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History of Hockley


Too large to be a village, but too small to be called a town, Hockley’s origins are lost in the mists of time. A signpost to the past, however, is Plumberow Mount, a tumulus that tops a hill at the end of Plumberow Avenue. In the early days of the 20th century the Mount was excavated in the hope that it would yield a wealthy burial. Unfortunately the excavators were disappointed for all they found were broken Romano British pots and a Roman coin. The true purpose of this relic of Hockley’s ancient past remains a mystery to this day. We are on firmer ground in 1086 when Hockley is mentioned no less that three times in the Domesday Book, and the then hamlet of Plumberow twice. At that time the main manor of Hocheleia – as it was then called – was in the possession of the royal Saxon abbey of St. Mary’s, Barking. The abbey retained its responsibility for the living of Hockley’s beautiful church of SS Peter and Paul until the Reformation when it eventually passed into the possession of Wadham College, Oxford. The small and much loved church, with its unusual octagonal tower, stands on a high hill to the west of the village with magnificent views across the Crouch valley. The present building dates mainly from 1220, when it was enlarged. Next to the church and opposite the old manor house, is Hockley’s original school which first opened its doors in 1839. When the building became too small a new school was built on the High Road in 1903. To the rear of school are Hockley Woods, which for centuries served the local community as a resource for fuel and building material. The woods were divided amongst a number of owners and jealousy guarded with high earth banks, which can still be seen today. Southend pier was constructed with timber from Hockley Woods. Hockley had one brief moment of fame when in 1843 a mineral spa was established in the village. A pump room and a hotel to accommodate the expected visitors were built. Unfortunately the fashion for taking the waters was on the wane, with people preferring instead to visit the new seaside resorts such as Southend, and the venture failed. Over the years the old pump room has had a chequered life, becoming derelict on several occasions. Fortunately it is now in caring hands and being restored. The quiet and pretty village of Hockley changed forever in 1889 when the Great Eastern Railway reached Hockley. With the village now easily accessible to London, local landowners grasped the opportunity to ‘get rich quick’ and sold off their farmland for development. Special trains were run from London and the plots of land were sold at auctions, where champagne flowed freely. Eventually the holiday shacks that were erected into more permanent dwellings and the Hockley of today was born. Lesley Vingoe December 2003

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