History of Foulness

The Isle of Foulness lies just off of the Essex coast near Shoebury. The area was already considered an island back in roman times and the name seems to be derived from old English fulga-naess meaning “wild birds nest”. Foulness manor in 1235 was granted to Hugh de Burg Earl of Kent , then in 1271 passed down to Guy de Rochford and then his nephew John and then Robert de Rochford in 1324. After this date it is recorded in the records as part of the estate of William de Bohun Earl of Hereford until 1373 when the was no male heirs and the estate passed into the hands of James Butler 5th Earl of Ormond in June 1447. In 1527 the then 7th earl of Ormond relinquished to Henry the 8th part of his estates including the Isle of Foulness and in 1473 was passed to Thomas Grey 1st Marquis of Dorset. From Thomas Grey the estate passed to his younger brother Lord Richard Grey who was unfortunately accused by Richard Duke of Gloucester of estranging him from Edward V King of England and beheaded in 1483. In 1485 the estates passed back into the hands of Thomas Butler 7th Earl of Ormond until 1527 when the estate passed back into the hands of the king and were subsequently handed to Thomas Boleyn and later to his daughter Mary who married William Carey. The estate stayed in the Carey family until 1549 when it was sold to Sir Richard Rich Lord Chancellor of England. On Lord Rich’s death in 1567 it remained in the family until 1673 when Mary widow of the last Earl of Warwick Charles died, on her death it passed to Daniel Finch 2nd Earl of Nottingham and remained in the Finch family until 1915. On the 13th of July 1915 the entire estate including Foulness manor was sold and came into the hands of the War Department. By the end of WW1 the whole island with the exception of church, rectory and mission hall at Courts End and the school had one owner. Baliff’s records show that for most of its history the Isle of Foulness has been used for agricultural farming but living conditions on the island for the workers on the most part were appalling. There was no fresh water supply plus a continual shortage of housing caused overcrowding and illness for those who lived on the island. There also was a problem of reaching the Essex mainland which until 1922 was only available by ferry after that time a new military road from Great Wakering opened.