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MARKET TOWNS OF ESSEX (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Coggeshall in 1837

Coggeshall is in Lexden hundred, on the northern bank of the river Blackwater, 44 miles from London by Chelmsford, Witham, and Kelvedon, where the Coggeshall road turns off from the Ipswich and Norwich road. It is sometimes called Great Coggeshall, to distinguish it from the adjacent hamlet of Little Coggeshall. This town has by some antiquaries been considered to be the Canonium of Antoninus ; and several Roman remains have been found in and about the town, but these are not deemed by others sufficient to prove anything more than that a Romish villa existed here. Morant, the historian of Essex, ascribes the origin of Coggeshall to an abbey, founded here in 1142 by King Stephen and Maud, his queen, for Cistertian monks. To this abbey succeeding princes granted various privileges, among which was that of holding a market weekly. The yearly revenue of the abbey at the dissolution was £298, 8 shillings gross, or £251, 2 shillings clear. The town was formerly much engaged in the clothing trade, and was particularly famous for a white baize of superior fabric, called Coggeshall Whites. The clothing trade has much declined for many years past.

The town is irregularly laid out, and the streets are narrow and ill paved. The church, at the north-eastern end of the town, is a spacious and handsome building in the Perpendicular style of English architecture : the windows, especially the east window, are large and handsome : there is a large square tower at the west end. A small part of the abbey is yet remaining ; and near it is a bridge of three arches, originally built by King Stephen over a cut made to convey the water of the river nearer to the abbey. The abbey has some good plain lancet windows, and the interior has some good groining and windows, with shafts ; it is occupied as a farm-house. At Little Coggeshall, a hamlet of the town, half a mile south of it, said to have been once a distinct parish, were formerly two churches, one of them built by the monks of the abbey for their own use, the other the parish church : the former has been long demolished ; the latter, or what remains of it, is now used as a barn. There are meeting-houses for Independents, Baptists, Quakers, and Methodists.

By the returns of 1831, the parish comprehended an area of 2,770 acres, and had 624 inhabited houses, with a population of 3,227, about two-sevenths agricultural. The silk manufacture has been introduced here, and constitutes the principal manufacture of the place ; that of woollens has declined. Some of the inhabitants are engaged in toy making. The market is on Saturday for corn, butter, eggs, and poultry, and occasionally live stock.

The living is a vicarage, of the yearly value of £215 with a glebe-house, in the archdeaconry of Colchester.

There are three unendowed almshouses near the church, and there is an endowed school. The parliamentary returns for 1833 assign to Coggeshall eleven day, or boarding and day, or evening schools, one endowed and one Lancasterian, with 294 scholars ; thirteen dame or infant schools with 189 scholars ; and six Sunday-schools with 490 scholars.