Defending Essex from Napoleon: the fortifications at Moulsham

Yesterday I wrote about the final days of Moulsham Hall, before the Mildmay family relocated to their new home at Dogmersfield, Hampshire. I noted that in 1807 Sir Henry St John Paulet Mildmay, the last owner of Moulsham Hall before it was sold off and demolished, complained in Parliament about the amount of compensation he was receiving as a result of the fortifications that had been constructed on his estate, in response to the threat of invasion by Napoleon.

Sir Henry Paulet St John Mildmay

Sir Henry Paulet St John Mildmay

I’ve since confirmed that these fortifications were part of the earthworks thrown up to defend London’s north-eastern approaches during the invasion scare of 1803-5. According to one source, these extensive works linked forts at Widford and Galleywood and ‘were constructed on the ridge south of Moulsham’. Although they were demolished in 1813, traces of the earthworks can still be seen on Chelmsford golf course and on Galleywood Common, spanning Margaretting Road. By late 1804, says another source, ‘the county town had been turned into a giant barracks.’

What one writer describes as the ‘entrenched camp’ to the south of Moulsham could hold as many as 15,000 men and over 200 guns. No wonder, one might think, that Mildmay believed his outdoor property had become ‘endangered’ and his family felt ‘alarmed’.

Section of Ordnance Survey map (1888-1913), via maps.nls.uk

Section of Ordnance Survey map (1888-1913), via maps.nls.uk

The Six Inch Ordnance map of 1888-1913 shows ‘batteries (disused)’ close to the Chelmsford Union Workhouse in Wood Street, the site that would later become St John’s Hospital, and also on land nearby that would eventually form part of the golf course (see image above). I assume the earthworks then traced a line to the south of Wood Street and to the west of Galleywood Road, until they reached the Margaretting Road at Galleywood Common. (Were those steep slopes at the top of the Common, up and down which we rode our bikes when we were young, the last traces of the earthworks?)

Surviving Napoleonic earthworks at Danbury (via geograph.org.uk)

Surviving Napoleonic earthworks at Danbury (via geograph.org.uk)

If this is the case, then one is tempted to conclude that Sir Henry Paulet St John Mildmay was guilty of a degree of exaggeration when he claimed that the military works were constructed within 400 yards of his home. By my estimation, it was just under a mile from Moulsham Hall to the top end of Wood Street. At the same time, we need to remember that there would have been nothing but parkland and open fields between the Hall and the line of earthworks being constructed, making them very visible from the house. If, as Mildmay claimed, there were up to 1500 men working on the fortifications, with all the associated noise and disruption, then it must all have seemed very close to home. No wonder he wanted to withdraw to the relative peace of Dogmersfield, and was reluctant to return when the threat of invasion had passed, especially after Moulsham Hall itself had been leased to the army, with who knows what impact on its elegant architecture.

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Posted in 19th century Moulsham, Dogmersfield, Mildmay family, Moulsham Hall | Leave a comment

The Mildmays: from Moulsham to Dogmersfield

In an earlier post I wrote about Benjamin Mildmay, Earl Fitzwalter, who inherited the manor of Moulsham in 1728 and proceeded to pull down his ancestor’s Tudor hall and replace it with a grand Palladian mansion, designed by the Italian architect Giacomo Leoni.  Earl Fitzwalter died in 1756, leaving no children, so the ownership of the Moulsham estate passed to his cousin Sir William Mildmay, who belonged to the Springfield Barnes branch of the family.

William was created a baron in 1765 and was Sheriff of Essex in the same year. As Sir Henry Mildmay notes in his 1907 memoir of the family, William is the only Mildmay to have left any printed works, being the author of a number of texts that include accounts of his travels in England, Scotland, France and Italy. Sir William died in 1771 at Bath, where he had travelled ‘for the recovery of his health’. Like Benjamin Mildmay, he died without issue and thus his branch of the family became extinct.

William had married his cousin Anne, the daughter of Humphrey Mildmay of Shawford , Hampshire, and on his death she inherited all of his Essex properties, including Moulsham. Anne died in 1795 and her estates passed to her relative Jane, daughter of Carew Mildmay, also of Shawford. In 1786 Jane Mildmay had married Sir Henry Paulet St John, Bart., of Dogmersfield, Hampshire, who in 1790 took the name and arms of Mildmay by royal warrant, the family being known from that time as St. John Mildmay.

Sir Henry Paulet St John Mildmay (via wikigallery.org)

Sir Henry Paulet St John Mildmay (via wikigallery.org)

Sir Henry Paulet St John Mildmay was a Member of Parliament and was said to be ‘a clear and logical speaker’. Apparently there was a condition requiring his residence at Moulsham for three months in every year. However, in 1807 he explained to Parliament that four years earlier it had been found necessary to throw up military works within 400 yards of his house (i.e. Moulsham Hall). This was during the Napoleonic wars, when the threat of invasion was at its height. According to Sir Henry Mildmay’s memoir:

The works were commenced, and what with the multitudes employed on them, amounting to 1500 men, and the numbers brought to that part of Essex by the fear of invasion, which then prevailed, the neighbourhood assumed the appearance of an entrenched camp, all his outdoor property became endangered, his family alarmed, and he himself so inconvenienced that he obtained from Government relief by Act from the necessity of residing there, and compensation to be given him for the house and twenty acres of pleasure grounds at the rate of £400 a year.

The baronet went on to explain to Parliament ‘that about eighty years previously, the house had cost £70,000 in building; there were over fourteen rooms on a floor, one being sixty feet long; it was expensively furnished; the estate was worth £11,000 a year; and he would like to know what gentleman would think £400 a year compensation for being turned out of such a place.’ Apparently Sir Henry Paulet St John Mildmay eventually received £1300 for one year, and £600 for subsequent years, ‘as long as the land was occupied by His Majesty’.

Moulsham Hall in 1776, as rebuilt by Benjamin Mildmay, Earl Fitzwalter

Moulsham Hall in 1776

This account is interesting in the detail it provides of Moulsham Hall’s grand scale, and the extent of its parkland or ‘pleasure grounds’, 20 acres equating to a little less than 10,000 square yards. We also get a vivid image of the disruption caused by the wartime fortifications. I wonder where the fortifications were that Sir Henry describes? We know there were barracks in what is now Wood Street. Perhaps the ‘military works’ were on the top of the hill overlooking Moulsham Hall, possibly where Wood Street meets what is now Galleywood Road? According to the same memoir, the works were ‘thrown up as part of the Chelmsford lines by J.T.Jones, later a Major-General, and builder of the famous earthworks at Torres Vedras’. (The Lines of Torres Vedras were fortifications ordered by Wellington and built in secrecy in 1809-10 to defend Lisbon against French forces during the Peninsular War.)

The military takeover proved to be the undoing of Moulsham Hall and it was never occupied again. As we know, the house was sold and then demolished in 1816. According to the memoir, in 1907 the stone Fitzwalter coat of arms from the pediment of the Hall could be found ‘fixed in the wall of a motor garage at Brentford, owned by Messrs. Johnson.’ Apparently it was 12 feet long and 6 feet high, but the crest was missing. How it ended up in that location, or if it’s still there, is not known.

We learn from the memoir that most of the paintings from Moulsham Hall were removed to the Mildmays’ other house at Dogmersfield in Hampshire, ‘and the red cloth hangings with large wide chairs en suite from the state bedroom are now [1907] in the drawing-room of that house’. Not only that, but we know that many of the Mildmay family records were also taken to Dogmersfield, where they would remain until they were eventually donated to the Essex county archives.

Dogmersfield House and park

Dogmersfield House and park

Dogmersfield was a manor house with a history that in some ways parallels that of Moulsham Hall. Like Moulsham, it was rebuilt in the early decades of the 18th century, by its then owner Ellis St. John, albeit on a slightly grander scale (the image above shows that Dogmersfield consisted of three storeys compared to Moulsham’s two). I’m not sure when the Mildmay family sold the house, but it was used as a school in the early 20th century and later became the novitiate and house of studies for the Catholic De La Salle Brothers. After that it was sold to the Vallance family, the owners of Daneshill School, which relocated from its previous home in Old Basing. The property was later sold on to an investor who had the intention of opening a health farm; however this never happened owing to a devastating fire that took place in 1981.

After changing hands a few more times, Dogmersfield House eventually re-opened as the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire. Coincidentally, I stayed there with my family a few years ago, completely unaware at the time of its connection to the Mildmay family. When I began to study the history of Moulsham Hall, and particularly Earl Fitzwalter’s rebuilding of the house in the 18th century, it occurred to me that Dogmersfield was actually very similar in its construction. Moreover, the fact that Dogmersfield has survived more or less unspoilt can perhaps help us to understand what Moulsham Hall was like in its heyday.

Like Moulsham, Dogmersfield had a grand frontage with wings behind, built around a central courtyard. Here are a couple of photographs that I took of the hotel during our stay:

Front view of hotel

Front view of hotel

Internal courtyard

Internal courtyard

In future posts, I’ll be looking more closely at the design of Earl Fitzwalter’s rebuilt Moulsham Hall. For now, these pictures of Dogmersfield can perhaps bring home to us the scale of what was lost when Moulsham Hall was demolished two hundred years ago.

Posted in 18th century Moulsham, 19th century Moulsham, Dogmersfield, Mildmay family, Moulsham Hall | 1 Comment

Garden floods: evidence of location of Moulsham Hall lake?

A few weeks ago I suggested that the regular flooding experienced in their gardens by some residents of St John’s Avenue could be evidence that their houses were built on the site of the ‘large sheet of water’ that was situated to the north of Moulsham Hall in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and traces of which can still be seen on early 20th century maps of the area.

Now one of those residents, Andy Lodge, has been back in touch to tell me that the recent wet weather has led to more flooding – and to send me some visual evidence. So, here are two photographs that provide further evidence to support the claim that the site of Moulsham Hall was roughly where Oaklands Crescent meets Moulsham Drive, and that its lake was somewhere in the area between St John’s Avenue and St Vincent’s Road:

Wet garden 1Wet garden 2

Posted in 18th century Moulsham, 19th century Moulsham, Moulsham Hall, Old Moulsham | Leave a comment

The chapel on the hill: an update

A few days ago I wrote about the chapel that can be seen on John Walker’s 1591 map, standing on the hill above Moulsham Hall, where Moulsham Lodge Estate now stands. I suggested that this might be the chapel at Moulsham that belonged in the Middle Ages to the Priory or Abbey of St Osyth, but at the Reformation was given by Henry VIII to William Gonson, the treasurer of the Navy.

Ruins of St Osyth Priory or Abbey (via http://www.british-history.ac.uk)

Ruins of St Osyth Priory or Abbey (via http://www.british-history.ac.uk)

Gonson also happened to be the father-in-law of Thomas Mildmay the younger, who bought the manor of Moulsham at around the same time and built the first Moulsham Hall. I’ve now found additional evidence that it was on account of this relationship that the chapel and its lands became absorbed into the Moulsham estate.

At the National Archives website I came across a reference to a document which seems to indicate that William Gonson bequeathed the chapel to his son-in-law after his death. The description of the document reads as follows:

GRANTOR: William Gonson, esquire. GRANTEE: Thomas Mildmaye, one of the King’s Auditors. PLACE OR SUBJECT: Demise, indented, for his life and the life of Benett his wife, of the site, etc., of the chapel in the hamlet of Moulsham by Chelmsford from the end of the lease made by the late Abbey of St Osyth to William Aylnoth. COUNTY: Essex.

The document is dated the 34th year of the reign of Henry VIII: in other words 1543-4. We know that William Gonson died in 1544 and that his wife Bennett made her will in 1545. Thomas Mildmay had married the Gonsons’ daughter Avis some time before 1540. I’m not quite sure why William Aylnoth’s name appears here: according to other contemporary records, he was a resident of Moulsham who also owned property in Mountnessing and Ingatestone. Perhaps he held the lease of the chapel and its lands while it was still owned by St Osyth’s Priory.

Blessed David Gonson (from the website of the Order of Malta)

Blessed David Gonson (from the website of the Order of Malta)

There is a tragic coda to the Gonsons’ story. One of William and Bennett Gonson’s sons, David, was a knight of the Order of Malta, on whose ships he served in the Mediterranean. However, Henry VIII suppressed the Order in 1540, and when David Gonson returned to England he refused to accept the King’s self-proclaimed authority in spiritual matters, and as a result was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered for adhering to the traditional Catholic faith. The sentence was carried out on 12th July 1541. Pope Pius XI declared David Gonson ‘Blessed’ on 15th December 1929.

We don’t know what David’s sister Avis, or his brother-in-law Thomas Mildmay thought of his principled stand. The Mildmays were zealous protestants who had benefitted materially from Henry VIII’s religious policies, and indeed as one of the King’s auditors Thomas had helped to carry them out. As for William Gonson, we know that he committed suicide in 1544. Whether his grief at the death of his son David was a factor is not known.

Posted in Churches, Medieval Moulsham, Mildmay family, Moulsham Hall, Tudor Moulsham | Leave a comment

Moulsham before the Mildmays: the chapel on the hill

John Walker’s 1591 map of Moulsham very helpfully gives the names of the fields whose boundaries he painstakingly marks. That’s how we know, for example, that today’s Longstomps Avenue is named after two large fields – Upper and Lower Stomps or Stamps – that could be found in this area in Tudor times, and probably long before that. On Walker’s map these particular fields are bounded on their western side by two roads: firstly, Moulsham Street, as it runs southwestwards away from the town and then, past a three-way junction at a small green, by a winding southeasterly road which, as I’ve noted before, follows more or less the route of the modern Wood Street.

John Walker's 1591 map of Moulsham. (Reproduced by courtesy of the Essex Record Office, Ref. D/DM P2)

John Walker’s 1591 map of Moulsham. (Reproduced by courtesy of the Essex Record Office, Ref. D/DM P2)

Just as it does today, this road eventually makes a sharp bend to the east, and then forms a sharp ‘dog leg’ junction with a road running southwards. This is the point at which Wood Street, Longstomps and Galleywood Road meet today. As those who know the area will be aware, this marks a relatively high point in the landscape from which one looks down on Moulsham and the town. In Walker’s time, it would have been an excellent vantage-point from which to view Sir Thomas Mildmay’s splendid Hall and park.

I’ve also noted before that the fence or boundary running eastwards from this junction, zigzagging across the fields, is almost identical with the boundary between the modern Moulsham Lodge and Tile Kiln estates. This was marked by a footpath when I was a child and traces of it can be seen in the path that runs from Wood Street roundabout to Dove Lane.

Section of Walker's 1591 map of Moulsham (Reproduced by courtesy of the Essex Record Office, Ref. D/DM P2)

Section of Walker’s 1591 map of Moulsham (Reproduced by courtesy of the Essex Record Office, Ref. D/DM P2)

Just to the south of this boundary on Walker’s map we can see an area labelled ‘Chappell fylde and Spring Pastur’. Immediately to the north of it is a smaller field, more or less square in shape, containing a number of trees, and jutting out from its eastern edge is an even smaller square. Just to the right of this is a small red shape, with a tower or spire at one end, that looks very much like a church or chapel. This stands at the southernmost point of a large field that extends down the hill, almost as far as the gardens and orchards of Moulsham Hall, and includes a wooded area, and then a line of trees going from south to north. This larger area is labelled ‘Chappel lande or’ – but the writing beneath this is too small to see on the reproduction that I have in my possession. I can only make out the last two words: ‘Spring Pastur’, once again.

Chapel at Moulsham from Walker's 1591 map (Reproduced by courtesy of the Essex Record Office, Ref. D/DM P2)

Chapel at Moulsham from Walker’s 1591 map (Reproduced by courtesy of the Essex Record Office, Ref. D/DM P2)

The chapel and its lands were situated in the area covered by the western section of today’s Moulsham Lodge Estate – roughly speaking, the Gordon Road / Heath Drive area and beyond that some of what is now Moulsham School field.

But why was there a chapel in the grounds of Moulsham Hall? The answer takes us back beyond the Tudor period, before the Mildmay family came to Moulsham and built their Hall. In the Middle Ages the Augustinian Priory of St Osyth on the Essex coast was one of the largest monasteries in the county. The Priory owned a number of churches and extensive lands in Essex, Suffolk and Kent. It also owned chapels at Brentwood – and at Moulsham.

I’ve scoured Walker’s map and failed to find signs of any other chapels in Moulsham. And I’ve come across another clue that points to this particular building being the chapel belonging to St Osyth Priory – and may help to explain the chapel’s survival after the manor of Moulsham came into the hands of the Mildmay family. St Osyth’s Priory was suppressed in 1539 as part of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, and given initially to his enforcer-in-chief Thomas Cromwell, though it reverted to the Crown when Cromwell fell from royal favour.

In February 1540 the King granted many of the properties formerly owned by St Osyth’s to Richard Rich, the controversial Chancellor of the Court of Augmentations who, you may recall from an earlier post, sold his house at Guy Harlings to an up-and-coming Chelmsford market stallholder by the name of Thomas Mildmay, whose two sons would both work for the Court, and one of whom, Thomas junior, would become lord of the manor of Moulsham. In fact, both Rich and the younger Thomas Mildmay played a role in the suppression of religious houses and, like Cromwell, took advantage of this to acquire monastic property for themselves. (As an aside, I have to say that I don’t have much time for the recent Wolf Hall-inspired makeover of Thomas Cromwell’s reputation. This may be because I’ve discovered that a number of my ancestors were Augustinian friars whom he turned out of their monasteries, which then became his personal property. Most notably, Cromwell was responsible for shutting down the ancient Augustinian Priory of St Mary Overy, Southwark: my ancestor Bartholomew Fowle was the last prior there.)

It was through his job at the Court of Augmentations that Thomas Mildmay junior met William Gonson, the treasurer of the Navy, whose daughter Avis he would eventually marry. Interestingly, I’ve discovered that, at the same time that he gave much of St Osyth’s property to Rich, Henry VIII also granted the Priory’s chapel at Moulsham to none other than Gonson. And this was in the very same year that Thomas Mildmay acquired the manor of Moulsham, which had itself been owned previously by the Abbot of Westminster. So does this mean that Thomas and his father-in-law owned adjacent property, and does it explain how the chapel lands became absorbed into the manor of Moulsham after the latter’s death in 1544?

A surviving medieval chapel, giving some sense of what the chapel at Moulsham might have looked like.

A surviving medieval chapel, giving a sense of what the chapel at Moulsham might have looked like(via flickr.com)

I’m unclear of the precise function of the chapel at Moulsham in pre-Reformation times. Medieval chapels were places where Mass was said regularly, or else where saintly relics were kept, often at the best of a wealthy patron, or to serve a nearby institution such as a hospital or manor house. But who used the chapel at Moulsham, up there on the hill? If anyone reading this has any knowledge of the chapel’s history, or of the use of such chapels before the Reformation, I’d be keen to hear from them.

I’m not sure, either, how long the chapel at Moulsham survived the coming of the Protestant Mildmays. Obviously, it was still there in 1591, half a century after Thomas Mildmay built his splendid Hall in the fields overlooked by the chapel. But it doesn’t feature on later maps of the estate. Today, of course, there’s no sign that it was ever there: my guess is that the site is somewhere between Gordon Road, Fir Tree Rise and Hornbeam Close.

Posted in Medieval Moulsham, Mildmay family, Moulsham Hall, Tudor Moulsham | Leave a comment

A map of Moulsham in 1799

In the last post I mentioned that I’d come across an alternative image of the park surrounding Moulsham Hall, on a map from 1799. This map, which I found on the British Library’s georeferencer site, gives a much clearer and more detailed picture of the Moulsham estate than the 1805 Ordnance Survey map which I used in my original post about the boundary of the park.

Section of a 1799 map of Essex (via http://www.bl.uk/maps/)

Section of a 1799 map of Essex (via http://www.bl.uk/maps/)

The description accompanying the map on the British Library site notes: ‘A lake and individual trees in the grounds of Moulsham Hall are recorded, towards the bottom of the landmass, a reminder of the meticulous nature of the Survey.’ Given this accuracy by the original surveyors, it’s a pity that there’s an error in the way the map has been lined up with its modern equivalent on the website. Everything is just slightly askew, making it difficult to match the late 18th century features to the modern landscape.

However, a number of things strike me as interesting about the 1799 map. Firstly, you can indeed see the individual trees in the grounds of Moulsham Hall: for example lining the ‘chase’ that leads from the Lodge to the Hall itself, and also standing in a north-south line between Lady Lane and that path to the Hall, as well as grouped around the lake to the north of the house. As for the Hall itself, could it be represented by the red rectangle beside the path, at the top of that large square that we’ve noticed in previous discussions?

Focusing on that square, we can now see that it includes green patches: I assume these are the orchards and formal gardens attached to the Hall. I noted in an earlier post that this area coincides with what is now the lower end of Moulsham Schools, a section of Princes Road, and the western end of Fortinbras Way. The walled kitchen garden, which survived into modern times as Moulsham Hall Gardens, can be seen to the left of this area, apparently connected to the house by a path.

Section of late 19th century Ordnance Survey map (via http://maps.nls.uk)

Section of late 19th century Ordnance Survey map (via maps.nls.uk)

If the 1799 surveyors were as precise as the British Library website claims, then perhaps we can take their positioning of Moulsham Hall as reasonably accurate. As I’ve noted before, the large square denoting the formal gardens survived as a field boundary into the next century, after the demolition of the Hall. Even if this boundary doesn’t follow exactly the same lines as Earl Fitzwalter’s gardens, it might help us in our quest for the location of Moulsham Hall. If we look for that large square on the Ordnance Survey map from the 1888-1913 series (above), we can imagine the Hall about halfway along the northern boundary of the formal gardens. When we lined this up with the modern Google maps (see below), we can see that this point falls at the junction of Oaklands Crescent with Moulsham Drive, or else very slightly to the south of it, between Moulsham Drive and Fortinbras Way. Of course, the Hall was quite a large building, so it would have covered a substantial amount of ground in this area.

'Old Moulsham'  in the 1888-1913 Ordnance Survey map, overlaid on a modern map of the area

‘Old Moulsham’ in the 1888-1913 Ordnance Survey map, overlaid on a modern map of the area

If we’re right, then the site of Moulsham Hall can be also seen on this aerial photograph of 1935 that I’ve written about before. We can still see part of the outline of the large square field, its northern edge visible just to the north of the new houses of Moulsham Drive, as they extend eastwards from Moulsham Hall Gardens. If the Hall did indeed stand somewhere close to the mid-point of that field boundary, then the house builders have probably just reached its former location: somewhere close to that intersection with what will become Oaklands Crescent.

'Old' Moulsham in the 1935 aerial photograph (via britainfromabove.org.uk)

‘Old’ Moulsham in the 1935 aerial photograph (via britainfromabove.org.uk)

A final point about the 1799 map for now. There are three other features that might well be stretches of water, close to the far eastern border of the park. These are in a line running north to south, parallel to what is now Moulsham Chase, roughly in the area bounded by Princes Road and Waterson Vale today. The southernmost pond, close to the Lodge itself, may be on the same site as the spring that is clearly marked in the late 19th century map. Indeed, all three ponds may have been fed by the spring and may have been some kind of water supply for the estate, whether for human or animal consumption.

Interestingly, John Walker’s map of 1591 features three shapes in approximately the same position (see below): in fact, this comparison with the later map helps us to identify that these two locations are, in fact, the same. The Tudor map shows a tree-lined path extending from what I assume will one day be Lady Lane: this must correspond to the later Moulsham Chase, though at this date it did not extend all the way to the Hall (Thomas Mildmay’s Tudor hall was reached solely by the westerly route leading from Moulsham Street). Were these also some kind of water supply for the estate? And could the little red house that we can see just below these shapes, and to the right of the path, be the Tudor equivalent of the Lodge?

Part of John Walker's ‘trew platt of the mannor and hamlett of Moulshum’  dated 1591 (Reproduced by courtesy of the Essex Record Office, Ref. D/DM P2).

Part of John Walker’s ‘trew platt of the mannor and hamlett of Moulshum’ dated 1591 (Reproduced by courtesy of the Essex Record Office, Ref. D/DM P2).

Note that the Tudor estate also had an avenue of trees running southwards from ‘Lady Lane’. Perhaps Earl Fitzwalter didn’t have to plant new trees when he rebuilt his Hall in the early 18th century, but could simply landscape his park around trees that had been there for two hundred years. Sadly, those ancient trees seem to have been uprooted by the time the late 19th century map of the area was drawn up, and there is no trace of them now.

Posted in 18th century Moulsham, 19th century Moulsham, Mildmay family, Moulsham Hall, Moulsham Lodge, Moulsham school, Old Moulsham, Pre-war Moulsham, Tudor Moulsham | Leave a comment

Wet garden could be evidence of Earl Fitzwalter’s lost lake

Andy Lodge, who lives in St John’s Avenue, got in touch after reading my post on the ‘large sheet of water’ that was situated on the north side of Earl Fitzwalter’s rebuilt Moulsham Hall. Andy writes in his comment on my post:

The bottom of my and neighbour’s gardens in St John’s Avenue which I think is near the 100m contour is very wet and floods in rain and most winters. We have always thought it may have been a pond.

In an email to me, Andy adds:

We have lived here 20 years and my wife tells me older neighbours told her that there were ponds there before the houses were built. We dug ditches years ago in attempts to drain what was a vegetable patch and they remained at least 1/2 full all year. So we always assumed it was some sort of pond in the past which is strange as we are on substantially higher land compared to the river.

I found Andy’s house on Google maps and then, using the georeferenced maps at the National Library of Scotland website, I overlaid the Ordnance Survey Six Inch map from the 1888-1913 series. Sure enough, the house was on the exact site of the two blue ‘blobs’ that I wrote about in an earlier post. Obviously, these were ponds of some kind, and my suspicion is that they were all that remained of the ‘large sheet of water’ to the north of Moulsham Hall.

Overlaid maps of St John's Avenue area (via maps.nls.uk)

Overlaid maps of St John’s Avenue area (via maps.nls.uk)

Incidentally, I’ve now found a much clearer image of Earl Fitzwalter’s lake – and of his park generally – in a map from 1799 on the British Library’s georeferencer website, and I’ll be writing about it in another post.

Posted in 18th century Moulsham, 19th century Moulsham, Moulsham Hall, Old Moulsham, Post-war Moulsham | Leave a comment