Fremnells Manor and Hanningfield Reservoir

In 1951 the Sandon Valley was flooded and became The Hanningfield Reservoir, to provide water for the growing population of Essex and Suffolk. To make way for the flood waters local families were moved out of their cottages and farms.  The Manor of Fremnells also became a casualty of progress. It was a beautiful 16th century manor house and  stones from its walls were used to make the dams to hold back the waters of the rivers Chelmer and Blackwater which were diverted from their normal flow to fill the reservoir.

Fremnells Manor
Downham Church Collection
The same view today
Downham Church Collection

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  • There is a Pathe News video about the creation of the reservoir here:

    By Peter Ostrowski (16/01/2022)
  • As I have mentioned in other parts of this website, after I left school in 1952 I became a gardener at The Grange, in Downham, another large residence in the area, and we used to grow a lot of flowers. It was one of my jobs to deliver, by cycle, flowers to Fremnels Farm, but I would go to the tradesman’s entrance. I also delivered to other large residences in Downham, with a large trolley with plants in, pushed by hand.

    By bobcroot (11/01/2020)
  • I have been given a letter from a descendant of the owner Edmund Low who lived at Fremnells in 1825 and died 1850 which describes the house garden, moat and drawbridge plus the interior staircase. Apparently, Oliver Cromwell hid here and his sister resided there.
    Does anyone have details of the owner post-1850? Edmund Low was an ancestor of mine on my father’s side.

    By Mick Prince (07/01/2020)
  • An article appeared in the “Weekly News” August 16, 2007 (p18) celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Hanningfield Reservoir in 1957. It included a piece on Fremnells Manor in Peasdown Valley (?). It was demolished in 1957 and its stonework was included in the foundations of the dams. The manor had 19 bedrooms. The original owner was Benjamin Disbrowe.

    According to legend Guy Fawkes and others planned the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the manor. According to the article the manor was later owned by the Desborough family, who all died of smallpox, a businessman named Parrish at the turn of the 20th century and a tea merchant named Kirk around 1929.

    Other farms lost to the reservoir included Giffords and Pynnings.

    A Google search found the following exchange relating to Fremnells in Parliament about the plans to flood the area. Lord Esher had asked on behalf of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings if the government would reconsider the need to inundate the old house. Lord Macdonald replied on behalf of the government:
    “I have been advised that it is an interesting 16th century house. It has been altered a great deal and restored. I am advised that it has no archaeological interest, neither is it considered to have great historical value. It has not been scheduled as an ancient monument or a building of archaeological interest. But there is general agreement that it is a very nice house, with considerable charm, and that everything should be done to preserve it. However, I wish to be quite frank with the noble Viscount: it is doubtful whether the scheme can be so arranged to safeguard this house, and I can hold out no hope for its preservation …”
    Hansard HL Deb 27 February 1951 vol 170 cc622-6

    For local memories of the estate go to Madge Viscardini’s contribution to this site.

    By M Wakeham (02/07/2018)

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