EXCURSIONS IN THE COUNTY OF ESSEX

Thomas K. Cromwell

London: 1818
Volume I : Excursion II {Pages 169-188}

ALDERSBROOK, on the other side of the road, in the parish of Little Ilford, was the seat of the late antiquary Smart Lethieullier, esq., who much improved the grounds, and erected a small hermitage, in which he kept many of the antiquities collected during his travels. This structure has been levelled, and the manor-house was pulled down soon after the manor was sold by Edward Hulse, esq, to the late Sir James Tylney Long, bart. The site of the mansion was afterwards occupied by a farmhouse. At the north-west corner of Little Ilford church is the burial-place of the Lethieullier family, to whom several handsome marbles have been erected in the apartment over it. On that to the memory of the late antiquary is the following inscription.

In Memory of
Smart Lethieullier, esq.
A gentleman of polite literature and elegant taste,
An encourager of art and ingenious artists,
A studious promoter of literary enquiries,
A companion and a friend of learned men;
Industriously versed in the science of antiquity,
And richly possessed of the curious productions of Nature :
But
Who modestly desired no other inscription
On his tomb
Than what he had made the rule of his life;
To do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with his God.
He was born Nov. 3d, 1701,
And died without issue, Aug, 27th, 1760.

In the parishes of Ilford. East and West Ham, Leyton, and Wansted, on the level part of Epping Forest, a great mart is annually held for cattle brought from Wales, Scotland, and the north of England, from the latter end of February till the beginning of May.

......

The history of the celebrated Abbey of Barking is detailed as follows by Lysons, from the manuscript by Mr. Lethieullier.

" BARKING ABBEY, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is said to have been the first convent for women established in this kingdom. It was founded about the year 670, in the reigns of Sebbi and Sighere, Kings of the East Saxons, by St. Erkenwald, bishop of London, in compliance with the earnest desire of his sister Ethelburgh, who was appointed the first abbess. The founder was nearly allied to the Saxon monarchs, being great grandson of Uffa, the first King, and second son of Anna, the seventh King of the East Angles : he was also the first bishop who sat in the see of London after the building of St. Paul's church by King Ethelbert, The monastic writers speak in very high terms of his piety and zeal in the discharge of his episcopal functions ; and tell us, that, when he was grown weak through age and infirmities, he was carried about in a litter from place to place throughout his diocese, constantly teaching and instructing the people till his death, which happened about the year 685, whilst he was on a visit to his sister Ethelburgh, at Barking."

" After his death, great disputes arose (as we are informed by the monkish annalists) between the nuns of Barking, the convent of Chertsey, and the citizens of London, about the interment of his body, each claiming an exclusive right to the bones of the venerable prelate. Nor was this dispute terminated without the intervention of a miracle. which declared in favour of the Londoners, who having obtained the body, bore it off in triumph : on the road they were stopped at Ilford and Stratford by the floods, upon this occasion the historians record another miracle. by which a safe and easy passage was procured for the corpse of the holy man and his attendants. The bishop was canonized, and frequent miracles were said to be wrought at his tomb. So highly was his memory revered, that, in the reign of Stephen, a magnificent shrine was erected against the east wall of St. Paul's cathedral. into which his bones were translated with great solemnity ; and vast sums were expended, from time to time, in adorning it with gold, silver, and precious stones."

.........

Several hundred acres of land in Barking, and the adjoining parishes of Little Ilford, East Ham, Leyton, and Wansted, are appropriated to the growth of potato for the supply of the London markets. The profits are considerable, the produce, from the mode of cultivation, and the quality of the soil, is abundant. The general practice, near Ilford, is to select the smallest potatoes of the preceding year's growth, or to cut the large ones into pieces, leaving two or three eyes in each ; these are planted regularly in the spring, and in October the potato are generally taken up, and housed for winter consumption.

.........

Turning from Barking towards the high road, we pass East and West Ham.

EAST HAM, as the name imports, is the most easterly of the two. The church here, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen, was given by John de Lancaster to the abbey at Stratford Langthorne. This structure is small, but the walls on each side the chancel are of an extraordinary thickness; and arches of indented wreath-work on the north and south make it appear as if there had been two aisles. It at present consists of a nave and two chancels. The upper is semi-circular at the west end, and has narrow pointed windows. On the south wall of the lower chancel are several Saxon arches with zig-zag ornaments. Behind the communion table is a handsome monument of black and white marble, protected by iron palisadoes, to the memory of Edward Nevill, Lord Latimer, supposed to have been the seventh Earl of Westmoreland of that family : the effigies represent the Earl and his Lady, Jane, Countess of Westmoreland, in kneeling attitudes. This tomb consists of the two effigies, large as life, with a pedestal between them, upon which are placed two books, and before this lies an helmet, signifying that the deceased had been a warrior. In the front of the tomb seven children also appear in kneeling attitudes, and behind the two principal figures, the inscription is very long, and in a kind of metre, quite in the homely phrase of the early part of the reign of James I.

Dr. Stukeley, the celebrated antiquary, is buried in this churchyard; he died in March 1765. It is said, the spot for his interment was chosen by himself, during a visit to the Rev. Mr. Sims, when the latter was vicar of this parish : at the Doctor's request, no monument was erected, nor any distinction, excepting that of the turf being laid smoothly over his grave. From this churchyard, there is a good view into Kent.

The charitable benefactions here left by the Latimer family and others are considerable. The mansion house of East Ham Burnels, which stands near the London road, has been in the families of Burnel, Lovel, Handlo, Hungerford, Beckwith, Hervey, Mildmay, Edwards, Gore, and Henniker.

The tenants of the manor of East Ham are obliged to treat and entertain those of the other manors of West Ham, West Ham Burnels, and Plaiz. The origin of this custom is said to be this: when the lord of these manors was taken prisoner in France. and sent to his tenants for relief, the tenants of all the others complied, those only of East Ham refusing, so that, to punish them for their disobedience, he laid this burden upon them. This, whether correct or otherwise, is the tradition.

The hamlet of Green-street is about a mile northwest of the church. A part of Kent, in the parish of Woolwich, lies on this side of the river, and divides this parish from the Thames.

The ancient manor-house here, with a brick tower adjoining, according to tradition, was for some time the place of confinement for Anna Boleyn ; but this tale is rejected, because the tower is of more modern date. The mansion supposed to have been the residence of the Nevills afterward. belonged to Sir Francis Holcroft, and still later to the Gerrards. It has since passed through various families. The spring here, called Miller's Well, is extremely good, has never been known to be frozen, or to vary in its height either in summer or winter.

WEST HAM. The manors of East and West Ham, Wood Grange and Plaiz, at the time of the Survey, belonged to Robert Gernon. The manor of West Ham was part of the dowry of Catherine of Portugal, Queen of King Charles II.; but before her decease, in the year 1705, King William had granted a 99 years lease of it to the Hon. George Booth, at a reserved rent, which was afterwards remitted.

West Ham had formerly a market. from a charter granted to Richard de Montfichet in 1253, whose ancestor, William de Montfichet, had built an abbey at Stratford Langthorne in this parish in 1135, and endowed it with West Ham and other estates. On the dissolution it of course became the property of the crown ; but, as before observed, has since been divided and passed through many families. The abbey was founded for Cistercian monks. and dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all Saints. This house, according to Leland, "first sett among the low marishes, was after with sore fludes defacyd, and removed to a cell or graunge longynge to it, caullyd Burgestede in Essex, a mile or more from Billerica. Thes monks remained at Burgestede untyl entrete was made that they might have sum helpe otherwyse. Then one of the Richards ; Kings of England, toke the ground and abbey of Stratford into his protection, and re-edifyinge it, brought the foresaide monks agayne to Stratford, where amonge the marshes they re-inhabityd."

In the year 1307 the abbot of Stratford Langthorne was summoned to parliament: and in 1335, John de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, High Constable of England, was buried in the abbey. On the dissolution its annual revenues were valued at 652l. 3s. 14d. and its possessions were granted by Henry VIII. to Sir Peter Mewtes, or Mautes, who had been ambassador to the court of France. Henry Meautes, esq. a descendant of Sir Peter, alienated the site of the abbey with the abbey mills, and 240 acres of land, to Sir John Nulls in the year 1633. Since that period, it has been possessed by different families. Margaret, the unfortunate Countess of Salisbury, whom Henry VIII. caused to be beheaded in her old age on a charge of treason, appears to have resided within the precincts of the abbey about the period of its dissolution. The chief remains of the monastic buildings, now standing, are a brick gateway and an ornamented arch, which appear to have been the entrance to the chapel. "The foundations of the convent," Mr. Lysons observes, "were dug up and removed by the present proprietor; in doing which, no antiquities worthy of note were found, except a small onyx seal, with the impress of a griffin set in silver, with the following legend, "Nuncio vobis gaudium et salutem," perhaps the priory seal of one of the abbots." The site of the buildings was moated, and contained about sixteen acres : the abbey stood about three furlongs southwest from the present church. This edifice is spacious, consisting of a nave, chancel, and side aisles to both : at the west end is a square tower, seventy-four feet in height. Several persons of eminence have been buried in the interior, where there are several handsome monuments. George Edwards, esq, F.R.S. interred in this churchyard, was born at Stratford Langthorne, and became celebrated for his acquaintance with natural history, particularly that of birds : besides various papers in the Philosophical Transactions, he published seven quarto volumes on subjects in natural history, more than 600 of which had never been described before. He died in the year 1773 at the age of 81.

Adjoining to the Adam and Eve tea-gardens is one of the stone arches of the abbey, where the ground has been much raised, and in the garden was a stone coffin dug up in 1770. Mr. Holbrook, the proprietor of the field adjoining this house, after having built walls with some of the stones dug up, sold large quantities of them to considerable advantage. A stable in the same field had formerly been used as a chapel. The demesne belonging to this abbey in the parish of West Ham included 1500 acres, and they had manors in other counties. This abbey was bound to maintain the bridge at Bow.

Numerous benefactions have been appropriated to charitable purposes in this parish. In 1723 a charity school was instituted for ten boys ; but the endowments having been greatly increased by bequests from different persons, forty boys and twenty girls are now educated and clothed, and on leaving the school receive five pounds each as an apprentice fee : the expenses are defrayed with the interest of the capital, aided by voluntary gifts and collections made at an annual charity sermon. A school for clothing and educating forty poor girls has also been established in this parish, under the injunctions of a will, dated. 1761, of Mrs. Sarah Bonnell, who left 3OOOl. in various stocks for these purposes. West Ham parish is divided into three wards, bearing the appellations of Church Street, Stratford Langthorne, and Plaistow.

The West Ham water-works, built on the river Lee, are worked by a steam and a water-engine; and supply the villages of Stratford Langthorne, Bromley, Bow, Stepney, Bethnal Green, and the lower part of Whitechapel.

We now join the road just before we arrive at Stratford, at which place our present excursion ends.

PLAISTOW is a village in the parish of West Ham, and lies south of the church. It gives the name of Plaistow Levels to the tract of low land between the mouth of the river Lea and Ham Creek, extending to the banks of the Thames.

UPTON is another village in the parish of West Ham. Here is Upton House.

STRATFORD, properly so called, is the last village in Essex, being divided from Middlesex by Bow Bridge. It is three miles and a half from London. It has greatly increased of late years in houses and inhabitants, every vacancy being in a manner filled up, with the addition of two little hamlets, as they may be called, on the forest side of the town ; namely, Maryland Point and the Gravel Pits, one facing the road to Woodford and Epping, and the other that of Ilford, The nearer part of Stratford has also been joined to Bow in spite of rivers, canals, and marshy grounds, and the same increase is now observable about West Ham, Plaistow, Upton, &c.

The Ancient Bridge, Bow.

The celebrated Bow Bridge crosses the river Lea near the village of Stratford, about two miles to the east of London, on the great Essex road. Stow, Leland, and other writers concur in ascribing the first erection of this bridge to Maud, or Matilda, the Queen of Henry I. ; as well as in the derivation of its name of Bow, or arched bridge, which it is said to have received from its being the first arched stone bridge erected in this country, The particulars are thus related by Stow.

" This Matilda, when she saw the forde to be dangerous for them that travelled by the old forde over the river of Lue (for she herself had been well washed in the water) caused two stone bridges to be builded, of the which, one was situated over Lue, at the head of the towne of Stratford, now called Bow, because the bridge was arched like a bow : a rare piece of worke; for before that time, the like had never been seen in England. The other over the little brooke commonly called Chavelse Bridge. She made the king's highway of gravel between the two bridges ; and gave certain manors to the abbess of Berking, and a mill, commonly called the Wiggon, or Weggen Mill, for the repairing of the bridges and the highway." After Montfichet had founded the abbey of Stratford in the marshes, the abbot purchased the mill and manors, and covenanted to repair the bridge and way, till at length he laid the charge upon on Hugh Pratt who lived near, allowing him certain loaves of bread daily ; with these and what the latter collected from passengers by way of alms, he kept the bridges in repair. In this duty he was succeeded by his son William, who, by the assistance of Robert Passelew, the chief justice in the time of Henry III. obtained these tolls : viz. of every cart carrying corn, wood, coal, &c. one penny ; of every one carrying tasel, twopence ; and of one carrying a dead Jew, eightpence ! He also put up a bar with locks on Lockebreggs ; but Philip Basset and the abbot of Waltham having broke the bar rather than pay toll, the bridges and causeway remained unrepaired. After this, Eleanor, Queen of Henry III., caused them to be mended at her own charge by William the keeper of her own chapel ; they were afterwards kept in repair by William de Carleton, till a new agreement between the abbess of Barking and the abbot of West Ham was made for that purpose.

In the seventeenth century the tenants of the abbey lands seemed very unwilling to fulfil their agreement; for in 1691, an information was laid in the King's Bench against Buckridge and others for not repairing a highway in their tenure between Stratford and Bow. It was tried at the bar by an Essex jury. The evidence for the king was, that Maud, the Queen of Henry I., built this bridge, &c. ; that at the dissolution, the Stratford abbey lands being vested in the crown, were granted to Sir Peter Mewtis, who held them charged for the repairing of this highway; and from him by, several mesne assignments they came to the defendants : these facts being proved, the possessors of the abbey lands were ordered to abide by the tenure.

The many necessary reparations Bow Bridge has undergone in a course of centuries, make it impossible. to say what part of the original structure is at this time remaining. The present bridge consists of three arches. and bears evident marks of antiquity. By the cut made from the river Lea over the meadows and low grounds about forty years ago, several miles were saved in the course of the navigation to Ware in Hertfordshire.

Remains of the Abbey At Stratford Le Bow