Picture of church

CHAPTER 2. THE MANOR OF BISHOP'S OCKENDON


CHAPTER CONTENTS


The origins of the Cranham Hall estate

The Cranham Hall estate is in the south of the parish. Whilst it is clear from Domesday that this manor was a going concern in the time of Edward the Confessor (1042 - 1066, see below), we must study the landscape, because it is likely that this estate is much older than the written records that have survived.

There are two types of landscape in Essex., which Rackham (272) describes as "ancient" and "planned". Ancient landscape is characterised by a relatively organised, rectangular system on the map, comprising hedgerows, roads, and parish boundaries. Cranham Hall is set amidst the middle of a system of rectilinear boundaries (273). Across southern Essex, the area of the rectangular arrangement is shaped like a dumbbell, with one broad area stretching from Cranham south to Thurrock, a narrow avenue passing through the Horndons, the Bursteads, and the other broad area occupying the whole of the Dengie peninsula.

It is thought that this rectangular landscape was created either in Roman times or perhaps even earlier. The principal reason for this is that known Roman Roads often cut across the underlying pattern (272). The large swathe of countryside from Thurrock to Dengie also has no Roman villas, although these are quite densely distributed elsewhere in Essex, and two stood just outside the margins of the rectangular pattern at Downham and Wickford; Drury (273) has suggested that this area of land was an Imperial estate, for the support of the Roman administration, whilst the villas represent private farms set up and cleared from the Essex woodland. Roman coins minted at Colchester usually bore an ear of corn as its design on their reverse side, emphasizing the importance of agriculture to the Roman administration in our area. At the centre of the dumbbell-shaped region is the important Roman port at Heybridge (near Maldon). Lastly, in view of the fact that untended land in southern Essex tends to rapidly revert to woodland, which would obliterate the pattern, the survival of the rectangular pattern at Cranham suggests that this area has been cultivated more or less continuously since Roman era.

There was probably no clear break in the countryside when the Roman army withdrew. At Rivenhall, for example, it is quite clear that life carried on in the "Roman" villa throughout the so-called dark ages.

The Saxon invasions, then, probably represent the maritime invaders taking over farmland that was already established. The site of Cranham Hall, on its hilltop, more or less at the centre of its estate, is quite consistent with a defensible position, and good observation over an existing estate. Cranham Hall is about 2 km from any other Saxon manor, which is about average for Essex. Whilst Domesday (see below) records quite a lot of woodland at Cranham by the 11th century, this was evidently not sufficient to change the rectangular pattern, and may be the area in the north, where the parish boundaries cross over into the relatively chaotic pattern of landscape, which then stretches over most of the rest of Essex..

The documented history of the manor of Cranham Hall

"Hund de Cefforda. Wocheduna tenuit Aluric t.r.e. p.m. & iii hid & xl ac. M ten & Hugo de Epo".

"Chafford Hundred. Aelfric held Ockendon in the time of King Edward (the Confessor), as a manor; 3 hides and 40 acres. Now Hugh holds it from the Bishop."

Cranham's largest manor is documented from the reign of King Edward the Confessor (1042 - 1066) until 1929. Most of the famous Lords of this manor were absentee landlords. On eight separate occasions, unusually for the middle ages, the holder of the manor was a woman (a "Lady of the Manor").

About 1070, the Bishop of London bought the manor from the King, and the manor was known as Bishop's Ockendon (Latin: as "Wocheduna Episcopi"). Wocheduna appears to be a Saxon place name, and its most likely meaning is "Wocca's Hill". Wocca is an early Saxon name, perhaps he who first occupied this part of the Roman estate. In Domesday, both the present-day North and South Ockendons are also referred to as "Wocheduna", although these manors were divided between the King, his chamberlain William, Thorold of Rochester, and the Abbot of Westminster (210). It appears then that Wocca originally had a wider area of influence, that this had been divided at some time into three parts, and that the term "Bishop's" came to be used to clarify which part of Wocca's original territory was meant.

In Domesday, Wocheduna Episcopi is described as "Terram Episcopi Londoniensis", i.e. the Bishop's personal property. This is in contrast, for example, to manors in Thorpe, Walton and Kirby, where manors are described as "Feudam Episcopi Londoniensis", meaning that they were attached to the diocese as a permanent endowment to the church. Under this arrangement, no dues were paid to the Dean and Chapter, but the Archdeacon's jurisdiction would probably still have obtained. Other personal estates of the Bishop in Essex were at: Alresford, Belhus, Braxted, Little Burstead, Chadwell, Corringham, Hallingbury, Hobbridge, Horndon-on-the-Hill, Middlemead, Laindon, Tendring, Little Thurrock, Little Totham, Uleham, and Wella (some of these locations are unidentified). It is a long story how Norman Wocheduna Episcopi became today's Cranham Hall. The same terminology is used elsewhere in Essex, and in one case Wickham Paul's is next to Wickham Bishop's, where the same distinction in ownership applies.

Domesday records the population and agricultural assets, with a major objective being to assess the financial value of the Conqueror's new territory. In doing so, the value of each estate is compared at the time of writing (1086) to its worth during the reign of Edward the Confessor. The information for Wocheduna Episcopi is summarised in Table 1.

The Victoria County History supplies explanatory notes to this, most fundamental record of the parish (8). An especially heavy tax had been levied in 1084, and the idea of the Domesday survey was probably to have a definitive document which would resolve future disputes over land worth, ownership and therefore tax liability. Domesday is a fiscal document. (Note, however that confusion between the two ridges across the parish and the origin of the placename caused the Victoria County History (270) to wrongly place Bishop's Ockendon in the north of Cranham).

Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk were part of an experiment in how to survey the entire kingdom. The detail in these three counties proved too much, in this experiment, and the rest of the country was then surveyed less precisely. The report for these three counties is called "Little Domesday", although because of all the extra detail, the book is almost the same size as the other volume which deals with all the other counties in England. It is possible that Essex was surveyed after Suffolk; some 345 churches were recorded in Suffolk, but they are usually ignored in Essex.

In Domesday, land area was based on a system of units, where 30 acres comprised one virgate, and four virgates (or 120 acres) made one hide. It is important to remember, however, that the aim was to describe what the land was worth. Poor soils, therefore, might have had a larger physical area for "one acre" than good soils. We cannot assume, literally, that Wocheduna Episcopi had 400 acres (in modern terms) under cultivation.

The Lord of the Manor, Hugh, held all of the land, owing duties and money to the Bishop. In turn, Hugh leased out smaller sub-units to the peasant farmers at Cranham. Typically, the sub-units would be about an acre in size, which is an area 2 - 4 poles wide by 1 furlong. A "plough" (probably 8 oxen and the plough itself) could turn over about 2 acres of ground in a working day. The origin of the term furlong is "furrow-long", i.e. one traverse by the plough along the long axis of the plot of land; to this day, an acre is a furlong times a pole (880 yards by 22 yards). At Wocheduna Episcopi, there were 3 ploughs on the Lord's own land (demesne) and another 4 divided amongst the sub-tenants.

A gross of sheep were counted in the parish. This is a nice round number and may not be accurate. However, this indicates that Cranham people grew their own wool, and probably made ewes-milk cheese. There was agricultural diversity here at least 900 years ago. Whilst all animals were counted, women and children were ignored.

Table 1. Wocheduna Episcopi, as described in Domesday (210)
  During reign of Edward the Confessor After conquest (1086)
Holder Aluric Hugh
Overlord Unknown Bishop of London
Area 3 hides and 40 acres
Villeins 6 15
Bordars 5 4
Serfs 6  
Woodland enough for 500 swine
Meadow 20 acres
Ploughs 3 demesne and 4 for the men
Beasts unknown 4 colts
144 sheep
20 cattle
Total worth 4 6

Status amongst the peasants was related to how much land they leased from Hugh. Typically, in Essex, a villein held about 30 - 40 acres (i.e. a virgate or more). Bordars typically held a smaller number of acres in their own right and might have also earned money working as employees of the villeins. Serfs were unlanded slaves, mostly owned by the Lord of the Manor, but occasionally by one of the richer villeins. The feudal system viewed the population as a financial asset. That the combined number of villeins and bordars increased from 11 to 23 in the twenty years between 1066 and 1086 indicates a growing manor. Most men at Cranham were not villeins. However, the increasing numbers of bordars on the manor during these 20 years is not accompanied by reduction in the size of the villein class. Overall, then, in the eleventh century, it appears that Wocheduna Episcopi was slowly increasing in its prosperity.

As time passed, the whole parish took on the name of its largest manor, and this name was converted from Latin to English. It is not until the time of Edward IV that we first see the term Cranham used in a rather archaic form, but this is part of the story of the other Domesday manor in the parish (see Chapter 3). The use of the term Bishop's Ockendon survived on legal documents until the late nineteenth century, for example, in a conveyance of "The Plough" public house in 1857 (10). The hot link from the University of Essex to this website also preserves the alternative, older name of the parish.

The Cranham Hall estate in the later middle ages

For the later middle ages, the history of South Essex as a region has largely been formulated by the late Dr.Gladys Ward and her daughter Dr. Jennifer Ward. Jennifer Ward has characterised our part of Essex during the middle ages as prosperous, with an expanding population, vigourous farming, and an active land market. Nearby towns and trade grew (267). Cranham is no exception.

It is not known when the holder of Wokydon Episcopi (a later spelling) ceased to be a tenant of the Bishop of London. The demise of the feudal system in Essex, in general, took place slowly over the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Morant (11), the Victoria County History (12), and Holman (13) all give lists of Lords of the Manor of Bishop's Ockendon from 1212. Each list is incomplete, and additional material has been found in conveyances and the manor court rolls. The task here is to collate these sources, resolve their differences, and to produce a complete list of owners.

Surnames were not in common usage until the fourteenth of fifteenth century. For example, it appears that in 1212, the manor was owned by William de Wokydon, in 1254 he was succeeded by another William de Wokydon, and in 1303 the manor was held by a certain Nicholas de Wokydon. We must not assume that there is a family relationship between these three men: the "de Wokydon" means simply that these men were of Cranham. Similarly, a rector in 1310 was referred to as John de Wokydon.

In 1337, the manor was owned by Nicholas de Halughton, who also held Little Chadwell and Braxted. All three of these manors were originally held by the Bishop of London (see above), and these three manors descended together for the next 260 years. In addition, a papal bull of 1310 permitted the rector (John de Wokydon) to hold the livings both of Cranham and Chadwell, thus strengthening further the connexions between at least two of these three places. It was in 1344, whilst held by Nicholas de Halughton, that the term "Crawehalle", a precursor of the name Cranham, is first used to apply to the Cranham Hall estate (65).

Between 1345 and 1363, Bishop's Ockendon was purchased by Sir Raffe or Ralph St.Leger, of Kent. His coat of arms was azure, fretty argent and a chief or (250). It is likely that Sir Ralph's will divided the manor between several people, as Morant describes it (11):

"In 1399 a fine was levied between Sir Thomas Erpingham, James Ballingford, William Wolesley, William Burgh and William Trendle, plaintiffs, and Sir John Curson and Beatrix, his wife, Deforc' (= deforciant or vendor) for this manor; the right of William Trendle. The same year, Sir John Curson granted to Sir John Erpingham and James de Ballingford 120 cows and 4 bulls in the maner (sic) of Wokydon Episcopalis".

Sir Thomas Erpingham was a knight of the garter, and at the siege of Rouen in 1401, his coat of arms was vert, an inescutcheon within an orle of martlets argent (251). Land transfer by payment of a "fine" is an archaic form of conveyance; in this case, the manor was sold by the Cursons to the former five men. This form of conveyance suggests that whilst Sir Thomas had a financial interest in the transaction, he may have had no interest in actually running the manor. The rights of the Lord of the Manor appear to have become the property of Trendle, who was a parson at Inglethorpe, Norfolk; it was common for country parsons to have private, agricultural incomes. The Cursons were also Norfolk people. The Curson coat of arms was or, on a bend of gules, three besants (252).

The fact that the Cursons sold the herd to the new owners of Cranham, rather than move the cattle elsewhere has three points of interest. First, it suggests the idea that the manor was seen as an intact, functional unit, rather than simply an area of land. Secondly, at a time when wool had the ascendance in the northern, wealthiest part of Essex, our southern manor is concentrating on dairy farming. Thirdly, the predominance of cattle contrasts with the sheep recorded at Cranham Hall in Domesday, some about 300 years earlier (see above), and we can see an evolution in local agriculture.

Things appeared not to go well for Trendle's venture at Cranham. In 1407 (11) a certain Nicholas Seytlenger released his rights in the manor to all those named above. Whilst the original transaction is not recorded, because Seytlenger was not part of the conveyance of 1401, this release would be consistent with the repayment of a loan. Then, in 1421, William Trendle released his rights in the manor back to Sir John Curson (11). So, by the turn of the fifteenth century, Wokydon Episcopi had reverted to its original owner, after complex cross-conveyancing. It is possible that the manor had been security on a large loan, and forfeited in lieu of repayment. This is evidence indeed for Dr.Ward's formulation of land entrepreneurism in south Essex in the middle ages.

It is not known when Curson died. However, we have the next firm date of 1425, when Sir Lewis John bought the Cranham Hall manor (arms: sable, a chevron between three trefoyles argent; 253). His son, Sir Ludowic John inherited in 1442. Either by sale or inheritance, their relative, Sir Lewis Fitzlewis had become the next Lord of the Manor by 1464.

Of all these knights, Sir Lewis Fitzlewis probably fits the stereotype best. The last half of the fifteenth century were times of great civil unrest. Edward IV was restored to the throne after the battles of Tewkesbury and Barnet, Middlesex in 1471, finally victorious over the house of Lancaster. It was at Barnet that Sir Lewis Fitzlewis was killed. Upon his death the manor was taken by the Duke of Gloucester (later Richard II). However, Richard Fitzlewis, the son of the fallen knight, had recovered Cranham Hall by 1487.

Richard Fitzlewis had four wives. The fourth, whose name is unknown, survived him and became Cranham's first Lady of the Manor. The daughter of this fourth marriage, Eliza Fitzlewis, then inherited from her mother. Upon marriage, Eliza was succeeded as Lord of the manor by her husband, Sir John Mordaunt (the dates are uncertain, but we are now in the first quarter of the sixteenth century). Sir John Mordaunt died on June 2, 1543, and the manor reverted to Eliza, his widow. Their son inherited in the mid sixteenth century, but then sold the manor on January 13, 1571.

The new Lord of the Manor was Sir William Petre, the powerful recusant catholic, living at Ingatestone Hall. Almost immediately he settled Bishop's Ockendon on his third son, John Petre. It is doubtful that whether John lived on the manor because he also held Stortford castle. In 1603, with a more favourable climate due to the succession of the catholic King James I, John Petre was elevated to the peerage. Clearly now, Bishop's Ockendon was a small out-holding for this important man, who had national government duties (see figure 6).

In about 1600, Lord Petre rebuilt Cranham Hall. The earlier building is unknown, but if we assume that it was typical of the area, then it was probably an half-timbered, hall house, dating back to the 13th or 14th centuries. Perhaps we can imagine some similarity to Great Tomkyns which survives in Upminster. Whether any remnant survived of the Saxon buildings or Norman occupancy is unknown. We shall return to the appearance of the new Elizabethan hall when it was itself replaced (see below).

John, 1st Lord Petre was buried in Ingatestone church in 1660, aged 64 years (268), and his memorial is near the window of the vestry which now occupies part of the Petre chapel. It appears, however, that his son Thomas took over many years before Lord Petre's death.

Initially, in 1605, Lord Petre rented the manor to his third son, Thomas Petre, at 33/=d. per annum. Thomas married Elizabeth Baskerville of Wansborough, Wiltshire, and they did actually live at Cranham Hall. Eventually, Lord Petre made a gift of the manor to his son, no more rent was paid, and Thomas Petre became the next Lord of the Manor. Little is known about Thomas. His grandson, though not associated with Cranham, became a Jesuit priest and was the source of some scandal; for many years, the effigy of Father Edward Petre was burnt with that of Guy Fawkes on November 5th (268).

The next Lord of the Manor was Francis Petre, who inherited from his father Thomas in 1625. Francis married Elizabeth Gage, a daughter of Sir John Gage, Bart., of Farle in Sussex. Francis was created baronet (probably simply by purchasing the title from the King). This title of a junior branch of the Petre family is now extinct. Sir Francis Petre, Bart., died in 1647.

The seventeenth century "nouveau riche" were middle class tradesmen making good livings in London. Possessing estates in the home counties was seen as the optimum counterpart to their fine houses in London, and also converted unused monies into fixed capital. The sale of Cranham Hall in 1648 not only ended a period of about three-quarters of a century when Bishop's Ockendon was owned by the most powerful family in Essex, but also is a local example of a general trend in south Essex. The noble, land magnate gave way to the affluent, middle class, tradesman.

Nathan Wright was described as a "merchant", and was an alderman in the City of London. Nathan Wright was already 56 years of age when he bought Bishop's Ockendon, a good life span for the seventeenth century. Thus began more than two centuries of ownership of the manor of Cranham Hall by the same family, and they were mostly resident in the parish.

Nathan Wright married a local woman, Anne, daughter of Giles Fleming of Great Warley. They had six children. The eldest daughter Susan, was widowed after her first marriage, and then remarried the famous Sir Francis Drake. Nathan Wright's death, March 11, 1657, caused the manor to pass to his only son, Benjamin Wright (figure 8a). Benjamin Wright purchased his baronetcy (no.608) on February 15, 1660 (14), and also held lands at Hunt's and Eastfields at Upminster. Since Sir Benjamin went to church not at St.Laurence's, Upminster, we can assume that he did not actually reside in Cranham; he died in 1706, having held our manor for almost 50 years.

The Victoria County History appears to be in error in stating that the next owner was Sir Samuel Wright (12). The only Samuel in the Wright family was a grandson of Sir Benjamin, and he did not inherit the title. Furthermore, Morant (11), who wrote in 1768 (within living memory of the events themselves), recorded Cranham Hall in the possession next of Sir Benjamin's eldest son, called, like his grandfather, Sir Nathan Wright.

Clearly, Sir Nathan Wright, the 2nd baronet, spent little time at Cranham; he did not inherit the title and lands until he was 45 years of age. He had graduated at Emmanuel Hall, Cambridge as a B.A. in 1682. He became a barrister, and went on to become Recorder (a lower rank amongst judges) of Leicester in 1690. Two years later he was made Serjeant of Leicester; the role of the Serjeant is as an aide to the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Leicestershire. For this service, Sir Nathan received a knighthood, to add to his baronetcy, on December 30, 1696. During this significant legal career, Sir Nathan also found time to marry four times. The second and third marriages of Sir Nathan were without issue. His fourth wife survived him, and herself married again. She was called Abigail, but did not inherit Bishop's Ockendon until another decade had passed. Abigail's second husband is a matter of some controversy. Morant (11) states that he was Samuel Tryst of Culworth in Dorset. Another source gives him as Herbert Tryst, Sherriff of Essex. Which it was is uncertain. However, the manor did not descend into the Tryst family, so the issue is somewhat unimportant to our story.

An extraordinary combination of events led to the inheritance of Bishop's Ockendon by a daughter of the fourth marriage of Sir Nathan Wright. There were two sons of Sir Nathan's first marriage to Anne Meyrick (daughter of John Meyrick, another London merchant). The eldest, another Nathan, inherited the title and lands, and held Bishop's Ockendon for 10 years; but he died in 1737, leaving two daughters; the title became extinct, and the manor reverted to Sir Nathan's widow, Abigail. Abigail had had a single daughter by Sir Nathan, and when Abigail died in 1741, it was this daughter, Elizabeth Wright, who became the next Lady of the Manor. Elizabeth was a 33-year-old spinster. The complexities of these pedigrees are shown in figures 6a, 6b, and 7.

In 1744, Elizabeth Oglethorpe married General James Edward Oglethorpe, but not before having him sign a pre-nuptial agreement protecting her property rights. They lived at Cranham, in the Elizabethan Hall, for the next 45 years. The General was Lord of the Manor for his lifetime, and the pre-nuptial agreement ensured that should Elizabeth outlive him, then Cranham Hall would revert to her. The General is doubtless the most significant man ever to actually live in the parish, and he gets a chapter to himself later in this book (see Chapter 12). In 1785, the General did eventually die before Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Oglethorpe died, aged 79, on October 26, 1787. and once again an indirect path of inheritance occurred. The Oglethorpes had had no children, and, at her great age, Elizabeth's nearest living relative was Sir Thomas Hussey Apreece; Apreece was the husband of Dorothy, the younger daughter of Elizabeth's half-brother (the second Sir Nathan Wright). Apreece, the new Lord of the Manor then promptly died within two years of inheriting; there is no evidence that Apreece ever set foot in Cranham.

Sir Thomas George Apreece inherited his father's title, and the Cranham Hall estate. Sir Thomas George Apreece, the fifth baronet Apreece, had an interesting coat of arms: sable three spears heads embrued argent (figure 12). The blazon "embrued", meaning dripping with blood, an extremely rare usage.

Sir Thomas George made his home at Cranham Hall, but decided that it was a decrepit Elizabethan building, and that a more fashionable, modern house was needed. To our good fortune, the hall had been visited by Rev.John Pridden in 1789, who knew of the impending demolition and rebuilding. Pridden wrote:

"The house had nothing to claim the notice of the antiquary. The rooms were many of them large, but the tapestry was neither curious in its texture nor interesting for the designs worked in it; the chimney pieces had no carving on them; the floors and wainscots were in a very dilapidated state; but the shell of the building seemed very firm being built of good brick. The external appearance of the building had nothing striking, yet, as it was doomed to destruction and had gained consequence in having been the residence of General Oglethorpe, I took a sketch thereof."


Picture of Cranham Hall by Pridden Cranham Hall from a sketch by Pridden.  Also see photograph below.

hallgate.jpg (54958 bytes) The early 17th century brick wall at Cranham Hall. Note that the gate is shown at the lefthand side of the Pridden sketch above.

In the twentieth century, a building of the form and date sketched by Pridden would probably not attract such disparaging comments as "nothing striking" ! Had it survived, then Oglethorpe's house could have been the most important Elizabethan construction in the County, bar Ingatestone Hall itself (see figure 10).

The Georgian hall stands today; it is smaller than its Elizabethan predecessor. Pridden (15) noted that a small part of the old hall was retained in the new. An external inspection suggests that this was probably only the front porch, which faced east in both buildings. This rare example of an untouched 16th or 17th century entrance was missed by the Royal Commission on historic Monuments in 1923 (66). Typical of its period, the Georgian hall has five bays across the east front on three storeys above ground, and may be found at grid reference TQ572861. It was again remodelled in 1812 (12). The best view is from the East, from the public footpath between All Saints' churchyard and Pike Lane. The brick wall around the garden of the Georgian hall deserves some notice. Although delapidated today, it is the original Elizabethan wall around the garden of the house, and is probably of the same 17th century brick that Oglethorpe's home was constructed. This wall did not escape the notice of Royal Commission (66).

In later years, Sir Thomas George often leased Cranham Hall. Often these leases were not intended to be for profit, and reflect some underlying circumstances. One interesting example might suffice to illustrate (16):

"... for rent of one peppercorn (if the same be lawfully demanded) on the last day if the said term. To the intent and purpose that by virtue of these presents and by force of the statute made for transferring uses into possession, the said Samuel Forster may be in actual possession of the said manor...and thereby is enabled to accept and take a grant and release of reversion and inheritance thereof by a certain indenture of release already prepared. Dated 12th Feby, 1834."

Here is the stuff of nineteenth century novels ! Forster needed to be in actual possession of land in order benefit and comply with some condition of a will. Here is Apreece aiding him with legal shenanigans.

What was the size of the estate in the early nineteenth century ? The commutation of the tithes required an accurate survey of every parish, and formed the most detailed survey of Cranham ever. A map was drawn at 25 inches to the mile, and all houses, dwellings and fields were marked. An accompanying document (the "Tithe Commutation Agreement") noted the owner of each item of property, and assessed its tithe or annual payment in cash due to the Rector, in lieu of actual produce. The Commissioner was headquartered at Langdon Hills, and reached Cranham in 1840 (4).

Cranham Hall estate evolved directly from the Saxon takeover, Norman Wocheduna Episcopi and mediaeval Bishop's Ockendon. There were about 800 acres in the south of the parish, divided between two farms, Cranham Hall Farm centred at the top of The Chase, and Broadfields, based to the east of the northern part of Pike Lane. In addition, there were 10 acres in the north of the parish, which was mostly woodland. The Cranham Hall estate of 1840 was therefore more than a third of the entire parish of Cranham. In 1840, the principal tenants were Thomas Boyd at Cranham Hall and Francis Samuel at Broadfields. Both Boyd and Samuel sublet the numerous cottages scattered across the estate to the village labourers.

Again we find a Victorian melodrama when Sir Thomas George Apreece died unmarried on December 30, 1840. His will left Cranham Hall and its estates to St.George's Hospital at Hyde Park Corner (now, recently, converted into an hotel). Amelia, his sister, then contested the will on the grounds that Sir Thomas was insane when he wrote it. This touched off a remarkable series of legal actions, which took eight years to run their course. This chain of events appears to be as follows (17):

  • 1. Apreece died December 30, 1840, leaving a will for Cranham Hall to St.George's Hospital.
  • 2. Amelia Peacock lodges objection on rounds of insanity, January 1841.
  • 3. George Frere, lawyer, obtains grant of probate at the court of the Archbishop of Canterbury, June 1841. Judgment is given to St.George's, and the costs to be recovered from the estate. At this stage, the will was considered proven.
  • 4. Amelia Peacock protests to H.M. Privy Council, November 1841.
  • 5. St.George's prosecutes in Chancery for delay, mid-1842.
  • 6. Amelia Peacock prosecutes for possession of the estate in the Court of the Queen's bench, 1844, and fails.
  • 7. Amelia Peacock prosecutes for possession of the estate for a second time, in the Court of the Exchequer in 1846, and again fails.
  • All this "dirty washing" was published for public perusal in the Essex Directory of 1848 (18). But by 1848, St.George's were unwilling to expend further trustees money in attempting to obtain and retain their gift. On June 3, 1848 the parties agreed to auction the estate, and each keep half the proceeds.

    However, this agreement, perhaps simplifying the situation, led to resolution of the dispute. Late in 1848, having now established the worth of the estate, Amelia Peacock bought St.George's half of it. She thus became the sixth lady Lord of the manor, was not resident at Cranham, and a certain Mrs. Greenwood Penny became the principal tenant at Cranham Hall.

    Amelia Peacock remarried a man called Freeman, and moved away. George Frere (by this time Amelia's lawyer) held the deed in trust. The manor was sold to Samuel Gurney on March 25, 1852 (15). Gurney paid with money from a mortgage from his brother, John Henry Gurney, with the manor now valued, for the purposes of security against this mortgage, at 33,000. Most of the property was leased during this period to Richard Bunter, esq. (20).

    Samuel Gurney died in 1856, and the new Lord of the Manor was his son another Samuel Gurney. The new owner, like his father, was a partner of Overend, Gurney & Co., merchant bankers in London. This bank failed early in 1866, and Gurney had to sell Cranham Hall (12).

    At auction, on August 15, 1866, there were two lots, roughly divided between Cranham Hall, Cranham Hall Farm, with buildings and fields on the one hand, and Broadfields farm, buildings and fields on the other. The total realized was 27,837, somewhat less than the value of the mortgage in 1852. The rights as Lord of the Manor were attached to Broadfields, not Cranham Hall. Richard Benyon, M.P., bought the first lot, i.e. Cranham Hall, etc. His son, another Richard inherited in 1897.


     

    overend.gif (83649 bytes)
    Stock certificate of Overend, Gurney and Co.  The collapse of this bank in 1866 caused, as one of the minor repercussions, the sale of the Cranham Hall estate.  (From collection A.W. Fox)

    Modern times were catching up with the estate: its liabilities began to outweigh its benefits. In 1937, the Benyon estate was again auctioned, this time in many lots, and it is these smaller lots which led to the conversion of the parish into a dormitory suburb. The 1937 auction lots nearest to Cranham Hall were retained as farm land, whilst those further away were sold to property developers. Lot no.7, is now the housing estate with streets named after Bishoprics, just south of the Upminster to West Horndon railway; its houses are typical examples of the mid-1930s. Lot no.8, was developed just after the war, and has the streets named after various types of bird; again these houses are stylistically different from those south of the railway, and typical for the early 1950s. Cranham Hall Farm remains of course, and was farmed until recently by Mr.Furze (21). Cranham Hall still stands, and in 1978, together with outbuildings, yards, etc., was again auctioned in a public house at Romford. The present owners are using the land for horses, have restored the external appearance of the house, and have installed some particularly impressive, well-suited wrought iron gates at the top of The Chase.

    George Rastrick bought Broadfields in the auction of 1866, together with the rights as Lord of the Manor. Rastrick was a lawyer from Chertsey in Surrey. The rights of the Lord by 1867 were much reduced, but this was the first time since before Domesday, more than eight hundred years, that they had been separated from the ownership of Cranham Hall. In 1905, Beatrice Rastrick inherited from her husband, and in 1922, their daughter, Nora Rastrick, became the eighth Lady of the Manor.

    In 1929, Nora Rastrick wound up the manor. The Court Baron Rolls state (22):

    "All rents, fines, reliefs, heriots, and fees payable in respect of the land are now discharged."

    The manorial records were deposited in the Essex Records Office in 1943 (69). This was probably as much for safe keeping during the War, as much as for any sense of history. Since 1929, Broadfields has been farmed separately, often as a limited liability company. It was farmed by Mr.Knock in 1968. At present, Broadfields is owned by Essex County Council, although there have been plans to alter the northern part of this farm (fronting St.Mary's and Pike Lanes) into a golf centre. Miss Leslie Lovelock (see the Modern Development chapter and the M25) is again in her element at the centre of the protests.

    The manor was an early mediaeval invention, and had been constantly administered, with considerable adaptation, at Cranham for almost 900 years. The manor had also been an anachronism for perhaps a century before it was finally wound up.

    This account of the largest manor in the parish provides a time scale. This particular story provides points of reference for all the other stories that must be told in this book. The history of Wokydon Episcopi is an exercise in continuity, and yet, even with nine hundred years span, is itself a lot younger than the underlying landscape. Unquestionably, Cranham is an ancient place.