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Ongar Millennium History Society

Ongar Millennium History Society


                        November 2018

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Saint Martin’s Churchyard

A continuing story about the Pallavacini connection to Ongar, through buildings of the town and area around Ongar

Father Thomas Byles  

Marden Ash House and the Alexander family

Some Titanic related pictures from our archive

Future Events

Welcome to the latest edition of the OMHS Newsletter.  We are now distributing the newsletter by email where we have members email addresses.  This will help to keep our costs down and ease distribution effort.  Where we do not have members email addresses we will continue to deliver paper copies.  However, we would encourage anyone who is happy to receive the newsletter by email to let use have your email address.  Needless to say, if you have not received this newsletter by email then we do not have an up to date email address for you.  

For anyone who still has membership subs to pay please contact Lorna Vaux our membership Secretary on email lornavaux5@gmail.com or telephone 07943 812444.

Committee members                  

Chair Vacancy                                      Venues Sec. Tonia Hart

President Felicitie Barnes                       Membership+Speaker Sec. Lorna Vaux

Secretary Sandra Dear/Tonia Hart           Committee Member Lawrence Mendoza

Treasurer Kathleen Jenkins                     Archive Vacancy

Newsletter Jenny Main

Saint Martin’s Churchyard Back to top

The passageway through the churchyard at St Martin's Church began as a path which more recently has been surfaced and railings added at either side. The 19th century cast iron railings are Grade II listed and described as having ornate fleur-de-lis heads. The path divides the graveyard into two unequal areas, with a single ledger stone on the pathway close to the south door of the church.  Gates in the railings allow access to the two sides of the graveyard. The smaller graveyard section to the west incorporates a dwelling, now named St Martin’s Cottage, which is in private ownership and includes a ‘right of way’. However, the graveyard and the railings are owned by the Church but have been maintained by the local Council since the early 1990s.   By law, if a graveyard becomes full and can accept no more, it can be handed over to the Local Authority and they have to budget to maintain it. The Council has to abide by the same rules as the Church and apply for a Faculty for permission to carry out any repairs, but they are legally bound to fund the work.

The cottage is Grade II listed and is described as two storeys, timber framed and plastered, with a red pantile roof, and built in the 18th century. It was in a state of disrepair as noted in church documents dated 1965, and was sold in 1966 by the Chelmsford Diocesan Board of Finance to a private buyer to renovate.  It was then called Verger's Cottage and the purchase included a small strip of land on the churchyard side of the cottage. It was renamed St Martin’s Cottage.

A drawing of the Church in The Gentleman's Magazine of 1796 shows two paths in the northern part of the churchyard, one to the north door of the nave for the congregation and the other to the north door of the chancel for the rector. The former path divides and passes to the west of the church perhaps to give access to the southern part of the churchyard. In a memorandum contained on the title page of The parish registers of Ongar, Essex (1886) it is written “ye Church-yard was railed and paled in ye year 1701” and “the Church yard towards the Glebe was paled in the year 1735”. The entry in the listed buildings site suggests that the original railings may well have been replaced in the 1880s when the Church was enlarged.

The north door was closed and a west door opened in 1814 and the path to the west of the Church was conveniently placed for this purpose. Although it is not marked on the 1840 Tithe map, the path is marked on a Grave Plan of the Church dated 1867 which shows the 45 graves which may be opened for interments following the closure of the churchyard when Ongar Cemetery was opened. The small west section of the graveyard lists just two graves in this category: Reynolds and Nicholls.  Indeed Christopher James Reynolds who died in 1897 was buried in the family grave.

The path is also marked on an Ordnance Survey map dated 1881 and surveyed 1873-4. So when the Church was enlarged in 1884, there was a path in existence from the High Street to Castle Street, allowing access from both directions. The path would also have been invaluable as a means of approaching the Church Rooms and would have been the route taken by Henry Gibson, the provider of the Church Rooms in Castle Street, from his home in the White House at the end of what is now St Martin’s Mews.

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Kathy Wenbourne and Gemma O’Donnell for help with dating the church railings.

Keith Snow

A continuing story about the Pallavacini connection to Ongar, through buildings of the town and area around Ongar Back to top

This article follows on from an article entitled From Genoa to Chipping Ongar first published in the November 2017 OMHS Newsletter. http://omhs.webplus.net/page69.html#From

Chipping Ongar is an ancient place.  The parish church has stood for about 900 years and the castle rising in the background is a reminder of the days of the Normans and Eustace, Count of Boulogne.

Richard de Lucy made a fortified home here in the 12th century.

Chipping Ongar Manor continued to be passed down through many different families until Henry VIII granted it to George Harper who sold it in 1543 to William Morrice.

He pulled down the old castle and built a brick mansion of three storeys.  This was known as the ‘Brick House’ until the 18th century.

Many years later in about 1637 Jane Pallavacini came to the town to seek refuge after her husband Tobias was thrown into the fleet prison for debt ‘from whence we know not if he returned’

Two of her children had died in infancy before she came to Ongar, but it is likely that she brought all her surviving offspring with her.  Their names were Horatio, Anne, Susanna and James.  We know, Jane and her son Horatio were buried in St Martins Church because the graves can still be seen.

But what happened to other members of the family?

Susannah married Edward Sedgwick, an Ongar gentleman, in 1640 and moved to London.  They lived at Grays Inn as Edward states in his will dated 1663

‘I Edward Sedgwick of Grays Inn in the County of Middlesex’

And later in Holborn as the Will states

‘I give unto the poor of the Parish of St Andrews, Holborn where I have not yet lived a yeare …forty shillings to be distributed by the church’.

Anne married Robert Younge of Ongar in 1639 after the death of his first wife Alice Ploot, who had lived at Shellow Bowells not far from Ongar.

Anne and Robert were married at St.Margaret’s Church, Markshall  near Coggeshall  which is now Markshall Arboretum.  The church no longer stands, but a number of memorial plaques and gravestones from within the old church were saved.  The Parish Registers are in the ERO and clearly state that their marriage was held there.

The Younges were a very large family and owned vast tracts of land all over the county.

In a tax document held at the National Archives, headed ‘Onger’ and dated1641 Robert Younge stands top of the list for ownership of land in Ongar.

The Younges were related in marriage to many wealthy local families and tracing Robert Younge has led to discoveries about his kinsman and the properties they lived in, many of which are still standing.

Robert was the son of William Younge.  William spent his youth at Newlands Hall in Roxwell.


In 1577 he married Elizabeth Greene daughter of John Greene and Katherine Wright who lived at Navestock Hall.

Soon afterwards the newlyweds probably went to live in Thaxted at the Parsonage, the Manor House of Priors Hall in Thaxted. William owned the lease of the Manor of Priors Hall. He is buried in the chancel of Thaxted Church.

William and Katherine had six children.   Robert was born in 1581 in Thaxted.

In William’s will, dated 1588, he refers to all his children being under 18 years of age and for his eldest son William to inherit all his land and

‘all of those messuages, Landes, Tenements and hereditaments with their appurtenances situate and lying and beinge in the saide Countie of Essex’.

William was Katherine’s first-born son.  He died in 1652 before his brother Robert.

Robert Younge had a cousin Richard living at Greensted Hall.

The Manor of Greensted was held by Anne the widow of William Bourne.

She had three sons from this first marriage.


She then married Richard Younge in 1613.

According to Captain Budworth in his Memoirs of Greensted he says of Greensted Hall

‘At the beginning of the 17th century, a family named Younge appear to have retained it for about forty years, and then to have sold it (circa 1661) to a person called by Morant, Gulton but whose real name was Robert Hulson, who held it until 1695.’

We know that Richard Younge was in possession of Greensted Hall after his marriage to Anne Bourne.

Richard died having no children and, in his Will, dated 1635 he left this bequest to his cousin Robert of Ongar


’I do will and do give unto my cosen Robert Younge of the Castle in Cheping Ongar twenty shillings in money’

Robert was now living at the Castle probably in Castle House, known then, as the Brick House. This building is listed by English Heritage as a

‘sometime Manor House of Chipping Ongar Manor, of 16C origin, altered in 1841 ‘

The original doors had Tudor Arched heads.

Although the date of the will is 1635 and Anne Pallavacini married Robert in 1639

I like to think that Robert was still living at Castle house when he married Anne and that they spent

some happy years together until they died.


What happened to James Pallavacini the youngest son of Jane Pallavacini has yet to be discovered!

Gemma O’Donnell

Kathy Wenborne (chief Will researcher)                                       

Father Thomas Byles Back to top

A brief story of Father Thomas Byles who was a parish priest of St Helen’s Catholic Church here in Ongar.

Roussel David Byles was born on 26 February 1870 in Leeds Yorkshire.  He was the eldest of seven children born in a protestant family, son of Rev. Dr. Alfred Holden Byles a congregationist minister.  In 1889 Roussel went to Balliol college in Oxford.  There he studies mathematics, modern history and theology.  In 1894 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

His brother William was the first to convert and cross over into the Catholic Church.  Roussel was searching for the truth.  He wrote a letter to his brother William who had already converted, ending his letter saying ‘Do you know I have had some trouble lately.  The fact is I find myself unable to recognise the Anglican position.  I do not however, feel myself any more satisfied with the Roman position.  I have given up going to the Anglican Communion and have postponed my ordination as a deacon’.

His search for truth finally led him to the Catholic Church.  On May 23 1894 he was baptised and took the name Thomas.  In 1899 he went to Rome and studied for the priesthood.  He was ordained as a Catholic Priest on 15 June 1902.  In 1903 he was assigned to St Helen’s Catholic Church in Ongar.

His Brother William had left England to live in New York seven years earlier to run a rubber business.  He fell in love with Katherine Russell of Brooklyn.  William had asked Fr Thomas Byles to officiate at his wedding ceremony.  

Two days before Fr Thomas Byles was due to leave Ongar for New York to conduct the wedding ceremony of his brother William to Katherine, a close friend from Brentwood Monsignor Edward Watson made a trip to St Helen’s Church in Ongar to say good bye to his friend and help pack his case etc.  Before Monsignor Watson left he uttered these ominous words “I hope you’ll come back again”.

On April 10 1912 Fr Thomas took the train from Ongar Station to Liverpool Street Station London.  Then from Waterloo Station joined the boat train to Southampton.  His second-class ticket (number 244310) for the Titanic crossing cost him £13.  

He boarded RMS Titanic and set sail on her maiden voyage to New York.  On the night of 15 April 1912 Fr Thomas Byles was walking up and down the upper deck praying the rosary when the Titanic struck an iceberg.  He assisted the third-class passengers up the stairs and up to the boat deck and on to the life boats, whispering words of comfort.   He was offered to save himself and go into one of the life boats.  But twice he refused the offer, instead he stayed behind comforting the other passengers, reciting the rosary with them, hearing their confessions, giving them absolution and ultimately going down with the remaining passengers and the ship to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Now to come back to the present.  The process for Fr Thomas Byles Beatification started in 2015 by the then Parish Priest of St Helen’s Fr Graham Smith with the support of Bishop Alan Williams of the Diocese of Brentwood.   After he is beatified the process for his canonisation will take place.  Let us all pray that eventually he will be canonised a saint then we’ll have our very own saint in Ongar!

There is a door installed in the church by his family as memorial to Fr Byles.  A photograph hangs here alongside a beautiful stained-glass window of St Thomas Aquinas that is dedicated to Fr Thomas Byles.

I’ll end this dedication to our old parish priest by reminding ourselves what Jesus said: “Greater love hath no one than this: To lay down one’s life for one’s friend” (John 15:13)

Basil Vaz

Marden Ash House and the Alexander family Back to top

OMHS was recently asked for information for a heritage assessment report in connection with a listed building application for Marden Ash House, probably originally built at the end of the seventeenth century. This provided an opportunity to pull together what limited information is available about the house and its probable occupants.

The house itself is said to have been built in the late C17 by Nicholas Alexander (died 1714), though no documentary evidence has survived to confirm this, other than the monumental inscription in St Martin’s which describes him as a ‘gentleman of Marden Ash’. Little or nothing of the structure or fittings of this house survives, but it may have been the house which was advertised to let in the Daily Post of 31 July 1728. This was described as ‘a new built brick house, five rooms of a floor, sash’d and wainscoted, and very good cellars, brick’d stables and coachhouses …  about half a mile of Chipping Ongar’. Brick built houses were unusual in Essex at that date, and were only affordable by high status individuals.

In the mid C18 the house was either rebuilt, or extensively re-modelled and encased in a red brick skin. All the interior fittings and décor date from this period, part from an altered Jacobean overmantel, which is said to have been brought in from elsewhere in the C19. By the early C20 the house was owned by ‘Gassy’ Jones, so called because of his entrepreneurial activities in the gas and water industries. It remained in private ownership till the later C20 when it underwent very unsatisfactory conversion into a nursing home, since when it has been returned to private occupation.

The Alexander family are equally enigmatic. Nicholas’s father was almost certainly the William Alexander (died 1672) who occupied a house of 5 hearths in Chipping Ongar in 1670. His will mentions his son Nicholas (‘who has already had from me a considerable portion of money and lands’), as well as a daughter (probably Elizabeth) who had married one of the Gouldesburghs (probably Thomas, who had died young in 1664). William Alexander described himself as ‘gentleman’ and no evidence has been found to explain the source of his wealth. The Alexander enigma is compounded by the hearth tax return of 1670 which reveals another as yet unidentified ‘Allexander, gent’ as the occupant of the largest house in Chipping Ongar at that date, assessed on 20 hearths.

Nicholas Alexander (c.1631-1714) can only be identified as a ‘gentleman of Marden Ash’, and little more can be deduced about him as no will or administration can be found (though there must have been one for someone of his obvious wealth). The Latin inscription on his impressive monument in St Martin’s describes him as ‘a good, honest and pious man, a dutiful son and true friend of the Church of England’. He died in his 83rd year. The monument also refers to his ‘chaste and prudent’ wife, Johannah, daughter of Stephen Smyth of Blackmore, with whom he had lived ‘fifty years and upwards, in faithful wedlock and conjugal affection’. It is essential to read these encomiums as aspirational as much as factual, but it can be assumed that the basic details are correct, and it is likely that the son Edward, mentioned in the inscription, is the next Alexander to come to our attention.

Edward Alexander (died 1751) was definitely a man of status and influence, probably enhanced by his marriage to Levina Bennet the co-heiress of a wealthy Cambridgeshire landowner.  He became a proctor in Doctors Commons (the central court for ecclesiastical law), had risen to the office of procurator of the Court of Arches by the end of his life. He was a steward of St Bartholemew’s Hospital in 1738., and doubtless other remunerative posts as well. As detailed in the August 2018 OHMS newsletter, he advanced the purchase money for the manor of Chipping Ongar in 1718 though does not seem to have claimed ownership in his own name until 1735. Though hardly a cash cow, the manor clearly still held considerable status, as a newspaper report of 4 November 1751 noted ‘this morning the corpse of Edward Alexander was carried from his house at Deards Court, St Pauls Churchyard, in great funeral pomp, to be interred at Chipping Ongar where he was lord of the manor’. None of this links him to Marden Ash House, but this may well have been his country abode, as Castle House would have been too old-fashioned and inconvenient for such an individual and appears to have been tenanted for much of the C18.

It would be much too tedious to list all the complex marital connections of the Alexanders with the other significant families in the town – such as the Gouldesburghs, the Bulls, the Turners and the Lenhams who have featured in earlier editions of this newsletter. Nevertheless, it is important to remember how close were the connections between all the influential families in Chipping Ongar in the C17 and C18. However, though the manor remained in the ownership of descendants of the Alexander family into the C20, their interconnection with other local influential families had disappeared by the early C19.

Michael Leach


Daily Post, British Gazetteer and other online C18 newspapers

Victoria County History of Essex, 1956, iv, p.172

Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, Essex, 1921, ii, p.133

Crisp, F A (ed) 1886 The Parish Registers of Ongar

Ferguson, C et alii, 2012 Essex Hearth Tax Returns, p.181

Pevsner, N & Bettley, J, 2007 Buildings of England: Essex, pp.589-90

Wright, T, 1836 History of Essex, p.332

Some Titanic related pictures from our archive Back to top

Future Events Back to top

Further events will be announced in future newsletters and on the website as they arise.  Have you looked at our website?  The site is regularly updated with future events so this is where you will hear the news first.  The address is http://www.omhs.org.uk/ or just search OMHS.

Newsletter Contributions

We need your help with articles for the newsletter.  If you have anything that you would like to contribute no matter how small or large, please submit to the editor or through the website before the end of April 2019 to be in time for included in the next edition of the newsletter

Christmas Social

We will be holding our Christmas Social at the United Reform Church on Tuesday 11th December at 1.00 PM.  There will be a Fish and Chips or Pie and Chips lunch, and there will be a quiz. This is open to members only and we are pleased to be able to offer the event and lunch free of charge.  

Please RSVP to Lorna Vaux to book your place and choice of meal via email lornavaux5@gmail.com or telephone 07943 812444 by 4th December.  Please arrive at URC Hall at 1.00 to eat at 1.15 pm.  

Tuesday 11th December 1.00 PM

Newlands Hall, Roxwell

Navestock Hall, Navestock

Parsonage, Thaxted

Greensted Hall

Castle House