Essex’s shrieval hot spots


Danbury Park: built by John Round in the 1830s, bishop’s palace from 1845 to 1892 (when this postcard was published), now converted to apartments

We’ve seen which families in Essex supplied more sheriffs than others over the centuries, and where they came from: the Tyrells from East Horndon, and later Boreham; the Goslings from Farnham; the Mildmays from Moulsham, Danbury and Little Baddow; the Smiths from Theydon Mount; the Buxtons from Woodford and Waltham Abbey; and so on.

But there are other towns and villages in the county which have, for one reason or another, been home to more than their fair share of sheriffs, and even what has just been said does not give the full picture. Danbury, for example, comes second only to East Horndon as a shrieval hot spot because it has been home not just to two Mildmay sheriffs, but also to three Darcys (Sir Robert 1419–20, Robert 1458–9, and Anthony 1511–12), as well as Sir Gerard Braybrooke 1406–7, Richard Haute 1474–5, Thomas Fitch 1766–7, John Round 1834–5 and Brig. Gen. J. T. Wigan 1930–1 (both of Danbury Park), Jennifer Tolhurst (2005–6, Lord-Lieutenant since 2017), and Michael Hindmarch 2010–11.

Ranking equal with Danbury is Coggeshall, thanks largely to the eponymous and indefatigable Sir John de Coggeshall (1334–9, 1343–7, and 1351–3), his grandson Sir William Coggeshall (1391–2, 1404–5 and 1411–12), as well as Thomas Coggeshall (1393–4). Other Coggeshall sheriffs were John Sewall (1380–1), Sir Mark Guyon (1675–6, who made his seat at Dynes Hall, Great Maplestead), Peter du Cane (1744–5), and two residents of Holfield Grange, Osgood Hanbury (1858–9) and R. D. Hill (1911–12).

Weald Hall, demolished in 1950, showing the early 18th-century front added to the 16th-century house.

Next comes South Weald, where Weald Hall (demolished in 1950, within what is now Weald Country Park) was the seat of Wistan Browne (1576–7), Samuel Smith (1710–11), Hugh Smith (1737–8), and three Towers: Thomas (1759–60), C. T. (1840–1) and C. J. H. (1876–7). From elsewhere in the parish came Sir Thomas Manby (1687–8), J. H. Horton (1909–10), Major Hubert Ashton and H. G. Ashton (1943–4 and 1983–4), and Lt-Col V. S. Laurie (1950–1).

Stansted Mountfitchet, like Coggeshall, is associated with a particular family: Sir Richard de Montfichet was sheriff for three years from Michaelmas 1200, and his more famous son, also Sir Richard, served from May 1242 to March 1246. Also from the town was Sir John Howard, who served three terms (1400–01, 1414–15, and 1418–19); he was also sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, 1401–03.

Boreham House, built for Benjamin Hoare in 1726–33.

Theydon Mount has already been covered as the seat of the Smith family of Hill Hall, although an earlier lord of the manor, Reynold (or Reginald) Malyns was also sheriff, in 1418–19. Likewise Boreham: as well as Boreham House (John Tyrell and J. L. Tufnell-Tyrell) there was the much older New Hall, briefly Henry VIII’s palace of Beaulieu and since 1798 a convent and then school, but also the property of Sir Thomas Shardelow (sheriff 1368), Richard Alred (1437–8), and John Olmius (1745–6). In addition there were Henry Lovibond Collins (1774–5) and Sir Adam Beattie Ritchie (1945–6).

Layer Marney Tower, begun by Sir Henry Marney in about 1520, and intended as the gatehouse to a palace on the scale of Hampton Court that was never completed.

It is becoming clear that particular towns and villages feature prominently because they were the location of major houses. Peter du Cane was mentioned under Coggeshall, but he is better associated with Braxted Park, Great Braxted, which he purchased in 1751. Earlier owners were the Ayloffe family (William, sheriff in 1564–5, his son William 1594–5, created baronet in 1612, and his son Sir Benjamin 1642–3). The estate was briefly owned by Peter Whitcombe (sheriff 1702), and more recently by Michael Clark (1991–2). Likewise Layer Marney has contributed many sheriffs over the centuries, beginning with Sir William Marney in 1401–2, and Sir Henry Marney in 1486–7 and 1492–3. It was Sir Henry who began rebuilding the house that became known as Layer Marney Tower, whose later shrieval owners were Sir Brian Tuke (1533–4), his son George (1567–8), Major Gerald Charrington (1981–2) and his son Nicholas (2014–15).

The park and house of Langleys, Great Waltham, seen from the Essex Way.

Other hot spots were Kelvedon, where Felix Hall was the seat of Daniel Mathews 1768–9, T. B. Western 1850–1, and R. B. Colvin 1890–1; in the Middle Ages the manor had been held by John Filliol or Filiol (sheriff 1373–4) and Humphrey Bohun (1454–5). Great Waltham makes the grade largely due to Langleys (Hugh Everard 1626, Sir Richard Everard 1644–5, John Jolliffe Tufnell I, II and III 1785–6, 1823, and 1870–1 respectively, and Major Neville Tufnell, 1931–2), as well as P. G. Lee (1990–1) from elsewhere in the parish. Halstead also qualifies as a hot spot, thanks to three Courtaulds (George of Cut Hedge, 1896–7, Samuel Augustine of The Howe, 1916–17, and William Julien of Penny Pot, 1921–2), as well as Sir Samuel Tryon (1649–50), J. R. Vaizey (1877–8), the Hon. R. C. Butler (1969–70), and Christopher Stewart-Smith (2006–7).

Of all these places only Halstead cannot be associated with dynastic families that have roots in the Middle Ages. Sir Samuel Tryon’s father, also Samuel, was created baronet in1620 as Sir Samuel Tryon of Layer Marney: his grandfather had emigrated from the Netherlands and his son had bought Layer Marney from the Tukes, so even he had established himself as part of traditional Essex.

It’s worth mentioning briefly that more than fifty High Sheriffs of Essex, from the 16th century onwards, came from that part of the county which, since 1965, has been in Greater London, including Ilford, Leyton, Romford, Walthamstow, West Ham, and Woodford. The first of these was Sir Anthony Cooke of Gidea Hall, Romford, sheriff in 1544–5; the last was Col Stuart Mallinson of The White House, Woodford Green, 1939–40. Before the 16th century we find only Sir Adam Francis or Fraunceys, sheriff 1392–3, who owned the manor of Ruckholt in Leyton. The explanation lies in the growth of importance of the mercantile and professional classes, who prospered in the capital and settled in the surrounding countryside but wanted to remain within easy reach of the metropolis – which until the coming of the railways meant what are now the London suburbs.

One thought on “Essex’s shrieval hot spots

  1. Pingback: More on Langleys and the Tufnells – The High Sheriff of Essex 2019-20

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