ID: PH01_PHS / Elaine Barker

TitlePriest's House, Peldon

Priest's House, Peldon

Grade II listed
15th Century timber framed and plastered, house with red plain tile roof. Two storeys
and attics. Gabled and originally jettied to front, now part underbuilt. One
window range, modern casements. Some original exposed frame on north side,
with 19th century brick nogging. Lean-to extensions on south

Sleyes (The Chequer) on the left and Priest's House (Slyes/Slythes) is on the right.
Photograph circa 1937

Probably one of the oldest houses in Peldon, Priest's House is the middle one of three cottages leading up along Church Green towards the church of St Mary's.

It is believed that this is the house being referred to in Arthur Mee's 1942 book on Essex when he wrote

The timber-framed house near the church is the wing of a medieval house which has disappeared Arthur Mee Essex 1942

The current owners believe their house is, indeed, the right hand wing of a medieval house and the original central part of the house together with a wing on the left extended across into the plot where Sleyes stands next door. They tell me the lean-to housing the front door on the left was an eighteenth century addition.

As the original medieval manor house (known as Slyes or Slythes), fell into disrepair, around 200 years after it was built, The Chequer (now known as Sleyes) was built on the south side of its remains and Church Cottage on the land to the north; it is believed both were built during the 1600s.

The earliest document for this medieval house Slyes is held at the Essex Records Office [D/Del T1/11 Abstract of Title of Messuage called Slyes in Peldon 1657 - 1747].

It gives a list of all the conveyancing for the property from January 2nd 1656/7 to May 23rd 1748. This kind of document is called an Abstract of Title which is done to prove root of title when a property changes hands. In this case the document traces owners and dates of conveyance going back over ninety years. It was written upon the death of Captain Matthew Martin who owned the house and died in 1748/9 bequeathing the house to his son, Samuel. [For more biographical detail on Captain Martin see Appendix 1]

The list of previous owners gives very little detail other than names and dates and it is up to the researcher to find biographical detail where possible!

The question of the name 'Priest's House' was puzzling me. I believe it was Kay Gilmour, historian and journalist and author of Peldon:Village in the Marshes who named the house, probably when she moved there as a tenant circa 1939. Did her research findings uncover a priest as a previous occupant or was it a hunch based on the age of the house and its proximity to the church?

The first entry for January 1656/7 lists a property transfer from Nathaniel and Robert Carr to Samuel Munt. It is possible - but a long shot - that this Nathaniel Carr was the Rector of Boxted Church. [For biographical detail on The Reverend Nathaniel Carr see Appendix 2]

Samuel Munt is likely to have been the son of Samuel Munt, tenant of Peldon Hall, whose will was proved in 1657. Samuel Junior was not bequeathed any property by his father and one can only presume he moved out of Peldon Hall following his father's death and bought Priest's House. We do know Samuel Munt Junior was a parish Overseer of the Poor for Peldon in 1657 from two court documents. [ERO Q/SR 373/30 and Q/SO 1/490]

Priest's House stayed in the possession of the Munt family for over 35 years for it was not until 2nd July 1694 that Frances Munt sold to Thomas Bullock the elder. So began a hundred and twenty years of the Bullock family being involved with the property apart from a 20 year break.

On 27th and 28th November 1699 Thomas Bullock Senior entered into a transaction in consideration of the marriage between his son John and Christian. Thomas was a carpenter, as was his son, John, and the latter's name appears in the church accounts on receipts for work repairing woodwork, gates, doors and fencing in and around the church in the early 1700s. Thomas died in 1706 and a curiosity about his will is he only leaves his son John one shilling no more; he does mention an inventory in John's possession which was possibly all the tools of the carpentry business. Maybe transferring Priest's House to John 7 years before and all the tools of the trade explains the parsimonious shilling!

In 1710 there is a transaction between Dennison Clark of the one part, John and Christian Bullock of the second part, Thomas Turner of the third part and William Aldred of the fourth. (All four parties will have had some financial interest in the property).

This brings us up to the earliest deed in the possession of the current owners with the nephew of Thomas Turner inheriting the property.

[For details of all names, dates and transactions in D/Del T1/11 Abstract of Title of Messuage called Slyes in Peldon 1657 - 1747 see Appendix 3]

Whereas in the Abstract of Title we were left guessing as to the exact involvement of all those named we now have the original indentures and wills and can trace ownership from 1726 to 1978.

The first document records an agreement between Richard Turner the nephew and beneficiary of the will of Thomas Turner (mentioned above in the 1710 transaction) who sold to Matthew Martin in 1726 for £40. It came with a tenant, the carpenter, John Bullock, whom we have already met and was halfway through a twelve year lease at £4 a year.

This is the first time it is made clear that the house is copyhold ie held by the Lord of the Manor, for the purchaser, Matthew Martin of Wivenhoe, agrees to be bound by the Rents and Services of the Manor.

All that Messuage or Tenement with the houses outhouses buildings yards gardens and orchards thereunto belonging with their app[ur]ten[an]ces called Slyes... Scituate lying and being in Peldon in the said County of Essex adjoining to or near the Church yard there and are now in the Tenure or occupac[i]on of John Bullock or his assignee or assigns. Extract from the Lease in 1726

Matthew Martin was a wealthy landowner, he had served as Mayor and MP for Colchester and owned the Manor of Alresford, he also had a mansion in Wivenhoe. He died in 1748/9 and his Peldon property was transferred to his son Samuel on 23rd May 1748.

It wasn't until 1762 that Samuel Martin sold the copyhold property to his tenant, Samuel Bullock, carpenter, whom, it would appear, had lived in Priest's House since the death in 1732 of his father, John. This document is signed by Samuel Ennew who was the Lord of Peldon Manor's steward.

By 1771 Samuel Bullock was no longer occupying Priest's House and the new tenant was John Wayland who entered into agreement with Samuel to buy the property for £210. In several complicated legal documents Priest's House is assigned to Benjamin Cooke while remaining in trust for John Wayland and his heirs. When John Wayland died in 1787, not having any children, his property was bequeathed to his niece, Martha Bridge.

In 1799 Martha sold the property to the son of Samuel Bullock, another Samuel, and, again, a carpenter, but as the family business had clearly made them very wealthy, Samuel Bullock Junior is now listed as a 'gentleman'.

By now, Samuel junior has a number of properties and employs many local people.

The document reveals that Martha put up the house for auction to the highest bidder and that Samuel was successful, bidding £158. Past and present occupants are listed, Samuel Bullock Senior, John Wayland and now John Bartholomew *.

*Was this the John Bartholomew whose Furniture and Farming Stock at Peldon had been auctioned to pay off his creditors in 1780 (Ipswich Journal 15.1.1780)

At the time of his death in 1814, Samuel Bullock was living at Brick House Farm, Lower Road Peldon. It is believed his was one of the biggest funerals seen in Peldon and he was buried in his family vault positioned immediately outside the porch of St Mary's, Peldon. His executors put all his properties up for sale at auction.

At the auction at The White Hart Hotel in Colchester on 1st July 1815 James Digby was the successful bidder for Lot Seven (we now know this was for both Priest's House and Church Cottage next to St Mary's Church) having bid £255. James Digby Junior of Birch, was a member of a family of millers who in the mid - late nineteenth century had Birch Mill, Peldon Mill and Bourne and Cannock Mills in Colchester.

The properties James Digby acquired were

All those two messuages divided into Three Tenements formerly one Messuage or Tenement and also the Bake Office and Oven thereto attached and belonging with the Houses Outhouses Edifices Buildings yards Gardens and Orchards thereunto belonging with their appurtenances called Slyes or otherwise as the same are situate lying and being in Peldon aforesaid adjoining to or near the Churchyard there formerly in the tenure or occupation of Samuel Bullock the Father of the said Samuel Bullock the Testator after that of John Wayland or his assigns since that of John Bartholomew or his assigns then of [left blank] and now are or late were in the tenure or occupation of John Wood, James Brown and [left blank] Bush.

This is the first reference to a Bake Office and Oven and it is very likely the miller, James Digby, took on the two cottages which comprised the bakery business, as a going concern. I believe the Oven (and a store for coal) was in or near Priest's House and the shop and office in Church Cottage.

In James Digby's will dated 1828 he leaves a house and outbuildings to his son Joseph Digby, baker of Peldon, called The Boarded House and now in the occupation of William Bush and John Osborne

and also a house called

The Brick House in the occupation of James Springett, James Wheeler and John Woods

Priest's House was to remain in the Digby family until 1910, for about 95 years and in all the censuses it is clear a bakery ran from the site. The last time it was to be mentioned in a document that a bakery business was run from the cottages was in 1921, over 100 years after James Digby purchased them.

In their twenties both Henry and Joseph Digby appear in the Peldon 1841 census as millers, presumably living and working at Peldon Mill. This was situated near the Peldon Rose Inn on the other side of the main road from Colchester to Mersea. Peldon mill is believed to have been demolished c 1906 but Mill House and Mill Cottage still stand.

It is very unlikely the Digbys lived in Church Cottage or Priest's House and they probably rented out the bakehouse and accommodation, no doubt, supplying the bakery with flour.

In the 1848 White's Directory we find one of those tenants, Henry Cooper, listed as a baker and shopkeeper and in the 1851 census he is running the bakery by the church with his wife, Sarah, and 15 year old nephew, Samuel Cooper.

According to the British Postal Service Appointment books, on 21st April 1851, Henry Cooper, was appointed sub-postmaster for Peldon, clearly taking on the job running the Post Office in addition to his bakery business. A period follows when the bakery and Post Office services were run from the two cottages by the church.

In 1869 Henry Cooper died and by the 1871 census Sarah had taken over running the postal services. She continued until her death in 1887.

In the meantime, James Digby's grandson, Henry, had become owner of the two cottages. Henry was the son of James Digby junior and a very successful miller. He owned Cannock and Bourne Mills and he and his brother Joseph also ran Peldon Mill.

Henry Digby died in 1882 and the two cottages by the church, came into the ownership of Henry's widow, Eliza, who remained living in the Mill House, Donyland Road, in Colchester until retiring.

In the 1891 census, Mary Overall is living at the Post Office (I believe this was Priest's House) as the sub-postmistress and receiver of letters. There are two empty dwellings adjacent described as Post Office buildings. Mary was 74, born in West Mersea, and the unmarried daughter of Stephen Overall who had lived and farmed at Brickhouse Farm, Peldon, in his later years.

Living as a tenant at the Bakehouse (Church Cottage) was baker, George Smallwood. A newcomer to the village, George Smallwood, was to then relinquish the bakery business and take over the postal services, having a house built to include a room for the Post Office. This house was Spring Cottage, the weather-boarded house by Peldon Common on Lower Road which George built circa 1898.

When Eliza Digby died in 1910 her son Henry sold Priest's House and Church Cottage for £200 to Herbert Nicholas who had already been running the bakery there before he bought the properties.

The schedule details what's being sold

All that bakers shop cottage and bake office situate near the Church in the Parish of Peldon aforesaid together with the stables outhouses yards gardens and appurtenances thereto belonging and now in the occupation of the Purchaser and also all that cottage built of lath and plaster and tiled situate near the above and now in the occupation of Daniel Harvey.

From this it is clear the baker's shop cottage and bake office are what is now known as Church Cottage, and the lath and plaster cottage is Priest's House where Daniel Harvey was living.

Herbert Nicholas appears as a baker running the bakery in the 1911 census. It is evident he had already been running his business in Church Cottage prior to buying it and he had to take out a mortgage to cover the cost.

In this photograph above the boy standing at the gate is wearing a long apron. He is standing in the entrance to Church Cottage. It seems the baker's shop and office were in Church Cottage (next to the church) and the bake house and oven were housed in or by Priest's House seen here in the foreground of the picture.

The Schedule, however, refers to an Indenture of Conveyance dated 12th September 1907 made between James Leigh Aspinwall and Herbert Nicholas. Aspinwall had homes in Lodge Lane, Peldon and London and owned what is now known as Sleyes, formerly The Chequer. This conveyance is not amongst the deeds, nor is it amongst The Chequer's deeds. Here all three cottages are being sold together, The Chequer, Priest's House and Church Cottage.

All that bakers shop cottage and bake office situate near the Church in the Parish of Peldon aforesaid together with the stables outhouses yards gardens and appurtenenances thereto belonging as now in the occupation of the Mortgagor and also All that cottage built of lath and plaster and tiled situate near the premises lastly described and now or recently occupied by Daniel Harvey and thirdly All those three cottages or tenements (formerly one messuage and called or known by the name of 'The Chequer') situate and being in the Parish of Peldon aforesaid and adjacent to Peldon Church and now or recently occupied by Allen, White and Abbott

Aspinwall's ownership of the property remains a mystery for we have already seen Priest's House and Church Cottage were sold to Herbert Nicholas by the Digby family in 1910. Aspinwall died a year after the date on the indenture in 1908, was it a transaction that was never completed? Whatever happened, in the 1918 electoral roll, Herbert Nicholas and his wife Elizabeth were living in a cottage Near the Church and were the owners of The Chequer, Priest's House and Church Cottage by the 1920s. Living in Bakehouse Cottage are Horace and Sarah Ann Mallett, presumbly tenants, who are still there in the 1929 electoral roll.

In 1921 Herbert paid off his mortgage and, an indenture, dated 24th May 1922, details a sale between Herbert Nicholas and Rhoda Emma Wattam. She is buying

a piece or parcel of land being the southernmost portion of the piece of land

From a later plan it shows this is The Chequer on the corner of Church Green with Church Road and it is clear all three properties are being split up and sold separately.


The area coloured pink is Priest's House. Sleyes is owned by Rhoda Wattam and Church Cottage by Daniel Osborne.

An indenture dated 25th May 1923 made between Herbert Nicholas and Daniel Osborne, labourer, of Mersea Road, Peldon, refers to Church Cottage - the first time the property has been named. It is now a freehold property and there is no reference to it being a bakery.

All that freehold cottage situate near the Church in the Parish of Peldon aforesaid Together with the garden stable outbuildings and workshop thereto belonging being the Northernmost portion of the within described hereditaments known as Church Cottage and then in the occupation of Thomas Wyncoll was conveyed unto and To the use of the said Daniel Osborne in fee simple subject to a right of way over the southernmost portion thereof.

A Conveyance dated 21st August 1929 between Herbert Nicholas and Mrs O F Smith and Miss I M Smith pertains to the third cottage, Priest's House.

Herbert's address is Lexden Road, Colchester and he is described as a baker and confectioner. He is selling to Olive Frances Guthrie-Smith a widow, and her companion, Isabel Margaret Smith, whose address is given as The Swedish Institute, London. The Smiths are paying £90 for Priest's House. It includes 'the bakehouse' which presumably was no longer in use.

Together with a right of way at all times and for all purposes over and along the Southernmost portion of the adjoining property towards the North [ie Church Cottage] now or late belonging to Daniel Osborne to and from the bakehouse and coal house forming part of the property hereby conveyed.

The purchasers agree to erect a fence between The Chequer and Priest's House

The Smiths are both physiotherapists and appear in West Mersea's electoral register from 1931, which would argue they bought Priest's House as an investment and rental opportunity.

On 22nd September 1949 the Smiths sell Priest's House to Kate (or Kay) Gilmour who was clearly occupying the house as a tenant. She appears in the 1939 register for Peldon, living at Priest's House - the first time the house name appears in a document.

The Smiths sell Priest's House to Kay Gilmour for £700

... with a right of way at all times and for all purposes over and along the Southernmost portion of the adjoining property towards he North now or late belonging to Daniel Osborne to and from the bakehouse and coalhouse forming part of the property here conveyed

Kay Gilmour died on 24th April 1958 at 8, East Hill, Colchester at the home of a friend who she appointed to be one of her executors, Captain John Anthony Stuart Trydell. Trydell was to write a foreword to Kay's unpublished history of Peldon.

On 14th May 1962. the Captain sells Priest's House to Stella Phyllis Langran Houston for £2,100. Although the right of way is still asserted there is no longer any mention of a bakehouse or coalhouse.

Miss Houston died 17th January 1971. In her time in the village she taught piano and was also a composer and illustrator. Many of her compositions were for children. Her Steinway grand piano which she left to former pupil Nog Sawdon, of Peldon Hall, stood in the front room. Stories tell of her love of cats! Her executrix and beneficiary was Valerie Patricia Bruton, a local farmer's wife living at the Hyde in Great Wigborough by then, with whom she developed a firm and fond friendship through Pat's children, one of whom was taught piano by Miss Houston. After Miss Houston's death Pat tells of having to take each cat to the homes stipulated by Miss Houston.

That year, Priest's House was let to Mrs S Fraser and her daughter, and in June 1972 they were followed by Mrs Beavor.

The house was sold by the Brutons to Mrs Judith E Buck in November 1974, wife of Colchester's MP Anthony Buck. The Bucks' home was Pete Hall, Peldon and it is believed Priest's House was bought as accommodation for Judy's aunt, Yvonne Margottini. Judy was her niece and surrogate daughter according to the family. Yvonne was based in Rome but came over periodically to see Judy. Much later when the Bucks' marriage failed in 1987 Judy came to live in Priest's House, her aunt by then being elderly and not able to travel between Rome and Peldon. Yvonne died in 1996 and the house was rented out until Judy sold it, we think in 2004.

Paul and Julie Nurton who lovingly restored Priest's House in recent times were fascinated by the history of the house and they have passed on all their knowledge and theories to the current owners. They have also passed on some very old coins dating back to Elizabeth I and Charles I and the current owners have found a coin they believe to be seventeenth century.

my theory has always been (unsubstantiated) that what still stands is the remaining right hand wing (viewed from the front) of a medieval hall house - I believe that the long since demolished cross wing once extended to the left as viewed from the front and the left hand wing of the house stood where Sleyes [The Chequer] is now sited. The picture below is of a similar Hall house in Suffolk which I believe is how Priest's House would have originally looked. Paul and Julie Nurton by Email

As for dating the house, they refer to the deeds going back to the 1650s but additionally

we had it confirmed that some of the oak beams and pegs in Priest's House could date back to circa 1350.

Elaine Barker
Peldon History Project

Sources The Story of Wivenhoe Nicholas Butler
Wivenhoe House: A Tale of Two Lost Eighteenth Century Mansions and the Sea Captains who built them Pat Marsden [Essex Society for Archaeology and History Vol I 2010 p 284-302]

Appendix 1 Captain Matthew Martin (1676 - 1749)

Captain Martin lived in Wivenhoe in a mansion close to Wivenhoe Hall and in 1720 he bought Alresford Hall

An event which made his name, according to Morant wherein he acquitted himself with great success and reputation was to happen at sea as he was on board the Marlborough and working for the East India Company. The Marlborough was one of the largest ships belonging to the East India Company, it was a 480 ton merchant ship, had a crew of 96 and had 32 guns. Between 1711 and 1721 it made a number of voyages between Madras and Bengal, and on one occasion China. So the story goes, Captain Martin's ship was carrying a rich cargo, valued at £200,000, and had been relentlessly pursued by three French men-of-war. Unable to shake them off after a period of three days the captain devised a plan. After dark he set a single light on his ship, made a raft from a cask also with a single light at the same height as that on the ship. As the raft was set adrift the light on the Marlborough was extinguished and Captain Martin, his crew and ship slipped away while the French focussed their attention on the raft which apparently sank!

The Captain brought the ship in at its destination, Fort St George, India and for his success was rewarded with £1,000 and a gold medal set with 24 large diamonds with the arms of the East India Company depicted on it.

The 1720s and 30s were good years for Captain Martin, his daughter was to marry into the wealthy and powerful Rebow family in Colchester and he stood as a Whig MP for Colchester in 1721-22 and 1734-35. He was also Mayor of Colchester in 1726. He was a popular figure much esteemed for his affability, integrity and generosity [The British Critic Vol XXIII 1804 277-9] and he served as a Director of the East India Company from 1722 - 1729 and again from 1732 - 1740.

He died in Alresford Hall 1749, and Martin had a vault built in St Peter's Church, Alresford which is where he and his wife were both buried. This church is now a ruin having been largely destroyed by fire in 1971.

Captain Martin left a substantial portfolio of property in Colchester, Westminster and Wapping of which Priest's House Peldon, bought in 1726, was one. This he left to his son, Samuel Martin, when he died in 1749.

Appendix 2 Nathaniel Carr

There is a Nathaniel Carr who is the Rector of St Peter's, Boxted in this period. He was a Puritan and at the time of the sale of Priest's House, the incumbent of Peldon was also a Puritan, The Reverend Francis Onge.

There are references to the Rev Nathaniel Carr being ejected from his Boxted living on 24th August 1662 when anyone who would not relinquish their puritan ways was removed after the Restoration of the King. Peldon's Rector, Francis Onge, was also ejected

There is a rather colourful, unsubstantiated story that the Rev Nathaniel Carr was a known womaniser and when it was discovered he was the father of a parishioner's son in Boxted, he declared that they were married and produced the marriage register to prove it. When the wronged woman then said they were not married and that he had tampered with the marriage register it is reported he was de-frocked. There are lurid tales of him being flung by men-at-arms from the tower of St Peter's and of his ghost still walking below the tower at night.

Was this a candidate for our priest at Priest's House?

Appendix 3 D/Del T1/11 Abstract of Title of messuage called Slyes in Peldon 1657 - 1747.

This Abstract of Title gives the bare bones of ownership during the ninety years prior to those documents now in the hands of the current owner. It is likely each party listed had some financial interest in the property. Priest's House was copyhold, held by Peldon Manor but it could still be sold and inherited and often those who held it from the Manor did not live there themselves but had tenants. It is likely, in compiling this Abstract of Title, the lawyer would have had access to all the indentures and relevant wills. These we no longer have.

1. On 2nd January 1656/7 Nathaniel Carr the younger and Robert Carr of the one part transfer the property called Slyes to Samuel Munt. The occupiers of the property were Thomas Dawson and now late of John Tanner

2. On 2nd July 1694 Frances Munt sells to Thomas Bullock the elder

3. On 27th and 28th November 1699 Thomas Bullock Senior of the one part, his son John Bullock of the second part, Nathaniel Luff of the third part, and Christian Bullock of the fourth part enter a transaction in consideration of the marriage between John and Christian.

4. On 5th May 1707 Sarah Cooke, Charles Henslow the younger and his wife Susan of the one part John Bullock and Christian his wife of the second part John Heard and Mary and Samuel Heard of the third part and Samuel Luffe and Robert Hart of the fourth part exchange Copelands and Slyes.

5. In 1710 Dennison Clark of the one part John and Christian Bullock of the second part Thomas Turner of the third part and William Aldred of the fourth.

Thomas Turner's nephew and benefactor, Richard Turner then sold to Captain Martin in 1726 which brings us up to the documents held by the owner of Priest's House.

Read More
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Church Cottage, Peldon
Mrs Guthrie Smith - Orleans - West Mersea

AuthorElaine Barker
SourceMersea Museum