Manuden Village Sign




homepage Manuden village website

a Manuden C17th. barn roof 

The History of Manuden

We do not know when Manuden was first established as a community, but the clues left by previous generations may be used as a guide.

There is evidence of a tumulus and metal working in Manuden on high ground to the west overlooking the river (Field Walking).Stone artifacts found on the border with Berden suggest an ancient trackway to the river which was also used by the Romans (coin scatter – R.Gibson). Further clues lie in the field names.The Danes were here – Grumble Ley, not bad land but named after the land’s owner Grimbald, a Danish chief. Saxon field names also abound – Gennett lands – ‘geneat’ (common fields).In fact Manuden is a typical Saxon string village with houses along both sides of one long road – called The Street.

The Domesday Survey of 1086 also gives valuable information about the composition of the village during Edward the Confessor’s reign (1042-1066).From this we know there were four established manors at that time held by seven freemen: Manuden, Pinchpools, Saucemeres and Peyton Hall
(modern spellings), with 41 men recorded as borders, villeins (tenants of rented land) and serfs, giving an approximate population of 205 using 1095 acres; 33 acres of meadow, plus wood for 70 swine. All the essential prerequisites for a successful settlement were there – plentiful water supply, good grazing, and wood for fuel and construction, plus high land for defence.

In A.D. 1143 a Norman knight, Richard de Camvill and his wife Alicia, gave "the Church of MANEGUEDANA to God and Saint Melaine and his monks at the Church of Hatfield Regis for ever". The Benedictine priory at Hatfield Broad Oak, dedicated to a 6th century French saint, had been founded in A.D. 1135 by Aubrey de Vere whose grandfather had been Lord of the Manor of Manuden.

Although there is no trace of any previous building it is reasonable to assume that there was one as Manuden church is built upon a circular mound which suggests an ancient site. The present building, dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, is a much restored medieval church, which suffered partial rebuilding of its chancel in 1746 and drastic major restoration of the entire building, except the north transept, in 1863-67. Fortunately, some interesting work does survive notably the magnificent early 15th century chancel screen, north transept and nave roof with king-post construction.

The North Transept, built c. 1400, was probably paid for by the Bataille family of Battles Hall, Manuden - a manor not mentioned in the Domesday Survey but undoubtedly in existence then. Early reports mention stained glass windows with ancient coats-of-arms, including those of the Bataille family. There was probably an altar under the east window. The west window was removed about 1777 when a door was inserted and the ancient stone head in the left-hand frame of the north window was found buried in the wall over the window arch. In the south eastern corner splayed walling conceals the original staircase to the former rood loft. Later lords of Battles Manor also used this transept as their private chapel and like Sir William Waad are buried here. Also interred here are two members of the Knight family of Pinchpools Manor.

A Jacobean tablet on the north wall commemorates Sir William Waad of Battles Hall, a notable diplomat and officer of state in Elizabethan and Jacobean times. As Secretary to the Privy Council under Elizabeth I and James I he was sent on special missions to the Emperor Rudolph, King Philip of Spain, Kings Henry III and IV of France and Mary Queen of Scots. Finally, for eight years he was Lieutenant of the Tower of London where some of his many prisoners included Guy Fawkes and Sir Walter Raleigh. He retired to spend his last years at Battles Hall, Manuden, on the Furneux Pelham road.

Sixteenth century records show a number of wealthy land owners in Manuden when most of the timber-framed buildings were constructed, of which there are many. Enclosure of land for grazing sheep filled the pockets of the landlords but resulted in the dispossession of peasant families unable to graze their animals for much-needed milk and meat.Perhaps from feelings of guilt the Tudor and Elizabethan landlords set up charities to provide villagers with money and, in once instance, cloth to make suits for men and women (Buck’s Charity).

During the 1800s there was considerable unrest in agricultural communities in Essex, and Manuden was no exception.The farmers who introduced mechanized farm machinery were hated. There were many instances of incendiarism where barns and buildings were torched, including Manuden Hall (Swing Riots).Shortage of jobs and subsistence wages forced many agricultural workers to abandon village life for the cities.This exodus hastened the demise of many associated trades like blacksmith, and hurdlemaker. The First World War 1914-18 further emptied the countryside followed by a farming depression in 1920 when many Manuden farms were unoccupied.The village had become terminally ill.

Paradoxically, its salvation was more machinery.The first train ran into Bishop’s Stortford on 16th May, 1842 and between the wars a commuter service was established. After the Second World War 1939-45, when incredibly Manuden did not lose a single man, increased use of the motor car meant the village was rediscovered by urban dwellers seeking refuge from city life and the village recovered.

These new villagers, often unfamiliar with country ways, were a source of amusement to established residents but they were enthusiastic, prepared to learn, and spent time and money improving their new-found

During the past 100 years Manuden has changed from a primarily agriculture community to a partial dormitory but with five working farms still in existence: Battles Hall Farm, Cock Farm, Saucemeres, Peyton Hall and Pinchpools - all highly mechanized. The once derelict cottages, previously occupied by numerous inhabitants, have been lovingly restored and are now owned by one family. In fact they are so sought after that newcomers occupy the draughty ‘period’ properties while established residents live in new, central-heated houses.The school and village societies flourish as never before with the present population steady at 704

Manuden has survived plagues, disastrous harvests, and the pace of rapid change to become a lively, forward looking community. Now, with plans on the drawing board for a Community and Sports Centre, Manuden looks ready to face the future.

See Manuden website for more details

Publications:Sir William Waad, Lieutenant of the Tower and the Gunpowder Plot by Fiona Bengtsen (£7.00); The Manor of Battles Hall, Manuden (£3.00); Manuden During the Second World War £2.00; A History of Waterside School 1921-1997 £2.00; Manuden Millennium Pageant – A Journey through Manuden’s History £2.00) - prices do not include postage.

Fiona Bengtsen - Manuden Local History Recorder and Chairman Manuden History Society.