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Elmdon and Chrishall - 1800-1900

George III (1820) died blind, deaf, and mad. George IV (1820-1830), William IV (1830-1837) ruled and we finally got Victoria (1837-1901). She married Albert and give us the Albert Hall. Sir Robert Peel gave us the bobbies. Palmerston founded the Liberals in 1859. Disraeli (Conservative) (became the first Jewish Prime Minister), Gladstone (Liberal), and the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (Conservative) shared the post for 26 years.



"Chrishall, a parish in Essex, 5 miles W of Audley-End station on the G.E.R., and 7 W of Saffron-Walden. It has a post office under Royston; money order and telegraph office, Heydon. Acreage, 2789; population, 547. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St Albans; net yearly value, £194 with residence. The church is an ancient building of flint, has a canopied brass of the 14th century, and two other brasses. There is a Primitive Methodist chapel. "
Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5


The village was listed in the Domesday Book as Cristeshalla, or "nook of land dedicated to Christ". It is one of only two English settlements whose name contains the word "Christ". Chrishall's location is key to its character; as the village sits at the highest point in Essex, at 147 metres (482 ft) above sea level, road construction has avoided this high ground and therefore Chrishall is off the beaten track. Despite its relative isolation the village retains facilities such as a pre-school as well as an infant and junior school. The village has a sports field, a playground, two churches, as well as the Red Cow public house.


Chrishall's population has remained largely unchanged over the last 170 years. In 1841 it totalled 518 and today about 450 people live in the village.


Extracts from pages 168-169 and 172-179 from Jean Robin, Elmdon: Continuity and Change in a North-West Essex Village, 1861-1964
© Cambridge University Press 1980, reproduced with permission

John Brand (1797-1880) and his second wife Martha had four children in Chrishall, before returning to Elmdon after the death of John's father in 1849. It was this John Brand, incidentally, who was the Lofts Halls estate tenant of ten acres in 1860, and who lost his tenancy the following year because he had let the land go back so badly.


The Elmdon forge passed from John Brand (1797-1880) to his eldest son Frederick (1835-1907), and then to Frederick's second son Henry (1870-1926). Both Henry's son's, however, left Elmdon in the early twentieth century to work in London, and the forge was finally sold to the owner of Hill farm in the 1940's, after having been in the family for at least nine generations. It remain to be seen what happened to the younger sons of the blacksmith Brands who not inherit the business.


Thomas (1775-1812), like George (1764-1837), was a younger-son blacksmith, though he may have inherited land, but not the smithy, from his father. He died in early middle age, and his will shows him to have been comparatively prosperous, or least to have thought himself to be so, for he directed that his farming business be carried on jointly by his wife Ann (Day 1769-1819) and his eldest son Robert (1795-1842), who was only 17 when his father died, under the direction of his executors, William Truslove Rolfe and James Hayden, both Elmdon farmers. His remaining four sons and two (four?) daughters were each to receive £100 on attaining their majorities. It seems likely, however, that the area farmed was insufficient to support this large family with the help of a second occupation, for by his death in 1842, Robert had declined from farmer to farm labourer; and Joseph the youngest brother, was also a farm labourer. True, these boys were particularly unlucky in that their father died before the younger ones were old enough to be apprenticed to a trade, and they also of the generation which suffered the upheavals and reorganisation resulting from Elmdon enclosure of 1824(*). Even so, Joseph, who at the time of the enclosure owner a cottage and garden in Duddenhoe End, ended his days in the Saffron Walden workhouse, where he died in 1875. Surprisingly, this was a fate shared by his cousin William (1808-1889) who, as third son of the owner of the Elmdon forge, trained as a blacksmith and was employed in that capacity while his brother John (1797-1889) was the head of the business, but who, nevertheless, clearly had been unable to put by enough money to save him from the Union in his old age. Furthermore, both (three?) Willam's sons were farm labourers, and one of his daughters (which one?) married a farm worker from Langley.


So far we have looked at the Brands who, an eldest sons, inherited and Elmdon smithy and a ready-made position in life, and at their younger brothers, who usually worked as blacksmiths even if in a subordinate capacity, and their descendants, most of whom joined the farm-labouring class. There remained another branch of the family descended from William (1785-1869) and Mary (Jones) (1797-1850) who, as far as we know, had nothing to do with the work of the forge.


With each succeeding generation, the problem had to faced of what to do with the eldest son before he inherited whatever business his father was running in Elmdon, and how to find occupations for younger sons. The junior branch of the Brands, descended from William (1718-1797) and Mary (Haliday) (1722-1792) met this in much the same way that the senior branch of blacksmiths did, that is, they left Elmdon for Chrishall, until such time as an opportunity came to return. The case of William Brand (1785-1869) and his children will serve as an illustration of this.


William Brand seems to have gone to Chrishall in the first place as a shopkeeper, an occupation he held in 1814 when his son Edward (1814-1835) was baptised in that village. Two years later, he had taken advantage of the temporary closure of Elmdon's free grammar school, which was normally open to boys from Chrishall as well as Elmdon, to open his open his own small school in a room in his house. The arithmetic exercise book of his young son Robert (1813-1894) survives, and shows that the pupils were expected to cope with a variety of esoteric subjects such as alligation without time, double position, conjoined proportion , arithmetical progression and geometrical progression. It was under this last heading that Robert learned how to deal with the problem of the cost of shoeing a horse, referred to by Mr Weller Senior in Pickwick Papers (1837), when he said of the sanctimonious Mr Stiggins 'Borrows eighteenpence on Monday, and comes on Tuesday for a shillin' to make it up half-a-crown; calls again on Vensday for another half-crown to make it five shillin', and goes on, doubling, till he gets it up to a five pund note in no time , like them sums in the 'rithmetic book 'bout the nails in the horse's shoes, Sammy.' The illustration shows the working out of this problem in Robert Brand's beautiful copperplate handwriting.


Willam's Chrishall enterprises clearly prospered, and as time went on he was able to add farming to his other activities. The Chrishall rate book for 1855 shows that, some forty year after his arrival in the village, he was renting Building Hall farmhouse, another farmhouse and 412 acres of land from Lord Dacre; 22 acres from the Lofts Hall estate; a house and 5 acres from Martyns Charity; and 2 acres of land, known as 'Cuckoos', from the Rev. Everit. He also owned a house and 17 acres of land, and nine cottages in the village which he let. In the same year, his second and third surviving sons, Robert (1813-1894) and Edwin (1826-1882), were together renting 319 acres and the farmhouse of Chiswick Hall Farm in Chrishall from the Lofts Hall estate, and his youngest son Samuel (1823??-1856) had taken over the family shop , renting a further 4 acres of land, and three cottages for sub-letting. The only son not to have remained in Chrishall was the eldest, John (1807-1843), who, as we shall see later, return to Elmdon.


When William died in 1869 at great age 84, he had outlived his son, John (1807-1843) by more than twenty years. In his will he left his real estate to his oldest surviving son, Robert, for life, and afterwards to his younger grandson, William Robert (1856-1934) and his heirs. His personal estate, stock, crops and effects were to be shared equally between his sons Robert and Edwin. The stock-in-trade of Chrishall shop, then being run by Samuel's widow ( Mary Wilson) was left to her for life or until remarriage, and then to Samuel's children. Once again, the same pattern emerges - farming was for the older sons in the family, shopkeeping for the youngest, for whom no land was available. As for William's three grandchildren in Elmdon, John (1835-1883), Caroline (1838-?), and Harriet (1839-?), he does not seem to have had the same interest in them as he had in the members of the family who stayed with him in Chrishall, for he only left John £80 0s 0d, and the girls £10 0s 0d.


Robert Brand (1813-1894) never married, and his brother Edwin moved to Kimpton in Hertfordshire, but Samuel's son William Robert (1856-1934) stayed on in Chrishall, taking over the tenancy or the Building End Farm in his turn. On William Robert's death, his son Walter (William) continued as tenant on the same farm and he finally bought the property towards the end of in the 1950s. Walter retired in the early 1970s, and he and his wife now live in the house in Walter's great-grandfather taught the village children so many years ago.


William's eldest son John (1807-1843), as a young man had worked in Chrishall as a schoolmaster, like his father before him. However, when the opportunity came he returned to Elmdon to take over the grocer's and draper's shop there. A few years later his position in Elmdon was consolidated when he became the beneficiary of his geat-aunt Elizabeth (1853-1841) who had been the tenant farmer of 64 acres of land in Elmdon open field belonging to the Lofts Hall estate in the 1790, and who lived in the homestead which later became known as Hill Farm. He took over the tenancy of Hill Farm, as well as continuing to run the shop, and he and descendants almost uninterruptedly remained tenants of the Lofts Hall estate at Hill or Church Farms, and village shopkeepers, right up until 1927. By this time school-teaching had been added to the occupations traditionally followed by Elmdon Brands. As we saw earlier, John Brand (1807-1843) had been a schoolmaster in his Chrishall days, and two generations later his grandson, William Arthur (1863-?), married the village school-mistress, while William Arthur's sister Laura (1865-?) herself taught in the Elmdon school for a few years. William Arthur's son John Alfred (1885-?) also married an Elmdon school-teacher, while John's brother Harold George (1887-?) won a scholarship to university, going on to be a grammar-school teacher. In the next generation , John's daughter Joyce (1913-?) became a teacher in York.


John Alfred Brand (1885-?) was a member of the last generation of the family to live in Elmdon, but in fact he had left the village before the Lofts Hall estate was finally sold in 1927. While his father was tenanting Hill and Church Farms, John looked after a small farm at Carlton, some fifteen miles away, which his father owned. However, the enterprise failed, John found work as a farm manager in Yorkshire, and when William Arthur retired to Cambridge in 1927 the Brands' connection with Elmdon farming ceased.


Edited extracts from "Elmdon - Continuity and change in a north-west Essex village - 1861-1964- Jean Robin"


Chrishall became the home of George (1764-1837) and Jemima (Winter) (1770-1833) and founder of the family of farm workers. Among the childen were William Brand (1811-1875) and his wife Elizabeth (Pitty) (1809-1888) who had Charles Brand (1831-1903) and William Brand (1833-1914) who both emigrated to Australia. They also had Nathan Brand (1850-1885) who started the movement to Cambridge.