Fremnells Manor and Hanningfield Reservoir(2)

Fremnells Manor
Downham Church Collection

[This contribution came as a comment on the entry about Fremnells Manor and Hanningfield Reservoir which you can link to here but we thought it was worth an entry of its own.]

I read with interest the question put forward by Mick Prince (07/01/20) asking if anyone knows about the post 1850 ownership of Fremnells. I have done a little research into the Downham parish and a summary of my findings about Fremnells is as follows:

According to The Sphere dated 18 December 1848, Fremnells was built by Sir Thomas Tyrrell at the beginning of the 16th century and Sir Thomas Raymond added to the front of the building in 1676, which is the date stated to have been on the Manor House gates. A later edition of The Sphere gives the original build as 1550, which of course is mid-century not the beginning. To confuse matters further, it is stated elsewhere that the original house was built by Sir Henry Tyrell. Perhaps both individuals contributed, or perhaps one of the names is in error.

However, further research indicates the property was purchased after 1676 by Cornelius Vanden Anker who paid £3,100 for it. He was married to Sarah Norden, the daughter of Robert Norden . When Cornelius died, Sarah, who had been married before she married Cornelius, married Benjamin Disbrow. Benjamin was the son of Major General John Disbrow who married Jane Cromwell, the sister of Oliver Cromwell, the later Lord Protector. Sarah was Benjamin’s second wife. When Sarah died in 1692 Benjamin married Sarah’s sister, Mary, thus his third wife. Benjamin, by his first wife Elizabeth, had a son, Cromwell Disbrow. Cromwell Disbrow was Benjamin’s heir and he married Cornelia, the posthumously born child of Cornelius Vanden Anker and Sarah. Cromwell and Cornelia’s eldest son, Platt Disbrow took over the property on Cromwell’s death and it was sold after Platt’s death in1751. Several members of the Disbrow family are buried at St Margaret’s Church in Downham.

In the early 1800s Fremnells was occupied by Mr Low until his death in 1830. It was then taken over by Edmund Low. Edmund died in 1850. By 1861 the owner was Thomas Blyth who lived there with his wife, Rebecca, and their children until at least 1881. He farmed 330 acres (1861), 840 acres (1871) and 706 acres (1881).

The property was later held by the Glasgow born Matthew Tarbett Fleming, an East India Merchant and a founding director of the Burmah Oil Company which was incorporated in 1902. Matthew bought Fremnells in 1906. He died on 10 December 1913 age 63 and is also buried at Downham. A year before his death he married Elizabeth Walls.

The next known owner was William Parrish who bought the property in 1919. He was a Somerset man, the son of Robert Parrish, a cordwainer [shoemaker]. William worked first as a solicitor, then as a secretary to a public mining company. At the time of the 1919 sale the property was described as having a hall, 4 reception rooms, 12 bedrooms, a domestic office, central heating, electric light, a stable, a lodge and 2 cottages. In 1920 William’s only son, Frank William Parish, married Phyllis Mary Gooch, the daughter of Sir Daniel Fulthorpe Gooch. By 1923 the property was known as a sporting estate with fox hunting, point to point horse racing with a 3.5 mile course, and grouse shooting.

As an aside, in April 1923 the Essex Union Hunt held a race meeting on the Fremnells Estate. One of the races was the Ladies Adjacent Hunt Race. The race was won by Miss Avila on her own mare, Western Maid. There is a superb picture of her sitting on Western Maid in full flight, jumping the brook at Fremnells and this is published in the Illustrated London News (April 21). There is also a picture in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (April 28) which shows her carrying her saddle having just weighed in.

William Parrish appears to have died in the mid-1920s with his wife Laura moving to Chelmsford where she died in 1938. When the property was again put up for sale, in 1926, it was noted there was a newly built house on the estate, named “Raymond House”. Laurence Kirk JP was the next buyer. He was born in 1864 and described himself as a colonial merchant. He appears to have been well travelled, visiting New York in 1891 and 1897, travelling on the ships Aurania (1891) and the Umbria (1897). He also visited Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, in 1908 and travelled on the Empress of Ireland. He was the honorary secretary of the Essex Union Hunt from 1906 to 1932. Laurence was the last occupant of Fremnells before its demolition and the subsequent building of Hanningfield Reservoir.

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  • Thank you for your comment David.

    As James Nason states in the comments below, the picture in the Illustrated London News of 21 April 1923 (page 632) and captioned Miss Avila actually shows Miss Joan Parry who finished second in the race. I have since seen the correction which appears in the same issue but on a later page (661). Unfortunately the photographer incorrectly named the rider and horse. Page 632 had already gone to press before the editor was notified of the error by the photographer and so the caption could not be altered.

    The picture which appeared in the Illustrated and London Dramatic News, however, is of course, Avila, and she is captured on film having just successfully weighed-in. Unfortunately I do not have a copy of the photograph. The picture appears on page 382 of the issue dated 28 April 1923 under the heading “Women in Sport. A copy of the publication should be held at the British Library in Euston Road, London, but may not be available for public viewing. If it is, you may be able to obtain a copy of the photograph from them. There is a Quick Chat facility on their website, or you could e-mail or telephone them to enquire, rather than make a wasted journey. The quality of reproduction, however, may not be the best if taken from a publication but may be sufficient to suit your needs. The Illustrated and London Dramatic News, incidentally, changed its name to Sport and Country in 1943 and again in 1958 to Farm and Country before ceasing to exist in 1970. Ideally, for best quality, you would need to locate the original print used by the publication or the negative used by the photographer (whoever that may be) if they survive. You could also try the Mary Evans Picture Library which the British Library may refer you to anyway. If you do contact the Mary Evans Picture Library may I suggest you use the Contact facility on that website? Whoever you choose to contact, give them the name of the publication, the date and the page number in order to speed up any search, and of course, read their Terms and Conditions. If you only want to view the picture and perhaps download the page, it can be accessed from the British Newspaper Archive website. Good luck.

    Finally, no, Sinclair Rayment is not a member of my Rayment family. Thanks for your interest.

    By David C Rayment (09/03/2022)
  • My Great Aunts were Dora and Phylis Avila. I would be interest in obtaining copies of the photo that you refer to. They both lived at Navestock Hall. Are you a relative of Sinclair Rayment (died in Tank Accident) 14 March 1946 Age 23 TEL EL KEBIR WAR MEMORIAL CEMETERY 6. M. 7.? I knew his sister Sheena Dixon (emigrated to Canada).

    By David V Avila (06/03/2022)
  • Yes, the copy of The Sphere to which I refer was published in 1948. Thanks for the correction.

    David C Rayment

    By David C Rayment (07/06/2021)
  • The Photo in the Illustrated London News actually shows Miss Joan Parry, who came in second. The incorrect labelling of the photo was corrected in was referenced later on.

    The Sphere was printed in 1948.

    By James Nason (01/06/2021)
  • Many thanks to David for filling in the history. I’ve spent today searching the Low side of my family and this was a pleasing conclusion.

    By Mick Prince (01/01/2021)

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