During much of the Victorian era the hamlet of Corbets Tey supported three alehouses, and boasted a full range of local services including a Post Office, butcher, baker, a grocer and drapers, as well as two carpenters, a blacksmith, wheelwright, a boot and shoemaker and for a while a boys’ boarding school.
Perhaps this was hardly surprising as Upminster’s South Ward, including Corbets Tey, had a larger population than the Township ward which included the village centre. But it may also reflect that Corbets Tey’s location on routes through the south of the parish made it a stopping off point for travelers.
A well-worked tale gives the origins of the place name as supposedly bestowed by Queen Elizabeth I on her passage through the place on her way to address the fleet gathered at Tilbury before taking on the Spanish Armada in 1588. This implausible tale claims that the Queen ordered a courtier named Corbet to “stay” and the place gained its name. This can be easily dismissed as the place name is found more than a century before and probably much earlier. Reaney in his “Place Names of Essex” cites a reference to “Corbinstye” in 1461 and there are also references in the 13th & 14th century Hornchurch Priory documents to certain local inhabitants Osbert Corbin and Henry Corvyn.
“Tey” or “Tye” is a very common Essex place name element, derived from the Old English “teag” which usually refers to an enclosure, particularly in old woodland areas. If this place name element was the origin here then it was probably derived from site of an ancient enclosure by a certain Corbin or someone similarly named.
Corbets Tey hamlet itself is located on a slight rise where the road from Upminster climbs up from the tributary to the Ingrebourne, running through what is now Parklands open space, meets the road from Hornchurch (now Harwood Hall Lane) from the west.
Approaching from Upminster along Corbets Tey Road the view opposite is dominated by the old, distressed, ivy-covered tall brick house known as High House. This Grade II* listed building, now over 300 years old, is described in the heritage listing as “a remarkable survival of fine quality”. The adjacent timber-framed wing appears to be of even older origin.
According to Wilson the first occupiers of High House were “a family which fled from France at the revocation of the edict of Nantes”. This action by King Louis XIV in October 1685 revoked an edict from 1598 which had given Protestants freedom of worship and other rights in Catholic France and triggered an exodus from France of hundreds of thousands of Protestants (known to us as Huguenots) who fled to avoid persecution.
Wilson’s “first occupier” was one Michael Fallet (c.1655-1730) who bought High House and other land at Corbets Tey in 1699 from Sir Polycarpus Wharton for £1,000. Fallet had left France at least six months before the October 1685 Revocation as he married a widow Elizabeth Dumesnil (nee Buck) in London in March 1685; the couple had at least five children baptised in the French Church at Spitalfields over the next five years. Fallet was a wealthy merchant who imported and exported goods from France and other parts of Europe.
The Corbets Tey estates bought by Fallet in 1699 comprised a 20 acre farm called Riseleys, other small parcels of land, a premises “called by the name of the White Horse at Corbetstey”, “a mansion house” including an orchard, a dove house and three fish ponds, and a house called Copthall – in all 55 acres. It may well be that this ”mansion house” was High House, as the premises still had a dovecote in 1856, while fish ponds at the rear survived well into the 20th century.
The surviving property deeds of High House refer to an annual payment of £6 13s 8d to the charity of Henry Suckley, which was still an obligation when the premises were sold in 1924. This charitable payment provides evidence of Henry Suckley’s ownership of High House during the Elizabeth period. Suckley was a prosperous Citizen and Merchant Tailor of London who, before his death in July 1564, made an ongoing commitment for an annual payment to the poor inhabitants of his original home town of Tamworth, Staffordshire to be made from the rent income of his properties in Watling Street London and “all that capital messuage with a garden and orchard situate at Corbetstye in the parish of Upminster, co. Essex, and one other messuage called Ryseleys in Upminster”. These properties are clearly part of the estate that Michael Fallet bought in 1699 and which seem to have come to Henry Suckley from his marriage in 1539 to Agnes, the widow of another London Merchant Tailor, John Catchmaid who owned a large estate in Upminster and North Ockendon.
In the late 16th century these Upminster estates seem to have been purchased by the Frith family, who sold them in 1634 to Roger Taverner, who lived there. In 1674 his son Abraham Taverner, a London cooper, sold them to Sir George Wharton (1617-1681). Wharton was a Royalist pamphleteer, news book editor and soldier who from 1641 to 1666 had been the publisher of an astrological almanac. After Charles II’s restoration Sir George became government paymaster and in 1670 Treasurer of the Ordnance. His extravagantly named son, Sir Polycarpus Wharton (d. 1737) inherited the estate from his more famous father.
The Heritage Listing dating of High House itself to around 1700, if accurate, suggests it was built either during Michael Fallet’s ownership or during that of his predecessor Sir Polycarpus Wharton. In 1881, Wilson also thought that High House was probably 200 years old – i.e. during Wharton’s ownership.
On his death in 1730 Michael Fallet willed that part of the estate should be sold to pay his son-in-law Jacob Gosset a sum £200 (which formed the dowry of his daughter Mary on her 1727 marriage to Gosset) and also £300 outstanding on a mortgage on the estate. Fallet bequeathed the rest of his estate in “Corbetstyle” to his two unmarried daughters Elizabeth and Susannah, who were buried in Upminster churchyard in 1758 and 1763 respectively. On Susannah’s death the properties, which included High House, passed to her niece Mary Freeman, daughter of Anthony Freeman and his wife Anne Fallet, another of Michael Fallet’s daughters.
Mary Freeman, later known as Mary Freeman Shepherd (1731-1815), was described by Wilson as “a lady of capacious mind and great endowments”. She was a staunch Roman Catholic who had grown up in a convent in Rome and was an expert linguist and later became renowned for her correspondence with the Wesley family. According to Rev Charles Wesley’s biographer, Thomas Jackson, she “possessed a masculine intellect, and superior literary attainments” but was “eccentric and revengeful” – she was undoubtedly a larger than life figure!
After Mrs Shepherd’s death in 1815 High House was inherited by Captain Thomas Eden Blackwell (1803-1845), grandson of her executor, Ebenezer Blackwell (1731-1782), who was a partner in Martins’ Bank, and confidante of Rev John Wesley. High House remained in the Blackwell family’s ownership until in 1924 it was sold by his descendants to its occupier, Edward Clark who farmed the adjacent 30 acres, as well as trading as a hurdle maker. Clark (1856-1934) had probably been born at High House and followed in the same occupation there as had his father Richard Clark (1831-1904), described variously as a timber dealer or merchant, in addition to farming and hurdle making at High House.
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries High House was usually tenanted. Dr Thomas London was the occupier of High House from 1788 until 1801 and from 1804 John Saunders kept a boys’ boarding school there for almost 40 years, until 1843. Saunders, who was described in a militia list in 1805 as “lame in one arm”, was declared bankrupt in 1832, and the lease and contents of High House were offered for sale – the contents included “20 tent and other bedsteads, 20 feather beds, 30 pair blankets, quilts and counterpanes”. Things evidently improved as Saunders continued to operate the boarding school for ten more years, assisted by his son Richard, with 11 pupils lodging there in 1841; he died at Hornchurch in June 1849 aged 79.
The “White Horse at Corbets Tey” which had formed part of Michael Fallet’s purchase in 1699 may well have been the premises later known as Keelings after the occupier Joseph Keeling who died in 1793. Keelings was described by Wilson in 1881 as “a low building about 45 feet long and 18 feet deep, divided into a somewhat large central and smaller rooms at either end”, the central part of which seems to have dated back to at least the 16th century. Wilson referred to a tradition that says that Keelings was probably an inn at the time that Elizabeth passed through Corbets Tey in 1588.
This property, which included a cherry orchard to the south, was probably sold on Michael Fallet’s death. It was in the ownership of the Esdaile family in the late 18th century and was part of their estate sale in 1819; it was leased to George Stevens, publican of The George and had already been divided into two tenements. According to Wilson the roof was constructed from “remarkably sound and good timber” and was thatched until a tiled roof was substituted in 1878. An original arched doorway which opened from what appears to have been a hall still existed in 1881. Until 1869 this hall was paved or floored with knuckle bones – a very unusual kind of material for that purpose, which were popular during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, although few now survive. By 1910 or earlier an extension had been added, and it then comprised four tenements described as Keelings Cottages.
A separate weather-boarded cottage on the west of the site, which stood sidewise to the road and adjacent to what became the car park to the Huntsman & Hounds, seems of later 18th century origins and by the early 20th century was known as Keelings House, or sometimes Number 5 Keelings Cottages. Keelings House and the Keelings Cottages were sold for £390 in 1936 and demolished in April 1958.
Keelings Row was a brick-built terrace of six labourers‘ houses which were built on the Green Lane, now Sunnings Lane. around 1889 on the southern end of the land south of Keelings. They still survive, although heavily modified.
The Huntsman & Hounds, to the east of High House, was built on the part of Michael Fallet’s estate that passed down into the Blackwell family’s ownership in the 19th century. The inn may have been built to replace the White Horse and it certainly existed by 1769 when Hills Bromfield was the first named licensee. After Bromfield died in 1774 he was succeeded by Thomas Sumpner (who was also described as a wheelwright) who was the licensee until his own death in 1794, when his mother Hannah took over. From 1786 the pub appears to have been known for several years known as “The Fox and Hounds”, a name which crops up in later years too. Joseph Lee, later publican of the Bell, was in charge from 1795 to 1799, when John Lister (d.1803) was there briefly. George Davey, Jesse Oxley and John Mansfield seem to have been the publicans there in the 1820s and 1830s. Edward Conway was the licensee by 1841 until his death in 1860, when his son Charles took over, until his own sudden death aged 45 in 1883.
William Hewett succeeded Conway until Frank Herbert Rowe – grandson of George Rowe who had bought both the old Upminster and Cranham parish workhouses in the 1830s – took on the license in May 1895. During Rowe’s tenancy the premises was rebuilt by the owners Ind Coope from October 1895 about 20 yards east of the original building and ten feet further back from the road, reopening in May 1896. Later publicans were William Taylor before and during the First World War, and Charles Busby during the 1920s and 1930s, succeeded by his son Harold in 1938.
The Old Anchor to the west of High House, is a timber framed Grade II listed building said to date to the 18th century. It was the Anchor beerhouse from the 1840s, with James Sarrell being the first licensee. Sarrell was by trade a carpenter, with his yard behind the premises, which was also listed as a post office in 1855, with Sarrell shown in the Directory as Postmaster in 1851 and 1855. After his death in 1858, his widow Elizabeth continued the beerhouse trade for ten years , and was succeeded in 1868 by Eliza Manklow who was a grocer and beer retailer there until her death 1891. The Anchor, also described as being used as “chandlers shop” in 1881, closed its doors as a beerhouse in October 1896 – a few months after the rebuilt Huntsman & Hounds opened.
The Anchor was part of Michael Fallet estate and descended with High House and the Huntsman & Hounds to the Blackwell family. It was either part of Fallet’s 1699 purchase or may have been the premises known as Fowler’s Tenement, bought by him in 1720 from Joseph Moyes of Hornchurch, when it was described as abutting on the south and east of Fallet’s house and garden. Fowler’s Tenement had been bought in 1672 by Joseph’s mother Anne Moyse from Samuel Gardiner, a Derbyshire clergyman and his wife Alice.
If the identification with Fowler’s Tenement is correct it had already been divided into two tenements when Fallet bought it in 1720; a note written by Fallet in the 1720s indicates that he had built a little house adjoining.
Numbers 1 to 8 Bearblock Cottages to the west of the Anchor are stepped down the slope into Harwood Hall Lane. Also Grade II listed, they take their name from the 19th century owner, the Reverend James Bearblock (1786-1841) of Lilliput’s, Hornchurch, who was curate to Rev John Rose Holden at Upminster from 1817, or possibly earlier. According to Wilson, Bearblock “held strong, not to say bigoted, opinions on both religious and political subjects. He was often in hot water with his neighbours on “the Tithe question”. In 1840 Champion Edward Branfill of Upminster Hall found one of Bearblock’s sermons so personally offensive that he abruptly left St Laurence’s Church with his family, never to return during the remainder of Bearblock’s curacy.
On his death in 1841 the Rev Bearblock bequeathed his three Corbets Tey properties to his sons Walter, John and Peter Esdaile Bearblock, and they were still owned by the Bearblock family into the 20th century.
The history of Bearblock’s Cottages is unclear. The eight cottages appear to have been formed from three earlier properties. The first of these, now Numbers 1, 2 and 3, are described in the heritage listing as probably dating from the 17th century and share a single, large chimney stack with six diagonal shafts. Numbers 1 and 2 housed a butcher’s and a baker’s in 1842, and Number 3 a shoemaker.
The second premises, now Numbers 4 to 6, were a tenement sub-divided into three, while the third, Numbers 7 and 8 form a pair. These are thought to date from the 18th century and differ in appearance from Numbers 1 and 2 as they are weatherboarded and the windows differ.
A terrace of six tenement cottages facing Bearblock’s Cottages, on the opposite side of Harwood Hall Lane, were built on land which was formerly part of the Esdaile’s Gaynes Estate, sold in 1819. William Hammond was the owner in 1842.
An octagonal lath and plaster cottage, known as Octagon House, which stood on the corner of Corbets Tey Road and Harwood Hall Lane, opposite the George and High House, was built by Sir James Esdaile as a lodge to Gaynes. Wilson said that a turf road led from here, over what we now call Parklands Bridge, through the park to the rear of Gaynes Mansion. This was also owned by William Hammond and was sold in 1863 after his death, like the terrace of six cottages.
Octagon House was replaced in the early 1890s by a grocer’s and Post Office, with Edward Phillips named as the Postmaster in 1895. This later became Gooderhams, and then from around 1916 Green’s Stores. In 2011 plans were approved for a modern house to be built on the by-then vacant site, which was only completed with some delay, with much local concern.
Another terrace of four cottages, which still survive, was added on the eastern side in the late Victorian period, as was the premises described as Wood Vine Cottage, on a plot of land also sold after Hammond’s death.
The Old Cottage at the junction of Corbets Tey Road and Ockendon Road, is a Grade II listed 17th century premises, which until October 1901 was the public house known as “The George”. This was certainly an inn from 1760 or earlier and the first named publican was Jeremiah Sutton (d.1767), who was succeeded by his wife Grace who died four years after him. Richard Woolmer (1771-1776) and William Brett (1776-1780) were both landlords for a few years each before George Stevens was landlord there for over 50 years. Stevens, who Wilson said had previously been a gamekeeper at nearby Stubbers, took over as licensee in 1780 and continued until 1831, dying in 1834 aged 79. After this the landlords changed every few years with Joseph Fassnidge, there from 1886 until his death in 1894, one of the longest serving during this time. The final landlord was Thomas Starr who sold the last glass of beer at The George to William Snell on 10th October 1901.
The premises, or a predecessor there, may have been in use as an alehouse in the late Elizabethan era. In 1632 Richard Goodey bought a premises at Corbets Tey from Sir Andrew Astley of Writtle, which had previously been occupied by one Alexander Saward, who was licensed as victualler in Upminster in the 1620s. It had earlier been owned by Robert Whatman, his wife Marie and his mother Joane – possibly relatives of a Thomas Whatman who had been summonsed for keeping a tippling house in Upminster without a license in 1588.
The George was another property bought by the Esdaile family in the late 18th century, and which was sold by them in 1819 to Thomas Curtis, who also bought Keelings. When it was offered for sale in 1819 it was described as having six bedrooms, a large dining room, parlour, club room, tap room, two bars, pantry and good under-ground cellaring.
After it was disposed of by Ind Coope in 1901 it became a private house, and the home of Upminster’s suffragette Miss Henria Leech Williams, whose story you can read here. Miss Williams enlarged the property in 1909 by adding an adjoining cottage, which her coachman David Scott lived in.
East of the George was the blacksmiths which had occupied the site for over two hundred years and which may well be the “smythes shop, payntehouse, forge and coleyard” at Corbets Tey which William Whatman sold in 1634 for £4 to the previously mentioned Richard Goodey, tanner, who also owned what I believe was the adjacent house. This was possibly also an alehouse as when Goodey sold it the occupier was Thomas Sweeting, victualler, who was listed as an Upminster alehouse keeper from 1623 to 1642.
The smithy had also been owned by the Esdaile family in the late 18th century. Henry Idle (1752-1826) succeeded Thomas Wade as the smith there from 1787, and afterwards his son of the same name continued the trade until his death in 1851. Other long-serving smiths there were Joseph Leech from around 1884 until the early 1900s and Amos Coe (1855-1939) who was blacksmith for over 20 years until his son Percy (1881-1966) succeeded him in the early 1920s. After Percy Coe retired in April 1959 the smithy was demolished.
Further east Ockendon Road takes a dog-leg south before turning east again, opposite Keelings. This was for unknown reasons called “Cabbage Corner” in the 20th century, although confusingly marked as Keelings Corner on Ordnance Survey maps. Two buildings sited there originally seem to have dated back to at least the 18th century, one of which was a wheelwright’s leased by Thomas Dear when it was offered for sale in 1819. William Smith later continued this trade and was also the Postmaster there from 1859 to 1891; letters arrived from Romford around 6am and were dispatched at 6pm.
A separate article follows, covering the local farms and mansions around Corbets Tey, including Harwood Hall, London’s and Hacton House.