Stock History
This text was taken from
"A short History of Stock" by Jeremy Bunting

The village of Stock Harvard, at 318 feet above sea level, is one of the highest points in Essex lying on a range of hills running north-eastward from Brentwood to Danbury. The village High Street (now the B1007 road) was probably a track in pre-Roman times running through the great forest which covered most of Essex. Epping Forest and a small part of Hainault Forest are almost the only survivors today of the early forest.

After the Romans-had settled in Britain (about 43 AD these forest tracks became of greater importance, and the Romans drained, widened and straightened them for military use. Our particular road became a vital link between the River- Thames and the Roman towns of Caesaromagus (Chelmsford) and Camulodunum (Colchester).

Traces of Roman occupation have been found in the meadow land around the present Roman Catholic Church, and this area - the highest vantage point in the village - also shows traces of pre-Roman occupation probably an Iron Age Settlement.
Today we take hard-surfaced roads for granted but even in the quite recent past the High Street was a narrow lane with ruts often twelve to fifteen inches deep and it was not uncommon to see between fifteen and twenty wagons stuck in the mud. Highwaymen abounded -and Galleywood Common on the way to Chelmsford was a favourite "hold-up" point in the 17th and 18th centuries. Dick Turpin, so it is said, was active in the area and is reported to have lived at one time between Stock and Wickford. In winter roads were often impassable and indeed twice in 1975 Stock was cut off on all sides by Flood waters with the exception of the road to Chelmsford.

The origin of the village's name is still open to dispute but to derive it from the Saxon "stocce", meaning "wood" conveys little and it is prefer-able to conclude that it comes from "Stoke", that is a place within another district and the same origin for many English place-names beginning "Stoke", for example Stoke d'Abernon, Stoke Poges, Stoke upon-Trent. Further, the Saxon word for a Steward was "Hereward" and so Stock Harvard originally meant "the place of the Steward" of the parish of Buttsbury of which Stock was then a hamlet.

Until as recently as 1948 the Parish of Buttsbury embraced a large part of the village including half the High Street, the boundary line between the two parishes running down the middle of Mill Road, and through the centre of the old hostelry "The Cock". This past confusion of boundaries makes population and other figures difficult to estimate and today Stock has become the more important centre with a population of about two thousand. This is a very rapid increase in the last thirty-five years, for before that the figure had remained around the six hundred mark for several centuries. During the nineteen fifties a large reservoir was created on the north - east side of the parish cutting off parts of the parishes of West Hanningfield, South Hanningfield and Downham from their natural communities.

Extensive building on the Stock side of the reservoir meant that a large part of the village lay outside the ecclesiastical parish. This anomaly was ended in1978 when boundary changes were made which also brought Crondon Hall to the north-west of Stock into the parish from Galleywood.

The first written evidence of the existence of a Church in Stock is in 1232 and assumes that it had been there for some time. It is reasonable therefore to suppose that a Church consisting of a Nave and Chancel, was erected here in the early Norman period, a view supported by the fact that the South and West walls of the Nave are about three feet thick, that is similar to other undoubted Norman churches. These thick walls are the only remains of that building. Reconstruction work in 1948 uncovered the foundations of a still earlier building under the North wall which may, though there is no definite proof of this, indicate an original Saxon church on this site.

The village is mentioned as providing rebels for the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, and the records also tell of looting by many of the insurgents. The ill-armed peasants, however, were no match for the soldiers of Richard II who had been sent out from London to quell the riots, and many of them were slain in a battle in Norsey woods, on the Stock side of Billericay. It was at this time that additions began to be made to the Church which reached their climax in the building surge of the 15th century which added the North Aisle and Tower.

Part of the 14th century Rectory survives incorporated in the later 18th century building which is now the Old Rectory, having been sold shortly after the Second World War. The area provided martyrs, both Roman Catholic and protestant during the upheavals of the Reformation in the 16th century. John Tyrel of Billericay and Thomas Watts, of the same town, were both burnt at the stake for heresy under Henry VIII in 1527 and Mary Tudor in 1555 respectively During the reign of Elizabeth I local martyrs subsequently canonized by the Roman Catholic Church included Anne Lyne, John Payne and John Houghton. In 1626 William Pindar was instituted as Rector and again in 1629 when Charles I held the Patronage. (Such double institutions were not uncommon then He also held the living of Langdon Hills where he chose to reside, Stock being cared for by an assistant curate, Richard Cole. Essex,  with which Oliver Cromwell was closely associated, was a stronghold of Puritanism and when Charles I was beheaded the news was conveyed by bonfires at Brentwood and Danbury and one might presume, though there is no documentary evidence, also at Stock as the high-point midway between the two. In 1643 a Committee for Essex, although declared illegal by the King, proceeded to sequester the clergy and a Mr. Holmes became minister at Stock.

William Pindar was in Oxford in 1646 when the city surrendered to Cromwell but he appears to have retained the friendship of some of his old parishioners and even preached in the Church during the Common- wealth. At this period Stock and Buttsbury were united to be separated again at the Restoration when Pindar regained the Living though leaving immediately for Springfield.

The famous schoolmaster and grammarian Charles Hool became Rector on December 10th, 1660. It is perhaps difficult to judge the reaction of the villagers to the destruction of the beauty of their Parish Church under the Commonwealth when the rood beam and screen, the statues and altars were destroyed and the rich paintings (of which traces survive) were white-washed over. It must also have been the end of the great Whitsuntide Fair which was a feature of mediaeval life in Stock.

In 1968 a Festival of Flowers, Music and Art which incorporated a Fair was started, being held at the weekend nearest to Midsummer day, this Sunday also being kept as the Feast of the Church's Dedication. Its popularity is perhaps a modern echo of the fairs of mediaeval days. Certainly, the almost universal rejoicing at the restoration of the Monarchy perhaps says something of this depressing period of our history. In 1733 Thomas Cox, junior, became Rector of Ramsden Bellhouse and the following year of Stock.

The Parishes remained joined until 1964 though there was little social contact between the two communities and indeed some past animosity survived to the end. Despite the Restoration pf the Anglican Church as the Established Church in 1660, England still held a large and increasing number of Non- conformists and Dissenters during the eighteenth century, and in 1798 the Essex Congregational Union was formed.

A number of Congregational Chapels were opened in Essex, and the first building in Stock to be used for Congregational worship was a house belonging to Mr William Moss, in 1801. Mr Moss was the owner of Stock Windmill. In 1813 the first Congregational Chapel was built in Mill Road, on a site adjoining the present telephone exchange, and the site is marked by a tablet in the approach road to the Exchange. This continued to be used until 1889 when a new chapel was built in the High Street. In 1900, when that building needed renovating, services were held i the Rectory Hall - perhaps a fore-taste of better ecumenical relations to emerge half a century later.

The 1813 chapel was demolished in 1910. The church continued as a Congregational Church until 1972, when Congregationalism became part of the United Reform Church. However Stock,, declined to enter the new Denomination, and in 1974 became known as "Christ Church" - the Free Church in Stock. Since 1966 it has been ministered to by Baptist Ministers from the West Ham Baptist Mission Country Centre of Greenwoods.

In pre-Reformation days, the Bishops of London had a country residence at Crondon Park on the north-west side of the village, and a license to enclose the park was granted by King John in 1204. The Bishops built a chapel attached to this residence which was in use until the property was seized by Henry VIII. In 1546 it was granted by the King to the Petre family, a strong Roman Catholic family, and worship continued to be held there.

In 1715 Crondon came into the possession of the Mason family, also Roman Catholics, and a Mission was established here, served by the Jesuit Fathers, and continued until the last century, when a chapel was built in 1875, attached to Lilystone Hall, In 1769 the Parish Registers record the burial of "Richard Belling from Crondon Park, a Romish Priest". Lilystone Hall was owned by the Roman Catholic family of Gillow, who also built the Presbytery (Bishop's House since 1980) across the road, as well as a Catholic School in 1892, in Mill Road.

In 1936 the Lilystone Hall chapel was dismantled, and the school was converted into a Church for Roman Catholic worship, bearing the same dedication to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. During its renovation in 1973 the Parish Church was used for their worship, a dramatic sign of changing Christian relations within the village and a fine wrought-iron Candle Holder was placed above the Font to commemorate the occasion. The Church has always been concerned with the education of children and in 1839 the National School was built opposite All Saints. This building was sold on completion of the new school in Swan Lane which was dedicated by the Bishop of Bradwell on Ascension Day 1975, the children having been present at the Eucharist as usual that morning.

On December 13th, 1940 a land-mine fell in the Churchyard, the spot being marked in 1953 by the construction of a Garden of Remembrance dedicated to King George VI to receive the ashes of those desiring cremation rather than burial. The land-mine caused immense damage to the Church, blowing off the nave roof, destroying all the stained glass and damaging the stone tracery on the south and east sides of the building. The foundations of the tower were unsettled the bells becoming unhinged and their mediaeval mechanism smashed. The organ was put out of use. For six months the building was open to the weather throughout the winter.

It was during the incumbency of the Reverend J. G. T. Tatham that the immense task of restoration was begun bringing about a complete transformation of the building since its last major restoration in 1848. It was also during this period (1945-1968) that the influence of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England made itself felt in Stock, influencing both the inhabitants and the furnishing of the church building. This work of restoration was completed by the next incumbent, the Reverend J. J. Bunting, when the whole church was reordered under the famous church architect Mr. Laurence King, O.B.E. who died upon its completion in December 1981.

The pews in the nave and north aisle were replaced by chairs, the figures of the Rood hung on a new cross and the entire Chancel and Sanctuary re-furnished; the new High Altar being consecrated by the Bishop of Chelmsford on November 1st, All Saints' Day, 1980. A new vestry may be built, access being by the ancient North Door.

For centuries the inhabitants of Stock were largely occupied with agriculture but in the 17th and 18th centuries "Stock Bricks" became widely known and a thriving brick, tile and pot-making industry flourished alongside the making of Potash. In 1971 when mains drainage was first installed, pottery from the 15th-17th centuries was unearthed and during the renovation of the Almshouses four large clay pots were discovered made in red bodied ware with bright orange glaze. Within living memory the village was virtually self-supporting as the lists of shops and craftsmen just before the First World War show, but in the last third century the population has increased to around two thousand and many now work in London and in surrounding industrial concerns.

The continuing sense of a village community is evidenced today by the large number of voluntary organizations and by the flourishing activities of the three Churches. In 1973 the Rector established a truly village magazine called Stock Press under lay editors to replace the former exclusively Parish Church publication. It continues to provide a living record of the activities and thinking of both the village and its churches. The Parish Church continues to change in appearance to meet new changes in the life and worship of the people and this chapter of its history must be written by others in the years ahead.
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