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This section is devoted to persons who have become well-known, or notorious, in the history of the town. Many of them were included in the booklet that the museum produced for the Millennium and items relating to some of them are on show in the museum. The story of Dick Nunn is shown below. Just click on the other names to find out more about them.









Dick Nunn - champion of the people
Henry Nunn, (known as Dick), was born in 1836 in Coggeshall. His father, Joseph, was a blacksmith by trade and, in time, Dick became an apprentice. In 1854 his father died from tuberculosis, so Dick, at the age of 18 became head of the family who had moved into a cottage in Swan Yard, just opposite the smithy where he remained for the rest of his life.
Dick grew up to be a man of very strong opinion and a born campaigner who saw himself as a champion of the working man. In 1887 Dick called a cottage, which stood at the church gate, "an eyesore and a disgrace to the beautiful and sacred edifice". He proceeded to pull it down and continued even after an official warning from a solicitor sent by the lord of the manor. He was taken to Witham Court but the case was withdrawn.  This cottage and its neighbours were knocked down in the 1930s, and the site is now the Woolpack car park. It seems that Dick knocked down 8 cottages as "unfit to remain in existence".
To commemorate the episode he erected an iron sign on the cottage next door. It was the episode of Grange Hill that landed the campaigner in prison. Dick had several times written to the newspapers about Grange Hill and the cruelty inflicted on animals drawing heavy loads up the incline, and it was one of his earnest  desires to see the hill levelled. When the authorities took no action, he set about the task himself and, with four labourers, began to reduce the level of the road at the brow of the hill. After much arguing with the surveyor and police he was forced to stop, but swore he would be "back in the morning!" The next day Dick was arrested spent a week in Chelmsford prison until his trial. Dick was bound over to be of good behaviour.

Dick Nunn must have been one of the earliest campaigners for public rights of way. He was determined to keep open the local paths and reopen those that had fallen into disuse. It was his efforts to reopen a path that led him to build the footbridge that to this day is named after him. When the bridge collapsed in 1875 the path was closed and remained so for 17 years.

An original poster advertising the opening
of the bridge

In 1892, Dick took matters into his own hands by building a bridge which was mounted on two trolleys and wheeled from the smithy in Swan Yard through the fields and fixed into position over the river. The opening was a very grand occasion with several speeches made from the centre of the bridge to the large crowd standing in the meadow below. Mr. Beaumont declared the bridge open and said that henceforth it would be called "Nunn's Bridge". The crowd was invited to pass over the bridge and give a toll to help recompense Dick for the cost. Seven hundred and three people were counted over and a total of £12 15s. 5d. was collected, but whether this represented profit or loss is not known.
The bridge is still in use today.

A view of Dick Nunn's bridge, c1900

Dick was regarded with great affection and when he died aged 60 in 1896 shops and houses were closed and shuttered and hundreds of townsfolk turned out to pay their respects at his funeral, following the town band to and from the church.
Copies of the articles about Dick Nunn's exploits from the Coggeshall Almanack are on show along with pictures of Coggeshall folk celebrating the centenary of Nunn's bridge .

Dick Nunn's great-grandson Leslie on the bridge in 1972.

Four generations of Dick Nunn's descendants outside the Museum in 2004.

The Nunn family visit commemorated by a group photograph on Dick Nunn's bridge

    Doug Judd, museum volunteer, giving  Dick's memorial a was & brush-up, May 2014    


John Carter - lip artist 1815 – 1850

A portrait of John Carter by Rev. W. J. Dampier, Vicar of Coggeshall

Born to humble parents on 31st July 1815 he first attended a dame’s school in Church Street, leaving at the age of 10 for the National school in Stoneham Street until 1828 whereupon he finished his education at the Sir Robert Hitcham endowed school. He showed no particular indications of his talent to come save for some scribblings of animals and birds in his school books.

After leaving school he was employed by the silk manufacturing company of Beckwith in Back Lane as a weaver for weekly wages of about 12 shillings. Although he married in 1835, aged 20, he had fallen in with the wrong crowd, and so it was that on one Saturday night in May 1836, shortly before his 21st birthday, he and his mischievous companions found themselves attracted to the rookery at Holfield Grange. Having climbed to a height of about 40 feet a branch gave way and he fell to the ground, knocked unconscious. His friends carried him home on a hurdle by a circuitous route to avoid walking past the gamekeeper’s house. He was never to walk again, his whole body being completely paralysed from below the neck. At first he was not expected to live but he slowly began to recover all his faculties save the ability to move.

Six weeks after the accident he and his wife moved to his father’s house for convenience where he then spent several months in total despair. He passed much of his time reading, until one day his wife brought to him a little biography of a young woman called Elizabeth Kinning. She was an inmate of an asylum in Liverpool who, having lost the use of her hands, had taught herself to draw with her mouth. This idea excited him and he immediately began to practice, at first using a slate, then by having paper pinned to his pillow and using a pencil and then water colours. His skill increased apace and encouraged by a Miss Hanbury from Holfield Grange, who sold his early drawings for one shilling, he had to decide upon a style to adopt. He decided upon line drawings where he would first sketch with a pencil and then fill in the fine detail with Indian ink using a fine-hair pencil. The posture he adopted to carry out his work was by lying on his side with his head slightly raised by his pillows. A small, light desk, made under his own instructions, was adjusted for him, the paper being pinned to it.

He only ever drew while in bed and only in the company of family and those he knew well as he said that strangers made him so nervous that he could not trust himself with the delicate brush strokes. The brush was constantly taken out of his mouth and refilled by an attendant, most often his wife, and his delicacy of touch and the precision of his work under the most extremely difficult conditions is stunning. A constant stream of people would bring subjects to him for copying but the artist always considered his best picture to be a drawing called “Innocence” by Hermann Winterhalter, done for a Miss White at Highfields. Another of his drawings was presented to the dowager Queen Adelaide, wife of William IV, by the Bishop of London, and was passed on to Queen Victoria. He seldom pursued his art during the winter months as he considered the light was unsatisfactory.

He was attended on primarily by his wife Lucy until 1841 but she died prematurely in that year from heart disease. From this time onward his sister Hannah Carter succeeded his wife and became John’s constant companion and attendant. She would regularly push him out in the summertime, many visits being made to the parish church. It was one of these sojourns that tragically accelerated his demise. Wishing to give his sister a break from pushing him, he arranged for his carriage to be drawn by a small boy and a visiting relative. Unfortunately the boy lost control and the carriage turned over. John Carter never recovered from this fall and within two weeks, at the age of 35, his life was over.


Two more works by John Carter

Henry Doubleday 1810 - 1902

The only known picture of Henry Doubleday, a Daguerrotype taken at the Great Exhibition in 1851. He had to sit still for half an hour for the latest marvel of “a portrait painted in light”, which is probably why he looks so grim.

Special mention should be made of Henry Doubleday who was born in Coggeshall, the fourth of William and Hannah's eight children. He did not join his father in the family grocery business but was a great experimenter.  He ran a small factory putting starch into packets and he made gum for postage stamps, gum that would not become sticky until it became wet: he had a contract with De La Rue (a stamp printer) to supply this gum which was made from acacia trees. He did a great deal of research into the use of comfrey, particularly for the treatment of wounds on horses. Henry spent the last thirty years of his life researching into the food values of the crops that he grew. Henry, as a Quaker, had been unable to study at university but, as a result of his own research, he was awarded the title of Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society. Unfortunately he was unable to use the title as he could not afford the registration fee! Henry never married and lived with his brothers, sisters and nephew in the house at Market End and was buried in the graveyard in Tilkey. The Henry Doubleday Research Association is named in his honour.




The Paycocke Family

Primarily due to the legacy of their fine timber-framed house in West Street, the Paycocke family has come to be regarded as Coggeshall’s premier wool and cloth merchants of the medieval days when the town was important in the wool trade.
In the early part of the 14th century the Paycockes were already a family of some substance in Clare, Suffolk, long before the first Paycocke came to Coggeshall in the mid-15th century. This was Thomas, who died here in 1461, and a tombstone, now lost, commemorating his death read: “quondam carnifex de Coggeshall” (lately butcher of Coggeshall).

His son or grandson John (it is not clear which) was also described as a butcher or “bowchar” in his will of 1505. It is probable that the family were the wealthy type of grazier butchers who owned large sheep farms in the 15th century, and it is known for certain that the Paycocke family owned a large field in Church Street. This would give the family the connection to the wool and cloth trade, as John’s sons John, Robert and Thomas officially called themselves clothiers.

The whole family must have been extremely wealthy judging by the scale and opulence of the properties that they all owned. It was previously believed that John Paycocke the father, had commissioned the house in West Street to be built as a present for his youngest son Thomas, while living himself at Braziers on the site now occupied by the Mount in East Street, but modern dendrochronology tests suggest that the house was built about 1510,(five years after John's death) so Thomas probably had it built for his bride, Margaret Harrold. Braziers was left to the second son, Robert. In addition to this house John also owned another large house in Church Street, probably Hutley’s which he left to his widow.

Paycocke's, with the Fleece public house (formerly Drapers) just beyond it.


Furthur generations lived variously at these premises as well as at “Maykines”, now the White Hart, and “Drapers”, now the Fleece. Even the Paycocke women married men of affluence and property. Judith married Richard Constantyne and lived in the house called “Constantynes” on the corner of Market Hill, while Anne married Richard Benyon who was responsible for building and living in the present Abbey farmhouse (c1581).
Apart from the Thomas Paycocke who was the first owner of the house, there is another Thomas worthy of mention. When he died in 1580 he left provision in his will for the relief of the poor of Coggeshall and his charity still exists to this day. He lived at “Drapers” but moved just before his death to “Belles and Bruers” a house in The Gravel that stood roughly on the site of Culvert Close.
The Paycockes, especially, always had close links with the parish church which was built in such grand fashion purely because of the wealth and prosperity of the town's wool merchants. It is thought that the family were solely responsible for St Katharine’s Chapel in the north aisle of the chancel and indeed tombs for four of the family can be seen in the floor of this chapel, some with their attendant brasses.

Left: Thomas Paycocke, the last male of the family who founded the Charity. Died  on 26th  December 1580.

Right: John Paycocke, died April 2nd 1533, and his wife Joan.

When Thomas, the last surviving male and owner of Paycocke house, died in 1580, it brought to a close the Paycocke link with Coggeshall. The house then passed to the Buxton family, one of whom, Robert, had married an Emma Paycocke some years previously.


The Buxtons    1561 – 1924



Charles Buxton, from a family portrait

The Buxton family is linked with Coggeshall and the Paycockes by marriage, the wool trade and above all, by the ownership of Paycocke House. Emma Paycocke, a niece of Thomas who was the first owner of the house, married Robert Buxton. It is not known where Robert came from, but in the “History of the Buxtons of Coggeshall and Essex”, written in the 19th century by a family member, it is believed that the family may have come from Sudbury, just over the border in Suffolk.
The family history also says that, although parish records show that Buxtons were living in Coggeshall from 1561, it is likely that they did not engage in the wool trade until the last decade or so of the 16th century, and certainly by 1625 the Buxtons are recorded as clothiers.
The family bought Paycocke House shortly after the death in 1584 of John Paycocke, the last male of the Paycocke line, and members of the Buxton family were destined to live at the house and to pursue their occupation as clothiers for the next two hundred years. It is interesting that each generation until that of Isaac Buxton, who was born in 1672 and the fourth generation to live in Paycocke House, had only one male member who survived to adulthood to carry on the family business.
Thomas (born 1643) lived through the Commonwealth and the turbulent times that followed, and embraced the Non-Conformist movement that was sweeping through the religious life of the country  coming very near to being imprisoned for his views. Despite this the family continued to prosper, and three generations, Thomas and his wife, son Isaac, his wife, six sons and three daughters all lived together in the house in West Street.
Isaac and his wife were strong supporters of the Congregational Church and Isaac was one of the leaders in acquiring the site in Stoneham Street for the new church and financed the building of it along with several other influential and wealthy Coggeshall inhabitants of the same religious persuasion.
Five of Isaac’s sons survived to adulthood and Thomas and John entered the family wool business, while Isaac junior became a grocer and the fourth son, son, Charles, became an oil merchant in London. Isaac died in 1732 and left Paycocke House to the fifth son, Samuel, who was to die at the early age of 25.
Soon after the death of their father, Thomas and John left the wool trade, Isaac ceased to be a grocer and all three continued to live in Coggeshall on the fortunes that they had inherited. Gradually the children and grandchildren moved away from the town, and by 1777 no one of the name of Buxton was left in Coggeshall, although Anna Unwin, neé Buxton, the daughter of Thomas, lived in the town until her death in 1798. 
Charles moved to London where he became a wealthy merchant. Samuel, who was unmarried and had inherited Paycocke House, died of smallpox in 1737 and bequeathed his fine house on West Street to his brother Charles.

In 1746 Charles Buxton sold the house to Robert Ludgater and thus ended the Buxton family connection with Paycocke House for the next 160 years. About 1905 Lord Noel-Buxton, a lineal descendant, bought Paycocke House and provided the money for its restoration, but he did not live in the house but looked on it merely as a convenient stopping place on the journey to London. In 1924 Paycocke House was given by the Buxtons to the National Trust, thus preserving it for future generations and ending, save for the Buxton coat-of-arms set into the window, the connection with Paycockes.


The Honywoods
Tenants of Marks Hall, 1605 – 1895

Apart from a short period at the end of the sixteenth century, Marks Hall was in the incumbency of only two families. From around the time of the Domesday Survey until 1562 it was in the hands of the Markshall family and from 1605 until late in the nineteenth century it belonged to the Honywoods. 

Robert Honywood I

Robert Honywood was born in 1545 and lived at the family’s ancestral home at Charing, near Maidstone in Kent. He was the eldest of 16 children and inherited this estate upon his father’s death in 1576. Robert married twice: by his first marriage he had seven children, and by his second he had eight. In 1605 he bought the Marks Hall estate and at the age of 60 moved from Kent. Although it is not known for certain his reasons for this, it can be assumed that it was to set up an ancestral home for his second family. The house he bought was an old timber-framed building and he immediately set about a programme of rebuilding.  

Mary Honywood

Mary Honywood, born Mary Waters, was Robert’s mother and is the subject of Honywood family legend. During the early years of Queen Mary’s reign when she was seeking to bring the country back to the Catholic Church, there were many who opposed this and were persecuted. There were others who sympathised with them and took to visiting and comforting them in prison. Mary Honywood was one of those. For a time she was inflicted with deep depression or “religious melancholia” and all attempts by ministers to comfort her proved unsuccessful. The story then goes that one day, whilst holding a Venetian glass in her hand she exclaimed: “I am surely damned as this glass is broken”, whereupon she hurled it violently to the floor and instead of shattering the glass rebounded whole and unscathed. This must have been the turning point for it is recounted: that at last God shot comfort like lightning into her soul which once entered ever remained therein so that she led the remainder of her life in spiritual gladness.”

Indeed she must have done, for when she died in May 1620, aged 93, she had lived to see 367 living descendants – 16 children; 114 grandchildren; 228 great grandchildren; and nine great-great grandchildren. Although she spent the last years of her life at Marks Hall, she is buried next to her husband at Lenham in Kent.

Many paintings of her exist usually with either wine glass or prayer book in her hand and one of these can be seen in Colchester Castle Museum. A tablet monument to her was removed from the Marks Hall church of St Margaret before its demolition in 1933 and was re-sited in the Sacristy of the parish church here in Coggeshall. 

Sir Thomas Honywood 

This was Robert’s eldest son from his second marriage and he inherited Marks Hall from his widowed mother in 1631. Although he was knighted by Charles I the following year, he became a staunch Parliamentarian and in 1648 commanded a body of militia which played a prominent part in the Siege of Colchester. After the surrender of the Royalists to Fairfax, he was left in charge of the town with orders to demolish the walls. In 1651 he became one of the Knights of Shire in Cromwell’s parliament. Following the restoration of Charles II he was granted a royal pardon. It is said that the lakes at Marks Hall were dug out by his Roundhead troops whilst stationed there before the Siege of Colchester. Sir Thomas died in 1666, aged 80 and left Marks Hall to his wife for life. She outlived their oldest son who died childless so the estate passed to the second son, John, who also died childless. Marks Hall then passed to another Robert Honywood, from the branch of the family still living at Charing in Kent. He was a colonel of infantry, Deputy Lieutenant of Essex and an M.P. and was responsible for much modernisation of the house.

General Sir Philip Honywood

He became the next incumbent of the property upon his father’s death, his two elder brothers having pre-deceased him, and is probably the most well known and interesting of all the Honywoods. He entered the army aged 25 and then spent many years of service on the continent. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the King's Own Regiment of Dragoons and fought at the Battle of Fontenay in 1745. The following year he was wounded in the shoulder by the Scots at Clifton Moor. Apparently he was not wearing his steel skull cap and his life was saved only by the thickness of his giant pigtail. Later on he commanded cavalry during the seven years war before finally being promoted to General in 1760.

He was responsible in 1764 for commissioning a very detailed map of the Marks Hall estate, showing at that time three lakes, and for having built a new brick church. Of all the family portraits probably the most famous is the one of General Honywood, painted by Gainsborough, showing him on horseback, in scarlet uniform and with sword drawn. General Philip Honywood died in 1782. 

These pictures show the little church of St Margaret and the fine mansion in the early 1900s. The little iron bridge is still there, but the church was demolished in 1933 and the house in the 1950s. See pictures below.

And finally

The estate was passed down through succeeding Honywoods until its final male owner, William Philip Honywood who had married Frances Emma Phelips in 1849. They had no children and, worried that the estate would pass to his brother Robert who was a notorious gambler with heavy debts, William had a will drawn up to protect the estate and prevent it from falling into Robert’s hands. The terms were that the estate would be left in trust to his wife for her lifetime should he pre-decease her.

Within a week of the will being drawn up William caught a chill whilst out hunting and died eight days later. Needless to say the will was contested but the terms were upheld after various compromises. Frances never remarried and continued to live at Marks Hall until her death in 1895. During her occupation she was responsible for a comprehensive overhaul and restoration of the church of St Margaret. In 1897 the whole of the estate was put up for auction and sold to offset heavy debt, much of it incurred after legal costs when William’s will  was contested. And so on this sad note ended 290 years of Honywood family occupation at Marks Hall.


The demolition of Marks Hall mansion in the 1950s

Some Honywood records from the registers of St Margaret's church, Marks Hall


Thomas Hawkes - Died 1555

 Coggeshall martyr

A wood-cut depicting the martyrdom of Thomas Hawkes
Thomas Hawkes was a gentleman and one of the retainers of John de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, who lived at Earls Colne Priory. Hawkes was of the Protestant faith and it is written that he was “well esteemed and loved of all the household”.
On the death of the young King Edward VI in 1553 the country was in turmoil with Queen Mary decreeing that the land should return to Catholicism. The de Veres swayed with the “religious wind” so Hawkes decided to leave the nobleman’s house and return to his own home on the Market Hill in Coggeshall, a house later known as “Constantynes”, after its owner Richard Constantyne.
He soon became a marked man with his absences from Mass, strongly-voiced opposition to the current religious regime, and meetings with other Protestants, but it was his refusal to have his new-born son baptised into the Catholic faith that brought things to a head. Hawkes was arrested and in the summer of 1554 he was taken before Bishop Bonner, questioned about his religious beliefs and then imprisoned in Newgate.
Hawkes was taken to the Bishop’s palace in London several times and asked to recant but each time he refused. Finally, on 9th February 1555 he was condemned by Bonner to be burned at the stake. He refused a final chance to recant, saying “No, my lord, that I will not; for if I had a hundred bodies, I would suffer them all to be torn in pieces, rather than I will abjure or recant”.
He remained in prison for four more months and was then brought to Coggeshall. Friends of Hawkes were greatly impressed by his firmness, but were fearful of the pain that death by fire would bring, and asked him to give an indication that it was bearable in the cause of their faith. Hawkes said that he would lift his hands to Heaven as a sign.  On 10th June 1555 Hawkes was led out to Vicarage Field, West Street and chained to a stake and the fire was lit beneath him. It appeared that the fire had consumed him when suddenly the apparently lifeless body lifted its arms and clapped them over its head three times before sinking down into the flames.

Other Coggeshall Protestants, Nicholas Chamberlain, Thomas Brodehill, Richard Web, William Bamford (weavers), John Wallet, Thomas Osborne and Thomas Osmond (fullers), along with two women, Cicley Warren and Christianna Pepper, were condemned to death for their faith. The two women were shown clemency by Cardinal Pole; Osborne, Brodehill and Web recanted at the last minute and did penance in the parish church, but the others died at the stake, although their executions did not take place in Coggeshall.


Sir Robert Hitcham     1572 – 1636
Sir Robert Hitcham was born of humble stock at Levington in the county of Suffolk. His father and grandfather had a business cutting and selling heather which was used for the making of brooms.
He commenced his education at the Free School in Ipswich and later became a student at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He was a man of intelligence and a good orator and entered Gray’s Inn to study law, in which he was eventually destined for high office. In 1596 he became the elected member for West Looe and by 1603 had been appointed as Attorney-General to Queen Anne of Denmark, the consort of King James I.
At the beginning of 1616 a knighthood was conferred upon him to coincide with his appointment as King James’ senior Serjeant-at-Law and he acted as judge of Assize on several occasions. In 1623 he was elected member for Orford, near Woodbridge, and continued as member for that place until 1628.
In 1635 he bought Framlingham castle with its lands for £14,000 and, conscious of his good fortune, settled the title of the estate upon Pembroke College for charitable uses. Sir Robert died on 15th August 1636 and is buried in a magnificent tomb in Framlingham church.

His will stipulated that several houses for the poor should be set up in Framlingham, Debenham (both in Suffolk) and in Coggeshall to help them into work, and that a school should be built at Framlingham to teach forty or more of the poorest and neediest children of those three towns to “read, write and cast accounts” and that £10 should be given to each scholar to secure an apprenticeship. One might ask why a Suffolk man should help the children of a small Essex town, but it appears that Sir Robert was very friendly with the Guyon family who were wealthy wool-merchants in Coggeshall.
It proved to be very difficult for the children of Coggeshall to take advantage of the opportunities offered under the terms of Sir Robert’s will, so in 1722 the Trustees at Pembroke looked again at the will and decided that Coggeshall should have its own school along with money from the trust for apprenticeships, and so a school was started in a room in a building on the Market Hill. In 1787 a room was leased in Crane’s House (which now houses houses the Clockhouse tea-room) and Henry Emery was appointed as school master, a post he was to hold for 49 years.

In 1858 the school in West Street was built opposite Paycocke House on glebe land purchased for the sum of £100 and was opened in June 1859.  This money enabled the Vicar to purchase St. Nicholas’ chapel, the derelict gate-house of the long-destroyed Cistercian abbey. It closed around the time of the Great War. The building is still there and the exterior has recently been restored.The Sir Robert Hitcham charity still exists, and small sums are still distributed by the trustees to help  Coggeshall children going into higher education.

Hitcham School in West Street, c1885

 The former Hitcham School, 2008


The Rev. William James Dampier
Vicar of Coggeshall 1841 – 1876

William James Dampier was born at Hackney in 1803. At the age of 17 he went to the West Indies to study for the Bar, and returned seven years later to enter the Inner Temple. He felt called to the ministry and gave up his profession as a lawyer to study for the Church.  After learning Greek (a necessity for entry to Holy Orders), he went to  Cambridge and was ordained in 1831. He was a curate at Ware when he met and married Elizabeth Martin-Leake, by whom he had two sons and five daughters.

Picture of Rev. Dampier taken from G. F Beaumont's book                   "The History of Coggeshall",  published in 1890.

In 1841 he became Vicar of Coggeshall and at once set about restoring the church which was greatly in need of repair, the roofs of the nave and aisles being unsafe and the buttresses and windows requiring attention. He was greatly assisted in this work by his curate, the Rev. Edward Cutts, who was responsible for raising the estimated repair costs of £4,000 and for giving much valuable advice, being an expert in ecclesiastical architecture.  Edwin, one of the sons of the Rev. Dampier, was responsible for the design of the lych gate at the church. The Rev. Dampier wrote two books, “The Sympathy of Christ” and a “Memoir of John Carter” (the lip artist), both of which can be seen in the Coggeshall museum.

His wife Elizabeth died in 1858, never seeing the new Vicarage that was being built in West Street for the Dampier family. The foundation stone for the house was laid by Isabella Dampier, the second daughter of the Vicar and a parchment recording the event and a coin were placed under the stone. The arms of the Dampier family were carved on the mantle-piece in one of the rooms and in April 1870 the family moved in. By 1875 the restoration of the church was almost complete, but the health of the Rev. Dampier, which had been failing for about a year, finally gave out and he resigned in March 1876.  He had been Vicar of Coggeshall for 35 years. He died in Ramsgate in 1878 and was buried in the churchyard at Coggeshall next to the graves of his wife and mother-in-law.

In 1880 a magnificent new alabaster and stone reredos, paid for by friends and parishioners and dedicated to the memory of William Dampier, was unveiled behind the High Altar, bringing about a  long-held, but unfulfilled in his lifetime, wish to have a new reredos in Coggeshall’s parish church.


John Hall
Orchard Silk Mill, 1818 – 1865

At the end of the 18th century the woollen industry had all but disappeared and Coggeshall, which had grown prosperous on the back of the trade during the previous four centuries, suddenly found itself facing economic despair. During the first years of the 19th century the situation was further compounded by unemployed weavers who had joined the army returning from the war with France to become unemployed once again. Some of the old woollen clothiers had already begun to weave silk on a small-scale basis – Johnson, the last of these, was manufacturing shalloon at “Monkwell” by 1827.

In 1818 the established Coventry firm of Sawyer & Hall set up business in Coggeshall giving employment to around 150 people. Within 10 years Hall had dissolved the partnership and was running the company by himself. He established part of his business at the Abbey mill where Italian organzine was thrown (about 5 cwts each week). Two-thirds of this was sold but the remainder was taken to his factory at The Gravel where ribbons and velvet were manufactured. This factory, three storeys tall and 130 ft x 24 ft in area, stood by Robin's Brook on the south side of West Street and housed 30 rack and pinion power looms and some broad looms. Hall owned a total of about 70 broad looms, the remainder of which were kept by his workers in their cottages. He also owned cottages in Crouches and Stoneham Street that he let to his weavers for 2/- (10p) per week.

The business must have been profitable because in 1834 Hall decided to purchase land on the opposite side of the road and build a brand-new factory on the Orchard House site. It was not completed or opened for business until 1839 but was a two-storey building with the weaving looms on the upper floor, powered entirely by steam, while downstairs throwsting and winding duties would be carried out by children.

Hall became an integral part of local economic life. The 1851 Census identified him providing employment for 419 people - men, boys, and females between the ages of nine and 18, who were mostly the daughters of labourers. They would have bound themselves to John Hall for three years, working 11 hours a day, six days a week. The average wage, depending on age, was 3 shillings (15p). Although Hall was active in local politics and in church affairs, his interests were often compromised as the Vicar was trying to establish a National School. By 1855 an arrangement must have been reached as children starting work for him, aged eight, were known as “half-timers”; half their day spent in the silk mill, the other half at school.
The year 1860 was a watershed year for the silk industry. At a time when Hall was responsible for the employment of over 700 people and the second largest employer in the area, the Free Trade Act was passed. This allowed imports to come into the country free of duty and it was not long before cheap French silk flooded the market having a devastating effect on the local economy. The demand for English silk dried up, wages fell, workers went on strike and firms began to close. Hall ceased production in 1863, re-opened in 1865 but ownership soon passed to Stephen Brown.
In 1877 the silk production at Hall’s former premises closed for the last time and they remained empty until 1894 when they were bought by J. K. King, seed manufacturers.

An engraving from 1894 showing the premises. J. K King, the seed grower, used this on his advertising material.


The Coggeshall Gang
The “Coggeshall Gang”, as it was known locally at the time, was a group of up to 14 men who terrorised Coggeshall and the surrounding villages for over 10 years. The Essex Standard newspaper reported  in June 1838 “For some time past the neighbourhood of Coggeshall has been infested with a gang of housebreakers, who have carried out their work in a most audacious manner.” The Gang was not finally brought to trial until 1849.
Their leader was a man called Samuel Crow who was employed by innkeepers and the gentry to drive post-chaises. A local public house in Stoneham Street called the Black Horse was the Gang’s headquarters. The landlord of the Black Horse was William French, a gang member. In its early days the Gang pretty much had things all its own way. Coggeshall was policed by one constable: a part-time, unpaid volunteer who was no match for the Gang. After the formation of the Essex Constabulary in 1840 things would change.

A picture from around 1900 showing the location of the Black Horse. By this time it had been purchased by a retired railway engineer who  renamed it The Locomotive.
Between the years 1844 and 1848 a whole series of violent crimes swept Coggeshall and its surrounding villages. The local police force was finding it difficult to catch the Gang but in 1847 one of the Gang, William Wade, was caught, found guilty and sentenced to be transported. Whilst in prison awaiting transportation Samuel Crow visited him and promised that his family would be looked after in return for Wade's silence as to the identity of the rest of the Gang. In time it was to become clear that the Gang had failed to honour their side of the bargain and Wade informed the prison governor of their identity.
In March 1848 it was reported that at Bradwell near Coggeshall “four members of the Gang entered a house and terrorised the occupants, James Finch, 62, and Elizabeth Wright, his housekeeper, for three hours. During this time they were both held over an open fire to reveal where money was hidden and Elizabeth Wright was seriously injured when her clothes ignited. James Finch was dragged upstairs, a rope tied around his neck and he was hoisted up to a beam".
After Wade’s evidence the process of rounding up the Gang began with warrants being issued for all those he named. William Springett and William Tansley were arrested almost at once. Others, William Payne and Thomas Whittaker, managed to escape to Liverpool before being arrested on board a ship bound for America, while William “Crusty” Ellis got as far as Bury St Edmunds.
Samuel Crow was eventually cornered when he was hiding in an attic of a house at the rear of the Black Horse inn. He evaded capture by going over the rooftops into Church Street and escaped to the Abbey Mill. He made his way to London and eventually booked a passage on a steamer going to Hamburg. However, he was recognised by a Metropolitan officer and arrested on board.

The trial of the Gang took place at the Essex  Assizes at Chelmsford in March 1849. At the end of the trial Payne and Whittaker were acquitted, several were sentenced to seven years’ transportation and Crow and Tansley to life transportation. William “Crusty” Ellis was sentenced to death, but this was later commuted to life transportation.

William Wade’s reward for informing was to have his sentence of  life transportation reduced to seven years. Samuel Crow  never left England, dying in Chelmsford prison in March 1850.