(More photographs and historical details added 28.1.17)
A Brief History of Weeley
(Pearl Byford has brought us some fantastic information and photos, many thanks. Also thanks to Joan Burgoyne for further photos adding to our knowledge of our history through the ages.)
The Little Domesday Book
Place: Wileia (Weeley) (Domesday data created by Professor J.J.N. Palmer, University of Hull)
- Hundred: Tendring
- County: Essex
- Total population: 29 households (quite large).
- Total tax assessed: 5.7 geld units (quite large)
- Taxable units: Taxable value 5.7 geld units. Taxed on 5.69.
- Value: Value to lord in 1066 £8. Value to lord in 1086 £23.
- Households: 11 villagers. 14 smallholders. 4 slaves.
- Ploughland: 2 men's plough teams.
- Other resources: Meadow 9 acres. Pasture 160 sheep. Woodland 230 pigs.
- Livestock in 1066: 15 cattle. 60 pigs. 240 sheep. 5 beehives.
- Livestock in 1086: 16 cattle. 30 pigs. 240 sheep. 2 beehives.
- Lord in 1066: Godwin <of Mundon>.
- Lord in 1086: Eudo the steward.
- Tenant-in-chief in 1086: Eudo the steward.
A good first introduction is by reading 'A History of Weeley Church and Village' by Donald J. Brown (1981), published to commemorate the centenary of the rebuilding of St Andrews Church, Weeley, 1881-1981 - A later and more thorough booklet 'WEELEY Through The Ages' also by Donald J. Brown (1996) is available at St Andrews Church, and various local outlets.
There is also a delightful pictorial history compiled by Joan Burgoyne (1999) - ISBN no. 0 9534911 0 2
Old Weeley Hall
This building stood just to the north of the Church. It was largely destroyed by fire around 1830 and never rebuilt.
The original painting is owned by David Weeley of Brook Farm and is in a very poor condition. In his garden is one of the old urns you can see mounted on the gateposts. These stood in the field beside the church until recent times.
Coming soon. (July/August 2017)
The Church in 1879, before being demolished (except for the bell tower)
The first mention of the existence of the Church is in 1291, and the earliest surviving parish register was begun in 1599 (now in the Essex Records Office)
The Highlander's Tomb (1969)
Since then the sides of the grave have collapsed and only the top can be seen in the North West of the graveyard.
Weeley was a strategic point at which to station troops during the Napoleonic Wars, in 1803 a temporary barracks was built behind the Church extending to Ash Farm in Thorpe Road. A number of Scottish units from the Highlands (around 4,000 troops and their families) were stationed on the land. The baptism register shows 173 children were baptised - unfortunately it also records 50 infant deaths in the burial register. By 1814 the barracks were vacated and demolished in 1814 - the area is still referred to as the Barracks by the offspring of folk living during that time, a story told from generation to generation.
The Highlander was Alexander McDonald, a soldier in the First Battalion 79th Regiment who in the prime of life was inhumanely murdered in Little Clacton on the morning of 29th July 1806 (Brown, 1996)
The Steam Mill
A windmill is mentioned in early records somewhere in Weeley, a lot of corn was grown in the area, so work was plentiful. We know there was a post mill on the Heath until 1844, which was in use until replaced by the steam mill in 1918. This continued in use until 1932 when it was demolished.
The Village School
There was a school in Weeley in 1797, in 1810 the Rev. J. Jefferson built a schoolroom in The Street, but in 1865 it was in a bad state of repair and the Rector Rev. W. Thorpe considered it unsafe and made valiant efforts to get a new building erected. He said that the poverty of the Village was so very great, but the money was raised and the new School opened in 1867 - it is still educating the children of Weeley and surrounding districts today.
2017 will be the School's 150th anniversary.
Empire Day at Weeley School 1909
Pearl's father was the school caretaker at the time, and Derrick's mother a cook at the school.
Old Plans for Weeley
It is not the first time that Weeley has been considered a good place for development! In 1909 Payne, Trapps & Co. were advertising The Station Building Estate (see poster above) There were also plans for a large development in Bentley Road, Weeley Heath - building started around 1937 when 6 semi-detached bungalows were built, and a detached bungalow was built for the foreman near the footpath field, but at the outbreak of the war in 1939 the developer decided to sell his land to Pearl Byford's grandfather, the then tenant farmer (as was his father before him from 1894). Now 6 generations will have lived at Coles Farm. Victoria and Connaught Road were also starting to be developed, but again the outbreak of war stopped the building and saved Weeley from the developers.
Weeley Post Office
Weeley Post Office 1904-1912
The Post Office was based at the house at the top of The Street, then known as 'The Poplars' (later 'Byways') between 1904-1912. Mrs Leather, the Post Mistress, is seen here together with three postmen, and their bicycles. Business was probably transacted inside the side door behind them.
The Village Hall
The old village hall before being demolished in 1984
(I have fond memories of taking my children to the mother and toddler group there in 1981/2)
The decision to build a Village Hall was taken at a meeting at Byeways, Thorpe Road on January 10th 1910. Various concerts, whist drives, fetes and other fundraing events were held, the proceeds of which amounted to £350, but the war in 1914 halted any further progress. In 1920 efforts were renewed, and two ex-Army Huts were purchased from the Dovercourt camp for £107, and converted into the Village Hall.
This building was replaced in 1984, again after much fund-raising by the hard-working Committee.
Weeley Street, facing South, on a Sunday Evening circa 1930
Traffic jams are nothing new to Weeley residents - Clacton day trippers returning home formed long queues in Weeley Street, also from Walton on Thorpe Road, converging on Black Boy corner. Hence the need for the 1939 Bypass. (Also note the long range of red-brick animal stalls of Home Farm demolished in 1960 and now occupied by the current Post Office.
Weeley Station 1911
View of the Station and signal box from the Colchester direction. Note the bridge is not yet built and there was just a crossing. The platforms could be accessed from either side at that time.
In the early Second World War years, a bridge was built over the railway lines (it was felt to be of strategic importance and therefore the building continued during the war)
Photos of the Station before it fell out of use.
The Building of Weeley Bridge 1939
1938 - Note the height of the ladder!
White's Directory of Essex 1848 shows the list of inhabitants of Weeley who were in trade. The Blacksmith at the time was William Deeves.
The forge was in Clacton Road at Forge Cottage, near Mill Lane. A filling station used to be opposite in the early 20th century.
The Village Blacksmith - Alfred Ellis(circa early 1900's, and possibly late 1800's for the bottom photo)
The 20th Century War Years
Troops outside the Black Boy during Military Manoeuvres (Let's Pretendia) 1904
The car just leaving towards Thorpe may contain the Duchess of Connaught. The Duke and Duchess were staying at the Grand Hotel, Frinton as he was 'umpire' during the manoeuvres. They also opened and named Connaught Avenue, Frinton in the same week.
On the junction of Church Lane and Bentley Road, Weeley Heath. 1904
The Duke of Connaught lighting a cigarette, Inspector General of Forces, here acting as Umpire. Weeley Memorial was placed where the crossroad signpost stands, in 1919.
In 1942 a Stirling bomber severely damaged in a raid over Germany crashed near Weeley Station. Two airmen were killed, and both men have a memorial plaque in Weeley Church.
During the Second World war a small unit of Home Guards was formed, six local men were recruited because of their knowledge of the area. A bunker was dug in Weeley Wood and covered with vegetation; a large amount of explosives and ammunition were stored under the beds in the bunker. Members of the group were not released from their pledge of secrecy until 1966.
WWII buildings still standing in Weeley - We wonder if you know where they are?
Weeley Hall Wood
One of the largest ancient woodlands in the county
View of Weeley Wood Sept 2016
78 acres - Weeley Park or the Wood in Weeley are referred to in in a number of ancient documents, including the Domesday Book. (Don Brown, 1996)
Weeley Wood was purchased from the late Roger Weeley by the Essex Wildlife Trust in 1975 and has become a very important Nature Reserve. The wood is shown on old maps and is believed to be over 400 years old. It has become famous for its bluebells in the late spring.
30th April 2017 -
The Weeley Pop Festival 1971
Photos by Derrick Byford (taken from the top of the Church Tower)
For more detailed information about the festival visit the following web-site:
April 2017 - The Great British Woodstock / The incredible Story of the Weeley Festival 1971 by Ray Clark is now available from Amazon