Upminster in Living Memory Revisited

It’s been over twenty years since the publication in 2000 of Upminster in Living Memory – a collection of eight memoirs of folk born between 1905 and 1933 who grew up or lived in Upminster when it was still very much an Essex beauty spot. In those two decades more records have become available to flesh out detail to the people mentioned by the authors, and this article explores those memories with a fresh eye and add further background research. 

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Upminster Rectory and the Parish Glebe

Most Upminster folk know that the building west of St Laurence Church, off Gridiron Place, is the former parish rectory, now used as offices, but many are probably unaware that until 1929 Upminster Park to the south of the church along Corbets Tey Road was the parish Glebe, the area of land which provided extra income for the Rector, alongside the tithes which were levied on the harvest from the whole parish.

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God’s Acre – St Laurence Churchyard

By tradition known as “God’s Acre”, the parish churchyard is the place where generations of parishioners found their final resting place. The churchyard of St Laurence is no exception, with some gravestones and tombs dating back over three hundred years to the eighteenth century while some others date to more recent times.

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Upminster: St Laurence, Parish Church

“Among all the impressive objects that happy England can show, none are more interesting and elevating than her village churches”, wrote Upminster’s historian Thomas Lewis Wilson in 1856. Those comments certainly apply to Upminster’s St Laurence Church which, although much altered throughout its history, merits Grade 1 listing due to its ancient and important tower.

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Picturing the Branfill family

The Branfill family of Upminster Hall were prominent landowners in Upminster for over two hundred years from 1685 but we have had no images to show us what they looked like. Upminster’s historian Thomas Lewis Wilson recorded a long list of 23 portraits of the Branfills and other relations which were hanging in Upminster Hall in 1881. Wilson included an engraving by Benjamin Branfill of one family member, but apart from a bust of Andrew Branfill (1640-1709) on his memorial in Upminster Church the family’s images have remained mystery. Until now that is.

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Upminster: The Story of a Garden Suburb – 25 years on

It hardly seems possible that it is now 25 years since Upminster: the Story of Garden Suburb was launched with a book signing in the Roomes Store on Station Road, Upminster on Saturday 9th November 1996.

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Upminster Hall: manor and estate

At the Domesday Survey of 1086 Waltham Abbey’s Upminster manor was made up of the Abbey’s estate of around 340 acres, with another 1,200 acres of so of woodland.  The male tenant population of 13 had four ploughs between them to carry out their obligations to work on the Lord’s land.  These tenants were split into three categories: there were six “villeins”, who held the largest plots, possibly up to 30 acres, four “bordars” each with a smaller holding – perhaps five acres or so – and three “serfs” who either held a small plot of land, or none at all. The survey also recorded a “sokeman” – a tenant free of working on the Lord’s land – who held 30 acres and half a “carucate” (a ploughland – possibly around 60 acres).

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Seven Years!

It was seven years ago today, on 21 December 2013, that I launched this Upminster website and here we are 35 lengthy blog posts, around 100,000 words and around 70,000 website hits later we’re still going strong. When I started, after 20 years of researching Upminster’s past, I don’t think I ever imagined where this journey might take me but here we are, almost at the end of 2020, far more advanced than I would have guessed.

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Upminster Hall: owners and buildings

Upminster Hall and its estate have a history that can be traced back almost a thousand years to before the Norman Conquest of 1066. Unlike Upminster’s other main manor, Gaynes, which frequently changed hands before it was split up and sold in 1929, Upminster Hall was owned by only two significantly owners – the monks of Waltham Abbey for over 450 years and the Branfill family for over 200 years.

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The Branfills at Upminster Hall

The aftermath of the recent Black Lives Matters protests has thrown a spotlight on historic figures who had links with the slave trade. Upminster has not escaped this scrutiny which has brought to light unpleasant local connections with the Branfills of Upminster Hall and a call for a road and a school in Upminster to be renamed to erase these links. Continue reading

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