History of the Wheatsheaf
Compiled from various archives by
Miller Christy=s Handbook for Essex of 1887 has an entry for Writtle:
AThis, said to be the largest parish in Essex, contains a considerable village, with many curious old houses, ranged round a large green. It is supposed to be a very ancient place, and to have been of consequence when Chelmsford was obscure....@
Kelly=s Directory of Essex for 1937 says, AWrittle, formerly a market town, is a parish near the river Can...22 miles west from Chelmsford station.@
Chapman and Andre=s map of 1777 does not show any building on the site of the Wheatsheaf and St. John=s Road is not shown as in existence then. The 1896 edition of the 25 inch scale Ordnance Survey map shows that St. John=s Road existed then, although it was called Deadman=s Lane and at its junction with the main street the site of the Wheatsheaf shown clearly. The shape of the building is hatched, but it is not marked as a Public House, as are the Rose and Crown opposite, the Cock and Bell and the Star. So it would seem that the building later to become the Wheatsheaf was erected at some time between these two widely separated dates.
The researcher is fortunate indeed when he can pinpoint the very beginning of the story and can prove it by reference to contemporary documents. So it is really satisfying to report that the Wheatsheaf, as a building, started life in 1813 as shown in a deed of that year dated 7th June which states:
AJames Clift of Writtle..... Carpenter.......and Joseph Stanes of Writtle.......yeoman......that for....Five Shillings to the said James Clift....paid by the said Joseph Stanes....the said James Clift hath....sold....unto....Joseph Stanes....the message....lately erected and built by the said James Clift....at Writtle....and the small piece....of Ground allotted thereto containing by Estimation six rods....lately part....of a certain Orchard and Garden of the said James Clift and now separated therefrom by a Pale Fence and abutteth towards the North on a Lane called Deadmans Lane at the East End thereof on Premises of John Wood towards the South on other part of the said Orchard of him and said James Clift and towards the West on the road leading from Writtle Green to Ongar and Chelmsford....now in the tenure....of the said Joseph Stanes....for....one whole year....paying....unto....James Clift....the rent of one Pepper Corn (if the same shall be lawfully demanded)....@
The complementary release, required in those days by law, was completed and signed the next day. It is best explained by an abstract of the deed itself:
A8th June 1813....James Clift of Writtle ....Carpenter and Charlotte his wife of the First Part, Joseph Stanes of Writtle....yeoman of the Second Part....for the absolute purchase of the message....hereinafter mentioned....for the price....of One hundred pounds....and confirm unto the said Joseph Stanes in his actual possession....All that message or tenement lately erected and built by the said James Clift...at Writtle.....and the small piece....of ground allotted thereto containing by Estimation Six Rods....lately part....of a certain Orchard and Garden of the said James Clift and now separated therefrom by a Pale Fence....@
A schedule referred to in this deed takes the record back to 24th May 1811, when James Clift is purported to have bought the land from Richard Goodman of Mitcham, Surry who was grandson of the former owner, Richard Goodman, AGentleman@ of Great Baddow.
So, in the building which James Clift had erected on that part of fenced land on the edge of his orchard, Joseph Stanes set up as a shopkeeper. We infer this from the entry in White=s Directory of Essex of 1848 which shows a Joseph Staines as a shopkeeper. Yet it would seem that this publication was behind the times, because it was on 20th February 1845, that this Ayeoman@ sold the place for ,210 to Sophia Horsnell of Chelmsford, who, presumably because she was a married woman, (her husband, William, was a gardener) needed to conduct the purchase through a trustee, one AMr Joseph William Lucking of Shellow Bowells Halls....@
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