PARISH HISTORY

The parish of Moreton, Bobbingworth and The Lavers is a rural parish, devoted almost exclusively to agriculture and has always been an area of mixed farming with a marked predominance of arable.

 

Little is known of the parish before records began to be kept around the time of Domesday. A Roman road ran through the centre of Moreton village, connecting London and Great Dunmow, and it is likely that the area was settled, if not before, some time after the 5th century, the middle element of the name ‘Bobbingworth’ suggesting an early Saxon settlement.

 

Parts of the White Hart inn in Moreton are known to pre-date 1460, the oldest record of landlords at the pub being from the middle of the 17th century.

 

Associated with Moreton’s church, St Mary the Virgin, the Guild of All Saints, probably founded in 1473, was a religious guild of a type common in rural parishes in the 14th and 15th centuries. Dating from the late 15th century, Black Hall, in the centre of the village, was its meeting place. There is no later reference to this guild after the death of Henry VIII and the coronation of Edward VI. With its removal of all traces of previous religious practices, including the destruction of relics, statues, wall paintings and decorations, Edward’s ascension ushered in the ‘full blown’ Protestant Reformation. Amongst this widespread iconoclasm, somehow Magdalen Laver’s St Mary Magdalen church managed to retain its 14th century oak rood screen which would have held a life-sized carving of Jesus on the Cross.

 

During the 1530s and 1540s Sir Richard Riche (1496 - 1567), the founder of Felsted School, later ennobled as 1st Baron Rich of Leez, built up a sizeable estate within the area. Painted by historians as the black-hearted villain of the Reformation, Riche owned most, if not all, the land in the entire parish. As well as the manor houses and their associated holdings, the man responsible for administering the dissolution of the monasteries held the patronage of the churches of Moreton and Little Laver and the rectories of Moreton and Matching. In an ironic twist, a tale persists that the Vicar of Moreton, in 1536, fearing the worst effects of the religious upheavals on the church, buried its precious gold and silver artefacts in the fields behind. A number of the Riche family manor buildings still exist today in some form, including the first of Riche’s purchases, Bundish Hall, acquired in 1533; Blake Hall, purchased from the Capel family in 1539; and Nether Hall, originally granted to Riche by the Duke of Norfolk.

 

Entertainment seems to have been an important feature of life in the parish (albeit sometimes things could get out of hand). From 1680, if not before, until 1731 a regular item of income in the Magdalen Laver churchwarden's annual account was 6s. 8d. 'faire money’. This suggests that until the second quarter of the 18th century a fair was held annually in the parish, although it is not clear why it should have been a source of income for the churchwardens. It was also said that until 1832 a fair was held in Moreton annually, on 1 May, but that having degenerated from its former social gathering into an annual disorderly assembly, an edict was issued by the magistrates for its abolition!

 

In 1691 John Locke the philosopher (1632 - 1704) went to live at Otes manor house, in High Laver, as a paying guest of Sir Francis Masham and his wife with whom he had been friends for some years. He paid £1 a week for himself and his manservant and 1s. a week for his horse. He remained there until his death, assembling a library of nearly 4,000 volumes.

 

in 1761 the parishioners of Moreton agreed that a new cart bridge should be built in place of the old horse bridge and that, having obtained an estimate of the cost of a timber and of a brick bridge, they should meet the parishioners of Bobbingworth to determine of what materials it should be built. A combined meeting took place in May 1762 when it was agreed that the money raised should be spent on the bridge only and that each parish should 'make their way to the bridge at their own expense'. By 1783 the bridge had become a county charge and in the same year it was ordered that it should be rebuilt with brick. 

 

A postal receiving house was set up at Moreton in 1846 to serve the surrounding villages in the parish, each of which had a sub-post office established.

 

Later becoming an extension of the Underground ‘Central Line’ from Epping, the London-Ongar railway opened in 1865, with a station at Blake Hall.

2020 Moreton, Bobbingworth and the Lavers Parish Council
 
Parish Clerk: Julia Milovanovic     e-mail: mblparishcouncil@gmail.com