|February 2007 - THE BROOK
by Pat Marsden
Also note Pat's additional research contained
in a pdf file - see panel at the end of this text.
While looking into the
problems with flooding in the dip on Queens Road we became fascinated with
the story of the Brook, which runs under Queens Road and the railway line,
down towards Brook Street and eventually the marshes. At one time the Brook ran from its source down the whole east
side of Wivenhoe but it has now virtually disappeared beneath housing
development. The first known reference to it is in the unpublished Court
Rolls of 1509 held in the hand of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and
other private hands. Here there is a reference to the conveyance of a
cottage and garden called Honyngtons situated on ‘Brokestrete’
recorded at the Court held on 9 January.
Peter Kay helped us to
trace out the whole course of the Brook, in the Chapman and André map of
1777, and on the 1873-4 Ordnance Survey map of Wivenhoe. On the older map it appears to run for most of its course,
through a sharp-sided valley. Nick
Butler, in ‘The Story of Wivenhoe’, suggested that the Brook might
once have formed part of a wider water course, but there is not a great
deal of evidence for this, other than the fact that there are early
reference to mills in Wivenhoe, and in particular the water ‘mill on the
Brook’ (Victoria County History of Essex), which was replaced in 1772 by
a large post windmill commonly called Wivenhoe Mill.
This is a quite different mill to the one once situated on the
corner of Rectory Road and Belle Vue Road.
Essex Record Office also refers to an old mill house commonly
called Bobbit’s Hole which stood on the Brook.
There is a great deal
of anecdotal reference to the Brook:
how it once formed an essential part of the town’s water supply,
with water being fetched in buckets for personal use, or residents buying
water from the tank on the water cart, which had been filled up from the
Brook. At one point the Brook
must have provide good clear water as there are several references to this
both in ‘The Story of Wivenhoe’ and Paul Thompson’s ‘Sea-Change:
Wivenhoe Remembered’. The
water was still drunk after it became less fit, until people got onto the
mains in the early twentieth century.
The Brook was also a popular recreation site and there are some
happy memories recorded in ‘Sea-Change’ of local residents playing by
Bobbit’s Hole where there was a garden with apple trees and the Brook
was described as ‘lovely’.
However it wasn’t
always so idyllic and at times the Brook became polluted. In Olive Whaley’s book ‘The Day Before Yesterday’,
there is a graphic description by a committee, who were appointed to
examine the state of the Brook in 1866, ‘from Mr Went’s Brickfield to
the place where the water carriers get their supply’.
There are references to the habit of the workmen at the Brickfield
relieving themselves by the edge of a small stream, which formed one of
the Brook’s tributaries, and the privy at Bobbit’s Hole.
Lower down, beyond Queens Road and the back of the ‘brewery’,
the report describes the water flowing over ‘deep mud full of noxious
inflammable gas, and through decaying vegetable matter'.
Nowadays, most of the
Brook is lost to view under housing development, although glimpses of what
it might once have looked like for the whole of its course, can be seen
where it runs alongside the Pump House in the dip of Queens Road. Various residents have let us know that the Brook is running
under their gardens or driveways. If
any other residents have any further information about the course or
history of the Brook we would be glad to hear it so that we can pull
together as much information as possible about what was once an important
feature of the town.
|Note: Pat Marsden
has continued her researches into The Brook. Her findings are
contained in the attached pdf (2,250kb)- click
here to download. March 2008