In 1977 as a Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee project Janet and I decided to research the history of Church End Farm, talking to local people, visiting the Essex Record Office, and local libraries. Jack and Tom Rushbrook were a great help.
To the casual observer Church End Lane is just another residential area but until the mid 1950s the oldest building was the 17th century black boarded Church End farmhouse, known locally as Crows Farm, just over a quarter of a mile north of Runwell Church.
The farm had been owned by the CROWE family since 1933. The young lads used to play snooker in an upstairs room, the floor was uneven and the table had to be balanced on blocks.
Outside there was an open sided round barn where they had a punch bag and practised boxing.
To one side of the farm entrance was the farm pond, fed by a natural spring – one of about seven on the farm. In later years when the farm was sold off for building, the bungalows had to be built back from the road because the earlier foundations kept filling with water.
There was a black barn where the cows were milked, outside of which there was space for the milk churns awaiting collection plus a water tank under which the local lads left their wellington boots before going to school and work as the roads nearby South Hanningfield Way, Warren Road (now known as Meadow Lane) were unmade and in winter very muddy.
The brook running along the bottom of South Hanningfield Way runs behind the houses along Church End Lane to the rear of the Quart Pot and Burr Hall under the road to join the RiverCrouch.
Church End Farm was originally part of Runwell Hall Estate, which was owned by the Kemble family from 1845 until it was auctioned off at the Castle Hotel on the 14th August 1924 by James Stiles and Whitlock.
Thomas Nash Kemble purchased Runwell Hall Farm in 1824 and was Lord of the Manor until he died in 1902 when he was followed by his son Henry. They owned the whole of Runwell with the exception of Glebe Meadows next to the church and still currently owned by the Church of England – now the allotments.
The Runwell Hall Estate consisted of:
SOUTHLANDS FARM rented by Mr Densum
LYNFORDS FARM rented by Mr Graytling
CHURCHEND FARM rented by Mr Joseph Williams
POPLARS AND GIFFORDS rented by Mr Fisher
MILL HILL FARM rented by Mr Thomason
PONDLANDS AND BRETTS rented by Mr Rushbrook, grandfather of Jack and Tom.
Poplars and Giffords farm together with Mill Hill farm were all part of North Runwell and were served by the Mission Church in Chalk Street dedicated to St. Andrew, built by the Rev. H. K. Harris, rector in 1894. He also built the house next door for the Lay Reader Samuel James Lee, now both private homes.
Rev. Harris also built the Old School House opposite St. Mary’s Church where Jack and Tom attended school. In addition he built the pair of semi-detached houses opposite the church together with the red brick houses next door to the recently built new rectory.
At this time Tithes had to be paid to the local vicar. These were one tenth part of the annual proceeds of the land given to the clergy for their support. It was usually money but sometimes in kind – pigs, eggs, etc. The custom of giving and paying Tithes is very old. They were first mentioned in Moses’ time.
In 1824 Joseph Williams was renting Church End Farm on a yearly basis from MICHAELMAS – September and the tithes payable to the vicar was 69 pounds seven shillings and eleven pence.
Mr Williams also rented Burr Farm and buildings from Sir John Tyrrell who was acting as Trustee for Mr Jenner. The tenants were Mr Robert Carter and Mr Herbert Drew whose daughter Hilda later married Mr Hopkins who was organist at St. Mary’s Church Runwell for many years. At this time Burr Farm was a pair of timber cottages, the first had a ladder instead of a staircase. Janet and I were personally shown a photograph of these cottages by Hilda Hopkins in the late 1970s.
In 1914 it was proposed by Colonel Kemble that an emergency airstrip be built on approximately 30 acres of Church End Farm currently rented by Mr Partridge, for planes from Stow Maries and Rochford aerodromes to use in an emergency to refuel. Jack said they watched the Zeppelins on their way to London following the River Crouch and the River Thames. He said he remembered Sopwith Camels landing and taking off behind Church End Farm.
Jack also spoke about the Zeppelin that came down over Downham, they walked over the fields to Stallybrass Farm where the Dovecot used to stand in Castledon Road and seeing the bodies laid out in the barn. The German crew were later buried at Downham Church. During World War II I can remember walking across the fields to Downham Chuch and visiting these German graves. After the war they were later transferred to an Official German War Grave Cemetery.
Thomas Kemble built New Runwell Hall and lived there until he died. At this time Church End Farmhouse and buildings plus two small fields were isolated from the rest of the farm and occupied by Mr Cousins who also rented Runwell Hall farmhouse and buildings. Later this was sold to Jones Brothers of Purleigh, who later sold this on to East Ham and Southend Borough Councils to build a psychiatric hospital in 1937.
Colonel Kemble died in 1924 – all members of the estate attended the funeral. Jack said the service was taken by Canon Hall-Hall. The coffin was draped with the Union Jack at one end and the French Tricolor at the other – a memory of the Kemble family’s French origin.
The estate was auctioned off at the Castle Hotel on the 14th August 1924 by James Stiles and Whitlock. New Runwell Hall, gardens plus ten acres of land, together with Bretts and Pondlands, were owned by Miss Augusta Kemble until her death in 1956. There used to be a stone grating near Pondlands and New Runwell Hall marked R/R showing the boundary of Runwell and Rettendon.
Mr Liberty, JP., then purchased the property followed by Mr Mayo who sold it on, and this is now The Thomas Kemble Motel and carvery.