VCH Essex Publications

The Victoria County History of Essex currently amounts to 11 volumes and three supplementary volumes of bibliography. 

Red Book Publications

Volume I

This introductory volume was published in 1903 and contains the following material relating to the county:

  • Natural History
  • Early Man
  • Ancient Earthworks
  • Anglo-Saxon Remains
  • Introduction to the Essex Domesday
  • Text of the Essex Domesday
  • Index to the Essex Domesday

The full text is available via the Internet Archive

Volume II

This volume, edited by William Page and John Horace Round, was published in 1907. 

It contains a history of the medieval religious houses in the county and these are available on British History Online.

It also includes entries on the following themes:

  • Ecclesiastical History
  • Political History
  • Maritime History
  • Social and Economic History
  • Industries
  • Schools
  • Sport Ancient and Modern
  • Forestry

Volume III

This volume, edited by W.R. Powell, was published in 1963.

It includes an account of Roman Essex, and an index for volumes I-III.

Volume IV - Ongar Hundred

This volume, edited by W.R. Powell, was published in 1956 and includes an account of the following parishes:

  • Bobbingworth
  • Chigwell
  • Fyfield
  • Greenstead
  • Kelvedon Hatch
  • Lambourne
  • High Laver
  • Little Laver
  • Magdalen Laver
  • Loughton
  • Moreton
  • Navestock
  • Norton Mandeville
  • Chipping Ongar
  • High Ongar
  • Abbess Roding
  • Beauchamp Roding
  • Shelley
  • Stanford Rivers
  • Stapleford Abbots
  • Stapleford Tawney
  • Stondon Massey
  • Theydon Bois
  • Theydon Garnon
  • Theydon Mount
  • North Weald Bassett

The volume also contains analysis of Some Medieval Tax Assessments, analysis of Hearth Tax Assessments, and analysis of Bishop Compton's Census of 1676.

The full text is available on British History Online.

Volume V - Metropolitan Essex since 1850, Waltham and Beacontree Hundreds

Edited by W.R. Powell, this volume was published in 1966. It contains the following entries:

Metropolitan Essex since 1850

Waltham Hundred

  • Chingford
  • Epping
  • Nazeing
  • Waltham Holy Cross

Becontree Hundred

  • Barking and Ilford
    • Barking
    • Ilford
  • Dagenham

The full text is available on British History Online.

Volume VI - Becontree hundred now within the London boroughs of Newham, Waltham Forest and Redbridge

Edited by W.R. Powell, this volume was published in 1973.

This volume completes Becontree hundred by providing histories of East Ham, West Ham, Little Ilford, Leyton, Walthamstow, Wanstead, and Woodford. The region, rural until the 19th century, is now part of Greater London. Though mainly residential it includes, at Silvertown, Canning Town, and Stratford, one of the largest manufacturing centres in southern England, as well as the Royal Docks. Until 1965 the region remained outside London for administrative purposes. This strongly influenced urban development, especially in East Ham and West Ham, which, as county boroughs, had sole responsibility for local government services and planning in a period of remark-able growth. West Ham, in 1898, was one of the first English towns to come under socialist control. Throughout the region the expanding population demanded the pro-vision of many new schools and churches, each of which is briefly treated in the volume. In dealing with churches an attempt is made to assess the relative strength of the various denominations. Urbanisation has swept away most of the visible remains of earlier history. Until the 19th century the region was fashionable with the gentry, and this is reflected in the size of some of the older parish churches, notably at Walthamstow and West Ham. At Little Ilford, by contrast, is one of the smallest churches in Essex. Wanstead House, the palladian mansion designed by Colen Campbell, was demolished in 1823, though much of its park has survived. The northern part of the region, bordering on Epping Forest, retains some attractive wood-land, especially at Walthamstow, Wanstead, and Woodford, where several 18th-century houses also survive. Notable modern build-ings include Wanstead hospital, built as an orphanage (1861), Sir Joseph Bazalgette's metropolitan sewage pumping station at Stratford (1868), and the town halls at East Ham (1903) and Walthamstow (1941). During the Second World War the south part of the region was heavily bombed, and since 1945 there has been large-scale redevelopment, especially at Canning Town, where the sky-line is increasingly dominated by tower blocks of council flats.

The full text is available on British History Online.



Volume VII - The liberty of Havering-atte-Bower and Chafford hundred (Part)

Edited by W.R. Powell, this volume was published in 1979.

This volume covers the liberty of Havering-atte-Bower and part of Chafford hundred. The area coincides approximately with that of the London Borough of Havering, which was formed in 1965, stretching northward from the Thames. The liberty of Havering-atte-Bower, with its royal manor-house, usually formed part of the queen of England's dower from the 13th century to the 17th. Its tenants had special privileges and it had a measure of administrative independence which was formalised in a royal charter of 1465. The liberty included Hornchurch, whose priory build-ings are examined in the volume in a fresh light, and the chapelries of Romford and Havering-atte-Bower. While the last has remained largely rural, Hornchurch was an industrial village which has become a dormitory suburb and Romford was a market town which has become a shopping centre serving estates such as those at Gidea Park, which originated as a garden suburb, and Harold Hill. Chafford hundred, once largely agri-cultural with moated manor-houses and extensive marshland sheep-pastures, still has a few farms, but parishes like Upminster and Cranham have in the 20th century acquired large commuter suburbs. Along the Thames, where Rainham was once a small port for coastal shipping and an early, harbour at Wennington creek has been identified, there is an industrial area making ferro-alloys and providing storage for oil and petroleum. At Little Watley (which like South Ockendon is outside the London Borough of Havering but is included in the present volume) the head-quarters of the Ford Motor Co. Ltd. have replaced a military camp and the barracks of the Essex Regiment. Among the large houses that survive those treated in the volume include Bower House, Bretons, and Langtons, and accounts are also given of others that have been demolished. The gardens at Warley Park, now derelict, were once among the most notable in Europe.

The full text is available on British History Online.

Volume VIII - Chafford and Harlow hundreds, including Brentwood, Harlow and Thurrock

Edited by W.R. Powell, with contributions from Beryl Board, Nancy Briggs, J.L. Fisher, Vanessa Harding, Joan Hasler, Norma Knight and Margaret Parsons, the volume was published in 1983.

This volume completes Chafford hundred and covers Harlow hundred. The part of Chafford hundred, now in Brentwood District and Thurrock borough, includes Aveley, Stifford, Grays Thurrock and West Thurrock beside the Thames and, further north, Childerditch, Brentwood, and South Weald. Grays Thurrock, formerly a small port with a brickworks and a brewery, is now the main centre of the borough. The coastal marshes west of Grays were used mainly as sheep pastures until the 18th century, when large-scale chalk quarrying and lime burning began. The West Thurrock cement industry, which grew up in the 19th century, became one of the largest in Europe. It has since declined and the area is now used mainly for the storage of oil and petroleum and the manufacture of soap, detergents, and marga-rine. Brentwood, now a large dormitory suburb of London, owed its early growth to its position on the main London-Colchester road, and per-haps also to the cult of St. Thomas the Martyr. The mansions of Belhus, at Aveley, and Weald Hall, South Weald, both dating from the 16th century, were demolished after the Second World War. South Weald park remains as a country park, and so does Thorndon park, including part of Childerditch, but some land in Belhus park was used after 1950 for a housing estate of the London county council. At Purfleet, in West Thurrock, a smaller housing estate occupies the site of powder magazines built by the government in the 1760s. Harlow hundred contained 11 parishes in west Essex, including the ancient market towns of Hatfield Broad Oak and Harlow. Hatfield, with its Benedictine priory, was one of the principal places in Essex in the Middle Ages, but it de-clined after the 16th century, and the hundred remained largely rural until after the Second World War, when five of its parishes became the new town of Harlow, built to rehouse 80,000 Londoners. Hatfield forest, belonging to the National Trust, comprises over 400 ha. There have been extensive maltings at Sheering and Harlow, breweries at Harlow and Hatfield Heath, and a silk mill at Little Hallingbury. Among great houses the 16th-century Hallingbury Place has disappeared, but Barrington Hall and Down Hall, both rebuilt in the mid 19th century, survive. At Netherhall, Roydon, are the remains of a 15th-century gatehouse.

The full text is available on British History Online.

Volume IX - The Borough of Colchester

Edited by Janet Cooper, with contributions from A.P. Baggs, Beryl Board, Philip Crummy, Claude Dove, Shirley Durgan, Nigel Goose, Pamela Studd and Christopher C. Thornton, the volume was published in 1994.

The volume, the first full-scale, comprehensive and scholarly history of the ancient borough of Colchester to be published, describes the life of the oldest and for long the largest town in Essex from the Iron Age to 1990. It tells how the stronghold of Cunobelin was replaced by a Roman fortress, later a colonia sacked by Boudica and rebuilt within walls which survived to encompass first a 10th-century burh and later an important medieval town and were to be severely battered be the Royalist siege of 1648. Colchester's Norman castle continued to serve as the sheriff's seat, housing the county gaol until the 17th century. Nevertheless it failed to become the county town, though chosen in 1962 as the site of the University of Essex, and its functions as an administrative centre were overshadowed by the industrial and mercantile activities described in the volume. Colchester became an important trading centre linked particularly with the Low Countries, and from the 12th century was noted as a centre of the textile industry, a speciality that encouraged a remarkable growth of population in the later 14th century and that was stimulated be the arrival of Dutch refugee clothmakers in Elizabeth I's reign. The decline of the bay industry in the 18th century was compensated for by growing diversity in overseas trade and services. Colchester was notable from the 17th century to the 19th as a hive of Protestant nonconformity. It became a garrison town in 1855, a centre of engineering in the late 19th century, and a retail and tourist centre in the 20th. The account is divided into three parts. The first, arranged chronologically, treats the economy, social and cultural life, gov-ernment and politics, and topography. The second deals with particular features and institutions of the town, topic by topic. The third describes topographically the parishes of Greenstead, Lexden, Mile End, and West Donyland, which formed the outlying parts of the liberty.

The full text is available on British History Online.

Volume X - Volume X - Lexden Hundred (Part) including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe

Edited by Janet Cooper, this volume was published in 2001.

Volume X of the Essex series explores the area of Lexden Hundred to the north and west of Colchester. Since the 19th century the area has been renowned for its landscapes, made famous by the painter John Constable. The low hills and valleys, particularly Constable's own Dedham Vale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, have attracted increasing numbers of tourists, as well as other artists, chief among them Sir Alfred Munnings. Throughout its history the area has been dominated by Colchester and the economy has been almost entirely agricultural, with much of its produce serving the borough's market. The coming of the railway in the 19th century enabled farmers to diversify into market gardening and seed production for customers in London and beyond.

There are three small towns with strongly marked characters. Dedham, an important centre for the cloth trade from the 15th to the 18th century, and a market town by the late 16th century, has a rich variety of timber-framed and brick-fronted buildings. Wivenhoe was a port serving Colchester and had a ship-building industry from the 16th century. Earl's Colne, a failed medieval market town, grew in the 19th century after the establishment of R. Hunt and Co.'s Atlas Engineering Works, which continued into the 1980s.

The full text is available on British History Online.

Volume XI - Clacton, Walton and Frinton: North-East Essex Seaside Resorts

Edited by Christopher C. Thornton with Herbert Eiden, the volume was published in 2011.

From the 1820s the Essex seaside towns of Walton, and later Clacton and Frinton, were promoted as high-class residential and holiday resorts. After a slow start, hampered by poor communications and low demand, growth was stimulated by steam-ship companies which landed visitors on newly built piers in Walton and Clacton and by the railways that reached Walton in 1867, Clacton in 1882 and Frinton in 1888. The contemporary emphasis upon the health advantages of the seaside also led to the establishment of many convalescent homes. However, working-class excursionists newly attracted to Clacton, and to a lesser extent Walton, then irrevocably changed the social tone of the resorts.

By the 1920s and 1930s Clacton was a commercialized holiday destination and the funfair-style facilities of its pier rivalled those of any other resort. Nearby Jaywick was established as a cheap and cheerful chalet development. While Walton remained popular with families, Frinton continued as a "select" resort, with building development and commerce strictly controlled. The town remains famous for its wide unspoilt greensward facing the sea and its resistance to any threats to its exclusive character.
Camping, caravanning and holiday camps replaced the traditional seaside holiday after 1945, but from the later 1960s the increase in overseas holidays led to a steep decline of the seaside resorts. The economy has, however, since diversified with large dormitory-style housing developments, light industry and new shopping centres, and the coast becoming increasingly popular for retirement homes.

This volume presents an authoritative account of the growth and development of these towns on the so-called "Sunshine Coast".

This volume is not yet available online.

Volume XII - St Osyth to the Naze: North-East Essex Coastal Parishes. Part 1: St Osyth, Great and Little Clacton, Frinton, Great Holland and Little Holland

Edited by Christopher C. Thornton with Herbert Eiden and with contributions from James Bettley, Adam Chapman, Janet Cooper and others, this volume was published in August 2020.

The nine Essex parishes lying in a coastal district between St Osyth and the Naze headland at Walton encompass a number of distinct landscapes, from sandy cliffs to saltmarshes, recognised as environmentally significant. The landscape has constantly changed in response to changing sea levels, flooding, draining and investment in sea defences. Inland, there was an agriculturally fertile plateau based on London Clay, but with large areas of Kesgrave sands and gravels, loams and brickearths. Parts were once heavily wooded, especially at St Osyth.

The district was strongly influenced by the pattern of estate ownership, largely held by St Paul's Cathedral from the mid-10th century. About 1118-19 a bishop of London founded a house of Augustinian canons at St Osyth, which became one of the wealthiest abbeys in Essex. Most other manors and their demesnes in the district were small and their demesne tenants were of little more than local significance. After the Reformation all of the former church lands in the district were granted to the royal servant Thomas Darcy, 1st baron Darcy of Chiche (d. 1558). Darcy built a great mansion, St Osyth Priory, on the site of the former abbey, which became the centre of his new estate.
The area's economy was strongly affected by the coast and its many valuable natural resources, including the extraction or manufacture of sand, gravel, septaria, copperas and salt, and activities such as fishing, tide milling, wrecking and smuggling. However, it remained a largely rural district and its wealth ultimately depended upon the state of farming. Until the 18th century it specialised in dairying from both sheep and cattle, but afterwards production shifted towards grain.

The coastal area has produced significant evidence of early man and was heavily exploited and settled in prehistory. The medieval settlement pattern largely conformed to a typical Essex model, with a complex pattern of small villages, hamlets and dispersed farms, many located around greens or commons. The largest settlement was the nucleated village or small town at St Osyth, located outside the abbey gates, which had a formal market and wool fair in the Middle Ages.In the 19th and 20th centuries the coast witnessed the development of seaside resorts at Walton, Clacton and Frinton. Some overspill affected the surrounding more rural parishes, and from the 1920s new types of resort developed in the form of seaside camps, chalets and caravan parks.

This volume is not yet available online. It may be purchased here.

VCH Shorts


Edited by Anthony Tuck, this book explores the varying character of Newport over eleven centuries. It examines the changing patterns of landownership, social structure and economy of the village and its institutions, not least its 16th-century grammar school. It also discusses the part played, especially in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, by the owners of Shortgrove Hall, within the parish, and Quendon Hall, a few miles to the south.

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Harwich, Dovercourt and Parkeston in the 19th Century

Exploring the changing character of Harwich, Dovercourt and Parkeston through the course of the 19th century, included in this book is the economic, social and political history of the borough. The book provides an overview of the development of areas such as education, religion, public health with a strong focus on Harwich’s maritime history.

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