The Essex parish of South Weald and the Doddinghurst List

Ged Martin

The Doddinghurst List was an anomalous eastward extension of the Essex parish of South Weald across the boundary between Chafford and Barstable Hundreds. Its separate existence ceased to matter around 1850, after the New Poor Law and the creation of a county constabulary made it irrelevant, and it is long forgotten.

The 5,089 acre Essex parish of South Weald contained an unusual anomaly, an extension to the north-east called the Doddinghurst List. While most of the parish of South Weald formed part of Chafford Hundred, the Doddinghurst List was in the next-door Barstable Hundred, like the adjoining parish of Doddinghurst itself.i This suggests that the anomaly arose after the division of the county into hundreds, which had occurred before the Domesday survey of 1086. The Victoria County History mentions a 1565 dispute over jurisdiction in the List, but supplies no detail.2

The most succinct definition was provided by Philip Morant in 1768: “Doddinghurst List is part of South-Weald and of Kelvedon-Hatch, consisting of about 400 acres, which pays Constables rates to Doddinghurst, but no other rates.”3 Morant also noted that the Doddinghurst List was one of three non-parochial districts in the county to be separately rated for the Land Tax,4 which indicated that its distinct status had been recognised in the 1690s, when the tax was introduced. He also claimed that the Doddinghurst List in fact spanned three Hundreds: “So much of [South] Weald and Kelvedon [Hatch] as is reckoned in the List is, indeed, in the Hundred of Barstable.”5 Thus, in shorthand terms, and ignoring a possibly small projection into Kelvedon Hatch, the Doddinghurst List seems essentially to have been a segment of Barstable Hundred that had somehow become absorbed into the nearby Chafford Hundred parish of South Weald.

Morant's reported that List covered “about 400 acres” only roughly corresponds with the area of South Weald parish east of the Brentwood-Ongar road, which Chapman and André's map of 1777 shows as approximately following the Hundred boundary.6 At an early stage, the List became regarded as equivalent to the manor of Downsells, also known as Bawds, with a 1566 example specifying “Downesells alias the Liste alias Bawdedys”.7 There are two complications in this identification. One is that Morant could not trace the ownership of the manor before 1483, when Ralph Bawd died possessed of it. The other is that, by the sixteenth century at least, the demesne land was not co-extensive with the manorial limits, in 1509 comprising 260 acres, of which 80 were held of the manor of Shenfield – possibly introducing part of a fourth parish to the equation, this time to the east. In 1788, prior to the age of enclosure, the demesne was 286 acres, but the total area was boosted by waste land to 413 acres.8 This latter figure would perhaps explain Morant's rounded estimate of the acreage of the List, but if the demesne still included 80 acres from the parish of Shenfield, there remained a considerable discrepancy between the reported area and South Weald's eastward extension into Barstable Hundred. However, Thomas Wright, perhaps Morant's most comprehensive and assiduous successor, was in no doubt in 1836 that the List and the manor of “Bauds, or Downsels” were identical. “This manor forms a peculiar jurisdiction called Doddinghurst List, which has a constable quite independent of any other parish or hamlet, although this district lies within several parishes, and for church or poor is not a separate district from those parishes; yet, for the purposes of the land tax and the peace, it is all within the hundred of Barnstaple [sic], and is quite separate from the several parishes in those respects.”9 William White's generally well-informed Directory of 1848 echoed Wright in calling the List a “peculiar jurisdiction”, and equated its limits with the extent of the manorial estate. “The manor of Bawdes extends into the parish of Kelvedon-Hatch, Doddinghurst, and Shenfield, and formed a separate constable-wick, called Doddinghurst List.”10 Both chroniclers seem to have confused the actual limits of the Bawds/Downsells estate in the early nineteenth century with the manorial extent and precise area of the List: there is certainly no evidence that the List extended into Shenfield, while its relationship with Kelvedon Hatch was at most marginal. Essentially, the Doddinghurst List was a tract of land which came under South Weald for parochial administration but belonged to Barstable Hundred for the purposes of law and order. However, incisive historical detective work by Gladys A. Ward placed the manor in a broader context and so provides a probable explanation of the origin of the anomaly.

Ward noted that Ralph Bawd, in 1483, held not only this manor, but that of Corringham, on the Thames marshes about eleven miles to the south-east. Furthermore, an earlier record, not known to Morant, showed William Bawd holding Corringham and Downsells in 1331, and the connection could be back-projected to Simon Bawd in 1166.11 The manor of Corringham was the property of the Bishop of London, and was so recorded in Domesday Book.12 Morant noted that Ralph Bawd held Downsells as tenant of the Bishop of London, a fact that puzzled him. “How the Bishop of London came by any Lordship here will be difficult to account for”.13 Ward's solution was elegant and persuasive: Downsells “may have originated as a detached part of the manor of Corringham,”14 a theory that would account for absence of separate recording through the Middle Ages. Although Ward did not make the point explicit, there seems to have been some pattern of transhumance in medieval south Essex cattle farming, with animals being grazed on marshland pastures in warmer weather, but to drier upland areas, possibly waste or common land, in winter.15

The postulated linkage of Downsells with Corringham, under the ownership of the Bishop of London, probably provides the key to the origins of the Doddinghurst List. The diocesan bishop was the ultimate arbiter of the allocation of tithes, most notably his own. In enforcing their interests, bishops had no problems in accepting territorial anomalies. Orsett Hamlet, near Stock, formed a distant outlier of the bishop's manor of Orsett, thirteen miles to the south: in 1848, its 45 inhabitants still paid a tithe charge of £16 a year to Orsett.16 Another of the bishop's manors, Little Warley, retained a 96-acre marshland outlier near Corringham until 1882.17 Between 1244 and 1254, the bishop of London licensed Waltham Abbey, which owned the main manor at South Weald, to appropriate the rectory, but at the same time ordained a vicarage. In 1275, the bishop explicitly reserved the advowson -- the right to appoint the vicar -- to his see.18 It may well have been at that time that the tithes of Downsells were transferred to South Weald.  Convenience of worshippers was no doubt a minor concern, but Doddinghurst church was as distant from Downsells as the parish church of South Weald. Perhaps of more influence with the bishop was the fact that it was attached to a manor of the De Vere family, into whose coffers the diocesan would have no reason to pour one tenth of his tenants' produce.19

In mediaeval terms, the arrangement, if unusual, was relatively straightforward. The List paid its manorial dues to Corringham, through the joint tenancy of Downsells by the Bawd family.20 It paid its tithes to the bishop's appointee, the vicar of South Weald, and its inhabitants were presumably regarded as parishioners there.21 Law and order reporting to the courts was organised by hundreds, so the List shared its constables with Doddinghurst as part of Barstable. The reported dispute over jurisdiction in 1565 was probably a by-product of the mid-Tudor shift towards using the parish as an administrative unit, which produced the 1555 Highways Act and the first Elizabethan Poor Law in 1563. In 1801, the first census reported that the 4,639-acre parish of South Weald had a population of 881.22 Since this included hamlets at Brook Street and Coxtie Green, as well as the village centre, the 400-odd acres of the List probably accounted for fewer people than the ten percent of total population which its area would suggest. It is not surprising that a few dozen people rejected the burden of choosing their own constable and, according to Wright in 1836, paid its rates to Doddinghurst instead.

Although he noted only the 1566 example and Morant's comment of 1768, P.H. Reaney in The Place-Names of Essex thought it “clear” that List was used to mean “bound or boundary”.23 Reaney's opinion is always authoritative and, so far as it goes, also persuasive, but it does not answer all questions. For a start, there was a well-established term, mearc, which denoted a boundary and was used in at least ten Essex placenames, variants of “Marks”. Reaney generally explained these as the former homes of men called “de Merc”, but since mediaeval surnames were often derived from location, this is a circular process. In three instances, he acknowledged that the places were located on boundaries.24 A fortified mansion, Marks, on the Romford-Dagenham boundary, seems to have straddled the two parishes until 1465,25 and was barely six miles from the Doddinghurst List. While some of the examples of Marks can be traced back to pre-Conquest sources, its use as a surname in the thirteenth century suggests that its meaning was still understood. If the Doddinghurst List did indeed originate in that era, then the choice of a word that does not appear to have been used elsewhere, at least in Essex, must be interpreted as conveying some specific connotation.  The Oxford English Dictionary provides some clues.26

One attractive explanation must be reluctantly ruled out. It might seem pleasant to associate the Doddinghurst List with the list of a ship, a term denoting the “leaning over” of South Weald into Doddinghurst, thus tracing an early common origin  with what became narrowed to a nautical term. Unfortunately, the Oxford English Dictionary reveals that the maritime word was “lust” in the seventeenth century, with the earliest traced example of the laundered “list” dating only from 1836 -- a warning against intellectual investment in what might seem a plausible but ultimately unfounded hypothesis. A more likely elucidation comes from a well-established but obsolete meaning of “list” as a “border, hem or bordering strip”, examples of which the Oxford English Dictionary cites from mediaeval legislation. In his 1513 translation of Virgil's Aeniad, the Scotsman Gavin Douglas used “sabyll list” to indicate the black border of a cloak, while Shakespeare used the same word (his example was “red and blew”) in the Taming of the Shrew a century later. The Oxford English Dictionary cites eleven instances of the use of the word to indicate a boundary, the last of them, in 1644, by the Romford-born poet Francis Quarles who later lived at Roxwell, near Chelmsford: he could well have been familiar with the Doddinghurst List. “List” could also have a transferred territorial meaning, indicating a zone rather than a mere borderline: Giles Fletcher, who led an English trade mission to Russia in 1588, published a book about the country three years later in which he referred to “the very farthest part and list of Europe, bordering vpon [sic] Asia.”27 Hooker, in his 1597 Ecclesiasticall Politie, used the word in a figurative sense, describing the Apocrypha as “a list or marginall border vnto  [sic] the olde Testament.” These usages variously convey the sense of a hem, a frontier and a buffer zone. It is misleading to imagine that mediaeval people thought in cartographic terms, but it may be worth noting that the Doddinghurst List ran for about a mile and a half along the Brentwood-Ongar road but was only just only half a mile in width at its broadest extent. It would have been easy enough for South Weald people to think of it in terms of tassels along the bottom of a coat. (An alternative, but apparently rare use of “list” denoted a flank of pork, which also might be applied by extension to a slice of territory but, again, the image would perhaps come most readily to an observer studying the ground on a map.) Each of these various nuances might imply a slightly different meaning from “mearc” or Marks. It is possible, too, that the notion of a hem or buffer conveyed something similar to the modern, and admittedly more portentous, political science term, “condominium”. It is worth underscoring that although the List was firmly part of South Weald for parochial purposes, it was often referred to as the Doddinghurst List, acknowledging some residual relationship with what was probably its original jurisdiction.

At almost exactly the moment when Thomas Wright memorialised the Doddinghurst List and White's Directory splendidly characterised it as a “constable-wick,” its practical existence was coming to an end. In 1835, the New Poor Law incorporated both South Weald and Doddinghurst into the Billericay Union, while the establishment of the Essex Police in 1840 heralded the replacement of the parish constable by the village bobby. A directory of 1865 noted that Doddinghurst “contains the hamlet of Doddinghurst List,” evidence that the anomaly was by then recalled only in muddled terms.28 Later nineteenth-century directories apparently do not mention it all.29 It may seemsad that such an unusual anomaly with so distinctive a name should have totally vanished from maps and communal memory, but its resurrection in the twenty-first century would require too much explanation and risk too many misunderstandings to be worthwhile. Nonetheless, the Doddinghurst List is worth remembering as a historical mystery and linguistic puzzle.


i A further complication was the extension of the List, reported by some observers (e.g. Philip Morant, note 3), into the parish of Kelvedon Hatch, which lay to the north and formed part of Ongar Hundred. Whereas it seems clear that the Doddinghurst portion had been absorbed at an early stage into South Weald for ecclesiastical purposes, the parochial status of what can only have been a small area in Kelvedon Hatch remains unclear. It is possible that there was confusion between the List and the extent of manorial demesne.

2 Victoria County History of Essex, viii (1983), p. 75. The South Weald entry was by Gladys A. Ward, who also mentioned elsewhere that the Doddinghurst List “sometimes” elected its own officials. Gladys A. Ward, A History of South Weald and Brentwood [Brentwood, 1961], p. 26.

3 P. Morant, The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex, i (London, 1768), p. 192.

4 Ibid., i, p. xviii.

5 Ibid, i, p. 192.

6 More precise areas could be calculated from the South Weald tithe map of 1838, in W. Wilford and A. Radford, recorders, The Place-Names of South Weald (including Brentwood) (Essex Place-Names Project, 2008 /2010). An estimate by eye of the map in Victoria County History of Essex, viii (1983), p. 76 suggests that the area was closer to 500 acres.

7 P.H. Reaney, The Place-Names of Essex (Cambridge, 1935), p. 137.

8 Victoria County History of Essex, viii (1983), pp. 81-82, mainly following Morant.

9 Thomas Wright, The History and Topography of the County of Essex (2 vols, London, 1836),  ii, pp. 535-6, esp. 536n.

10 W. White, History, Gazetteer, and Directory of the County of Essex (Sheffield, 1848), pp. 550, 196.

11 Victoria County History of Essex, viii (1983), p. 82.

12 Morant, i. p. 241.

13 Morant, i, p. 121.

14 Victoria County History of Essex, viii (1983), p. 82.

15 The silent inclusion of Downsells in the Corringham entry in Domesday Book might explain how there could be woodland for 300 pigs (a remarkable extent for a marshland estate) but only ten pigs actually kept. A. Rumble,  ed., Domesday Book: Essex (Chichester, 1983), section 4.

16 White, History, Gazetteer, and Directory of the County of Essex, p. 561.

17 Victoria County History of Essex, vii (1978), p. 174.

18 Victoria County History of Essex, viii (1983), p. 74.

19 Morant, i, pp. 191-2.

20 Corringham also formed part of the very large Barstable Hundred.

21 The South Weald tithe apportionment in 1839 divided the parish into two districts, one allocated to the lords of the manor of South Weald, the Tower family, successors to Waltham Abbey, and the other to the vicar, which included the area east of the Brentwood-Ongar road. This may have reflected an earlier arrangement. Victoria County History of Essex, viii (1983), p. 87.

22 Victoria County History of Essex, viii (1983), p. 75. Brentwood was counted separately in the census.

23 Reaney, The Place-Names of Essex, p. 137.

24 Reaney, The Place-Names of Essex, pp. 118-19, 230, 396.

25 Victoria County History of Essex, v (1966), pp. 267-81.

26 The Oxford English Dictionary was consulted online on 3 December 2015.

27 Fletcher's father was vicar of Bishop's Stortford.

28 The unidentified directory is transcribed in P. Kurton, ed., Doddinghurst: A Place in the Country (Doddinghurst, 1999), p. 18.

29 Morant defended the surname “Bawd” against the charge of “lewdness”, but the Victorians amended the name to “Beads”. The manor house was demolished sometime between 1819 and 1834, but Beads Hall Lane remains. Morant, i, 241; Victoria County History of Essex, viii, p. 82 and cf. p. 78.

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