Welcome to Clavering

Prehistoric, Roman and early Saxon evidence in Clavering is thin on the ground, but there undoubtedly was settlement here in earlier times. On the Langley side, the parish boundary is Beards Lane, a Roman road which went to the Roman towns of Chesterford in one direction and Braughing the other. The village grew up on higher ground near the confluence of the River Stort and the Kings Water stream and seems a natural place for settlement. The village name is first found in the 11th century as Claefring and in Domesday as Clauelinga, meaning ‘the place where the clover grows’. A reference in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 1052 to ‘Robert’s Castle’ is thought to refer to Clavering Castle, the large moated site still to be seen north of the parish church, belonging to Robert fitz Wimarc who held the manor at that time. If this is authentic, then Clavering possesses the earliest castle site in eastern England.

Fitz Wimarc was kinsman to Edward the Confessor, and there is a legend that Edward may have visited Clavering at the dedication of a chapel to St John the Evangelist. This chapel became associated with one of the Miracles of the Ring, and in 1251 Henry III visited Clavering and ordered the miracle to be commemorated in the chapel.

The Parish Church  is dedicated to St. Mary & St Clement, saints associated with Prittlewell Priory, founded by Robert fitzSweyn, descendant of fitz Wimarc. The Bury was built in 1304 to replace Clavering Castle as manorial centre and is today one of the best surviving medieval aisled halls in the country.

The present medieval church was built on the site of an earlier one and contains features that date from the earlier church. The church  was completely rebuilt from the late 14th century throughout much of the 15th century. There are some wonderful things in this church, like the beautifully-carved Elizabethan pulpit, original 15th century screen, benches and stained glass.  The ancient brasses and the Baroque Barlee memorials are notable of their type. On the south wall is a board describing the famous ‘herring’ charity, whereby the poor received barrels of herrings during Lent.

The village seems to have included a number of quite prosperous landowners in Tudor and Stuart times, judging by the number of wills in the ERO, but like most villages round here increasing poverty afflicted the ordinary population too. By the 18th-19th century it was one of the poorest villages, as evidenced by the struggles of pioneering school masters and  vicars trying to raise money for church repairs. By the 1930s the population had reduced considerably but the village was much more intimate – still today there are native villagers who remember with affection the old farming village much as it had been for centuries past.

The revolution in agriculture, universal car ownership and the incoming of commuting residents have changed the village culture irrevocably, but remarkably its medieval fabric still survives in a large number of timber-framed buildings and the preservation of the oldest parts at Church End and Middle Street. Clavering is a large, scattered parish with seven ‘greens’ and three ‘ends’ (Hill Green, Stickling Green, Starlings Green, Roast Green, Sheepcote Green, Birds Green, Deers Green, Mill End, Ford End, Further Ford End) as well as extensions in Arkesden Road (formerly Clatterbury Lane), Wicken Road, Pelham Road, the High Street and the Langley upper and lower roads. This big, beautiful parish is lovelier today than ever thanks to the legacy of its past and the continuing care of those who live there now. There is much more to discover about its early history and the Clavering Landscape History Group is currently investigating the castle environs. The late Eileen Ludgate was the village historian and wrote some excellent books which are still in print.

Further information: Clavering & Langley the first 1000 Years by Eileen Ludgate (£5.50); Clavering & Langley: 1783-1983 by Eileen Ludgate (price £5.50); History Walks in Clavering: a journey in time through an Essex village by Jacqueline Cooper (£7.50) – prices include postage.

Jacqueline Cooper - Clavering Local History Recorder