THE VILLAGE OF BELCHAMP WALTER
Very little has been written about the history of Belchamp Walter, archaeological finds have been made in the church indicating a Roman presence, this is not surprising due to the nearness of Hill Farm , Gestingthorpe, where there is evidence of a significant Roman site. Like many places in England the earliest written history of the village appears in the Doomsday Book
The name of Belchamp according to P.H. Reaney’s Placenames of Essex states that in this instance it is of Anglo-Saxon rather than the more common French origin, possibly derived from a now lost Old English word Bylc,(“a lump or load”) hence it is thought that that Bylc was the name given to the ridge that runs between Belchamp Walter and Belchamp St Paul. It is clear that originally the second element was ham (“a settlement”). He cites the earliest example as circa 940, which he takes from Birch’s Cartularium Saxonicum, (1885-1893). The Doomsday Book of 1086 uses the form Belcham. The name Walter is supposed to derive from Walter de Tey, a descendant of William de Beuchamp. Belchamp Walter has also been called Great Belchamp to distinguish it from Belchamp Otten (or Little Belchamp). The Rev’d Phillip Morant in his History and Antiquities of the County of Essex, 1768, Vol 2, p 329, states that Belchamp Walter was also “otherwise called Belchamp Simon, and Belchamp William, from its old owners Simon and William de Beuchamp. In a register of The Court Baron dated 1718 it is stated as in “The Manor of Water Belchamp otherwise Belchamp William.” The name Water Belchamp or Belchamp Water appears to have been in common use at this time through to the early 20th century.
The Rev’d Morant goes on to say that “it had belonged, in Edward the Confessor’s reign (1003-1066), to Uluuin…but at the general survey [i.e. Domesday,1086], it was one of the lordships holden by Alberic[alias Aubrey] de Vere, ancestor of the great Earls of Oxford. The church belonged to the de Veres until they gave it to the Priory of Earls Colne; who received the great tithes appropriate to their house, and a Vicarage ordained and endowed, of which they continued patron till their suppression”.
The following is the entry for Belchamp Walter in the Domesday Book:-
Half Hundret of ‘THUNRESLAU (THUNDERLOW)’
BELCAMP[Belchamp (Walter)], which was held by Ulwin’ as a manor and as 2½ hides in King Edward’s time. Is held by A[ubrey] in demesne. Then as now (temper) 4 ploughs (on the demesne), and 7 men’s ploughs belonging to the men..
Then and afterwards 13 villiens; now 15; then and afterwards 9 bordars now 14; then and later 6 serfs, now 8.
(There is) wood (land) for 20 swine; 60 acres of meadow, and now 11 arpent (arpenni)s of vineyards, (of which)1 is in bearing (portat). Then 24 beasts (animalia), 160 sheep, 80 swine, (and) 2 rounnceys (runcini); now 28 cattle, 200 sheep, 100 swine, 2 rounceys.
To this manor belong now as then (adjacent simper) 7 sokemen with (de) 1½ hides and 15 acres; then as now (simper) 3½ ploughs were there; 4 bordars (are there) now; (there are).
10 ½ acres of meadow..
Then and afterwards it was worth 14 pounds; now 18. Of this manor, Enisant holds of A[ubrey] half a hide and 30 acres, William Peche (peccatum) half a hide; Suad’30 acres; and these holdings are worth 4 pounds in the above valuation (in endem pretio).
As noted above Belchamp Walter had 11 acres of vineyards, at this time this was the second largest vineyard in England, its location is not known but the logical place would be on the south facing slopes north of the church..
Of its early history we know the following; At the time of the Doomsday, it is noted that the estate was owned by Aubrey de Veres who won a reputation of courage and leadership in the field of battle. The Belchamp Walter manor passed from Aubrey de Veres to his daughter, Roese, who for a second husband chose Peganus de Beauchamp, Baron of Bedford, member of a family which possessed extensive estates. Their grandson Simon de Beauchamp steward to the household of King Stephen, was a fighting man of not, but on the death of his liege Simon took arms against Henry 2nd, because of which he suffered amongst other punishments the demolition of his castle at Bedford.
In 1278 the various de Beauchamp properties were divided between several heiresses of the line, and, afterwards the Belchamp Walter estate came into possession of Sir John de Botetourt of Mendlesham in Suffolk, whose wife was one of those heiresses, and it was this Sir John who is probably buried in the canopied chapel in the church. Various changes in ownership occurred after this but towards the end of the 15th century the manor was acquired by Sir Roger Wentworth, whose family seat was at Coldham Hall or Codham Hall as it was after called – in Wethersfield, Belchamp Walter Manor remained in the possession of this influential family for a good number of years, the last member Wentworths to hold the estate being Sir John who was created baronet when James 1st was King. In 1611 the manor was purchased by John Raymond, whose ancestors came from a village so called in Kent, but whose name was well known in Essex and Suffolk. The successor to John Raymond was his son Oliver, who represented Essex in Parliament after Cromwell had seized the reins of power. And as a domestic interlude the lady Oliver Raymond chose for his wife – she was the daughter of Sir William Harris of Margaretting – created something of a record in that she presented her husband with no less than twenty one children. And so to day almost 400 years the Raymond family still occupy the current Belchamp Hall.
In addition to Belchamp Hall the village in the early part of the last millennium supported two other manors, St Mary Hall is La Marie Halle 13th AD, the church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, sometime called Merry Hall. and Eyston Hall. is Eston 1199, Eston Belcham 1231, Eston(e) Halle 1321, Easton-Hall 1768. To this day like Belchamp Hall these are still in existence and occupied all being rebuilt during the intervening period. In addition to the above there are recorded the following farms;
Seven Farms (local) is Seven Formes 1777, this is where the brook crosses the road from Belchamp Walter to Borley through a brick culverts. Formerly there was a washway which in flood-time had to be crossed by pedestrians over seven plank stools or forms.
Clark’s Farm, Largess Farm, Larretts Farm and Puttock End are probably to be associated with the families of Richard le Clerk (1265), Andrew Large (1319), Richard Lariot (1503 deed) and Peter Puttok (1255)
Crows Farm and Fishers Farm are Crows and Fishers (1777) and Hopkins Farm is Hopkins (1768), and Waits Farm is Wights.
The main industry during this period was devoted to agriculture, although in the 19th century the village developed a strong cottage industry devoted to Straw Platting. It was during this time that the artist George Washington Brownlow lived in the village at “Lodge Villa” a cottage next to the then new village school which opened in 1762, four years before Brownlow died.
The village at one time had at least two public houses, the Eight Bells which was first licensed in 1786 the publican being an Edward Digby this reverted to a private dwelling in 1991. There was also an alehouse on Chapel Hill named the Prince of Wales, on the 21st December 1907 the Halstead times reported that it had relinquished its license.
THE VILLAGE SCHOOLS & VILLAGE HALL
The old school which preceded the new school was opened in the eighteen thirties, but by 1870 it was to small for the then growing population, its exact location in the village is in some doubt but is strongly felt to be the house on Bells Road which bears the name of The Old Schoolhouse.
According to the records, the Old School Building was only 28’ long x 15’ broad x 12’ high, or 5040 cubic feet. In the old wording – this gave “Breathing Space for 63 scholars at 80 cubic feet each. The new school was 70’ x 55’x 18’ high.
The architect of the new school was a Woolmer Robert Firmin who lived in the village at “Fishers Farm” Three tenders were submitted for the building of the new school two were around £595 and the accepted tender was from Clement Theobald of Melford for £550. A Conveyance Deed dated 25th September 1871 was enrolled in H.M. High Court of Chancery on the 5th October 1871.
Thus the site was conveyed by the Rev’d John Mayne St Clere Raymond to “The Minister and Church Wardens” and was signed sealed and delivered by the Rev’d Raymond, Oliver Raymond, Robert Firmin and Charles Adams, in the presence of George M. Andrews solicitor of Sudbury.
Work started on the school before the end of the year, the foundation stone being laid by Mrs. St. Clere Raymond, the mallet and trowel which were presented to her have been preserved by the Raymond family.
The accounts of building show that the overall cost was £735 7s 3p which was raised by donations of £256, sale of old school £30, grants from various source s £268 and the balance of approx. £181 being paid by the Rev’d Raymond. The school was opened on the 22nd August 1872, under a Head Mistress and 106 children, the population of the village at that time being , 708 persons, of whom 170 families were members of the Church of England School..
After threats of closure extending over 10 years it was finally closed in 1963 at which time there were less than 10 children in attendance. The land and property then reverted back to the “Raymond Family” who put the same in Trust to the village for use as a Village Hall