Felix Hall Kelvedon Essex

After the Norman Conquest in 1066 the Saxon thane, Gudmund, gave way to Hugh de Montfort whose under-tenant was William son of Grosse.

At the taking down of the Domesday Survey in 1085 this estate was held for a manor and three and a half hides (420 acres) of arable. There were two teams in the demesne and one between the nine villeins. There were five bordars and three serfs; wood for 50 swine, 25 acres of meadow, a mill, two horses and 140 sheep.

It is believed that this Manor then included that of Bradwell, near Coggeshall, which was held of Filliols Hall until 1375.

Soon after the Conquest it was held by the Filliol family whose name appears on the Roll of Battle Abbey in Sussex. 'They came with the Conqueror'. Meaning godson it is often said that the original Filliol was either a bastard child or godson of William I. This however is not likely. The family was established near Argentan in France, a branch was living for many centuries in the Channel Islands and several branches formed in England. There were Filliols in Kelvedon long after the Manor had left their hands through a female heiress.

According to the Pipe Rolls, Baldwin Filliol held three knight's fees in Kelvedon in 1206 and in 1216, the first year of the reign of King Henry III. As a result of a series of marriages the family collected other Manors or lands in Coggeshall, Feering, Great Braxted, Inworth, Messing, Bradwell, Eastthorpe, Copford, Great Briche, Tolleshunt Tregoz, Tolleshunt Knights, Terling, Baddow, Bergholt, Little Oakley and Boreham.

The Filliols were likely to have been rarely in Kelvedon fog they were constantly engaged, during the 13th and 14th centuries, in fighting against the French, the Scots or the Welsh. In 1346 the Manor passed to Sir John de Bohun of Midhurst, Sussex, through his marriage to Cecily Filliol. It passed 200 years later, again by marriage, to Sir Robert Southwell who died childless. In 1539 King Henry VIII gave it to the Long family after which it went, through marriage, to Sir William Russell, later Baron Thornhaugh, who sold it to Sir Thomas Cecil, younger son of the Earl of Exeter. It was resold in 1630 to Anthony Abdy, an eminent merchant of London — though of Yorkshire origins — whose three sons became baronets. The eldest, Sir Thomas Abdy of Felix (Filliols) Hall died in 1685, his son Sir Anthony in 1704 and Sir Anthony II (grandson) in 1733, whose daughter Charlotte married in 1744 John Williams, Esq., of Tendring Hall. John sold it in 1761 to Daniel Mathews, Esq. After other owners, it was bought in 1796 by Charles Callis Western, Esq., of Rivenhall, (later to be Lord Western), whose ancestors had been successful iron merchants in London.

The Extent of the Manor

By this time the territories held by the Filliols, De Bohuns and Abdys had diminished considerably. In Kelvedon itself the demesne land included the area of Felix Park as far as Upney Wood and Holdshotts (or Allshots) Farm, the present Monks Farm and Park Farm. Also on the rent-roll, some of them freehold, were the old Angel Inn, Strutts, a house opposite the bottom of Rowley Lane, a tenement and shop north-east of Dowches (probably Shepherds, etc.), a tenement called Gages (now the White House and Gages), and a house called Strogulls with orchard opposite the old Star and Fleece. Then there was a house (now Chambers, Gables, Dormers etc.) with a 20-acre farm behind it going down to the river; finally, the area round Grey's Mill, Bridgefoot Farm, and, further away, the present Hole Farm, formerly the Moors.

The Survey of 1636

An abstract from the Survey of the Manor of Felix Hall taken in 1636 shows the demesne land to have been apportioned as follows:

1. Sir Anthony Abdy Bt. (who had recently purchased the Manor). 76 acres with 124 acres of woodland and five acres of meadow. Potal: 205 acres.

2. John Roughton. A tenement with yard, and five acres in Longcroft, Great Haywards and Little Haywards. Total: 76 acres.

3. William Henry. A dwelling house, and 14 crofts including Harding Hills near Upney Wood, Hallfield, Poundfieid and Molehill.Total: 260 acres.

4. Thomas Fishpoole. A house, and 12 crofts including Barnfield, Fanners, Upper and Lower Holdshots and Poundfield. Total: 74 acres.

5. William Webb. A house, and 7 crofts and a piece of arable called the Park. Total: 39 acres.

6. John Yeoman. A piece of arabic near Thos. George, ditto near Rockpitt, a piece of meadow called Hogg meadow and other crofts. Total: 73 acres.

7. Mr. Bridgewood. A piece of arable called Rockpitt, and ditto called Bundocksfield. Total: 72 acres.

8. Thomas George. A cottage with 1 acre.

9. Robert Goswell. The sign of the Angel and meadow. Total in demesne: 750 acres.

The Sale of 1784

When Daniel Mathews's estate was sold to Samuel Tyson, Esq. in 1784 pursuant to a decree in the Court of Chancery the acreage was just over 1,400 including Coggeshall Hall, Scrips and Highfield Farms. The Manor house stood in 13 and a half acres of ground surrounded by 163 acres of parkland; there were 103 acres of woodland, presumably Upneys. The park was well stocked with deer.

The farms included:


Monks: in possession of John Grimwood — rent £90, 154 acres

Porters: Susan Martham — rent £80, 138 acres

Holdshots: William Ardley — rent £53, 117 acres

Halls (in Bradwell): Thomas Ardley — rent £26, 34 acres

Parjc: John Martham — rent £110, 154 acres

Coggeshall Hall: Thomas Willsher — rent £150, 221 acres

Scrips: Habbakuk Layman — rent £185, 264 acres

Highfields: John Hughes — rent £60, 98 acres.

Encroachment into the Manor of Church Hall

In 1839 the then owner, Lord Western, had a survey made of the estate. Largely as a result of the sale of the lease of Church Hall Manor by the executors of Sir Robert Bernard in 1802, the acreage had increased to about 2,250. The estate now included Church Hall and Clarks Farms, and Leapingwells with Marylands. Also shown are Bridgefoot and Watering Farms, the latter being where the railway station now stands.

The acreage of the farms was then as follows:

Coggeshall Hall: 223 acres (partly in Feering)

Watering Farm: 144 acres (including six fields between

Bridgefoot and Highfields)

Park: 154 acres

Monks: 129 acres

Porters: 126 acres

Holdshots: 142 acres

Felix Hall: 337 acres (including Thompsons and Upney Wood 107 acres)

Clarks: 147 acres (plus Wren Park six acres)

Leapingwells: 200 acres

Church Hall: 169 acres

Bridgefoot: 92 acres

Scrips: 272 acres (partly in Coggeshall).





Felix Hall - Photo taken 1990






The Hall has had a line of illustrious owners in the past though it is doubtful whether any of them seriously lived there until the Abdys in the 18th century; they had too many other estates or were, like the Filliols and de Bohuns, frequently fighting in the innumerable wars in which medieval kings indulged. But beds there were, for one of the de Bohuns left a feather one to his son which 'lay in Filliols Hall'; and in 1561, for instance, Queen Elizabeth I on one of her many Progresses spent two days at Ingatestone Hall, four at New Hall and two at Felix Hall, her hostess probably being the widow of Sir John Long to whom Henry VIII had given the Manor in 1539.

The Long's daughter, Elisabeth, eventually brought it to Sir William Russell, later Lord Thornhaugh, and it was he who ordered an Estate Map of all his demesnes to be made in 1605. This is now in the record office at Chelmsford. At that time the house, ·with its stable, hog and barn yards, with its orchard, wauen and surrounding land was occupied and farmed by a Mr. Gardiner.

For a queen to have slept there the house must have been of some considerable size — but it is believed that it was pulled clown by Sir Anthony Abdy about 1710, being rebuilt in the new style of classical architecture. The size of the house was doubled, if not trebled, after 1750 by Sir Anthony's son-in-law, John Williams, Esq., who added wings at both ends as well as a kitchen wing (now the Orangery) at a cost of £4,000.

In 1796 the Hall was purchased by Charles Callis Western, Esq. (later Lord Western of Rivenhall) who superimposed a mark of Italian Renaissance. It now became one of the showpieces of Essex with a rich classical interior and an Italian pleasure garden.

In 1838 an enthusiastic and romantically minded observer wrote:

Passing through a plantation of laurels and other evergreens the mansion bursts upon the sight standing on gently rising ground, and surrounded with an extensive park which is always thrown open by the noble owner to amateurs of the fine old English game of cricket, where the poor may be seen mingling with the peasant, and the gentleman contending with the active villager.

In the lower ground we observed a beautiful head of Devon cows — certainly the most ornamental breed of cattle to grace the fine lawns on which they graze — and on the upper, Lord Western '.c celebrated flock of Merino sheep, the surplus annual produce of which has for a long time past been carried to the supply of our Australian Colonies.

The original supply of Merino sheep had been a present from the King of Spain to George III who had given three to Lord Western, three to the Earl of Leicester (Coke of Holkham), and three to some other noble lord who, like the other two, was a keen experimentalist in the agricultural field.

On the death of Lord Western in 1844, the estates were inherited by a distant cousin, Thomas Burch Western, who was created a baronet in 1864. In 1871 he owned 7,875 acres in Essex with a gross income of £10,839, perhaps £50,000 in contemporary values. In the same year his grandson, Charles Callis Western, came of age for which a vast quantity of beer was provided for the village; so much, indeed, that many inhabitants were unable to enjoy the fireworks with which the day was concluded. Two triumphal arches spanned the Street bearing the words 'Floreat Domus Western'; one in the High Street near Dr. Varenne's house — now Sunnyside — and the other at the end of Church Street fastened to Mr. Wiseman 's school — now the Convent. Thanks to the interest of Sir Thomas in photography — then in its infancy — we still have a set of plates depicting the village as it then was.

His son, Sir Thomas Sutton Western, succeeded in 1873 only to die four years later. The heir was his son, Sir Charles Callis Western — the boy in whose honour the beer had been distributed — who made a mésalliance, behaved oddly in many ways and was finally kept under restraint in Sussex until his death in 1912. The house, meanwhile, was let to one family after another, firstly to Lord and Lady Petre who used the kitchen wing as a Catholic chapel, then to Skinners, Crowleys and Ellingtons. Next in rotation came the Colvins who used it as hunting box, he being Master of the East Essex Foxhounds. Then came Sir Henry Edward, an Equerry of Queen Victoria, who had the royal carriage horses turned out in the Park.

After the death of Sir Charles Western, the Hall was inherited by Mrs. Wrightson, Sir Charles's niece — but by this time the / estate had been sold up leaving only the house and Park.

Sir Gerald Talbot bought it in 1923, Captain Jackson in 1925 and Mr. Geoffrey Houghton Brown in 1939. Not intending to live in a mansion with 56 rooms, Mr. Houghton Brown's first action was to pull down the two ends of the Hall, thus restoring it to its 1715 proportions. The kitchen block was converted into a separate house (now the Orangery), and after the outbreak of the Second World War work was started on the conversion of the old stable block into what is now the Clock House.

In 1940, when the owner was away, the main building caught fire shortly after some workmen had been in to thaw some frozen pipes, the new Orangery being, however, quite untouched. Mr. Houghton Brown managed to get the ruins partly roofed in again in 1941, and sold the property in 1947, although retaining the Lordship of the Manor of Felix Hall with its records going back to 1430.

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