1046 - 1987
Pete Hall (otherwise known as Peet or Peete Hall) Colchester Road, Peldon, Essex.
It remains uncertain as to when Pete Hall became known by its present spelling rather than Peet (or Peete) Hall. The Manor of Peet has its origins
in the 11th Century, and in 1294 the Manor of Peet was valued at £6 4s 3d. The first known recording of "Petehall" was found in the
Ministers Accounts of 1546 but it is likely that a Manor existed certainly by the 14th Century but not the property we see today.
The Chapman and Andre map of 1777 shows Peete Hall (actual spelling) at the end of a short carriageway, which in turn led off the road between
Colchester and Mersea. This building no longer stands, and I will describe later how Pete Hall came to be built elsewhere on the Manor estate
during the 19th Century.
Early records often confuse the spelling of Pete, a situation made even more complex after the new Hall was built, when for a time there were
actually two Halls on the Manor estate, with one possibly named Peet Tie Hall or just the "Old Hall". By the 20th Century Pete Hall appears to have become the adopted spelling so I have chosen to use the present-day spelling throughout, except when directly quoting from other sources.
Today Pete Hall is Grade 11 listed, and while it is no longer a working farm, a number of the 19th Century farm buildings remain. The Hall is some 7 miles from Colchester and 1.3 miles from the Strood, a causeway which connects the mainland to Mersea Island.
The yellow area was transferred from West Mersea to Peldon Parish in 1953
Pete Hall - In Peldon or West Mersea?
There is a belief that in Roman times Mersea was not an island at all, but that a sinking of the land mass and rising sea levels resulted in a causeway being formed that becomes flooded during the spring high tides, sometimes to a depth of around 2 feet, effectively creating an island, if only for an hour or two.
There is the possibility that this causeway may even have existed in the Bronze Age but the earliest known evidence is a number of wooden piles found over a distance of some 60 metres which were uncovered by an archaeological study in 1978. These were carbon dated to AD694-702. It is estimated that the Anglo-Saxons may have placed up to three to five thousand wooden piles to construct the causeway, with many piles some 400/500 metres long. A significant undertaking.
In more modern times, Mrs W.E. Duane in her "A Study of the Strood" (1965) found that the earliest known map of Mersea Island dated 1576, and subsequent maps up to 1726 show no actual road crossing from the mainland to Mersea. The 1726 map did however show a road on the mainland approaching Mersea Island, and on the Island itself, two roads branching off to East and West Mersea. It was not until 1762 that an actual crossing is shown. In 1775 this crossing had been shortened following the reclamation of some land after the building of a new sea wall. By 1804 the road from Colchester had been classified by the Post Office as a "Mail Road" and in 1924 it was re-classified as a "B" road.
Notwithstanding this documentary evidence Duane established that in 1559 land called Churchfields and Strood Wood were granted to the Trustees of
the "Church and Strood Lands Charity" with the specific bequest to maintain both the Parish Church of St Peters and St Pauls in West Mersea, and
also the Strood Crossing, by using the rental income from 54 acres of arable land, and the use of wood cut from the 26 acres called Strood Wood.
It is clear from the subsequent accounts of this charity that a causeway was being maintained in this way, with additional contributions from the local residents from time to time. The causeway was constructed with the use of stone, gravel, shingle and chalk from the local area, enclosed with the use of wooden stakes (from Strood Wood) driven vertically in to the ground. This method appears to have been used well in to the late 19th or early 20th Century. It was not until 1898 that the Charity Commission effectively split the Charity
between the Trustees of the Church, and the "Stroodlands Charity," the latter with new trustees coming from the Lexden and Winstree Rural District Council being responsible for the causeway. Clearly the cost of maintaining the crossing became too great for the Charity alone, as later in 1924 Essex County Council became responsible for its maintenance.
From interpreting the Domesday records J Horace Round describes three Manors in the Parish of West Mersea being West Mersea Manor, the Manor of Peet and the Manor of Fingringhoe. East Mersea had its own separate Manor. Manors are inextricably linked to a Church, and in this respect the first three Manors were all linked to St Peters and St Pauls Church in West Mersea. With two Manors being on the mainland, and the Church being on the Island the maintenance of the causeway will have been vital. It is known that in 1835 Martin Harvey who occupied Pete Hall was a Charity trustee, and that Pete Hall provided material for repairs.
Since early times the Manor of Peet, and Pete Hall have come under the Parish of West Mersea. it was not until 1953 that the local authorities formally transferred Pete Hall and its farmlands to the Parish of Peldon. This partly explains why most incumbents of the Hall have traditionally held allegiance to St Peters and St Pauls Church in West Mersea and not to the more local Church in Peldon. Given that Pete Hall was traditionally a Manor House some background might be helpful?
The Manor of Pete Hall
The Manorial system dates back to the Anglo-Saxon period and was prevalent throughout Europe at that time, but rapidly expanded after the Norman Conquest in 1066.
The Manor was a specific area of land, essentially an agricultural unit held by a landlord, varying in size from a few acres within a single Parish, to Manors covering several but not necessarily adjoining Parishes. Within one Parish there might even be more than one Manor, each possibly held by a separate Landlord. It is estimated that within England there were between 25,000 - 65,000 Manors and only 12/15,000 Parishes.
Each Manor was an economic unit, and those living on the Manor lands were subject to the customs of the Manor. The landlord or Tenant in Chief was referred to as the Lord of the Manor, but he was not necessarily a titled person.
The landlord held the estate from the Crown either directly or through one or more "Mesne" Lords (a middle Lord). The Mesne Lord would be recognised as the Superior Lord and could hold one or more Manors from the Crown.
People who lived on Manors were either Villeins (serfs/peasants) who owed allegiance to or were bound to the Lord of the Manor, or less often, free tenant farmers (Yeomen) who were not subject to the customs of the Manor but would pay a yearly rent to the Lord either in money or kind. Each Manor would be economically self-sufficient and therefore the Lord would be dependent on the serf population under his jurisdiction to provide sufficient food through subsistence farming, and when necessary his fighting men. While the serfs would be required to farm the Lord's own lands, in return they were granted a strip of land for their own cultivation in what little spare time they were allowed. They would not however own this land.
The serf could not move away without the permission of his Lord and then only on payment of a Fine (payment), and further payments might become payable, for example if one of the serf's daughters were to marry, when again the Lord's permission was required and a Fine paid.
The serfs effectively gave up their rights to any ownership of property in return for the protection of their Lord, who might live in a fortified Manor House or even a Castle. The Manor House was the dwelling place of the Lord to whom service was due, where taxes were paid and the Lord's Courts were held.
Each Lord held a Manor Court which exercised power over all administrative matters, criminal acts and civil matters. Only the most serious criminal acts would be referred to the Crown.
There were primarily two Courts, the Courts Baron which was run by the Tenant in Chief which regulated all the local administrative affairs of the Manor, and which had to be attended by every tenant. This Court might be held every 6 weeks, while the Court Leet was held twice yearly to resolve any petty misdemeanours, although the level of severity dealt with varied considerably over time. In the 17th Century the Justice of the Peace took over this role and the Court Leet could only levy fines, and no longer imprison their inhabitants.
The proceedings of both Courts would be written down in the Rolls which until 1733 were written in Latin.
The Manor House was generally the centre of the Lord's estate, and was often next to the church. The building of the church may well have been funded by the Lord and he would be its Patron. His tenants would be required to attend Sunday service and the church would re-inforce his all-encompassing powers.
The Crown or Superior Lord might also grant lands to a Church or Abbey in return for their continuous prayer, not only during the life of the Lord of the Manor but often, even after their death. Significant lands throughout England were held by religious orders in the 11th Century. It is believed that the Manors of West Mersea, Peet Hall and Fingringhoe and their associated lands were granted in this way to the monastery of St Ouen by Edward the Confessor in 1046.
After the Norman Conquest of 1066, William the Conqueror decreed that all land would be administered under the Manorial System but that he would be Lord of all the land. The idea of "service" was transferred from the individual Lord, to the land he owned. In the view of many, the Domesday survey was actually undertaken to determine the level of taxation to be levied on the lands, which were to be arranged in a series of Manors.
To manage these lands, William appointed new Earls and Barons, many being his Norman supporters from France but also including some of the existing Saxon Barons. In return they agreed to make payments to the Crown (effectively taxes) and fealty (the provision of Knights and soldiers). Some Manorial estates were so large that the Barons or Earls appointed Lords to administer the estates and collect the taxes.
Over time Manors were subdivided and new Manors created. This weakened the powers of the Crown, and complicated the collection of revenues. Accordingly, during the reign of Edward 1 (1239-1307) measures were taken to control the transfer of property and in future all grants of land required a licence by Royal Letters Patent and the subdivision of Manors effectively came to an end, and the income of the Crown was secured. This in turn led to the rise of Royal powers and the Manorial Lord started to lose his powers over the lives of his tenants.
Gradually the serf ceased to be the chattel of his Lord and "service" was replaced by a rent for the use of a strip of land. The Lord of the Manor had to ensure this rent was sufficient to provide him a living while at the same time enable him to pay the taxes due to the Crown. The serf (and later tenants) would be dependent on the success of the harvest to pay the rent. Notwithstanding the success or otherwise of the harvest, rents might rise if for example, the Lord was required to pay higher taxes to fund the Crown's Treasury expenses such as in the event of a War.
The Lord was likely to be held responsible by his tenants for any hardship resulting from either the collection of rents or bad harvests. One such tax, The Poll Tax, was first levied in 1377 to help pay for the Hundred Years War, and in 1380 it was increased from 4d to 12d per adult aged over 14 years old, whether rich or poor. This tax contributed to the Peasants Revolt of 1381 led by Wat Tyler, which was particularly rife in Essex and Kent. Some manor houses were burnt down and many records of taxes, labour duties, debts due, as well as Manor Court Rolls were destroyed.
Several sources refer to the riots of Peldon. Charles Oman in his book "The Great Revolt of 1381" refers to rioting peasants under the leadership of Ralfe att Wood sacking the "Manor of Peldon" then home to Admiral Edmund De La Mare, and the removal of a bundle of Admiralty records which were then carried at the end of a pitchfork to London. While this account refers to the "Manor of Peldon", Omar goes on to describe its location as close to the Pyefleet Chanel on the mainland. This description might imply that Oman is referring to the Manor of Pete Hall, particularly as Pete Hall had a wharf on the Pyefleet Channel. Other sources when describing the same incident have referred only to a Manor house "in" Peldon. There is no certainty that this particular incident involved Pete Hall, especially as at the time Pete Hall would be placed in West Mersea and not Peldon. Also, there is indeed a Peldon Manor.
However, it seems likely that if this incident involved Peldon Manor, then Pete Hall was attacked at the same time. A translation of the Manor Rolls for West Mersea, Fingringhoe and Pete Manor believed to be dated October 1381, so some three months after the riots, refers to the earlier burning and destruction of the Rolls for all three Manors. During this period the Manor Courts were all held at Pete Hall (Pete Hall continued to hold Courts until 1759 when they were switched to West Mersea Hall). It is reasonable to assume the Rolls would have been kept at the same location where the Courts were held. The translation records the Lord of the Manor requiring his tenants to present evidence of their rights and customs and to pay any fines due. Effectively reconstructing the lost records.
Returning to the Riots, while Ralfe att Wood was eventually pardoned, the ringleader Wat Tyler and others were put to death after confronting King Richard 11 in London. This particular Poll Tax was however never levied again.
While Manorialism in its widest sense was almost ended by the end of the 14th Century it was not actually abolished by law until the
passing of The Tenures Abolition Act of 1660. Manor Courts did however continue to be held, although the practice varied throughout the Country
and most stopped by the 19th Century. That said there are Manor Rolls for Pete Hall covering the early 20th Century.
The last big change was the Law of Property Act 1922-1925 which prepared for all land to become Registered. Those Manorial Rights which still remained, such as the right to be called Lord and Lady of the Manor, fishing rights, mineral rights, market rights and other more odd and localised rights were now to be treated separately, and no longer transferred as part of the sale of land. Instead "Rights" were transferred by a separate deed. This resulted in many Lordships now being owned by individuals rather than by the owner of the physical land or Manor House. This became the case with Pete Hall when William Davies purchased the title for £65 (Equivalent to around £4300 in 2018 values).
Ownership of the Manor of Pete Hall
It is likely that Pete Hall has been owned by absent landlords for many decades if not centuries, and the records are often sparse. In 1046 Edward The Confessor granted the Manor to the monastery of St Ouen based in Rouen Normandy. It was probably not until 1422 that "Peet Hall" together with West Mersea and Fingringhoe Halls were granted by the King to The College or Hospice of Higham Ferrers under the auspices of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The College was subsequently dissolved by Henry V111 in 1542 when he granted all three Manors to Robert Dacres. Dacres was to die in November 1543 when Henry may have granted the Manors to William Petre but by 1546/1547 Thomas Darcy Baron Darcy of Chiche was named as the Lord. Chiche is now known as St Osyth where Thomas also owned the Priory of that name.
In September 1547 the Manor Rolls described Pete Hall, its kitchen, barn and stables as "very ruinous through default of repair, namely to timbers, roofing etc". It perhaps confirms that maintenance still remained in the hands of a tenant who would be responsible for its upkeep.
On the death of Thomas in 1558 the Lordship fell to his son John 2nd Baron Darcy of Chiche but thereafter the records are elusive.
It is most likely that on the death of John, all three manors were inherited by his son Thomas Darcy 3rd Baron Darcy of Chiche & 1st
Earl Rivers. However, Thomas was just 16 on his father's death so the estates may well have been held in trust until he reached maturity.
Thomas was to live to the age of 75, outliving both of his sons so on his death in 1640 his daughter Elizabeth might have expected to inherited,
but title will have been complicated by her earlier marriage to Thomas Savage 1st Viscount Savage, notwithstanding his earlier death in 1635. It's
likely that all property would have been held in trust, and so it was that in 1648 it was Countess Rivers (Elizabeth) Executrix of Thomas Savage
1st Viscount Savage who sold Fingringhoe Hall and Pete Hall to George Frere a London Merchant for a total of £1000.
In 1649 she also sold West Mersea Hall to John Kidby Rector of Shenfield, so ending the link through ownership of the three Manor houses. Countess
Rivers had also owned St Osyth Priory and Melford Hall but was to die penniless.
Frere was to live at Fingringhoe Hall the larger of the two Manor houses, so continuing the theme of absent landlords, at least as far as Pete Hall was concerned. Frere died a bachelor in 1655, but willed his properties to his Great Nephew also named George Frere, but only once George reached the age of 24 (an age regularly stipulated for inheritance). Meanwhile until George came of age John Goddard (Junior) was named trustee to run the estate. Goddard's father had been married to George Frere's sister Penelope. Even the biographers of the Frere dynasty do not know when (nephew) George was born or died, or indeed whether he reached the age of 24. Events suggest he did not.
Curiously when (nephew) George's father, Thomas Frere wrote his own will in 1663 when "sick and weak" he left his own substantial properties both in England and abroad to another son. But he further instructed two trustees to act as guardians to George. They were also tasked with looking after the estates which George Frere (senior) had previously willed to his son (George). There was however no mention of Goddard.
Thomas made no claim in his will to the ownership of Pete Hall and Fingringhoe Manor, so why did Sarah Hackney when writing her will in 1660 stipulate that a clock should be bequeathed to her landlord Thomas Frere? Sarah Hackney had the tenancy to Pete Hall. If we discount Admiral Edmund De La Mare (of Peasant Revolt fame) then Sarah is the first recorded occupant of Pete Hall. Perhaps Thomas was Lord of the Manor?
It is likely that George (Junior) was still alive in 1666 as he was named in his Aunt Elizabeth Jackson's will, but most likely he did not reach maturity. While the events have not been established it must have come to pass that John Goddard Junior eventually inherited, for it was he who sold Fingringhoe Hall in 1707 to Marmaduke Rawson (but not Pete Hall), so breaking the final ownership link between these two Manor houses.
Sometime later John Goddard's grandson inherited and in turn gave up Pete Hall to Thomas Bayles (or Boyles) in settlement of his grandfather's debts (year unknown). When Bayles died in 1726 Jacob Brown became Lord of the Manor but continued to live in Bentley, until his death in 1777 when he bequeathed Pete Hall to William Kendall Senior (1730-1782) from Colchester and then his son William Kendall Junior owned the Manor.
The 1811 census sees William Kendall (junior) living with his wife Hannah in Colchester with their one-year old son (also William). William was to die later that year leaving Pete Hall to his wife Hannah in trust. Under the terms of the will, as was often the norm at the time, the estate was to revert to William Junior's trustees should Hannah remarry, and marry she did in 1820, and so stewardship remained with the Trustees until 1833 when Pete Hall and 358 acres were advertised for sale.
It is presumed that on William Kendall Junior's son reaching 24 it was decided to sell, perhaps to pay death duties? The purchaser was most likely Jeremiah Pledger Senior, a Quaker, like Kendall. Pledger was a farmer and landowner living at Hammond Farm, Little Baddow, where he remained resident. He owned up to 900 acres in total, mostly near Chelmsford and it was said that locally his influence rivalled that of the Lords of the Manor near Baddow. Perhaps he was minded to purchase Pete Hall to secure the title attached.
At the time Pete Hall was described as a "valuable and most desirable farm called Peet Hall with good farm house, double cottage, all suitable outbuildings and Saltings total 358 acres with a good wharf". Could the descriptive phrase "Good farmhouse" suggest in need of improvement? The current tenant Martin Harvey was paying a rent of £330 per annum.
1897 Ordnance Survey Map
Pete Hall in the 19th Century and the "New Build"
In 1838 the Tithe map shows a group of buildings to the South West of the "Manor estate", but by 1870 a new complex of buildings was shown to the North East, which fronted on to the Colchester Road. The 1870 map now showed just the one building at the site of the former "Peet Hall". It is clear that Pete Hall has been relocated some 300 yards, but why?
Throughout the early history of England there were periods of social unrest. Agricultural labourers were particularly poorly paid, more so in East Anglia, where they were also very dependent on the success of the annual harvest, being a region of mainly arable farming. The unrest would manifest itself in increased poaching, theft and from the early 19th Century by the breaking of threshing machines and arson.
The early 1830s saw nationwide riots with some in Essex, particularly in the Tendring area. The situation improved for a while but a poor harvest in 1843 gave rise to a number of incidents such as threatening letters being sent anonymously to farmers, which were sometimes followed by the breaking of threshing machines, and in the first few months of 1844 to some 21 incidents of arson on Essex farms alone. This compared to an average of just 2 or 3 arson attacks per year over the previous ten years.
The Essex Standard ran an article "Arson in the Essex Parishes" stating that there had been a series of arson attacks in Ardleigh, Aldham, Wrabness, Hadleigh and West Mersea. Two occurred the same night, at Martells Hall in Ardleigh, and "Peet Hall".
The article described that on the 10th February 1844 a straw stack belonging to Martin Harvey was set on fire around 7.00 O'clock in the evening. The burning stack then ignited and destroyed two barns, riding stables, a cow house, a piggery, a wheat stack, the produce of about 18 acres, a large stack of grass hay, a bean stack and two straw stacks. While the barns were relatively empty some oats and clover seed were lost. These were all burnt to the ground before the fire brigade arrived from Colchester. Only the Hall, cart-lodge and granary survived. "The damage was valued at over £1,500" (equivalent to say £185,000 in 2018) "a large sum for a farmer".
The Chelmsford Chronicle later included a reward of £200 leading to the apprehension of the culprit, but without success.
It was thought that the losses were covered by insurance, with the buildings insured by Pledger, and that Martin had separate insurance cover for his losses. That said it seems unlikely that any insurance of the time would cover Martin's future losses that would surely arise while the farm was not fully up and running.
The loss of almost all the farm buildings must have seriously impacted the ongoing farming enterprise, at least until such time as they were rebuilt. Would both the landlord and tenant be equally inspired to put in place the rebuild?
Pledger's priorities may well have been elsewhere for in the August he was buying Whetmans Farm for £3,900, nine miles from Chelmsford. Sadly, his wife Mary was to die the following February.
However, an advertisement appeared in the Essex Chronicle in April 1844 seeking "any person willing to contract for the erection of the farm buildings at Peet Hall". The farmhouse itself was not mentioned.
It is my conclusion that the proposed Architect convinced Pledger/Harvey that it was more practical to build the replacement farm buildings more adjacent to the main Colchester-Mersea road, and certainly further from the Strood where the surrounding land was subject to flooding when exception high tides were experienced. It follows that it would also make sense to build a new farmhouse as it was common practice to place the farm buildings adjacent to the farmhouse both for practical purposes and additionally as a security measure. It is very possible that the old Hall was in a poor condition, with repairs dependent on the will of the tenant rather than the landlord.
It is believed that this commission was taken up by the well-known Chelmsford Architect James Fenton as he was known to be working in the Peldon area at the time, and the "new" Pete Hall bore many architectural features similar to those of Fenton's own house in Chelmsford.
This appears more than likely as Jeremiah Pledger's daughter was married to John Copland. The Coplands had been solicitors to the Pledgers for many years, and as Solicitors had also worked closely with Fenton over the improvements to London Road, Chelmsford.
I have found no descriptions for the old Hall but it is very possible that at the time of the fire Pete Hall was over 300 years old. By the 19th Century, Manor Houses were being built increasingly for comfort and status, with up to date amenities, more in the style of a country house rather than semi- fortifications with great halls.
When was the New Hall built? When writing the introduction to the 1851 Census the enumerator for West Mersea states that the area includes the "New Hall". Unfortunately, the entries which followed did not include any place names. It is however known that James Mason (aged 61) became the tenant farmer of Pete Hall, and in 1851 there is an entry for Mason which states 'farmer of 358 acres employing 8 men and 6 boys'. I cannot be absolutely sure but perhaps when he took over the tenancy the new build had been completed.
Martin Harvey seemingly did not recover from the fire. In February 1850 an advertisement appeared in the Essex Standard for the sale under mortgage deeds of all the live and dead stock and household furniture at "Peet Hall". The auction was subsequently cancelled until further notice. This would suggest an intended forced sale, and Harvey was living "heavily in debt" in Erstead in Surrey by 1852. Might we assume that Mason took up tenancy on completion of the New Hall in 1850/1851?
The 1861 Census lists the "Old Peet Hall" when it was occupied by a J Clarke, an Agricultural Labourer aged 76, his wife and two further agricultural labourers, while farmer, James Mason, (aged 72) was living at the "New Hall" and farming 358 acres with 2 live-in servants, and employing 8 men and 4 boys on the farm.
I believe that the old Peet Hall was still occupied for a number of years and In W.E. Duane's "Study of the Strood" she states that the old Peet
Hall was badly damaged in the Peldon Earthquake of 1884. She also states that the new Hall is just 300 yards distant from the Old Hall. The 1881
Census also lists the "Old Peet Hall" as being occupied by Charles Martin (42) and a family of 6 principally agricultural labourers. The 1891 Census still has a listing for "Old Peet Hall" but the "occupiers" section is left blank perhaps suggesting that the old hall was now uninhabited and there is no Census entry at all in the 1901.
Continued in Part 2
1897 Ordnance Survey Map Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland maps.nls.uk