A Short History of Laindon
By Alice Jackson
In writing the history of Langdon Hills, a small parish in Essex, adjacent to the B1007, a road that linked Tilbury Fort to Colchester Fort, it is right to say that it is the highest point in Essex, and that there is no other higher point between the crest and the North Pole. The extent of the view is mainly because of the flatness of the surrounding area, rather than its own high point.
The dates and figures regarding the parish commence from the Doomsday Book, that wonderful survey of the whole of the country carried out in a comparatively short space of time.
When the Romans came to Britain, Conobeline chose Colchester to be the capital town. The Iceni, a tribe from Norfolk and Suffolk under Bodicea who, with her two daughters was badly treated by the Romans, struck at Colchester and burned it to the ground. The Romans sent an army to reclaim the area, the Britons were defeated and Bodicea died. Following this the Romans established a camp at Billericav so it was inevitable that the inhabitants of Laindon and Langdon Hills must have been aware of, if not involved in, the skirmishes which took place.
The Sheriff of Essex saw the compilation of the Doomsday Book in 1086, and the hills were known as Legenduna, which in Saxon meant Long Hill, so when we say Langdon Hills we are really saying Long Hill Hills. The records show that there was 1 manor and 9 hides (approx. 120 acres each) beg the land of the Bishop of London.
King John in 1209 confirmed that Robert-de-Sutton gave, through Margaret his daughter at her marriage, the advowson of the church to William, son of Hugh Bigod. This is the earliest date upon which a church in Langdon Hills was mentioned.
The 14th Century brought the Black Death, and many villages were desolated, their remaining workers found that their labour was better paid in areas where men were scarce, and started to travel around. This meant that higher wages were being demanded elsewhere and the Poll Tax was instituted to prevent the migration of labour. The uprising which followed was supported by John Ball a priest of Colchester and Jack Straw of Fobbing. In 1348 the Escheater, J Ewell, was murdered at Langdon Hills Hall Farm, the farm by the old church. Fishermen from Fobbing and Corringham refused to pay the tax at Brentwood and threatened to kill the Commissioner. They called on the men of Stanford-le-Hope to help and a mob of 5000 men armed with sticks and rusty swords swept through the villages and manors destroying all the court rolls and documents they could find, thereby obliterating much proof. Risings also took place in Kent and John Ball was freed from Maidstone. Jack Straw and Watt Tyler were among the leaders. Watt Tyler was killed at Smithfields and King Richard declared himself on the side of the men. He led them back to Walthamstow where he refused to keep the promises he had made. The men, now disarmed, fled to Norsey Wood Billericay where 500 were slain. John Ball was executed and the peasants revolt was over. The battle was called the Battle of Billericay.
One of the greatest land owners of this time was Thomas Gobyons of Great Gubbins Farm, Laindon (we understand this later became the Manor House in Manor Road). Although much respected as a juror, he was aggressive and at one time was outlawed because he refused to carry out the judgement of the court with respect to his employees. Also at this time appears the name of Robert Coleman of the Leys Lee Chapel who lived in Dry Street in a farm known as Colemans later as Blackmans and later still as Hasletts. It is believed that the Manor House mentioned before in this paper had a tunnel connecting it to Nicholas Church. There was definitely a door in the cellar which had been blocked up. It may have been an escape route for the Jacobites.
In 1550 the Parson of Langdon Hills Church was John Goldrynge. He was charged in the deacons court, that he allowed his servant to put sheep in the said church during a snow storm. He was fined 6/8 to be given to the poor of the parish of Langdon Hills.
In 1550 John Tyrell purchased Malgraves and the remains of Great Malgraves Manor which has been in existence since the 13th Century and is about a mile from Horndon-on-the-Hill. In 1600 it was given to Thomas Cotton together with the Manor of Goldsmiths. This is the first mention of Goldsmiths by name and it must be presumed that some previous occupier was of this name.
In the year 1638 two men were committed to jail “for that they were accused of robbing the Beacon on Langdon Hills”. – they were found guilty. It is also interesting to note that the Puckles Charity was set up in 1617. This emanated from Puckles Farm in Wash Road at Laindon and left 62 1/2 acres in trust for charitable use. The items were £4 for the poor of Great Burstead, £20 for the master of Laindon School for teaching the 20 poor children of the district. £1 for a sermon on St John’s day, and £15 for coal and clothing for the poor. Also the poor had a yearly rent gift of £4 from the vineyards at Fobbing.
It was also during this century that Henry Archer built a chapel on the east end of the church which was finished on 12th February 1618 and when he died he left The House then occupied by William Bell to the poor of the parish of Langdon Hills forever. He died in 1635.
By 1674 the post was a regular once a week delivery. In the 18th Century Harry Blunt owned land in West Lee while John Henniker owned both Fletchers and Nightingale farms – the latter was demolished by mistake by the Development Corporation. It was in Lee Chapel Lane.
There was a chapel built at East Lee, one mile from Langdon Hills Church Manor in the 15th Century but it is not known if there was ever a service held there, but there was a tomb stone there. A farm was built on rising ground known as Chapel Hill. This farm was called Lee Chapel Farm. My father-in-law, who came to the area in 1881. was a sheep farmer and had this farm until 1912 and then moved to Park Farm in Lee Chapel Lane. In 1915 the old farm was burnt down. The farm in Dry Street, known as Hasletts, is still occupied. At the end of Lee Chapel Lane was an area known as Willow Park. This name has now been revived. East of this field was called the Knights. This, it is said, was where the Knights going to the Crusades rested on their way to Canterbury.
Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, lived for many years at Tilbury where he ran a tile business. In 1722 he wrote of his grand tour of Britain which took him along the course of the A13. He was astounded at the death rate of the women on the marshland at Fobbing and Corringham. The men bred in this area of the country were hardened to it but went to the higher land to get wives used to fresh air. These healthy young women soon changed their complexion, got the ague, and seldom lasted more than a year. Five or six wives or even fifteen or sixteen wives was not exceptional. One farmer in Canvey was then living with his twenty fifth wife. A lot of these healthy girls must have come from Langdon Hills, being one of the higher areas where the clear air put the bloom on their cheeks.
The inhabitants of Langdon Hills in 1821 was 205, Laindon 404 and Basildon 41.
The River Crouch which started in the hills had a tributary known as the Lynge.
Dick Turpin was for some time a leader of a gang of smugglers working on the banks of the River Thames from Plaistow to Southend and it is said that he hid for a time in the old church.
In 1789 Arthur Young wrote “Of all the cursed roads that ever disgraced this kingdom, none ever equalled that from Billericay to Tilbury. It is nearly 12 miles long and I saw a man creep under to assist me to lift my chaise over a hedge. The trees everywhere over-grow the road so that it never sees the sun. I must not forget the chalk wagons when stuck fast would wait until there were a few in the same position and would then put all the horses on the front of one of the wagons and gradually pull them out. When 1 came to Horndon-on-the-Hill the view was so astonishing – green fields, hedges and woods, that it passed description. The Thames winding through it full of ships and bounded by the Kentish Hills”.
In 1901 a pony went round in circles to pump water up to Goldsmiths tank from a well. A Mr Chummy Coleman used to walk from South Green to below Northlands off Dry Street, make hurdles all day and then walk back home. Water was sold from a well in Dry Street known as Well Green for a penny a bucket. Spring water was piped from Spring Dell on Kingston Ridge to Lee Chapel Farm through clay pipe. In 1906 an elderly couple were murdered by two brothers for taking water from a pond new Lee Wootens Farm.
Part of Lee Chapel Lane was called Oxford Street and there is still a pillar box with this name on it.
There was a Crown Hotel in 1769 – then it was called an Inn. The Laindon Hotel was built about the same time as the station around 1890. There was going to be a race course to the north of the station but it never developed. When my parents came to Laindon in 1917 we lived in a house which was built for the stable lads.
When we were kids, a Doctor Shannon practised in Laindon. He used to put pills in boot polish tins and medicine in sauce bottles. For all this, he was a very good doctor. He used to drive one of the first cars in the area and as kids, we were terrified of him.
Nellie Ridgewell, who used to live at Westley Hall with her parents, was once driving a horse and dog cart down Berry Lane and met a funeral coming up. This was when the first motor cars were used here. The car couldn’t make the hill and she suggested that the coffin be put on the cart. She then drove up the hill and the mourners walked behind.
When we first came to Laindon in 1917 there were few roads and everything had to be delivered by horse and cart and in the winter, by sledge. We had no modern facilities but were very seldom ill, We used hurricane lamps for lighting.
We went out at night. We had to make our own pleasure but there were Youth Clubs, a Cycle Polo Team, boxing clubs, football teams and before the Radion Cinema was built, we had picture shows in what is now the Winston Club. We had an annual Carnival and a Publicans wheelchair race. This was started from the Prince of Wales and stopped at all the pubs on the way to the Crown Hotel. There were point to point races at Dunton and a Greyhound track at Laindon. The poplar board of guardians owned the Dunton Colony, now the Dunton Caravan Park . They were completely self supporting and sold all their surplus fruit etc. to the public.
The Laindon High Road School was built in 1928 and all the children from Langdon Hills school who lived on the north side of the railway were supposed to go there but as a lot didn’t want to, we went on strike, We had at least 130 (one hundred and thirty) shops in Laindon High Road and often found that we could get things better there than from Southend.
In 1921 Bill Watson (my father) and Fred Hinton started the very first bus service in Laindon. They had an open top double decker. They used to go to Wickford, Chelmsford and Stanford-le-Hope markets and Billericay hospital on visiting days (Wednesday and Sunday). My father was the mechanic and conductor and Fred Hinton was the driver. Eventually, they managed to get another bus and a Mr Nuttal was a conductor. He came from Wash Road. Unfortunately, my father was taken ill and when the buses broke down there was nobody to repair them, so they sold out to Tom Webster and old Tom’s buses came into being.
In the I930’s people from London started to come to the area and build weekend bungalow’s, land was very cheap then. When war broke out and the bombing of London started the evacuees came here and the bungalows were extended and the so-called shacks became pretty homes for many of them. During the Battle of Britain we had a German bomber shot down over Langdon Hills in what is now Long Wood. It was a Sunday lunch time and it was a terrible sight.
After the war. in the I950’s, it was decided to have a new town built at Basildon. I think most of you know the rest.