The Totham connection (ii): W. P. Honywood

W. P. Honywood, by Robert Nightingale of Maldon
(Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service: Colchester Collection)

Great Totham has a rather better claim, as it were by proxy, to William Philip Honywood of Marks Hall, who was High Sheriff in 1851. He was the second member of his family to hold the office, but the example of his predecessor, John Lamotte Honywood, sheriff in 1689–90, is not particularly inspiring: he hanged himself in 1694. At that time he was M.P. for Essex, having previously been elected in 1679 and 1681.

For almost all of the 19th century the Honywood family were lords of the manor of Great Totham, lay rectors of the parish, and the principal landowner – in fact they owned almost the entire village, having purchased the manor of Jepcracks in 1749 and Great Totham Hall in 1765. The estates passed through several branches of the family over the years (and now I’m quoting from my own guide to St Peter’s Church), but those who took more interest in Great Totham than might be expected, considering that they lived a good ten miles away, were Filmer Honywood (who sponsored the enclosure of the parish in 1805) and W. P. Honywood, who died in 1859 at the age of 35. The latter built the Honywood School in Hall Road (perhaps with the proceeds of the enclosure), which opened in 1857 and is still in regular use as a parish and community room.  After his death a stained glass window was erected in the church by his tenants, ‘as a token of their respect for his memory’; in his will, which he made two days before he died, he confirmed his tenants ‘in their present occupations at their present rents for the term of twenty-one years from Michaelmas last’, an extraordinarily generous gesture.

The Honywood, Great Totham, with Honywood’s arms over the door

His widow Frances continued to take a close interest in the village (she donated the pulpit when the church was restored in 1878–9), until her death in 1895; her heir, her husband’s second cousin, rapidly became bankrupt, and most of the estate was sold off in 1897. Marks Hall itself, near Coggeshall, was demolished in 1951; the house was surrounded by magnificent gardens which are being partly restored and are open to the public.

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