TitleBocking Hall - Arthur Winsley's Almshouses Charity Report
Report of Commissioners 1819-1837

Arthur Winsley, of the parish of All Saints, Colchester, by his Will bearing date 28th March, 1726, and proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 17th June 1727, gave his farm with appurtenances in the parish of St Botolph, Colchester, called the Brick House, as a house for a habitation of 12 ancient men; and £500 for, making the said apartments commodious. The rents of the said farm he gave towards the maintenance of the 12 said poor men.

And he devised all that his farm in West Mersea, in this county, called Bocking Hall with the appurtenances towards the further maintenance of the said 12 poor men, &c &c.

The property of this charity consists of:-

A farm with a farmhouse and buildings, called Bocking Hall, containing with a small grove, part of the same, about 217 acres of land, 48 of which are marsh, and the remainder arable, situate in the parish of West Mersea and let to Henry Medcalf Hawes, on lease for seven years, from Michaelmas 1833, at a rent of £250. There is a little timber on the farm.
An abatement has been allowed the tenant of £25 and the farm is subject to the land tax of £11 12s.

ARTHUR YOUNG'S 'General view of the agriculture of the County of Essex' drawn up for the Board of Agriculture by the Secretary in 2 volumes 1807.

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Arthur Young (1741-1820) of Bradfield Combust Hall, Suffolk - writer and agriculturist. "Creator of the literature of agriculture, he was born in London in 1741, was irregularly educated, spent come [sic] years in a merchant office, and then, his father dying heavily in debt, came to Bradfield to farm his mother's land. Marrying at 24 he took a farm for himself, and from his experiences sprang the first of many books. No phase of life on the land was left untouched by his vivid pen, which popularised scientific agriculture, He was appointed Secretary to the Board of Agriculture. His closing years were unhappily saddened by blindness.

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His Essex report gives the following details about Mersea Island. p.13-14. Fertile Loam district. The soil of Mersea Island is all good; in general a sandy loam, very rich and fertile. It had no wet strong clay nor any striking tendency to it, except a narrow slope falling from the general level of the surface, down to the narrow tract of the north marshes. Here there is some strong land; but land-draining is rarely necessary, except on spots, and for carrying off spring. In a similar manner the southern part of the island is generally light land, dry, sound, and very excellent turnip spil; and the centre of the isle from east to west contains the best land, which is called a mixed soil. Much of this part is as fine land as any one can wish to farm* a sandy loam, not gritty, nor impalbable, of a dark hazel brown ^colour; friable yet moist; never burns; wants no drains; not dry enough however, to eat off turnups, as the lower stratum is a yellow adhesive loam. The dry turnip loams are very sandy, and the grains of sain [sic] large and gritty; this also is very fine and profitable land. The rent of the whole island may be 20s or 21s per acre, but rising rapidly, the late bargains having been made at 25s, 30s, and even 40s.

p.68. There is competition for land on the island, as the occupations are small, and almost every man wants to increase his business; they are fond of their island, and will not readily quit it.

p.88. Poor Rates. West Mersea, high; 7s in the pound on six tenths, being rated at 12s; arising from the population and earnings of the oyster dredgers, which like manufactures so often case high rates, which by the very means which ought extinguish them.

p.220. Course of Crops       District No II.

Mr Bennet Hawes and others in the Island of Mersea.
(1) Fallow (2) Barley; a few oats; (3) Clover. (4) Wheat (5) Beans (6) Wheat. This is the general course, and the old farmers will not depart from it.

Upon the best lands, a mixed soil, but very excellent, across the centre of the Island from E to W, Mr Bennet Hawes and others:-
(1. Fallow (2) Barley (3) Clover (4) Wheat (5) Tares (6) Fallow (7) Wheat (8) Clover (9) Wheat.

I was shown a field by Mr Bennet Hawes in the midland part of the Island, and the soil uncommonly fine, which was broken up from old grass 29 years ago (1778), and yielded eleven crops before it had a fallow, most of them were beans and wheat alternately, and the crops very great. This field in 1801 was under barley; in 1802 clover; in 1803 wheat; and yielded 6 quarters an acre; in 1804 tares, in 1805 wheat, above 4 quarters. It has been fallowed but thrice in 29 years; half of it was chalked 9 years ago, and this is all the manure it has received since it was broken up. The crops have all been great; scarcely a lightr one has occurred. The soil for 6 or 7 inches deep a very dark coloured friable loamy mould, and under it the same for as much more, but of a paler colour, tending to a shade of yellow. Mr Hawes has found it very advantageous on his heavier land to manure his clover lays and dibble beans on them, and then take wheat; and this crop has been better than o[...] clover, but it is not much practised.

Another course on Mersea turnip land; (1) Turnips (2) Barley or Oats (3) Clover (4) Wheat (5) Beans, and some add (6) Wheat, and on strong land the same except fallow instead of turnips; in some cases the soil rejects the last wheat, and in others, the management.

p.265. Mr Bennet Hawes on Mersea Island has manured his clover lays for beans, and then taken wheat, and succeeded better than with wheat or clover; but it is not much practised.

p.272. Dibbling wheat as against broad-cast. Dibbling practised by Mr Hawes and others on Mersea Island. "Relative to the mischief of dibbling wheat in wet lands, I am quite confirmed in: and from experience to my cost. I am of opinion it will never answer in wet tenacious soils; the dibble forms such a pand for the water, that the seed perishes, and it is almost impossible to fill these holes in such soils, though harrowed ever so often; these objections however, by no means apply to light loose soils, where it may answer extremely well, and is certainly carried to great perfection in some parts of Suffolk.

From Mr Vancouver's Table of Produce c. 1795

Annual produce per acre in bushels of wheat.
Mersea Island (average) 28
Brightlingsea, Abberton, Peldon, Gt. & Lt WigBorough, Virley - all 24
Layer Marney & Layer Breton 26.

Annual produce per acre of Barley in bushels
Mersea Island 40
Abberton, Peldon, Lt. Wigborough - all 36
Gt. Wigborough, Layer Marney, Layer Breton, & Brightlingsea - all 32

Annual produce per acre of OATS in bushels.
Mersea Island, Brightlingsea, Abberton, Peldon, Layer Marney, & Layer Breton - all 40
Little & Great Wigborough 36

Annual produce of BEANS in bushels per acre.
Mersea Island, Abberton, Peldon, all 32
Gt. & Lt. Wigborough 28

Note The sea air is good for turnips, and preserves wheat from mildew.

SourceMersea Museum / Janet Cock