A Brief History of Takeley

(See also the Takeley Local History Society Website)

Has Takeley any history?

That question has been asked many times. So after many years of research and conversations with other interested people I believe that I can divulge the origins of TAKELEY. This might come as a surprise to the reader when they find that TAKELEY is far older than previously thought.

It is a known fact that TAKELEY has had Roman connections. The actual sites of the Roman villas and settlements within the Parish are, as yet, open to conjecture.

On a close inspection of Holy Trinity Church one will find many Roman tiles (bricks) incorporated in its walls.

It was always believed, and often argued locally, that the history of TAKELEY is much older than its Roman connections. The evidence of this was unearthed during the redevelopment of Stansted Airport's new location in 1986.

British Airports Authority, Essex County Council and English Heritage Trust jointly financed an archaeological dig (Takeley Parish Council also contributed £1000 towards the project). The dig was originally situated on two sites on the northern boundaries of the Parish.

Colchester Hall and Bassingbourne Hall, being two of the three sites mentioned in the Domesday records of 1086/7, (the other is Warish Hall or St. Valery which will be covered later).

It was generally known that these sites had at least Saxon and Norman connections, so it was hoped that an archaeological investigation would unearth evidence of earlier habitation.

After an initial disappointment, the archaeology team, which was directed by Mr Howard Brooks from English Heritage, made what can only be described as a stupendous find. It happened, like so many important discoveries, by complete accident and turned out to be one of the most important discoveries in Essex for many years!

But let us start at the beginning.

TAKELEY is a ancient village. Its boundaries were approximately 8 miles in length with a total of 3,000 acres.

The Parish of Takeley had remained unchanged since it was first registered by the Normans in 1086/87, but now with the development of Stansted Airport it has lost nearly a third of its acreage.

Its northern boundaries abut the Parishes of Stansted, Elsenham and Broxted. The eastern boundary is the River Roding, containing the parishes of Broxted, Little Easton & Little Canfield. The southern boundary is the Roman Road, Stane Street East, more familiarly known as the B1256, this being also the parish boundaries of Little and Great Canfield and Hatfield Broad Oak. The Street, Brewers End, and the other properties to the east of the crossroads at Takeley Four Ashes were built along the northern side of Stane Street and were once referred to as ‘TAKELEY ALL ONE SIDE’.

Essex, like most of ancient Britain, was covered by forest and before this by a shallow sea where molluscs and other bottom dwellers thrived. Walking along Pincey Brook or in the fields one can find fossils dating back to the Palaeolithic Age, when the sea was replaced by forest. Larger animals roamed the land, among which were many mammoths, woolly elephants and giant deer. Bone and teeth remains of these animals have been discovered in Stansted and Saffron Walden and are on display at Saffron Walden Museum.

Artefacts such as flint arrow heads and deer antlers used as tools show us that ancient man roamed these lands.

Pottery from the Roman occupation has been unearthed occasionally. There is a glass pot in Saffron Museum said to have been found locally in 1860. This was just part of a larger find, most of which has now been lost.

It was not until 1986 that Takeley was put on the map, and this only came about through the development of Stansted Airport. A small piece of pottery, which almost went unnoticed, was picked up during a routine field walk.

Since that first ‘find’ many other artefacts have been unearthed. Two Bronze Age arrow heads with even older Stone Age tools and an arrow head prove once again that ancient man walked and hunted these parts many centuries ago.

The earliest known evidence of ancient man settling locally (before the archaeological excavations in 1986) is in nearby Hatfield Forest. This was recognised by an eighteenth century historian who wrote in 1740,

‘In Beggars Hall Coppice on the forest, on the way to Stane Street is a small spot of ground called Porting Hills and Portingbury Hills’.

This earth mound is all that remains of the defensive enclosure that surrounded the settlement of some long forgotten prehistoricman. It is not known whether they were Iron Age or even earlier Stone Age man.

Portingbury Hills were, up to then, the only known local site of prehistoric man, so the discovery of a settlement which predates 2000 BC, actually in the Parish of Takeley, was greeted with great excitement by all who were interested in the history of Takeley. That one small piece of pottery which almost went unnoticed changed the whole previously known history of Takeley

So who were these first inhabitants?

Man first arrived from the east, crossing the land bridge that once connected the British Isles to the Continent. When this was submerged, men still crossed the North Sea and settled the land, either mixing with the established inhabitants or conquering them by force.

Not until 'man’ begins to develop into tribes or family clans for joint protection and mutual survival is it safe to name these tribes. For instance, it is certainly true that the first named peoples that inhabited these shores were the Belgae from Northern Europe who settled in Eastern and Southern England.

The Belgae were also from different clans. One of these, the Trivovante settled in Essex. The Catavallauni in nearby Hertfordshire, with the Iceni, (of Boadicea fame), in Suffolk & Norfolk, (South folk & North folk). The alliances between these people were in most cases unfriendly to say the least, as the Catuvellauni were constantly at war with their neighbours and appeared to be the most dominant tribe for some decades. There was continuing friction between the Trivovante (their territories being divided only by the River Stort).

With Trivovante land being under frequent threat and long periods of occupation by their Catavallauni neighbours, the main town or ‘Opedium’, modern day Colchester, was the seat of rule to both peoples. Even the Romans recognised the town's importance. (As a matter of interest, Colchester is the oldest known town in Britain).

The first settlement was established about 75 BC on a south facing slope to the North of the parish with a small brook nearby (Pincey Brook). The round houses were built in a regular pattern around a central building, which may have had some form of early religious shrine. There was evidence of huts being built upon other destroyed ‘houses', suggesting continuous habitation over several centuries. It steadily grew until approximately 50 BC when the whole settlement was surrounded by a defensive ditch which again had been enlarged and altered during the existence of the settlement. Habitation continued until 25 BC when a quiet period seemed to descend on the settlement. This continued until 40 AD.

There was a suggestion that the settlement had met its end in fire as many of the round houses showed evidence of being burnt. It is a fact that this did happen from time to time, but the burnt remains appeared too similar. Whether this was the final end of the village is open for discussion as there is no evidence as to where the people who survived this episode settled.

Let us return to the site of "Neolithic" Takeley. It would not have been called Takeley but, maybe ‘the Settlement next to the open forest’ – but this is open to conjecture.

The 'finds' that were discovered at this site were treasure-trove: brooches for holding together cloaks, as new as the day they were lost, small silver hair pins with fine tooled heads, everyday cooking pots and fine imported Samian pottery and a beautiful carved stone onyx ring, depicting a scene from the Trojan wars. The Greek hero Diomedes stealing the ‘palladium’ from the Trojan camp (a palladium was a staff with a figure of Pallas-Athene, being the Trojan good luck symbol). To cap it all a hoard of buried 'potin' coins dated to the first century BC, which were in circulation in Kent and Essex before the Romans minted their own coinage in AD 43.

This was the situation until the arrival of the Romans under the command of Julius Caesar.

Stane Street East has all ready been noted as a Roman Road. This road run from Colchester (the county town of Essex) or as the Romans called it Camulodonum Colonia eastwards to St Albans and then on to the Westcountry. It was a major east-west route.

Again there is argument as to whether or not this is the true alignment of the road. When roadworks have taken place with trenches and holes being dug into its foundations, investigations of these trenches has not revealed evidence as to its origin. There is a train of thought that the original road may have passed further to the north.

Takeley consists of several Ends and Greens, namely Brewers End, (Briars End), The Street, Smiths Green, Bambers Green (Bambrose Green), Mole Hill Green (Morrells Green), Mill End and Coopers End. (Coopers End is now under the Stansted Airport Cargo area).

The Parish also supported three mobile home sites. These were removed when Stansted Airport was developed and re-sited at a purpose built site in the Parish of Hatfield Broad Oak. It was the wish of the residents and the Parish that the site, known as Takeley Park, be included within the Parish of Takeley. This is the second time that the Parish boundary has been re-drawn. The first time was in the late 1940's when the strip of land between the B1256 (Stane Street) and the Railway line was included within the Parish boundary.

TAKELEY SCHOOL. The original Penny Village School was opened some time before 1869 (the old school book indicates this). It was closed in 1965 and a new school (a prefabricated building) was then built on a green field site in Roseacres, this was replaced with a permanent building in 1988.

Prior to the end of the Second World War the village did not see any change to its rural character in the way of development but this was about to change. Anew development at Wayletts Hill was started in 1948 to give local people modern housing. The roads were called North, South and East roads. This site has since been enlarged.

The Railway opened in 1863 and used to run from Bishop's Stortford to Braintree. It was closed to passenger traffic in 1952. The airport was developed first by the Americans and then to its present level by BAA plc.

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DOMESDAY RECORDS FOR WARISH HALL, COLCHESTER HALL

and BASSINGBOURNE.

HUNDRET OF UDELESFORT (UTTLESFORD)

  1. ST. VALERY (WARISH HALL)
  2. COLCHESTER HALL
  3. BASSINGBOURNE

A. TACHELEIA (Takeley), which was held in King Edward's time by Turchill, a free man, as a half a hide, is held by St. Valery. Then as now 2 ploughs on the demesne, and 3 ploughs belonging to the men. There are 8 villeins. Then and afterwards 3 bordars; now 5. Then as now 2 serfs. Then and afterwards Woodland for 100 swine, nowfore 600. There are 24 acres of meadow. Then and afterwards 1 mill; now a moiety of a mill. There are 3 rouncey, 4 beasts, 30 swine, 28 sheep, 50 goats, and 5 hives of bees. Then as afterwards it was worth 6 pounds; now 7.

B. TACHELIA (Takeley), which was held, in King Edward’s time, by Ulmar, a freeman, as a manor and as 1 hide and 15 acres, is held by Eudo in demesne. Then as now 2 ploughs on the demesne, and 2 ploughs belonging to the men. Then 3 villeins; now 5, and 1 priest. Then 3 bordars; Afterwards and now 10. Then as now 2 serfs. There was woodland for 1,000 swine; afterwards and now for 600. There are 16 acres of meadow. Then 1 rouncey, and 14 beasts 30 swine, 30 goats, and 80 sheep; now 2 rounceys, 20 beasts 43 swine, 103 sheep and 40 goats. Then and afterwards it was worth 8 pounds; now 10.

C. TACHELEIA (Takeley), which was held by 1 freeman as a manor and as 3 hides and 15 acres in King Edward's time, is held by Robert in demesne. Then as now 2 ploughs on the demesne, and 3 ploughs belonging to the men, and 3 villeins. There are now 8 bordars. Then and afterwards 3 serfs; now 2. There is woodland for 200 swine, and 20 acres of meadow. Then 2 rounceys; now 1. Then 12 beasts; now 3. Then 16 sheep; now 10. Then 20 swine; now 38. It is worth now as then 100 shillings. Peter holds of Robert half a hide, and 1 ox is there; this is worth l2 shilling

TAKELEY PARISH COUNCIL was first elected on December 4th 1894, at a meeting held in the School Room at the old Takeley School Buildings at 6:30pm in the evening.

The first actual meeting of the PARISH COUNCIL was on DECEMBER 13th 1894.

The ELECTED COUNCILLORS were:

Messer's

Mr ORPEN proposed and Mr FRANHAM seconded that Mr SPELLER be VICE CHAIRMAN.

It was further unanimously agreed that Mr HOCKLEY be CLERK to the COUNCIL.

FEBRUARY 7th 1895. It was resolved that the name of the Council be TAKELEY PARISH COUNCIL.

Meetings were only held when the need arose at 6 o’clock in the evening in the School Room, the COUNCIL being re-elected every 12 months.

JANUARY 20th 1898. The CLERK was directed to write to the Chief Surveyor of Highways Essex County Council, drawing attention to the bad state of the footpaths in Takeley Street from the Four Ashes Inn westward and suggesting that a truck load of granite chippings would he the best material to put on the said path.

MAY 14th 1900 This meeting was held to consider an application by Col. James to lay down turf on SMITHS GREEN in front of his residence, & to erect posts and chains outside his stable entrance. It was unanimously resolved by the Council that they could not give Col. James permission to lay down turf; but at the same time they should not oppose his doing so. The Council decided that they should oppose the erection of posts and chains on a public green. The CLERK was instructed to write to Col. James to this affect.

APRIL 18th 1901 It was proposed by Mr Littler & seconded by Mr Lambert, that the attention of the CHIEF CONSTABLE be called to the great rate at which Motor Cars travel through this Village.

NOVEMBER 16th 1903 The Chairman read a letter received from Mr Olivieri of OAK LODGE, complaining of the state of the roadway called JACKS LANE and asking the Council to represent to the proper quarter the disgraceful state of the said thoroughfare. After some discussion, it was proposed by Mr Littler and seconded by Mr Lambert, that the letter be forwarded to the Dunmow District Council containing a strong recommendation to that Council as to the necessity of improving the said roadway by repairing and by cutting the hedges on the south side and pointing out that it is desirable to continue the hard road about 50 yards so as to enable tradesmen and others to reach Mr Olivieri's house, this was carried unanimously.

Written by Trevor Allen.