Gaynes Common – otherwise known as Mill Common or Upminster Common – lay to the west of Nags Head Lane and north and south of what is now known as Shepherds Hill. This common extended to almost 70 acres in 1842, and was where the tenants of the Manor of Gaynes could exercise their rights as commoners which included grazing their livestock.
By 1846, the absentee Lord of the Manor of Gaynes, James Cudden, decided to enclose the remaining part of the Common, which had almost certainly been larger in the past before similar enclosures. Each manorial tenant with commoners’ rights received an allocation proportional to their landholding, with the common carved up into some 28 separate allocations, most ranging in size from half an acre to around three acres. Over time, these small enclosures were mainly incorporated into neighbouring farms, with some of those north of Shepherds Hill being added to Ivy Lodge Farm, and many of those to the south absorbed into Pages Farm.
Gaynes Common was often known as Mill Common as Upminster’s first windmill stood to the south of the common and to the north of Shepherds Hill. The Essex historian Morant, citing Rev William Derham, suggested that a beacon had stood on or near the windmill site “answering to another Beacon which was near to Mr Green’s house, at Navestock”. Certainly, this site, which slopes down to the west, south and east, and less so to the north, would have been an ideal choice for such a beacon but by 1670 a post-mill on a high brick base had been erected, along with an adjoining parcel of land “now or late enclosed for the raising or making of a mill hill for the windmill”. The mill had probably existed some years before 1656 when it was reported that one Samuel Graves “being a Miller tooke a Windmill att Upminster aforesaid, wherein he wrought att his trade in the day time”, while in 1665 Thomas Dawson of Upminster, miller, was buried in the churchyard. John Gatwood was the owner and occupier in 1704, and John Wood was named as the miller in 1749. No photographs of the mill survive but the engraving below from Wilson’s 1881 history shows us what the mill looked like.
William Pinchon, who had married at Upminster in 1771, was certainly the miller there by 1778 and in that year he was given leave to enclose part of the common north of his mill. On his death in 1815 the mill passed to his son James Pinchon, who extended the site by enclosing land to the east, and when he died in 1840 it passed to his younger brother David. His son David Pinchon junior (1833-1900) inherited the mill on his father’s death in 1843, under his mother Lydia’s guardianship, and he took over as miller in the family business in the 1850s. In May 1875 the mill, miller’s house, a neighbouring cottage and adjacent pasture were sold in two lots, with William Richard Preston, the owner of nearby Harold Court, buying the mill, buildings and garden for £500, while the British Empire Assurance Company bought the remaining 3 ½ acres of arable land for £310. The mill seems to have still been in operation in 1881, with Samuel Manning shown as the last miller there, employing one man, but within a year after Preston’s bankruptcy and disappearance in August 1881 the mill was taken down.
The land to the north of the common formed part of Preston’s Good House farm, later known as Harold Court, which I have written about HERE.
Ivy Lodge Farm which occupies the area between the bottom end of Nags Head Lane and part of the eastern edge of the common was sold on death of the owner Henry Alexander in 1850, when it comprised 34 acres and was called “Riders” Farm. The farmhouse is said to date from 1708 and the small sized fields – several of just two or three acres – suggest that at some earlier stage it was probably enclosed from the Common or manorial waste, although it’s unclear whether this was from Gaynes or Tylers Common. John William Laird was the occupier in the 1860s and seems to have suffered from a series of thefts of livestock and crops. Interestingly, in 1869 he was trying to dispose of 50 tons of guano, imported from South America! The premises were described in 1865 as a house “handsomely fitted up, containing 10 rooms, with convenient outbuildings …a good double coach house and stable, loose boxes, garden and orchard”. There were by then around 81 acres, 14 acres of “capital grass land”, 37 acres of arable and 30 more acres of meadow available, and Laird employed three men and two boys on the farm in 1871. Daniel Shuttleworth (1851-1937) farmed at Ivy Lodge in the 1890s and the early part of the 20th century, and his son Arthur was the farmer from the 1930s.
The Shepherd & Dog seems to have been built in around 1848 on the north side of Shepherd’s Hill by Edward Thurby Hickling to serve as a beerhouse, on land that had been enclosed from Gaynes Common in 1846. When it opened it was the only beerhouse between Brook Street and Romford, and William Oliver was the beer retailer until 1864. Hickling had been the publican at the Ship Inn in Aveley until he took over running the Shepherd & Dog until 1873. Alfred Claydon was the publican there from 1875 until 1887s. By the early 1900s beer was supplied by the London & Burton Brewery, who acquired the freehold in 1924. After the brewery was taken over by Watney Mann Ltd in 1929 the premises were substantially enlarged by their new owners from the earlier small Victorian premises to a modern large public house to better serve the growing local population, with George Sawyer the publican there until his death in 1957, when his widow Catherine Maud Sawyer took over the licence.
Page’s Farm is a Grade II listed farm which lays south of Shepherd’s Hill, opposite the site of the old windmill. “The Buildings of England” describes Pages as “originally C13, altered and raised by a storey in C17, timber framing concealed by render.” The 17th century date is confirmed by the date ”1663” carved on a corbel on the ground floor where the initials “TWH” can also be found, said to represent the initials of the Witham family, the owners at the time of the rebuilding. The barns and outbuildings, although of a later date, are also listed Grade II.
Pages Farm of some 154 acres takes its name from Thomas Page, the tenant farmer in the early 18th century who was one of the Parish Overseers of the Poor in 1708. It had been assembled from several older holdings with the main part, including the farmhouse, which was previously called Gladman’s. Morant’s History of Essex described Gladman’s as consisting of one messuage, 40 acres of arable, 32 acres of pasture, 8 acres of meadow and 6 acres of wood, 86 acres in total. Ralph Latham bought the house and lands from William Gladman in 1529, and on his death in 1557 Latham bequeathed it, along with his manors of Gaynes and Upminster Hall and other premises, to his eldest son William. In 1641 Gladman’s was said to be 104 acres occupied by Henry Reynolds, and to the south there was an adjacent 30 acre holding called Adgores or Gyllfields, which Ralph Latham had bought from George Tuke, and was afterwards known as “Tukeslands”. These holdings form the majority of the 183 acre Pages Wood open space, the largest site in the Thames Chase Community Forest.
William Latham’s son Ralph seems to have sold the farm in 1636 to one George Thorowgood, Citizen and Draper, who in turn sold it to William Balldwyn, a Dagenham yeoman, from whom it was bought by Thomas Witham, a Dagenham tanner. It remained in the Witham family’s ownership until 1717 when it was sold by Thomas Witham, grandson of the original Thomas. In 1821 the farm was bought by John Rose Holden, the former Rector of Upminster for £5172 and seems to have been known as Rectory or Tithe Farm. The Holden family sold Pages in 1899 to Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Henry Padfield (1865-1955) took on the tenancy in 1893 after Edward Stevens Manning’s lease expired and it was Padfield who developed Pages into a dairy farm, working with his son Ernest Alban (1894-1977) as Padfield & Son providing milk to the surrounding area. E A Padfield succeeded his father as the occupier in the early 1920s, buying the premises from Emmanuel College in 1950.
The land north-west of Pages, up to the river Ingrebourne at Cockabourne Bridge, was historically a copyhold farm known as Spackmans and Northlands. Richard Tibballs, a Brentwood apothecary, succeeded John Young as the owner of the 25 acre farm in 1685; Robert Osborne was the tenant farmer in 1704. There was a series of ownership changes in the 18th century and by 1803 the buildings were said to be out of repair. Things improved after James Hawes bought it in 1822 and the farm was known as Hawes for some years before reverting to the former name of Northlands, which became freehold in 1841; Wilson recorded that in 1881 it then comprised 43 acres.
Savernake House was a small property between Pages and Hawes, formerly called Shipman’s, after the occupier William Shipman (1772-1848). This had been owned by William Manning of Greathouse Farm in 1842, when it was only two acres around the house, but it doubled in size 1846 when part of the adjacent manorial waste was enclosed and added. William Rowe bought Shipman’s for £300 in 1873, and enfranchised the copyhold parts of the property in 1889. John James Grant, a former Canning Town butcher, was the tenant there from the late 1870s and in 1881 he was described as a Contractor & Purveyor of meat employing three men and a female bookkeeper.
The junction between the road from Romford to Brentwood (Shepherds Hill to the west and Warley Road eastwards), and the road from Upminster (Hall Lane and Nags Head Lane) was known as the Four Want Way – and until around the late 1960s Hall Lane formerly ran north east to form a cross roads with Nags Head Lane, rather than the current staggered junction.
The area at the junction south of Warley Road and east of Hall Lane was formerly two copyhold farms, part of Upminster Hall Manor. The northernmost farm was historically called Stretmans, but later called Beacon Farm, and comprised about 12 acres. Part of Beacon Farm, a two acre pasture on the corner, was originally named Lorkins in the 17th century and was part of Poddies Farm for many years. The main part of Poddies was a seven acre copyhold property bought by Ezekiel Murrell in 1774. It was purchased in 1817 by William Manning of Greathouse Farm for £500, and after his death in June 1855 it was sold by his executors to his son Edward Stevens Manning (1830-1902). Beacon Farm, which was also a copyhold property, had been bought by William Pinchon around 1814 for his daughter Anna, and it passed to her descendants before E S Manning acquired it in 1895. On Manning’s death in 1902 his trustee (& relative) James David Pinchon, enfranchised both farms and then sold them.
The long-term tenant at Poddies from the 1890s until his death in 1945, was Robert Gurton, variously described as a higgler, poultry dealer, or smallholder. Gurton had numerous run-ins with the law and in 1906 when he was fined for allowing two ponies, kept on the Common, to stray it was reported that there were 13 similar convictions.
Greathouse was to the south of Poddies and in 1842 was a farm of 86 aces owned by Thomas Helme, Esq of Little Bookham, Surrey, who was a Director of the Romford brewers, Ind, Coope & Company. Helme adopted the name Mashiter in 1884 under the terms of the will of his maternal uncle Thomas Mashiter (1779-1862) of Hornchurch Lodge, Hornchurch.
According to Wilson Greathouse was by tradition formerly “an estate of some pretensions” with a spacious house, taken down and replaced in 1802. A tributary of the Ingrebourne passes through the fields and at some early stage this had been was dammed to form a large boating lake, no longer in use by the mid-nineteenth century.
William Manning farmed Greathouse until his death in 1855, and then his wife Ann until her death in 1873. Their son Edward Stevens Manning took over the tenancy, farming Greathouse, along with his other farms, in total 301 acres in 1881. He died there in tragic circumstances in January 1902 as a gust of wind caught the granary door, crushing him against an iron post which seems to have fatally damaged his stomach, and he died before the doctor could arrive.
Greathouse was bought in 1906 for £2,900 by William Clarke Hall, a London barrister, and later magistrate, who with his artist wife Edna, had already rented the property since 1902. For details of Edna Clarke Hall life and career see HERE. Clarke Hall was knighted in the 1932 New Year’s Honours List but died in October that year, after which his widow was Lady Clarke Hall. Lady Clarke Hall died on 16th November 1979 aged 100. The dilapidated house was then extensively renovated, before being offered for sale in 1986.
The area around the Four Want corner and along Hall Lane was like a small hamlet. There were several cottages on Warley Road opposite Tylers Common, Poddies was divided into three tenements or cottages, while Beacon Farm comprised two timber and tiled cottages. Clarke Hall bought Poddies in 1908 and demolished the three dilapidated cottages and built four new houses in their place in 1910 and 1911. These were usually called Four Wantz Cottages, or occasionally Clarke Hall Cottages.
Opposite Greathouse, adjacent to Pages Farm, were several more properties including a smithy which had been erected on the former manorial waste. John Cressey was the blacksmith there from the mid-1840s until his death in 1888, and he was succeeded by his son Joseph, who was described in the census returns as deaf from childhood – perhaps an asset in his noisy trade – and his wife operated at grocers’ business there too. Edward Miller had succeed Cressey by 1901 and he continued there until the 1920s; the smithy was still in use in 1939, with Arthur Prentice then the smith. A Richard Delahunt operated a greengrocer’s business nearby in the early part of the 20th century.
Many of the principal inhabitants at Upminster Common, including the farming Manning family and the Pinchon millers, were staunch non-conformists who formed the basis of a non-conformist congregation from the early 19th century, if not earlier. The distance from central Upminster ruled out regular worship at the chapel on Upminster Hill. In 1829 about 60 worshippers were meeting in a house at Upminster Common under the superintendence of Samuel H. Carlisle, minister of Romford Congregational Church. By 1835, services were held at the nearby mill-house, in connection with Upminster Congregational church, but these services seem to have ended with James Pinchon’s death in 1840.
His sister-in-law, Mrs. Lydia Pinchon of Potkiln Farm, gave a site in Hall Lane which allowed a chapel to be established there in June 1850. The chapel was under the joint oversight of the Congregational churches of Brentwood and Romford, and activities there were well attended, with visiting preachers and attendances around 100. The Brentwood town and village missionary, George Matthews, was in charge of the chapel from 1851 to 1870 and a Sunday school under the superintendence of a Mr Everitt and Mr G Hammond was said to attract 70 scholars and “a good staff of teachers”.
The chapel was still in operation in 1909 but after a period of inactivity it was reopened in 1915. In 1940 the building was re-certified for undenominational worship but in August 1944 the chapel and three adjacent Tyes Cottages were destroyed by a V1 doodlebug, causing the death from her injuries of Mrs Mary Holman, aged 75. Firemen managed to save the chapel organ by extracting it through a window. Mrs Holman’s neighbour Mrs Ada Saltmarsh, who was visiting at the time, was badly injured and never fully recovered, dying five years later.
In 1947 another chapel was set up from two army huts, thanks to donations, and three years later the centenary of the original chapel’s foundation was celebrated there. The chapel however was later disused and in 2014 was demolished and replaced by a bungalow. To the south the former buildings of Tyes Cottages and farm were demolished in 2006 and replaced by Meadowbanks Residential Care Home.
Those living around the common had to rely on water from private wells, ponds or spring water. William Clarke Hall was prominent from 1905 onwards in promoting the need for the area to be connected to the South Essex Waterworks Company’s mains, alleging that recent cases of scarlet fever were due to the lack of mains supply. He offered to underwrite a significant part of cost of the interest from the capital costs of the works, and other landowners similarly seem to have agreed to meet these costs. After a long drawn-out process, the scheme and authority to borrow was finally approved and the necessary pipes to bring water to premises at the Common were eventually laid and connected in 1909.
To the south of Greathouse, opposite Tyes Farm, Knight’s Abattoir was developed probably in the 1950s. This was demolished and replaced by 2003 by the Cornsland Close residential development. South of this, Aspen Tree (or Apse Tree) Farm, on the east side of Hall Lane, formerly comprised around 40 acres, but seems to have been absorbed into Potkiln Farm after it was bought by Champion Branfill after the death of William Pinchon in 1840. The late 18th century farmhouse appears to survive as the Grade II listed Apse Tree Cottages. Adjacent to these to the north are Martins Cottages: the original cottages dated from the 18th century or earlier and in 1786 were owned by Thomas Green. After several changes of ownership these copyhold cottages were acquired by Benjamin Gray in 1891.
According to Wilson “By the road side, a short distance north of the Potkiln, is a spring whose fine water is unfailing. Dr. Derham observed, that in the greatest droughts, when the ponds all over the country had been dried up for months, it was little, if at all diminished; nor did he ever perceive any increase during the wettest seasons; but it appeared to flow even more abundantly in dry than wet weather. Nor has it ever been known to freeze.” I haven’t been able to trace the exact location but it appears to have been around the A127 crossing.
Continuing south, the final premises not yet covered in these articles about Upminster Common, was Martin’s farm which stood on the west of Hall Lane, opposite Potkilns. Martin’s originally comprised several holdings, several of which were copyhold of the Manor of Gaynes. It took its name from a former holding called Martins which in 1704 was a tenement and 10 acres, including another customary holding called Willotts, owned together with another tenement and 10 acres called Motts owned by Ann Calcutt; by 1892 Martins & Motts was described as comprising 36 acres. Another holding which became part of Martin’s farm was Archers which in 1704 was a freehold messuage and tenement owned by John Milligan, a Romford draper, who also owned five acres of copyhold lands called Maggots Field. Maggotts Field and Martins were acquired by Champion Branfill in 1821 from John Yeldham a Collector of Taxes whose properties were forfeited to the Commissioners. Two other Gaynes manorial copyholds owned by the Branfills were Fullers alias Westlands (11 acres) , bought by Champion Branfill in 1729 as an annuity for his wife, and Holmans at Brook alias Simkins (18 acres) bought by Champion Edward Branfill in 1819 from James Bonfellow of South Weald. However, it’s unclear whether or not these formed part of Martins.
In September 1911 a big fire broke out at Martin’s farm, destroying many of the buildings there, although the farmhouse and granary were saved. As a result of this destruction, the owner Champion Branfill redeveloped the premises the following year, building a new farmhouse, cottage and outbuildings on the Chapman’s Farm site on the other (eastern) side of Hall Lane, with some other rebuilding taking place on the western (Martin’s Farm) side. This Martin’s Farm site has for many years been used as a stables and livery yard, and a planning application (P1673.18) has recently been submitted to demolish the existing run-down and semi-derelict buildings and build nine homes on the site, two five bedroom, three four-bedroom, and four three-bedroom properties.