoins the Highwood, and is distant nearly 5 miles South West of Chelmsford. In 1603, John Petre, Esq., was created Baron Petre, of Writtle. Bedeman's Berg was a hemitage in the midst of the Highwood, founded by Robert, a monk, in the time of King Stephen. It was afterwards held by the monks of St. John's, at Colchester, and had about 60A. of land. Writtle Lodge, or Great Waterhouse, on the east side of the river, was built in 1712, by George Bramston, Esq., and was afterwards the seat of the Fortesque family, but was purchased by J. Attwood, Esq., who lately pulled the mansion down.

church - exterior
All Saints Church, Writtle.
© Copyright Julian P Guffogg contributor to the Geograph Project and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Writtle Church (All Saints,) is a large and massive building, covered with lead, and consisting of a spacious nave and aisles, and a large chancel, etc., with a lofty stone tower at the west end, containing eight bells. The tower having fallen down, was rebuilt in 1802, but it is not in keeping with the body of the church, which is mostly in the early English style of the 13th century.

The clerestory is of later date, and the roof is in the Tudor style, springing from highly enriched corbels, with carved bosses at the intersections of the beams. In the aisles are two small chapels, supposed to have belonged to some of the four chantries and 12 obits, founded here in popish times. The nave is neatly fitted up, and has spacious galleries. The chancel was new roofed in 1844, when a handsome new window was inserted in the perpendicular style, and decorated with the arms of the Rector, and William of Wykeham, in stained glass.

In the interior are many handsome moral monuments; some finely carved benches and pews; and an ancient Norman font. In 1143, this church was given by King Stephen to the monks of Bermondsey; but it was afterwards given by King John to the hospital of the Holy Ghost, belonging to the English, at Rome. This hospital held it till 1399, when it was granted by the Crown to William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, who gave it and the rectory as part of the endowment of New College, Oxford, founded by him.

The rectory is a manor, called the manor of Roman's Fee, from it having belonged to the English hospital at Rome. The rectorial tithes of both Writtle and Roxwell still belong to the Warden and Fellows of New College, and the two parishes formed their peculiar jurisdiction, exempt from all episcopal authority, until the recent abolition of all such "peculiars," by act of Parliament. They are patrons of the Vicaraqe, which was valued in 1831 at £718, with the curacy of Roxwell annexed to it, and is now in the incumbency of the Rev. Thomas Penrose, D.C.L., who has about 11 acres of glebe, and a good residence, containing many valuable pictures, The tithes of the two parishes were commuted in 1839 for £2,284 per annum.

St. Paul's Chapel, in the Highwood quarter, about 2 miles South West of the church, is a neat chapel-of-ease, erected in 1842, for the accommodation of the inhabitants of that part of this extensive parish. Its situation is also convenient for the out-dwellers of the neighbouring parishes of Fryerning: and Blackmore. It is built of red brick, in the early English style, and reflects much credit on the architect Mr. S. Webb. It has about 400 sittings, all open and free except 12 pews. The building cost about £1,200, raised by subscription, aided by a grant from the Society for building Churches, and a liberal sum given by the Warden and Fellows of New College. The Rev. T. Owen., A.B., is the minister; and a neat house has recently been erected for him. In the village is an Independent Chapel, built in 1816.

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

Writtle - 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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