Roydon – Essex, a great place to start

St Peters Ad-Vicula Church from Roydon village green

Cambridge House with is beautiful Wisteria is at the heart of the village

                              Approaching the Marina


What should be the topic of my first ever blog!!   Well the general idea is to write about places my wife already love and about places we will discover and learn a bit about so I thought, as a first attempt,  what about the pretty little village Julie and I have been lucky enough to live in for the past 9 years.

Roydon lies on the road linking Harlow and Epping in Essex. To the west of East End (farm) and just above Worlds End – where there is a wood and in this wood lives a fine Black Poplar Tree – one of a select 50 great trees listed in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. But this is not the villages only treasure.

The rivers Stort and the Lea form the parish boundaries to the north and west and a major feature of the village and surrounding areas is the river walks and beautiful countryside. Also the impressive 350 birth marina within Roydon Marina Village, a 32 acre complex comprising camp site, holiday lodges, residential homes, hotel and restaurants (Marco’s is a very welcoming and recommended Italian restaurant that has always hit the mark for us and serves our family and friend get togethers ).

As you approach the complex via a riverside roadway adjacent to the railway station, an impressive 3 storey mill comes into view with barges and longboats moored up. Park in the large car-park and walk through the lodges to find the usually well used marina, an impressive site of floating homes, very peaceful and beautiful. There are lovely river walks from this area leading to a number of lakes.

This is an old village with a number of fine 15th, 16th and 17th century  houses scattered about. It was mentioned in the Doomsday Book – commissioned in 1085 by Frenchman Guillame the Bastard (AKA William the Conqueror) to record exactly what he then owned for the purpose of taxation and redistribution of land won to his fellow Norman nobleman. Thus was the start of the Norman rule of Britain which remains so evident today and will feature in many of my future blogs.

My own ancestry in England comes from the 1066 invasion at Hastings when my surname first arrived on these shores and I am steadily piecing together the links back to my Norman origins.  But I digress -as may routinely happen.

Roydon was then known as Ruindune – gifted by William to his buddy Inguar, brother of Ranulf who was gifted Herlaua – thought to be the beginnings of what has become Harlow. The village was recorded as Reindona by about 1130, Reindon in 1204 and then Roindon in 1208. Not sure when the ‘n’ disappeared from its pronounciation and spelling but is thought to be around the mid to late 1400s. The name has been thought to mean originally ‘sweet hill’ and then ‘rye covered hill’.  Roydon came into the possession of the Baynard family who forfeited it to Henry 1st – treason allegedly. Then bestowed to Fitzwalters family until Edward 1st’s reign.

The four manors were Roydon Hall, Temple Hall, Downe Hall, and Nether Hall. Roydon Hall and Temple Hall were given by the Fitzwilliams to the Knights Templars and with it the Church of St Peter-Ad-Vincula. The Templars were suddenly dissolved in 1311 many suffering gruesome deaths. Their property was passed on to another order who remained in favour – The Knights of St John of Jerusalem (AKA The Knights Hospitallers), who remained until the dissolution of the monasteries was ordered by our favourite King Henry VIII in 1535.

Nether Hall was situated off what is now called Low Hill Road, leading out of Roydon and location of salad growers. The number of local rivers and lakes make this area quiet a centre for garden nurseries and the number of articulated lorries navigating these country lanes indicate the success of these mainly Italian businesses. Greenhouses extend for miles it seems.

Nether Hall was purchased by The Abbey of Waltham  in 1280 but it changed hands several times subsequently until Thomas Colt acquired it around 1470. He became Privy Councillor to King Edward IV. Thomas’s grand-daughter Jane was later to marry Sir Thomas More, author and Chancellor to King Henry VIII. The story goes that Sir Thomas was a frequent visitor to Nether Hall – possibly something to do with the three lovely daughters of John Colt.

Thomas particularly fancied the second eldest but, according to his biographer and son in law – William Roper, Thomas thought it would be insulting to the eldest daughter to prefer a younger sibling and instead, gallantly switched his attention to the eldest – Jane. She was still a bit of a looker though I am sure. or perhaps an excellent cook or  homemaker or sufficiently skilled and desirable in other ways. Most likely though she would have been the family heir if there were no surviving sons – a thought that may also have crossed Thomas’s mind.

Sir Thomas as I am sure you will know was executed for treason for refusing to sign the document that would put aside Katherine of Aragon and acknowledge Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn – He was later declared a Saint by the Catholic Church (see film ‘A Man for All Seasons’)

The hall was demolished around 1770 and a wonderful farmhouse built leaving only a part of the decorative gate tower still standing that can still be seen from outside the farm entrance.

Roydon Hall occupied a site now known as Vinegar Hills near the village green. Little history remains of the place but it was acquired by Henry VIII from its owners Christ’s College Cambridge for his wife Anne Boleyn in 1531. Seven years later Henry was at Roydon Hall again with his infant son  by Jane Seymour and who was later to become King Edward VI, to enjoy some falconry but alas the local birdlife were keeping their heads down and a jolly good time was not had that day as recorded in an account by Richard Cromwell to his better known father Sir Thomas.

The manors of Temple Roydon and Roydon Hall were disposed of by Queen Elizabeth I into private hands and Temple farm – preferred by many top London chefs for its black turkeys at Christmas and the Crusader Public House – formerly The Temple Inn, are reminders of the villages past associations. It is always a little sad to see the thousands of turkeys running around the fields on the lead up to Christmas often gathering under the large signs advising customers to order early to avoid disappointment. They are as good as you can get if you like to cook a traditional christmas dinner.

The present St Peters-Ad-Vincula Church replaced a Norman church and it is said a Saxon church before that. Ad-Vincula translates to ‘in chains’ and is associated with The Church of the same name that is the parish church of The Tower Of London.

This is a Royal Peculiar Church meaning it is exempt from the jurisdiction of the diocese in which it lies and is subject to the direct jurisdiction of the monarch. The name refers to the imprisonment of St Peter by Herod Agrippa in Jersulam. The night before his due execution an angel is said to have appeared and led him out of prison. This has been celebrated on August 1st since and a fair takes place in the village each year on August Bank Holiday on the village green opposite the church. A charter approved the holding of a market every Thursday on the green but this ceased regrettably some time ago – shame I like a good market.

Fossils found in Roydon fields include sea urchins, ammonites and mollusc indicating it was at one time below sea level but it has also been occupied since pre-historic times. Tools dating back 50,000 years, Roman pottery and a small collection of coins have been unearthed providing evidence of the importance this village has been in history no doubt due to its proximity to London and plentiful water supply and fishing. And of course its sweet smelling, once rye covered Hill – where we live and now rapidly being recovered with some quite stunning and very impressive luxury houses.

Talking of houses, there are many lovely old houses, many listed and it seems all very well maintained by their owners. The oldest are probably two cottages at Halls Green, thought to be circa 1350. Originally recorded as a single dwelling open to the roof, converted into two separate homes in 1595 and then 1st floors introduced around 300 years later. It was called Baldwins presumably the owners name and has again adopted that name. The farmhouse at Nether Hall is probably 15th Century, the middle hall anyway, wings were added in 16th and 17th centuries.

Other noteworthy properties include The Old House which is immediately striking as you approach Roydon from Harlow is on the left hand side at East End.  Old House Lane presumably takes its name from This lovely old building. Lightfoots on Epping Road and what I see each morning as I look out of my bedroom window, I believe to once been the home of Sir John Lightfote of Essex – is recorded in 1470

Also, The Black Swan at Broadley Common probably early 16th century are both listed in a report of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. An excellent Sunday roast can be found here.

The Church House overlooking the Village Green is curious as well as beautiful. It is 15th century with what looks like false windows to a non existent upper floor although window tax often saw windows being closed off. Sakins also overlooking the Green is said to have been a Tudor farmhouse and early 16th century. The Vicarage is a more recent building – early 18th C but attaches to a pre-Reformation Priests House to the rear.

These dwellings would have been well served by taverns – at least 5 are recorded in the village and surrounding areas in 1848 – The Black Swan, The Green Man (now the Green Spice Indian Restaurant and highly recommended), The White Hart, The New Inn and The Fox and Hounds (closed). Since then The Templer (now renamed The Crusader) provides for the locals being opposite the White Hart. There was also the Hop Pole at Broadley Common – renamed the Eagle and then Eagle House when it stopped trading. The Plough Inn which would have been my immediate local if it too had not closed and become a very charming Plough Cottage.

The White Hart – 15th century interestingly has a common room with a large bed built onto the floor. Apparantly the Innkeeper was obliged to provide food and lodging for anyone seeking it but was not obliged to provide bedding – so he didn’t. I think a recent manager must have been a descendent having a similarly obnoxious attitude.

Not suggesting that the number and quality of the public houses in and around the village have any bearing but notable people associated with the village and surrounding areas include the following.

Ray Winstone  award winning actor and cracking bloke and his daughter thespian Jamie have long resided in the village as have David Grant 1980s pop group Linx fame and his wife Carrie, now both vocal coaches. To be fair I am not sure if they are still in the village, perhaps they could let me know as I could do with singing lessons.

Michael Barrymore – one time TV host at the level of fame enjoyed by Ant & Dec – Oh how the great fall. Mr B was drawn into some notoriety when a partyloving Michael  Lubbock was discovered drowned in Michaels pool after a bit of a party at his Roydon home. It ended Michaels career and has tainted the perception of the village and the Lubbock family remain aggrieved at the outcome. Wasn’t too good all round.

David Gilmore (hero) of Pink Floyd fame is understood to have once lived in a local black and white beamed house and still keeps his old world war plane at North Weald and has allowed Gary Numan to keep his plane in the same hanger – that also featured in a Billie Piper  pop video in  her singing heyday.

Mr G has a vintage bi-plane which he flies from time to time and I am sure I have seen it flying low over my house. A bit concerned it was trying to land on my Celtic Cross shaped herb garden.

From the station there is a gated entrance to Briggens Hall at the top of another hill. This was built as a Mansion resplendent with many acres of parkland and gardens. A golf course has been created there and the building operated as a hotel for many years but sadly no longer. Planning battles are ongoing concerning its future use. An interesting fact however is that during WW2 the building and grounds were taken over by Winston Churchills Special Operations Executive (SOE) and utilised as a base for spy training and document counterfeiting for use by allied spies throughout Europe. The group included handwriting experts from Scotland Yard, resistance fighters and printers producing everything that might be needed including of course currency. They were so brilliant at their work the forgeries could not be easily identified as such.

Legendary Violette Szabo was just one recipient of the group’s documents and her life and actions were movingly portrayed in the wonderful film         “Carve Her Name With Pride.”

Fun was still to be had despite the seriousness of their work and the team even created a fake passport for Adolf Hitler giving his occupation as ‘painter’, and his ‘little mustache’ as a distinguishing feature. They included a red ‘J’ stamp which was used by the Nazis in Germany to mark the passports of Jews and another stamp from the Government of Palestine declaring he was an immigrant. Members were sworn to secrecyabout their work and nearly all took there secrets to the grave without even mentioning their part in the war to their families. Many of the spies were Polish and some returned after the war having enjoyed the area.

I think that must be enough about Roydon and its history for now but I will no doubt return to update as I learn more.

I hope the following pictures provide a taste of the village and encourage more visitors but please be wary of the cyclists that swarm in their thousands throughout the summer – quiet a spectacle if you are not in a hurry to get somewhere yourself.

I have thoroughly enjoyed putting this piece together and learning more about this village myself and cannot wait to get started on my next piece. Please look out for it if you enjoyed this blog and thank you for reading.

Lastly, I would like to dedicate this blog to Phil an art lover, neighbour and quite a character in the village who sadly died recently.

              Floating homes in Roydon Marina


           Roydon Station – ‘Just at the station’                                    Mediterranean style restaurant

Dees Chemist next to the recently re-thatched Dutch Barn

            The New Inn – heart of the village

           The remains of Nether Hall Keep (right)                          overlooking the farmhouse

            Plough Cottage, formerly The Plough Inn

Former The White Horse pub, then restaurant and currently being refurbished.

High Street cottages before the wonderful wisteria burst.

Temple Turkey Farm – residents


Time to wrap up now and think about my next topic. I have an idea but need to run it past the Guvnor first. See you soon and thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed my first ever blog and it doesn’t turn out to be a turkey.










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