The Rodings

abbess roding aythorpe high roding leaden margaret roding white roding
Abbess Roding Aythorpe Roding High Roding Leaden Roding Margaret Roding Morrell Roding White Roding


We are very grateful to Pam & John Rollason of Keers Green for her
permission to reproduce the following article written by her in 2008.


There are eight Rodings villages, the largest group in the country to bear a common  name.  They originate from the Saxon invasion of the sixth century when one Hrotha and his tribe, the Hrodingas, sailed up the Thames and along its tributary river seeking a new home.  They settled on the highly fertile soil of the area, creating settlements to the east and west of the river.  Both river and villages derive their names from Hroda.

By the time of the Norman Conquest, in 1066, a large part of the area passed into the hands of William the Conqueror, the de Veres and the de Mandevilles who became the Earls of Oxford and Essex.Friars Grange, in Aythorpe Roding, was gifted to the monks of Tilty and acquired by one of Henry VIII’s goldsmiths, after the Dissolution.Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne, held a manor in High Roding, later given to Thomas Cranmer whose parish church was one of the first to possess the English Bible.

The boundaries and names of the villages were more or less established by the fourteenth century:

Abbess, Aythorpe, Beauchamp, Berners, High, Leaden,  Margaret, and White Roding.

The writer, Daniel Defoe, described the Rodings villages as ‘famous for Good Land, Good Malt, and Dirty Roads’.

For centuries they remained virtually inaccessible.Consequently there are no buildings of great importance in the area. It is, however, rich in timber-framed manor houses, farm houses, and thatched cottages dating from Medieval times, and retains some comfortable old public houses which offer excellent food and ale – ‘The Axe and Compasses’, Aythorpe Roding (where stage coaches used to stop en route to London) ‘The Black Horse’, White Roding, and 'The Black Lion’, High Roding.

Once an area abounding in windmills, there is only one left intact with its sails turning – the mid-eighteenth century postmill at Aythorpe Roding, the largest in Essex, open to the public on the first Sunday of the month from April until September. Many of the churches date from Norman times. The oldest of them, the church of St Margaret of Antioch, in Margaret Roding, has an impressive Norman doorway. The grave of a Crusader in the churchyard is perhaps one of the many who brought back news of St Margaret from the East.

Close by lie the villages of Good Easter and High Easter. 'Estre’ or 'Estra' may indicate that they were outlying settlements of the Rodings where sheep were grazed. Good Easter was originally called Godichestre, and thought to have connexions with Lady Godiva. Along with the Canfields, they have much in common with the Rodings in terms of church foundations, and their many Listed houses.

The Rodings retain some comfortable old public houses which offer excellent food and ale. The Axe and Compasses at Aythorpe Roding was built in 1707 on a piece of roadside waste which belonged to Aythorpe Roding Hall, and acquired by Henry Bacon, carpenter. Hence its name and the reason for its isolated situation. The present restaurant was once the brewhouse and a bake house, added later. The hook for hauling up the boiling water is still in place near the fireplace. In the 19th century, stagecoaches used to stop at 'The Axe' en route from Dunmow to London. There was once a large cottage attached to the right-hand side of the pub but was demolished after it became derelict. In the last century the pub was held for many years by the Rolph family. A|After passing through the hands of several publicans, it fell into disrepair and was bought and refurbished by its present owner, David Hunt, n 2007.The Punch Bowl’, High Easter, an inn until the last century, is now a top class restaurant, far removed from its lowly origins in the eighteenth century when it hosted poorhouse wedding celebrations.

The last of our group of ten parishes is Great Canfield ( the Saxon Cana’s Feld) where the de Veres built a wooden castle on an artificial mound surrounded by a deep moat.The Church is essentially Norman and behind the remarkable chancel arch is a wall painting of the Virgin and Child, regarded as one of the best thirteenth century representations in the entire country. Following the Reformation, it was covered over to protect it from puritan destruction and rediscovered only at the end of the nineteenth century when the church was renovated.

farmmachine axandcomp


The following information is taken from the classic work, Arthur Mee’s Essex in The Kings England Series.

Down a quiet lane near a farm, the church is 13th century and was once attached to the manor. It has lancet windows. Four centuries ago the bell turret was put up in the nave on strong posts in order to ring when Henry 8th came to the throne. In the churchyard is the grave of a long-serving vicar, Henry Ludgater who was rector for 53 years.

Many gabled and thatched houses in the street and a great pond between churchyard and old farmhouse. Church 700 years old, very old ironwork on doors, old as stones of church. Small doorways but massive medieval font with fine carved panelling, very old pulpit, but most of the glass has gone, just a little tracery light left in window near pulpit.

All the churches on the River Roding are fascinating, the best is here, dedicated to St Margaret, with its medieval belfry. Small nave, but some of best Norman work in Essex, panels round tiny widows and doorways. Interesting corbels by medieval masons 14th century, also panelled font and arch over founder’s tomb. Also 700 year old ironwork on door, and nice church chest.

Simple church on a hill, with parts of every century within. Walls have Roman bricks at corners of nave. 11th century arches and tiny windows. 12th century carved font, consecration crosses on altar stone. 13th century ironwork on south door. 14th century 2 carved figures in sanctuary. 15th century roof and stained roundel glass. 16th century tower with battlements. 17th century porch and new bells. 18th century chest and altar table. 19th century vestry and church restored.