records the name is written, Alsenham, Elsingham, Elsinham, and
Elsynham, the derivation unknown. The earliest records that we have
show us that the Domesday Survey noted that Takeley and Elsenham formed
part of the densely wooded district in Essex for “they feed
between them 3500 swine”. In Elsenham, the destruction of
woodland was progressive and between 1066 and 1086 the number of swine
fell from 1300 to 1000.
Edward the Confessor’s time a freewoman named Merunaand, a
called Lestan owned the land, which was made up of 4 hides with two
ploughs, eight villeins and five serfs. There were 12 acres of meadow
and a mill, 220 sheep, eight cows, 60 swine, one rouncey (a type of
horse) and one colt. It was worth £6 then, and £8
survey when John, the nephew of Waleran, and Robert Gernon owned the
land. John’s share included the corn mill.
is at this time that we find the earliest records of Elsenham Church,
when in 1070 John, nephew of Waleran, gave it as an endowment to the
Abbey of St. Stephen at Caen in Normandy. This gift was confirmed by
Henry I in 1100, by Henry II in 1154 and by Richard I in 1189.
was during Richard I’s reign that the church, now with a
and nave, was given to the Benedictine Priory of Walden by Beatrice,
Lady Say. It is not known exactly when the present church was built but
we do know that it was built on the site of an earlier Saxon church.
after the Conquest, the Lordship of Elsenham belonged to the noble
family of de Abrincis or d’Auranche, Baron of Folkestone in
It remained in the family until 1230, when it passed to a son-in-law,
Hamo de Crevequer. He died in 1262, leaving the estate to his daughter
Isabel and her husband, Henry de Gant. In 1248 Guy de Rochford held a
licence for free warren in his manors of Elsenham and Berden. He held
in this parish, owned now by Lord William de Say, one messuage, 330
acres of arable land, six acres of meadow, 20 acres of pasture and 20
acres of wood. Guy de Rochford died in 1274.
manor was then held by the ancient family of Walden and during this
time “Netherhall” or “Newhall”
was built. It
was so named to distinguish it from the earlier manor, the identity of
which seems to have been lost. When John Walden died in 1419, we find
that the records noted that “Newhall” was made up
toft (homestead) and 200 acres of arable land. From the Walden family
the manor passed to the family of John Barley, from Barley in
Hertfordshire. His grandson William later forfeited the estate for
supporting Perkin Warbeck in his rebellion, but it was afterwards given
back by Henry VII and William was pardoned in 1500. He died on 17 March
1520 and was buried in the chancel of the church together with his
wife, Elizabeth. In 1607, their brother-in-law Henry Wiseman was
appointed guardian and lived in the manor with his wife Mary who was
the sister of Thomas. She was buried in the church in 1635.
the Barley family the manor passed to the Adams family (one of whom,
Thomas, was buried in the floor of the chancel in 1670) and then to
Bayley Heath of Stansted.
is not known from the church records what the population of Elsenham
was at this time, but a later summary of baptisms tells us that between
1732 and 1756 there were 184 children baptised in Elsenham. The most
popular girl’s name was Mary and the most popular
name was John.
A History of Essex published in 1770 by “A
learn that “Elsenham was divided from Stansted Mountfitchet
small stream that turned an overshot corn mill”. The mansion
adjoining the church was called Netherhall or Newhall, being the
property of William Heath of Stansted Hall.
Rectory which had been built in Richard I’s reign was now a
which, with the advowson (the right to recommend a member of the clergy
for a (vacant benefice), had been purchased by William Canning Esq
about the time of the Restoration. His son, George, and later, in 1757,
his grandson John, succeeded him.
1756, John Rayner (presumably a son of Thomas Rayner who had been vicar
since 1731) left £30 to be applied to schooling poor
but no interest was paid after 1809 and the original sum was supposed
to have been lost. It was also noted that John Wells had left three
cottages and an orchard, the rents of which were to provide clothing
for the poorest. Rental of the cottages was then £9.
landowners in 1768 included Thomas Dimsdale, John Gurson, Clement
Barker, John Howlett, Samuel Scott, Charles Hancock, John Chapman and
William Crigson. From
the records of the church, we know that the chancel and nave were built
early in the 12th century. The chancel arch is about 850 years old and
it was originally spanned by a rood screen which separated the nave
from the chancel. The screen was surmounted by a rood loft or gallery,
access to which was made by the stone staircase in the north wall of
the chancel. Mortice holes on the underside of the arch and adjacent
tie-beam can still be seen. Some 300 years later, the tower was built
with a small spire. It was also in the 15th century that the nave roof
was renewed and several of the windows enlarged. The south porch was
added about 1500 and in the 19th century, a small north porch, now used
as a vestry, was added.
item of interest in the church registers is an entry dated February
1795, when John Brand, aged 69, was buried. It was noted that he was
“ignorantly reputed to be a wizard”.
1801 and 1848, the population of Elsenham rose from 348 to 491. The
Northern & Eastern railway was opened between 1840 and 1845,
extending from Stratford to Ely and it ran in close company with the
Newmarket Turnpike. In 1847, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert rode
through the village in the train on their way from Tottenham to
Cambridge. Elsenham Station was then at Fullers End but it was moved to
its present site soon after it was built because the gradient from
Fullers End was too steep for the engines to start off on their journey
1848, George Rush, Lord of the Manor, who lived in the Hall, owned most
of the 1825 acres. The Hall at that time was described as a
“large brick mansion with embattled walls and tasteful
gardens.” Thomas Canning was then Vicar.
1851 and 1891, the population of Elsenham decreased from 517 to 423.
Excavation work carried out in the late 19th century showed that
Elsenham Hall is on the site of the ancient manor hall, but it is not
known exactly when the present hall was built.
1876, on the death of Mrs Rush, grandmother of George Rush (the
great-grandson of the former George Rush) the property was let on lease
to Walter Gilbey, who later made improvements to the Hall.
school had been built in 1863/5, financed by Miss Rush and later the
first Elsenham Post Office was opened in the school room. When John
Bourne retired as schoolmaster, he moved into the house next to the
village pump, taking the Post Office with him. The Post Office later
moved to Bert Caton’s shop, next to the Crown Inn. It was to
there for four or five years before transferring to the cross-roads.
While Walter Gilbey lived at the hall, the Prince of Wales was a
frequent visitor and on December 11th 1889, he also brought with him
Sir Randolph Churchill and several other dignitaries. In 1892, Walter
was made a baronet because of his famous achievements as a breeder of
1891 he had founded what is known locally as the “Jam
Factory” (Elsenham Quality Foods). At that time, fruits grown
the orchards of Elsenham Hall were made into preserves in the kitchens
there. Lavender was also grown and used in the making of Lavender
Water. Sir Walter was also a partner with his brother Arthur in the
wine and spirits industry and they founded the company now known as
Gilbey Vintners which was based at Harlow. Sir Walter Gilbey was
responsible for the building of several houses in the village,
including the first Policeman’s house in Park Road. He Built
Pump House in Park Road, during the War World, the gold-leafed dome was
covered by a tarpaulin.
the turn of the century, the church was closed by Act of Parliament.
The village cemetery was first used in December 1901, the land having
been given by Sir Walter Gilbey.
Road, next to the Pump House, was originally made as a private road for
Sir Walter to get to the railway station by horse-drawn carriage, but
he died in November 1914, before it was completed. He was buried in the
family grave in Bishop's Stortford.
Ray Franklin, Elsenham Local History Recorder
information see 'Elsenham: village of a thousand years' by Ray Franklin