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Essex XII: St Osyth to the Naze: North-East Essex Coastal Parishes, Part 2

The Soken: Kirby-le-Soken, Thorpe-le-Soken And Walton-le-Soken
Christopher C. Thornton, Herbert Eiden, James Bettley
VCH Red Books


Edited by Christopher C. Thornton with Herbert Eiden

The book comprises the history of a major part of the Essex coastline in Tendring Hundred before the development of seaside resorts from the mid 19th century onwards (the resorts were covered in VCH Essex Volume XI). This book forms the second part of its companion volume. More detail of the first part is available here.

It includes analyses of how the economy of the coastal communities from agriculture through fishing to smuggling was moulded by proximity to the sea.
It includes a major exploration of the history of the Soken, a significant area of special legal jurisdiction (a liberty or soke) and of administrative and social organization. The Soken was owned in the Middle Ages by the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral, London, and later passed to lay owners, notably the Catholic-leaning Darcy family of St Osyth priory, the Savage family, and the Earls of Rochford (Nassau de Zuylestein) and their descendants.

Additionally, it includes the first full modern accounts of the large parishes of Kirby-le-Soken, Thorpe-le-Soken and Walton-le-Soken (later the site of the seaside resort of Walton on the Naze). Before the Norman Conquest these had once formed a large 'multiple' estate owned by St Paul's Cathedral, and only gradually developed into separate parishes and manors over the course of the Middle Ages. All had coastlines to Hamford Water or the North Sea, and contain many important marshland nature reserves and SSSI. The London Clay cliffs on the open coast at Walton, especially the large promontory known as the Naze with its cap of Red Crag, form a unique coastal landscape of international geological and biological importance. It served as an important coastal landmark for sailors and a Trinity House navigation tower built in 1720 still stands.