|A HISTORY OF TOLLESBURY
"TOLESBIA ten et Almfrid de comite qd tenuit GUDMUND
lib lit ho, uno manerio ....." so runs the beginning of one of
two paragraphs concerning the Pariah of Tollesbury in the Hundred
of "Tureatapla" or Thurstable, as recorded in Domesday Book 1068.
Early historians state that the name of Tollesbury meant the
"Burgh in the Valley", and this would appear to indicate that Tollesbury
or Tolleshunt as it is sometimes referred to in ancient writings
was situated in the vicinity of what is known as Old Hall.
Other early historians refer to Tolleshunt meaning the "place of the
springs" and Tollesbury as the "place where toll or custom was paid
by ships coming up this Bay.. "". All interpretations can bear
credence, but it is generally accepted that the latter definition
is more correct.
It is known that the Romans landed in this parish and may have established
a fort or temple, and having regard to their orderly and businesslike
methods would have levied tolls or customs on vessels entering the
River Blackwater. Tollesbury as we know it today is the second
largest parish in the District of Maldon, comprising some 5,000
acres, extending west of Rolls Farm on the Blackwater to the bridge
west of Gorwell Hall Farm, and west mid-road to just east of
Spring Terrace in Tolleshunt D'arcy, and then northerly across the
fields to the small wood at Lodge Road, and further northerly to
Saltcottstone to a point on White house Hill where the boundary
follows the gully running east into Saltcott Creek, embracing
Pennyhole Creek, Old Hall Marsh, the Fleets and shore-line south
of Shingle Hills, Wick Marsh, Mill Creek, Mill Point to Rolls Farm.
The Olden Days
In Edward the Confessor's reign, GUDMUND, a freeman, was the owner
of Tollesbury, and "lands" were held by the Abbess of Barking who
sub-let part to one named SIDVARD or SAWARD and 10 acres to a vassal
named ODO. At the time of the survey in 1086, it was recorded that
there were 11 "villeins or villagers, 14 "bordars" and 5 serfs who
lived within the compounds of the manors, all were bound to serve
one or other of their masters, and were not free to move or choose
their work. There was at this time 1 mill, 1 fishery, 2 salt works,
2 horses, 2 beasts , 28 swine and 300 sheep. It can be assumed
that the mill! was in the vicinity of Mill House Farm, or as we
know it to-day Mell House Farm. In 1068 one named Ralph PIPERELL
or PEVERIL attempted to obtain possession of lands in the possession
of the Abbess of Barking, and was stoutly resisted by this good lady.
However, it would appear that William the Conqueror was successful
in obtaining possession of lands formerly held by GUDMUND and they
were held- by Eustace, Earl of Boulogne, who apparently divided the
lands bswteen INGELRIC for one knight's fee (to provide horse and
men in time of war), (the names of TORBERN, ALMAR, ULERIC are also
mentioned in Philip Morant's "History of Essex" a.d. 1768) and
allowed the Abbess of Barking of Saint Martin's Collegiate Church to
Sometime after the conquest, the name of BALDWIN, Earl of Guisnes,
is recorded as the possessor of Tolleshunt Guisnes or little
Tolleshunt, and it is stated that there were four manors within
the Parish of Tollesbury, viz., the Manor of Tollesbury or
Bourchiers Hall, Manor of St. Mary of Barking (Tollesbury
Hall), Gorwell and Prentices, and Bohun's Hall. With the
exception of Gorwell and Prentices, each manor had its own court
under feudal lord system. The rectory, stated to "stand on
the south side of the street", was also stated to be a manor.
The exact position of the last named is not known.
Manor of Tollesbury
Bourchiers Hall, the mansion house, is pleasantly
situated on rising ground, about a mile north-west from
the church. From thence there is a pleasant prospect to
the sea and Mersea Island, The foregoing description
written by Philip Morant holds good to this day.
The manor was held by Baldwin, Earl of Guisnes, and was
later given by Robert de Guisnes to Fulk Basset, Bishop of
London. The manor in course of years passed, to Alma,
Countess of Norfolk; Hugh de Essex; Robert Bourchier, Lord
Chancellor of England, who held his first Court there in 1329.
It remained in the Bourchier family, Earls of Essex, until
the death of Anne Bourchier, (Marchioness of Northampton), on
20th January 1370, when it passed to her kinsman, Walter
Devereux, Lord Ferrers of Chartley, who was afterwards
created Earl of Essex, and died on the 22nd September 1576,
when it passed to his son Robert Devereux, famous EarL of Essex.
The manor at this time was stated to comprise of 40 messuages,
20 cottages, 40 gardens, 1000 acres of arable, 100 of meadow,
600 of pasture, 600 of fresh marsh, 2000 of salt marsh, 140
acres of wood, £8 rent, wreck of the sea, and free warren in
Tollesbury, Tolleshunt Knights, D'arcy, Feering, Saltcote
Wigborough and Virley, Goldhanger and Bradwell. In the
course of years the manor was owned by families named,
Gardiner; Duke; Hallam. The last named had one daughter
named Mary, who married Philip Bennett, Esq,, in 1733, and
died on llth December l76l. The Bennett family tomb stands
on the north-east corner of the churchyard path
on the north side of the chancel, and there is a memorial to
Jane wife of Thomas Gardiner, who died 1654 affixed to the north
wall inside the Chancel of St. Mary's Church, Tollesbury.
Manor of St. Mary of Barking.
Now known as Tollesbury Ball, belonged to the Nunnery
of Barking until the dissolution of the Monastries.
The manor house, called Tollesbury Hall, stands south of
the Church. In the year 1539 King Henry VIII granted this
estate to Thomas, Lord Cromwell, a few days before he
created him Earl of Essex. Upon his attainder, it
reverted to the Crown, and was appointed for the maintenance
of the Lady Mary Tudor, afterwards Queen. On the 12th
February 1562, Queen Elisabeth granted it to Thomas Howard,
Duke of Norfolk, and he being so imprudent as to espouse
with more zeal than discretion the cause of Mary, Queen of
Scots, was attainted and beheaded in l573. However,
Thomas, his son by his second lady, Margaret, daughter of
Thomas Lord Audley, being restored in blood in 1584, was
awarded the Manor by Queen Elizabeth, and in 1597 he was
summonded to Parliament by the title of Sir Thomas Howard,
Baron Howard de Walden, and created Earl of Suffolk, 2lst
July 1603. The Manor continued in the Howard family, and
various courts were holden there on 27th September l6ll;
2nd April 1635; 16th October 1672; 6th October 1675;
1st May 1679; 14th May 1694. About the year 1702 the Manor was
sold by Charles, Lord Howard, last Baron of Escrick in
Yorkshire, to one, Peter Whitcomb Esq., a turkey merchant,
who had two daughters Mary and Elizabeth. Mary married
Thomas Paget, Squire of the Bedchamber to Prince George.
On the death of Thomas Whitcomb in 1704, the manor and
estate was conveyed to Henry Cornelison Esq of Braxted
Lodge, and was later purchased by Peter Du Cane Esq.,
together with Tollesbury Wick in the parish.
Manor of Bohuns Hall
Otherwise Bowns Hall, vulgarly Bones Hall.
The mansion house stands ¼ mile south of the Church.
Little is known of its origin, but in 1539 it was
granted by the Crown to Thomas, Lord Cromwell. Upon
his attainder and disgrace having opposed King Henry VI
the manor reverted to the Crown, and allotted together
with other manors in the village for the support and
maintenance of Lady Anne of Cleeves. Upon her decease,
the manor reverted to the Crown. In 1589 it belonged
to francis Craddock Esq and Gervase Howley, who had
license the 22nd February l589 to alienate it to
Margaret Whettell, but the same year Queen Elizabeth I
granted it to Thomas Mildmay and others, to hold in
capita; by the twentieth part of a knight's fee.
In the course of,time it passed into the family of
James Altham Esq. Serjeant at Law, one of the "Barons
of the Exchequer". In 1630 (19th July) on the death of
his grandson Sutton Altham, it passed into the
possession of Sutton's sisters Elizabeth then 10 years
old and Frances aged 9 years.
Gorwell and Prentices
Were styled "manors", but were subordinate to the
others, and held no feudal courts. Prior to the
suppression, they both belonged to Beeleigh Abbey
and were let to John Hogan for 21 years at a rental
of £9.14s.4d. In 1559 King Henry VIII granted them
to Thomas Lord Cromwell, as he had done with Bohun's Hall,
but upon his disgrace they reverted to the Crown and were
allotted for the support and maintens of Lady Anne of
Cleeves. On the 29th June 1566, Queen Elizabeth I granted
them to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. In course of
time they both passed into the possession of various
gentlemen, including one named Robert Taylor (see Robert
Taylor's Charity), others by none of Andrew Wharton,
Francis Jessop, John Goodman "Yeoman" of Tolleshunt
Knights, John Wilkin, John Purcell, etc., also held them variously.
Church of St. Mary the Virgin
The Church itself stands on the highest eminence in the village
and to this day dominates the whole village scene. The
edifice embodies Saxon, Roman, Norman and Tudor architecture
and building. The exact date of its origin is not known, but
traces of former foundations have been found and materials
with which it is constructed may be compared with the Castle
and St. Botolph's Priory at Colchester. The embattled and
buttressed tower has served as a beacon and leading mark for
vessels entering Tollesbury Fleets for centuries past, and
the Church has witnessed many vicissitudes and glorious events
of the past and present.
The reader would be well advised to read "Church History -
A Short Guide to the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin,
Tollesbury" an excellent treatise on the subject, but for
the benefit of those who are unable to obtain a copy, the
following abridged details are given. The main part of the
church ia believed to date from the 11th century. On this
rests the exceptionally fine 16th century tower, capped by
parapet walls and pinnacles of the l7th century. Particular
attention is drawn to the Tudor style windows in the upper
part, of the tower. The clock in the north wall dates from
the end of the 19th century. It will be seen that two
lancet-type windows on the north wall of the nave have been
blocked up as well as a small door on the south wall near the
chancel steps. This door is reputed to have been left open
during Divine services as was the custom many years ago and
to allow lepers to witness the services from outside.
In the South Porch there is the remain of the Holy Water
stoup. The South Porch inside the Church consists of Roman
brick. Tht West arch of the Church is stated to consist
of Roman brick and is of Saxon origin. The font is unique
as it bears the inscription - "Good People all I pray take
Care That in ye Church you doe not aware As this man did."
The font was purchased out of fine of £5 levied on a villager
in 1718 for distburbing Divine service. The Church has been
greatly enriched in recent years by the incumbents,
benefactors and laity.
At the bottom of this article, is handwritten
"Incomplete, to be read in conjuction with "Short Guide to
St. Mary's Church and embodied where applicable."