Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for ESSEX

ESSEX, a maritime county of England; bounded, on the N, by Cambridge and Suffolk; on the E, by the German ocean; on the S, by Kent; on the W, by Middlesex and Herts. Its boundary line, along a great part of the N, is the river Stour; along all the S, is the river Thames; along much of the W, is the rivers Lea and Stort. Its outline is irregularly four-sided; the longest line along the N, the shortest along the S. Its length, from E to W, is 60 miles; its breadth, from N to S, is 50 miles; its circuit is about 225 miles; and its area is 1, 060, 549 acres. Its coast is so irregular and broken that the exact length of it cannot easily be ascertained; but, including all on the Thames, and not reckoning estuaries, may be estimated at about 105 miles. Its chief headlands are the Naze, 5½ miles S of Harwich; Foulness, at the mouth of the Crouch river; and Shoeburyness, at the mouth of the Thames. Shoals and sands lie off some parts; and numerous islands, situated within the general coast-line, and divided by only narrow belts of water from the interior tracts, diversify others. The chief islands are Horsey, near the Naze; Mersea, at the mouth of Blackwater river; Wallasea and Foulness, at the mouth of the Crouch river; and Canvey, on the Thames. The sea-board is low, flat, and partly marshy; has suffered much devastation and fracture by encroachments of the sea; and, except to a trifling extent at Harwich, South-end, and Purfleet, is protected from further injury by strong embankments. The tracts inland, to the centre and further west, are champaign, -not totally flat, but possessing many gentle hills and dales; and the tracts thence to the western boundary so roll and rise as to present continuous diversity of contour. The highest grounds are Langdon hill and Danebury camp; and these have an altitude of about 620 feet. Much of the surface, from combination of natural feature and artificial embellishment, exhibits a pleasing and ever-varying succession of rural landscapes. The chief rivers, besides those which run on the boundaries, are the Colne, the Blackwater, the Chelmer, the Crouch, the Roding, the Ingerburn, the Wid, and the Brain. The geognostic formation of much of the sea-board is fresh-water deposit; of most of the rest of the county is London clay; and of the tract around Castle Hedingham and Thaxted, and thence to the northern and western boundaries, is chalk.

The soil, throughout the county, is exceedingly various; on the sea-board, both of the ocean and of the Thames, is generally marshy, with intermixture of gravel; in the district of the Rodings, is strong wet loam; in the central and northern parts, is variously strong and moist, light and loamy; in the western parts, varies from tough clay upon brick earth to thin loam upon gravel; and, in many places, is either good meadow, light gravel, or rich loam. About ninetenths of the whole are either arable or grass-lands; and about 60, 000 acres are forest. Much improvement has been done by draining, top-dressing, and other georgical practices. The farms are of many sizes, but may be stated to average from 150 to 200 acres; and some are held on lease at 7 to 14 years, but most are held by annual tenure. The farm buildings, in a general view, may be called middle-rate. The farmers are reckoned among the best in the kingdom. Wheat usually produces from 20 to 30 bushels per acre; barley, about 40 bushels; oats, about 12 quarters; beans, about 32 bushels; potatoes, about 300 bushels. Carraway, coriander, and teasel are grown in a conjoint or treble crop, coming to maturity at different periods; and the first yields about 4½ cwt., the second about 12 cwt., the third about 6, 000 heads. Vegetables for the London market, especially potatoes, cabbages, turnips, and pease, are grown so extensively in some of the south-western tracts as to give these almost the appearance of market-gardens. Cabbages and turnips are largely cultivated in other parts also, as food for live stock; the artificial grasses likewise receive much attention; and mustard, cole-seed, and some other peculiar crops are grown on marsh-lands. Hops are cultivated about Weathersfield, Castle Hedingham, Halstead, and some other places; and saffron was formerly so prominent a product around Saffron-Walden as to give its name to that town. Hogs, of a small superior breed, are reared for the London market. Sheep, of the Southdown and other breeds, chiefly from Sussex and Wilts, are fattened; and they are computed to amount to 520, 000 in number, and to yield 8, 650 packs of wool. Calves, of breeds from Suffolk, from Devon, from other parts of England, and even from Scotland, are reared in great numbers for the London market. Dairy produce, from the same breeds, particularly about Epping, Barking, and London, is an object of much attention. Essex cheese is celebrated in old balladry; and Essex butter has a high name in London, and is estimated by the dairymen at about 212 lbs. a year per cow. Horses comprise many breeds, but more the Suffolk punch than any other; and many are sent from London to feed on the salt marshes.

The trade of Essex consists chiefly in its vegetable and animal produce; and receives great and constant stimnlation from the county's vicinity to London. Commerce to any great distance is inconsiderable; and commerce to any quarter has no better ports than the inferior ones of Harwich, Maldon, and Colchester; yet the home-commerce, including that to London, is very great. An oyster-fishery, carried on all round the coastfrom the Colne river to Canvey island, employs about 200 boats and 500 hands, and produces yearly about 15, 000 bushels of good oysters. Other fisheries, and the catching of wild fowl, also are carried on. The woollen manufacture was formerly of some importance, but has become nearly extinct. Crapes are manufactured at Braintree, Bocking, and other places; satin-velvet, at Halstead; and silk fabrics at Coggleshall and Colchester. The males employed, in 1861, in silk-manufacture, were 872; in silk-dying, 162; in lace-manufacture, 13; in woollen cloth manufacture, 28; in hat-making, 37; in straw-plaiting, 45; in sailcloth manufacture, 11; in rope-making, 83; in sail-making, 91; in ship-building, 711; in boat and barge building, 41; in coach-making, 408; in engine and machine-making, 593; in tool-making, 38; in paper-making, 11; in glass-making, 12; in earthenware manufacture, 36; in tobacco-pipe making, 44; in iron-manufacture, 323; in boiler-making, 170; in brass foundry work, 30. Railways, all connected with the Great Eastern system, have numerous lines and branches within the county. A network of them lies in the corner adjacent to London; a line, with several branches, goes along the south coast to Southend; a great line goes through the central district, by Romford, Brentwood, Chelmsford, and Colchester, into Suffolk, and sends branches to Maldon, to Wivenhoe, and to Harwich; another line, on the W, goes north-north-eastward to Loughton, and will be prolonged to Dunmow; another line goes along all the west border, partly within Middlesex and Herts, and past Bishop-Stortford and the vicinity of Saffron-Walden, toward Cambridge; a branch strikes eastward from this at Bishop-Stortford, and goes past Dunmow to Braintree; another branch goes from Braintree south-south-eastward to the branch from the central line toward Maldon; a branch goes from the Marks-Tey station of the central line northward into Suffolk, toward Bury St. Edmund; and a branch from the Chapel station of this, goes west-north-westward, past Halstead and Castle-Hedingham, to Haverhill. Excellent roads traverse all parts of the county. The Stour is navigable to Sudbury, the Colne to Colchester, the Blackwater to Maldon, the Chelmer to Chelmsford, the Thames to its utmost connection with the county; and several short canals facilitate and extend the inland navigation.

Essex contains 408 parishes, parts of 2 other parishes, and 4 extra-parochial places. It comprises the boroughs of Colchester, Harwich, Maldon, Saffron-Walden, and part of Sudbury, the liberty of Havering-atte-Bower, and the hundreds of Barstable, Becontree, Chafford, Chelmsford, Clavering, Dengie, Dunmow, Freshwell, Harlow, Hinckford, Lexden, Ongar, Rochford, Tendring, Thurstable, Uttlesford, Waltham, Winstree, and Witham. And it was formerly cut, for parliamentary representation, into N and S; now into E, W, and S. The registration co. gives 1 par. to Middlesex, 1 to Cambridge, 13 to Herts, 24 and an extra-parochial place to Suffolk; has an area of 983, 443, acres; and is divided into the districts of West Ham, Epping, Ongar, Romford, Orsett, Billericay, Chelmsford, Rochford, Maldon, Tendring, Colchester, Lexden, Witham, Halstead, Braintree, Dunmow, and Saffron-Walden. The towns containing upwards of 2, 000 inhabitants are the boroughs and Barking, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Coggeshall, Halstead, Romford, Stratford, and Waltham-Abbey. The number of market-towns is 22. The chief seats are Navestock, Easton, Audley-End, Tirling, Mistley, Thorndon, Danbury, Hi-Hall, Dale-Hall, Be-House, Berechurch, Boreham, Hadleigh, Dagenham, Leytonstone, Felixstow, High Beach, Newton, Suttons, Walthamstow, Mesner-Hall, Roydon, Twinsted, Albyns, Belchamp, Birch-Hall, Bower-Hall, Bradwell, Colne-Park, Coopersale, Copped-Hall, Coptfold, Dewshall, Faulkbourn, Fitzwalter-Park, Forest House, Gosfield, Greensted, Hallingbury, Ham-House, Hyde, Horstead, Kelvedon, Langleys, Mark's Hall, Mangham's-Hall, Orsett, Priory, Rettenden, Sandon, Skreens, Spain's-Hall, Stisted, Valentines, Waltham, Warley, Weald-Hall, Wanstead, Wivenhoe, and Woodford. Real property in 1815, £1, 584, 108; in 1843, £1, 935, 610; in 1851, £1, 961, 308; in 1860, £2, 193, 154, -of which £3, 941 were in fisheries, £786 in canals, and £5, 509 in gas-works.

The county is governed by a lord lieutenant, custos rotulorum, and vice-admiral, a high sheriff, 30 deputy lieutenants, and about 260 magistrates. It is in the Home military district, the Home judicial circuit, and the diocese of Rochester. The assizes and the quarter sessions are held at Chelmsford. The police force, in 1862, for Maldon borough, comprised 3 men, at a cost of £155; for Colchester borough, 22 men, at a cost of £1, 293; and for the rest of the county not within the metropolitan police district, 248 men, at a cost of £19, 270. The crimes, in that year, were 84 in Maldon and Colchester, and 496 in the rest of the county not within the metropolitan district; the persons apprehended were 48 and 266; the depredators and suspected persons at large were 428 and 1, 360; and the houses of bad character were 67 and 128. Two members are sent to parliament by Colchester; one each by Maldon and Harwich; two by each of the three divisions of the county, East, West, and South. Braintree is the place of election for one division, and Chelmsford for another division; and there are 13 polling-places. Electors of the N division in 1867, 4, 904; of the S division, 7, 338. Poor-rates of the registration county in 1862, £227, 916. Marriages in 1860, 2, 427, -of which 380 were not according to the rites of the Established church; births, 12, 189, -of which 689 were illegitimate; deaths, 7, 016, -of which 2, 488 were at ages under 5 years, and 202 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 22, 452; births, 115, 446; deaths, 72, 644. The places of worship within the county proper, in 1851, were 433 of the Church of England, with-132, 041 sittings; 134 of Independents, with 45, 513 s.; 59 of Baptists, with 15, 308 s.; 19 of Quakers, with 5, 987 s.; 63 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 11, 375 s.; 24 of Primitive Methodists, with 2, 419 s.; 1 of the Wesleyan Association, with 128 s.; 2 of Wesleyan Reformers, with 210 s.; 2 of Lady Huntingdon's Connexion, with 338 s.; 4 of the New Church, with 810 s.; 1 of Brethren, with 100 s.; 11 of isolated congregations, with 1, 608 s.; 2 of the Catholic and Apostolic church, with 158 s.; 2 of Latter Day Saints, with 118 s.; and 9 of Roman Catholics, with 2, 354 s. The schools were 426 public day schools, with 32, 815 scholars; 689 private day schools, with 13, 754 s.; 486 Sunday schools, with 39, 601 scholars; and 36 evening schools for adults, with 738 s. Pop. in 1801, 227, 682; in 1821, 289, 424; in 1841, 344, 979; in 1861, 404, 859. Inhabited houses, 81, 261; uninhabited, 4, 120; building, 636.

The territory now forming Essex was inhabited, in the ancient British times, by the Trinobantes. It yielded early and easily to the sway of the Romans; and was inclnded in their province of Flavia Cæsariensis. It and Middlesex, and parts of Herts and Beds, formed a kingdom during a period of the Saxon heptarchy; and this, from its relative situation to the other Saxon kingdoms, bore the name of East-Seaxa or East Sexe, which passed, by corruption, first into Exsessa, and next into Essex. East-Seaxa was the least and weakest of the Saxon kingdoms; lay generally subordinate, first to Kent, afterwards to Mercia; and became, in 823, a province of Wessex. Sebert or Saebyrht, who occupied its throne in 593, was its first Christian king, and was nephew of St. Augustine's convert, Ethelbert of Kent, and founded the cathedral churches of London and Westminster. The Danes frequently attacked or overran East Seaxa between 878 and 1016; and Canute, in the last of these years, fought his great battle with Edmund Ironside, at Assandune in Essex, -a place identified variously with Ashdon and Ashingdon. Colonies of subjugated Northmen were planted in Essex and East Anglia; and the inhabitants of these territories were treated more favourably than those of any other part of England by the Danish dynasty. The people of Essex submitted readily to the Norman conquest; and they thenceforth made only three notable separate appearances in the great mutations of the country;-they began the insurrection which culminated in Wat Tyler's rebellion; they rose, under Colonel Far and Sir Charles Lucas, to support Charles I.; and they took part with Fanshaw, in 1659, to promote the restoration of Charles II.-The ancient British Ermine-street traversed part of the west border of Essex; and a Roman road crossed the county from Colchester, by way of Coggeshall and Dunmow, to Bishop Stortford. Ancient British camps or barrows occur at Ruckolt, Bluntswalls, Ambreys, Walbury, Grime's-Dyke, and Bartlow-hills; and Roman stations stood at Canonium, Camalodunum, Cæsaromagus, and Durolitum. Old castles are at Colchester, Clavering, Hadleigh, Heddingham, Walden, Ongar, and Stansted-Monfichet; old mansions, or parts of them, are at Havering, Nether-Hall, Mark's-Hall, Heron-Hall, Creping, and Upminster; old churches are at Thaxted, Walden, Inworth, East Ham, Green-sted, and other places; and remains of monastic houses are at Waltham, Barking, Stratford, Colchester, Bileigh, Titley, Latton, Little Leighs, and Bychnacre.-Essex gave the title of Earl, till 1184, to the De Mandevilles; from 1199 till 1216, to the Fitzpiers; from the 13th century, till 1372, to the De Bohuns; in the latter part of the 14th century, till 1397, to Thomas Duke of Gloucester; from 1443 to 1454, to William Parr; from 1461 till 1539, to the Bourchiers; in 1540, to Thomas Cromwell; from 1572 till 1646, to the Devereux; and from 1661 till the present time, to the Capels.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a maritime county of England"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 2nd order divisions")
Administrative units: Essex AncC
Place: Essex

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