Essex is steeped in history. We are privileged to have the oldest recorded town in the UK, Colchester being mentioned in records dating back to 79 AD.
The Romans made Colchester the capital of Britain, and since then Essex has become home to all kinds of people. Small villages grew into big cities, like Chelmsford and Braintree, while some towns like Basildon and Harlow were built from scratch until the 1960s.
Some villages, for one reason or another, completely ceased to exist, either disappearing over time or being completely swallowed up by another nearby town. The county is only known to have completely lost less than a dozen villages compared to some northern parts of the country.
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These lost villages have centuries of history and vary from small church-centric hamlets to full-fledged communities. Using research conducted by the University of Hull, we have highlighted nine of the villages that once existed in the county.
Berewic (near Chelmsford)
The hamlet of Berewic is mentioned in the Domesday Book as a small settlement in the Chelmsford area. Although the population is unclear, it is believed that the small village had around 20 households and a much larger number of animals, including 100 pigs, 10 foals and 126 sheep.
This evidence indicates that the area is self-sufficient, possibly becoming a decent-sized village. However, the location and evidence of the area is now lost to the world.
Bertuna (near Clavering)
Like Berewic, Bertuna was listed in the Domesday Book, near the present-day village of Clavering near Stansted Airport. At its largest, Bertuna had a population of only around 26 households, but was considered an area distinct enough to have its own name.
Bollington Hall is the only known structure in the area, but there were at least three farmhouses nearby.
Small birch (near birch)
Near the modern village of Birch, on the outskirts of Colchester, stood Little Birch Church, once considered the center of a small community.
The church is recorded to have existed in the 11th century, and it fell into a state of disrepair in the 1600s. It is believed that after the church fell into disuse, local families moved to Great Birch and there attended services.
Subsequently, this 500-year-old village fell into the ether, but minor ruins of the church can still be found in a wood near Birch.
This ancient village with a strange name belonged to an Earl of Essex called Earl Gilbert. The land was home to eight families and existed until at least 1328.
Nothing more is known about the place, except that it may have changed its name to Chelvestan.
Stanway (near Colchester Zoo)
This small village, not to be confused with the Stanway found today on the outskirts of Colchester, was further south on the site where Colchester Zoo now stands.
Mentioned as early as 1000 AD, earlier records speak of Stanways, implying for a time that there were two distinct villages, possibly known as Little Stanway and Great Stanway, similar to many other places in rural Britain.
The two Stanways both appear in tax records in 1377, 1524 and 1670. Great Stanway is believed to have been the lost colony; all that remains of the town are the ruins of All Saints Church and Stanway Hall.
Peasdown (Hanningfield Reservoir)
Hanningfield Reservoir was built between 1950 and 1957 to supply water to most of South Essex. It is now a pleasant day for many residents of Essex thanks to its nature reserve and beautiful scenery.
But to enable its construction, much of South Hanningfield had to be flooded, including the entirety of the old hamlet of Peasdown.
This meant that a large number of homes, farms and a historic mansion were all demolished to make way for the reservoir. All residents have had to move, which means that many historic homes and places no longer exist.
Thunderley (near Saffron Walden)
Not to be confused with Thundersley – the village near Benfleet in South Essex – this lost village was located in the far north of the county.
Near Saffron Walden, this small village surrounds a now lost church and is believed to have existed between the publication of the Domesday Book and 1670. Walkers on the ground in 1967 discovered ancient pottery dating back to the 1100s.
Westnanetuna (In Tendring)
This large settlement was known to have existed somewhere in the area known today as Tendring. Westnanetuna had a minimum of 37 households, with much of the land owned by a man called Ralph Pinel.
All evidence comes from the village list in the Domesday Book, so we don’t know exactly where it was or how long it lasted.
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