North Stifford Village
The Village

Ancient Stifford stands on a shelf overlooking a shallow valley carved out by the Mardyke river. The name 'Stifford' derives from the Anglo-Saxon stig ford, a ford where a path crosses a stream.

The Field of Peace

On the south side of the Mardyke Bridge lies 'The Field of Peace' which is located between North Stifford Village and the Mardyke River.

Sir Fielding Clarke and Lady Mary Milward Clarke once lived at Coppid Hall. Sir Fielding died in 1928, and his widow later donated the land to the elderly of the village on 19th June, 1933. The name derives from her wish that the field should be a place to 'sit in peace.' Davy Down and the Field of Peace form part of the Bridleway which runs from Ship Lane, Aveley, to Fen Lane Bulphan; a distance of 4.2 miles.

The Mardyke River runs alongside the village and is not much more than a stream, but records show that it was once navigable by barge as far as the village of Bulphan. The distance between North Stifford and Bulphan by this waterway would have been about 3 miles.

The name 'Mardyke' has been used since Norman times, and is a reference to it being a boundary or mark ditch between parishes. Its upper reaches still form the boundary between Havering and Thurrock. One of its sources is on Childerditch Common. The river drains the Brentwood and Langdon Hills, the slopes of the Ockendon and Orsett ridges, the flat fenland they enclose, and discharges into the Thames at Purfleet.

To the south of the village on the A1306 are Warren Terrace and Warren Lane named after the local rabbit warrens. The Normans brought rabbits to England after the Conquest and rabbit warrens were managed on behalf of the Lord of the Manor for their useful supply of meat and fur.

Workers called 'Warreners' were employed to look after the extensive rabbit warrens in this area. They looked after the rabbits and protected them from predators and gangs of poachers. The warrens were situated between the village and the River Thames and, in the 16th century, this area was originally known as Coney Warrens. Coney is the Medieval word for a rabbit. Only the young ones were called Rabbits.

Wonderful buildings from a bygone age

In the Middle Ages, along a rough track (which was the main village street) would have stood the church, probably the manor house and an assortment of irregularly spaced *wattle and daub hovels (mean dwellings), which were the homes of the peasant workers. In the 17th century, these dwellings gave way to more permanent structures.

**Lathe and plaster, timber, thatch and tile; These were the materials used by the 17th century craftsmen who built many of the delightful cottages that can still be seen in the village today. However, these cottages were not lived in by ordinary farm labourers, but were more likely to have housed tradesmen and craftsmen, such as the blacksmith, the weaver, and the thatcher, who at this period were in great demand by the rising middle classes.

*Wattle and Daub: Interlaced rods/twigs/branches, plastered with daub, which was clay/mud/animal dung, often mixed with straw, as a building material.

**Lathe and Plaster: Thin, narrow strips of wood used as supports for plaster.

'A walk down memory lane;' historic dwellings from the top of High Road to the bottom of Stifford Hill.

The first building in the village is the former Stifford Lodge, which is now the Stifford Hall Hotel.

At the top of the village stands a large Queen Ann house built in 1756. Set in the facade of the house is a plaque with the inscription "This house hath been antiently called Coppid Hall."

Opposite St. Mary's Church (which is 12th century) stands an early 18th century cottage, timber framed, part weatherboard, part lath and plaster, and with a tiled roof. This has now been divided into two homes - Nos. 1 & 2 Church view.

Down in the hollow on Well Lane, stands one of the most picturesque cottages in south-east Essex.

'The Thatched Cottage' was built in 17th century with later additions.

Bill Gun's Cottage.

Between 'The Thatched Cottage' and the building which was formerly an inn called 'the Oaks' (see below) stood a small single storey cottage. It was certainly 17th century, and may even have been 16th century. It was fairly unique in Stifford, since apart from its thickly thatched roof it was constructed entirely of wood and had a floor of trodden or rammed earth. The last occupant was Mr. William Samuel Gunn. Unfortunately the cottage burned down shortly after his death in 1962. The site is now occupied by two more modern houses.

The next thatched building was built in 17th century with later additions and used to be an inn known as 'The Oaks' which was a great favourite with church members at that time. Later this was divided into three cottages now known as Wren Cottage, Viola Cottage and Lilac Cottage.

The next thatched building was built in 17th century with later additions and used to be an inn known as 'The Oaks' which was a great favourite with church members at that time. Later this was divided into three cottages now known as Wren Cottage, Viola Cottage and Lilac Cottage.

Moving a little further down High Road, we come to Honeysuckle Cottage and Cherry Tree Cottage.

Across the road stand two more pretty thatched cottages called Fircot and Caira.

It is said that Caira is haunted.

The Old School House, built in 1840, was originally a parish school with teacher's house attached. It was built by Wingfield Baker, the then Lord of the Manor, at a cost of £200.

Back across the road again we find Old Post Cottage, Middlecott and Laburnum Cottage. We understand the Old Post Cottage once housed the local Post Office, and the lady who ran it around the 1930's/40's (Mrs. Nottridge) would open up her parlour once a week in order to conduct the postal and financial business of the village.

Browns Cottages, Village Shop and Mays Cottages were built at the end of the 19th century. Browns Cottages are split into two terraces consisting of six in High Road and four in Clockhouse lane. Opposite stand the two Mays Cottages.

The present day Dog and Partridge Pub has been drastically renovated over the years, but it has a long history. Around 1575 Sir Richard Gurney (a middle class Tudor merchant) invested in a collection of houses, barns and land in Stifford. A few years later he bought from Thomas Keighley (a leather seller) a house known as 'Lovelands' which included 30 acres of Stifford land. The building was later called 'The Clockhouse' and as the name suggests it housed an impressive clock. 'The Clockhouse' was registered as an independent meeting house in the 17th century, and gave its name to Clockhouse Lane. The Dog and Partridge Public House now stands upon this site. The housing of the clock can still be found in the pub today, and an original fireplace still remains in the bar.

Where High Road enters Stifford Hill two tiny cottages stood (circa 1600). They were thought to be the smallest in Thurrock but eventually fell into disrepair and almost became derelict. Nos. 1 & 2 Hill Cottages have now been extensively renovated and extended.

On the other side of Stifford Hill stands a lovely thatched cottage called 'The Gardens.' Unfortunately not much history is known about the building, but it is undoubtedly very old.

The thatched Davy Down Cottage opposite the junction of Stifford Hill with Pilgrims Lane was formerly The Swan Inn and next to it stood the Smithy. The Smithy (blacksmith's workshop), later known as The Forge was then re-located to the opposite side of the road at the bottom of the hill. The site is now used for the manufacture of fencing, car repairs etc.

In the 18th century, two alms houses known as 'the poor cottages' (left side of picture) were situated at the bottom of Stifford Hill. Sadly they have not survived.

© This website and its content including photographs are the copyright of Cliff and Jan Cowin and parts have been based on extracts from their book ‘The Idyll in the Middyl’. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system. 2006 - 2015