The causeway at Hullbridge was an important crossing for pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. Crossing the River Crouch was an essential part of a major pilgrimage route in the medieval period and both Hullbridge and Fambridge had bridges of one kind or another which are remembered in their names. The prefix ‘Hull’ is derived from ‘Huolne’ or ‘Wholve’, an old name for the Crouch, while the prefix ‘Fam’ means either fen or foam.
The Rochford Hundred district was frequented by royalty as several noble families owned significant property in the area. Indeed, if strolling during these times through the ancient woodland of Hockley and Hawkwell, or Rayleigh’s parkland, you may well have come across not only peacocks strutting their stuff, but also Kings of England hunting deer.
For a period in Ashingdon in the early 14th century, an icon in the church, thought to have been a statue of the Virgin Mary, was supposedly blessed with miraculous powers. Many people, especially childless women, were reported as having crawled up Ashingdon Hill on their hands and knees to the church in the hopes of receiving a blessing from the icon. The case was investigated by commissioners sent by the Bishop of London after objections were received from clergymen in other parishes and was found to be a sham.
How would you feel about being married at the age of 11? That’s what happened to the young noblewoman, Mary de Bohun, in 1381. Her marriage took place at Rochford Hall to 14-year-old Henry Bolingbroke, who later became Henry IV. Richard II sent musicians to play at the couple’s wedding.
Mary died before her husband had been crowned king. However, she is remembered as the mother of Henry V, famous for his victory at the Battle of Agincourt.
In 1381 Wakering men were involved in the Peasants Revolt against Royalty and the Government. The Peasants Revolt united all social divisions beneath the landlord and was truly a revolt of all the common people. It developed from a mixture of national, local and individual reasons.
In June 1381, messengers incited the men of Great Wakering to action, saying that Sir Robert Hales was coming with 100 Lancers (Sir Robert Hales was the Government’s Treasurer and an unpopular national figure, with lands in Essex). Court Rolls (records) were burned at the Manor of Wakering Hall, Little Wakering.
On 13th June, men of Essex marched through the city of London. On 14th June, the rebels broke into the Tower of London and beheaded Sir Robert Hales, setting his head upon a pole on London Bridge.
In 1394, Richard II granted permission to the townspeople of Rayleigh to demolish Rayleigh Castle and use its stones to construct other buildings in the town.
Thomas de Stapel was one of the most famous individuals of Shopland and a former resident at Shopland Hall. He was a Sergeant-at-Arms to King Edward III and fought in the battle of Crecy in 1346 but died on 3rd March 1371, most likely whilst protecting the King.
A brass to Thomas can be seen in St Andrews church in Rochford, although it was originally in Shopland church. When Shopland church was to be demolished, this important brass was moved to Sutton church. With the closure of Sutton church, Thomas was once more on the move, being relocated to St Andrew’s in Rochford. The effigy depicts Thomas de Stapel in armour wearing a pointed bascinet, which is a Medieval European open-faced military helmet, typically fitted with an aventail and hinged visor.
Foulness was granted its first chapel by Lady Joan de Bohun in the late 14th century.
Manor houses were common in this period. Some Lords of the Manor owned multiple estates, so needed a residence in each one for whenever they visited. They rented land to tenant farmers, as the rich soil and ideal growing conditions meant that Essex fed and traded with a wider area. The local rivers made it much easier to transport goods to and fro, especially to London via the Thames.
Brick-making from the clay soil was also prevalent across the District. London-bound barges were loaded at Barling, which was once a prominent local port. Bricks and local produce would head to London, with manure returning from London! Cobbles from London stables can still be found in Essex soil.
By the 15th century, large areas were under cultivation with the chief crops being wheat and oats. The areas of low wet marshes produced grass virtually all year and with a high degree of nutrition, so sheep were bred as sources of leather and skins for parchment. However, the pasture was not ideal. The sheep could not cope with the high salt content of this pasture and the area became a breeding ground for foot rot. In 1424, of the 1,437 ewes on Foulness 118 were sick with foot rot and to counter this a mixture of tar and butter was smeared onto the sheep’s feet.