A stroll down Memory Lane in borough village

  Posted: 21.04.20 at 23:36 by Susan Yates

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Susan Yates, chair of Thurrock Historical Society, continues her occasional series of features for Thurrock Nub News taking a look back the borough's history....


WELL here we all are still in lockdown and it looks as if we will stay that way until Boris is up and about again.

I stood outside today and looked at the hills in the distance that I can’t currently go and visit and it made me think of Horndon on the Hill.

In my mind I walked up the High Street and was I accompanied by Win Tinworth, sadly now gone, who knew all about Horndon’s history. On my right is the Old National School built in 1847 from donations and subscriptions.

It was a church school and the trustees were the vicar, churchwardens and overseers of the poor. As we walk on we pass the Methodist Chapel built 1890 on my left. Next door is Mayfield Cottage a lovely white weatherboard cottage built in the 19th century. This is a Grade II listed building with a timber frame and thatched roof.

St Peter and St Paul's - Horndon's historic church.

It’s a single storey cottage with attic. Almost opposite are Hall Cottages. These four weatherboard cottages are older, being constructed in the 17th/18th century and are Grade II listed too.

It is time to stop for a drink so let’s go in to the Swan Inn. This is another Grade II listed building. It is early 19th century, timber-framed and plastered with some painted brick of two storeys with grey slate roof.

The Carriage arch at north end adds to the ambiance.

During the annual Feast and Fayre they have had an art gallery in the upper rooms. After refreshment we move on over the road to the Woolmarket, probably Horndon on the Hill’s most famous building.

The Woolmarket is Grade II listed and was built in the 14th century with extensive later alterations and modernisation. The ground floor is open on massive oak posts, with flat arch bracing, and a heavy-joisted first floor. Timber is exposed externally at first floor level and is largely of 17th century and 20th century.

It is a reminder of the village's agricultural past and the wool trade in the form of fleeces, wool and woollen products was conducted here for many years.

Wheat and other grains were also sold here. The fleeces would be hung from large hooks sited in the wooden beams. In the 17th century the wool trade declined and William Luckin, a gentleman from Mucking converted it into a cottage.

TV fitness guru Eileen Fowler lived in Horndon.

In 1734 the then owner John Poley left the ‘market house’ to be divided in to three units in trust for use of widows and other poor persons. In 1837 the cottage was in a good state of repair and valued at £12. By 1883 the building had become dilapidated and badly in need of repair. Funds were raised for its restoration and repair.

The building still had accommodation for the poor and elderly as well as a reading room/function room. During World War II it was used as an A.R.P. first aid post but by the 1960s was once again in a very poor condition.

“Perseverance” and a great inventor

The remaining two residents were removed and the building was boarded up. The National Trust, when approached, gave a donation towards its repair but it wasn’t until 1969 when the local council approved the project and donated funds that the work was begun.

It was officially re-opened on Saturday, 13th June 1970. In 2010 access was provided for wheelchair users and the building is still used as a meeting place for craft meetings, pensioners, art, music, wine making and many other similar activities.

During Feast and Fayre wood workers exhibit outside. Arts and crafts stalls, as well as many other things, are on show inside this fascinating building which is a piece of history in itself.

Crossing back over the High Street we have High House which bears the Thurrock Heritage green plaque for Philip Conrad Vincent, inventor and manufacturer of the legendary Vincent motorcycle. He lived here with his uncle the local vet and lies buried in the village's overflow graveyard.

The house has the date 1728 on but it is a 16th century house refronted in 1727. It has a brick with the initials WK on which could stand for William Kingsman. It still has a Coach arch with curved panel doors. High House had another famous resident, Eileen Fowler of TV Keep-fit fame. I can remember my mum in front of our TV holding onto the back of a chair keeping fit with Eileen Fowler.

Moving further along on the left side of the road we find The Bell Inn. Built circa 14th century with some 15th and 16th century alterations. The front is 18th century but the north side has some fine 15th century timber framing visible. In the time of George III the inn was a staging post for the London coach hence the coach arch. This four horse coach went via Orsett and was called “Perseverance” and the fare to London Aldgate was 2s.6d. (12.5p).

The blue heritage plaque displayed on the front wall is to Thomas Higbed, a protestant martyr who was burned at the stake for his religious beliefs.

The plaque says: "This just shall live by faith' [Hebrews 10:38]. On 26 March, 1555, Thomas Higbed, a gentleman of Horndon House, was burnt at the stake in the courtyard of the Bell Inn for his Protestant faith."

Today the Bell Inn is known for its fine food and the hot cross buns which hang inside and have done so since 1900 when Jack Turner, the then publican, celebrated his arrival by hanging a bun and this tradition has been carried out ever since. During the war one or two were made in concrete in order to maintain the sequence.

Before leaving we should visit the church of St. Peter and St. Paul which is Grade I listed building. It is 13th century with a 15th century north chapel and belfry. Every Feast and Fayre the church has a magnificent floral display which is not to be missed.

You shouldn’t leave the church without visiting the Horndon Beauty, a carved stone corbel on the outside of the church on the corner of the east window. It is said that the black marble slab in the churchyard is the resting place of Anne Boleyn and her ghost haunts the area so better not linger too long.

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