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MARKET TOWNS OF ESSEX (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Witham in 1837

Witham is in the hundred of Witham, and on the high road from London to Norwich by Ipswich, 38 miles from London. It is on Pod’s Brook, just above the junction of that stream with the Blackwater.

This town is generally reputed to have been built by Edward the Elder, but it is questionable if that prince did more than restore a place that bears marks of having been a Roman station. On Cheping Hill or Chipping Hill are the remains of a circular camp, with a double vallum. A quantity of Roman bricks are worked up in the tower and body of the church, and one or two Roman coins were discovered in levelling the fortifications of the above-mentioned camp. From these indications it has been supposed that Witham was the Canonium of Antoninus, which is placed by others near Kelvedon.

The town consists of two portions : the large portion consists of one main street along the high road and a short street or two branching from it : the other portion, in which is the church, is situated half a mile to the north of the principal part, on Cheping Hill, mentioned above. There is no kind of manufacture carried on ; but the trade of the place arises from the wants of the neighbourhood, and its situation on a great public thoroughfare. Several genteel families reside in the town ; and a mineral spring, Witham Spa, attracted some years since, and perhaps still attracts visitors in the summer. The church is a tolerably large building, containing some ancient monuments. There are places of worship for Independents, Baptists, Quakers, and Catholics ; and several almshouses, but none very extensive or richly endowed.

The parish comprehends an area of 3,280 acres ; and had, in 1831, 552 inhabited houses, and a population of 2,735, of which less than a fifth was agricultural. The market is on Tuesday.

The living is a vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Colchester, of the yearly value of £473, with a glebe-house, in the gift of the bishop of London.

There were, in 1833, fifteen day-schools with 361 children ; two boarding-schools with 40 girls ; and one Sunday-school with 200 children, and a lending library attached. Of the day-schools, one (for 100 boys and 50 girls) is partly supported by an endowment ; another (for 70 girls) partly by voluntary contributions.

Faulkbourn hall, not far from Witham, is an ancient manor-house, different parts of which have been erected at very different periods. A tower gateway of curious architecture is supposed to be as old as the time of Stephen.