ID: MBK_BV2_MSY / Thos. Wright and W. Bartlett

TitleMersea Island in 1831 - Wright and Bartlett
AbstractMERSEY
from The History and Topography of the County of Essex by Thos. Wright and W. Bartlett, Volume 2, pages 742 to 744. [ MBK_BV2 ]

The island of Mersey is a few miles below Colchester, at the junction of the rivers Colne and Blackwater, where they discharge themselves into the German ocean. It is parted from Winstree hundred by the channel, called Pyefleet, where the best flavoured oysters are produced, The Saxon Mejre and ig, Marsh, or sea island, is believed to have been the original name; which, in records, is written Meres-ig, Moeres-ig, Meresai, &c. The greatest length of the island, from north-east to southwest, is five miles; and its breadth about two miles. It is inaccessible from the land side, except by a causeway, called the Strode, which crosses the Pyefleet creek, and is covered by the sea at high water. The island is well wooded, and beautifully diversified with hill and dale; it has a bold commanding coast toward the German ocean, but on the north-west and south is low and flat, with a great extent of salt marshes.* The inhabitants are supplied with excellent water from various springs.

* The best land has a mixed soil, but very excellent, particularly across the middle of the island, from east to west. Average annual produce per acre: wheat twenty-eight, barley forty bushels.

This island has unquestionably been occupied by the Romans, and from some striking remains of the antiquities of that people, is believed to have been the residence or seat of some considerable Roman general, "Count of the Saxon shore." The situation was exceedingly convenient for preventing the piracies of the northern adventurers, either by the Colne, or Blackwater Bay. Several tumili on the island are apparently Roman; an eminence on the road to Colchester has retained the name of Roman Hill, and numerous antiquities have been discovered. On repairing West Mersey hall, and making a new garden, in 1730, the workmen found a very fine tessellated pavement, which was inspected by Dr Cromwell Mortimer, fellow of the College of Physicians, and secretary to the Royal Society, son of John Mortimer of Topingo hall.*

* On the right of the gravel walk from the green to the hall door, about a foot deep, he found the south-east corner of the pavement; it was composed of variously coloured tesserae; the first series a white border, twenty-one inches wide, the tesserae three quarters of an inch square; succeeded by a narrow space of black, three inches wide, and within this a white space about the same width; these three seem to have run through the whole without interruption. Next to this there was a wreath or chain live inches and a half wide, of black, blue, and white, beautifully disposed in shades, which ran the whole length of the eastern side, and making a return at the south-east angle, was interwoven with another short wreath of red, yellow, and white, disposed in shades, and separated by a narrow space of white, except where they crossed each other. Just beyond the red wreath, on the south side, there was a white square bordered with black, with a large rose of four leaves in the middle of it, shaded with red, yellow, and white; a narrow white space ran within this square, in the directions of east and west, close to which there was a black, blue, and white wreath, like that on the east side, and within that another white space, an inch and three quarters wide, which seemed to extend round the whole work. Two parallel spaces of a sort of fret-work commenced at the south-east angle of this white space; these were five inches wide, and nearly five feet long, running south and north, joined at the north end by a return of the frets. These frets alternately shaded with black, blue, and white; or red, yellow, and white; inclosing a white space four feet and a half long, and nine inches wide, containing a wreath of six ivy leaves; the stalk and edges of the leaves blue, the middle alternately shaded; one with black, blue, and white ; the other with red, yellow, and white. At the north end of this fret-work there was u square white space, which seemed to be the middle of the east side. Another white space, an inch and three-quarters wide, extended the whole length of this fret-work, from south to north. Next to this viis a wreath of red, yellow, and white, five inches wide, of the same length ; and, joining to it, another white space, two inches and a half wide; followed by a narrow black space, one inch wide, extending round the larger central square. South and east of this square there were rows of diamonds, or lozenges, bordered with white wreaths crossing each of them at right angles, alternately composed of black, blue, and white and of rod, yellow, and white, disposed in shades ; the intermediate triangular spaces being divided three smaller triangular spaces in the centre white, the others blue. Encompassed by theM lozenges and triangles, there was a small square, two feet on each side, surrounded by a narrow black space, one inch wide, extending round the larger central square. South and east of this square there were rows of diamonds or lozenges borderred with white wreaths crossing each of them at right angles, alternately composed of black, blue and white , and of red, yellow and white, disposed in shades; the intermediate triangular spaces being divided, three smaller triangular spaces in the centre white, the others blue. Encompassed by these lozenges and triangles, there was a small square, two feet on each side, surrounded by a narrow black space, within which there was a wreath of red, yellow and white, ins shades, five inches wide, enclosing a small white square, bordered with double lines of black and white, surrounding a rosateous flower, like the lotus, consisting of four large leaves lying uppermost, red, yellow, and white; and the points of four others lying underneath, appearing between in another small square. Hence the doctor concluded four there were four of these lesser squares on the east side of the churchyard pales; and on digging a hole about four feet deep, exactly ranging with the other lesser square, and west of it, he on found another exactly like it. From these circumstances he concluded that the whole pavement was of an oblong rectangular form, extending twenty-one feet and a half from north to south, and eighteen and a half from east to west.


The minister and sexton informed the doctor that there was a pavement under the whole churchyard at the same depth, and that the coffins had been usually placed upon it. In the chancel they found a pavement of red tesserae, an inch and half square, and forming the rays of large stars : west of the church they were composed of small tiles, two or three inches square: two large brass coins were also found here. Dr. Mortimer, revisiting this place in 1740, saw a grave dug in the churchyard, eastward of the church, and due south of the south-west corner of the grand pavement, where he found part of a pavement composed entirely of red tesserse, an inch and half square. From the diversity of these pavements, contiguous to each other, and extending near one hundred feet from east to west, and about fifty from north to south, they are believed to be, not the mere substratum of a general's tent, but rather belonged to the villa of some Roman praetor, who was invited by the delightfulness of the situation to make this his summer abode; like that at Weldon, in Northamptonshire, discovered in 1738, on the estate of lord Hatton.

During the invasions of the Danes, this was frequently the landing place and retreat of their ferocious bands; and the great Alfred is recorded to have besieged a large party of them here some time in the year 894, having pursued them in their flight from Farnham. The year following, several bodies of them, after having made incursions into various parts, took refuge here; and, on their departure, sailed up the Thames, and towed their ships up the river Lee as far as Hertford.* There was formerly a block-house, or small fortification, on the south-east corner of the island, to defend the passage of the river Colne; it was seized by the parliamentarians during the siege of Colchester in 1648: what remains of it is named the Block-house-stone.
During the wars with the Dutch, a camp was kept here to prevent their landing. This island is divided into two parishes, named, from their respective situations, West Mersey and East Mersey.
* Saxon Chronicle, pp 93-96.

More from this book
West Mersea
East Mersea

AuthorThos. Wright and W. Bartlett
PublishedMarch 1831
SourceMersea Museum
IDMBK_BV2_MSY
Related Images:
 History and Topography of County of Essex 1831. Page 743.
 Mersey contd.
</p><p>For a transcription of Mersea, see <a href=mmresdetails.php?col=MM&ba=cke&typ=ID&pid=MBK_BV2_MSY&rhit=1 ID=1>MBK_BV2_MSY </a>  MBK_BV2_P743
ImageID:   MBK_BV2_P743
Title: History and Topography of County of Essex 1831. Page 743.
Mersey contd.

For a transcription of Mersea, see MBK_BV2_MSY

Date:March 1831
Source:Mersea Museum / Heather Haward Collection
 History and Topography of County of Essex 1831. Page 744.
</p><p>
Mersey contd. and West Mersea
</p><p>For a transcription of Mersea Island, see <a href=mmresdetails.php?col=MM&ba=cke&typ=ID&pid=MBK_BV2_MSY&rhit=1 ID=1>MBK_BV2_MSY </a>
 For a transcription of West Mersea, see <a href=mmresdetails.php?col=MM&ba=cke&typ=ID&pid=MBK_BV2_WMP&rhit=2 ID=2>MBK_BV2_WMP </a>
</p>  MBK_BV2_P744
ImageID:   MBK_BV2_P744
Title: History and Topography of County of Essex 1831. Page 744.

Mersey contd. and West Mersea

For a transcription of Mersea Island, see MBK_BV2_MSY
For a transcription of West Mersea, see MBK_BV2_WMP

Date:March 1831
Source:Mersea Museum / Heather Haward Collection