Hockerill Windmill

Since before the Conquest, Bishop’s Stortford’s unique position at the heart of vast cereal growing lands had kept its two water mills constantly busy. But by the 17th century the needs of a growing local population had to be met by the building of a third mill (See Guide 7) and it wasn’t long before London’s rapidly expanding market created an even greater need for corn from the surrounding counties. Unable to cope with the demand, the output of water mills was supplemented by windmills.

Windmills were invented by the Arabs in the 7th century and first introduced to this country in the reign of Richard I (1189–99). Their use, however, had been minimal until the population explosion of the 1600s when countless windmills were built right across the country. By 1760 there were over 200 operating in Essex alone. But this was the start of the Industrial Revolution and over the next hundred years their numbers, nationwide, dwindled dramatically. In 1862 only 33 were operating in Hertfordshire and by 1899 there were just seven.

One of the earliest to be built in this area was at Hockerill in the 18th century, sited here to take full advantage of the hilltop position. This was most likely to have been a post mill. Because the wind in this country is so variable, post mills had a vertical axle that could be turned at right angles to the wind whatever direction it came from. Unfortunately, no other evidence of the windmill exists, or of when it fell into disuse, but a map of 1822 does indicate a windmill at Hockerill that was probably built on the original site. The new windmill, five storeys high, was a brick built tower mill. This had static machinery driven by a rotatory cap in which four double-shuttered sails were located.

According to Hertfordshire Windmills & Windmillers by Cyril Moore, there were several owners of the mill up until 1861, at which time it was taken over by an Essex man named Edward Tanner. He is listed as living at the Mill House, Windmill Row, along with another miller at the same cottages described as ‘Engine Driver at Flour Mill’. This suggests a steam engine was installed at that time to supplement wind-power.

By 1863 the windmill was under the ownership of another Essex man, William J. Waylett. His father, also William and born at Great Canfield in Essex, ran Parsons Water Mill (Cannons Mill Lane) in the early 1800s. Waylett jnr worked for him there before taking over the Hockerill windmill.

He must have made it a profitable concern as the Census for 1871 shows him as ‘Miller and Corn dealer employing 3 men’. Ten years later Waylett is described as ‘Corn Merchant, Miller and Farmer of 100 acres, employing 6 men, 3 boys and 4 women’. The farm referred to was no doubt Wayletts Farm that included the windmill. His business went from strength to strength, in 1895 not only owning his farm and the windmill but also Stortford Hall and nearby Clay Pits Farm. The windmill was eventually demolished during the First World War as it was considered to be a prominent landmark for Zeppelin aviators.

The actual site of the windmill isn’t known but is thought to have stood in the vicinity of the road formerly known as Council Road – the previous site of Wayletts farm. Houses here were among the first to be built by Bishop’s Stortford’s council in the 1930s, and though the naming of the road reflected the occasion, social attitudes have since changed. In 1999 residents here applied to have the road renamed Waylett’s Drive in tribute to William Waylett – the last and most successful owner of Hockerill’s windmill.

Hockerill Anglo-European College

On the north side of Dunmow Road stands Hockerill Anglo-European College, formerly The Diocesan Training College for Schoolmistresses of elementary schools. It was founded in the 19th century by the Diocese of Rochester, which at that time included both Essex and Hertfordshire.

Its earliest beginnings date back to 1847 when Rev John Menet and Rev Francis Rhodes proposed a new church for Hockerill. Two-and-a-half acres of land known as Bramblefields was purchased, and on it was built All Saints church and the original college building designed by diocesan architect, Joseph Clarke. The church was opened to parishioners in January 1852 and the college opened to students in November that same year.

Now a listed building, the original college cost £11,000 and comprised of two dormitories, three classrooms, kitchen, dining room, training room, laundry, and infant and junior practising schools. In 1879 a chapel was added and in 1890 a recreation room and drill room.

The first students to enrol in the two-year course, costing £17 per annum, were aged between 16 and 25 and came from the dioceses of St Albans and Chelmsford, although others were admitted from outside these dioceses. By 1858 there were 57 enrolled students on the books.

During World War II Hockerill College was the victim of random bombing by the German Luftwaffe, though it is possible their actual target may have been the nearby Bishop’s Stortford to Braintree branch line. Starting on 7 September 1940, London and many other major British cities became targets of an intense German bombing campaign that lasted for 57 consecutive nights, not ending entirely until 11 May 1941.

The majority of bombs found their target but fierce air defences caused many aircraft to turn back before reaching their destination. Pilots, fearful of returning home with their lethal cargo still on board, then released their bombs on any likely target along the way. Bishop’s Stortford was never a defined target, but any visible routes of communication like railway lines would have been hit if possible.

This is possibly what happened on the night of 10 October 1940 when three bombs were dropped in this area. One exploded in Dunmow Road outside the college causing a large crater and damage to gas and water mains; another fell in fields at Church Manor, and a third scored a direct hit on Menet House, accommodation within the college grounds used by students and staff. Three girl students were killed instantly and rescue teams worked throughout the night to free seven others and a lecturer trapped in the rubble. It was the worst attack suffered by Bishop’s Stortford during the entire war.

The original red-bricked college building still stands in grounds of approximately 25 acres, but has since been surrounded by additional buildings of varying styles from different periods. In 1952, Princess Margaret (1930-2002) visited the college for its Centenary celebrations and in 1978 it closed down, not opening again until 1980. Renamed the Hockerill Anglo-European School it was now a State Boarding School run by Essex Education Authority. In 1994 it became a self-governing body and in 1999 substituted the word School in its title for College to celebrate its traditional roots and emphasise its status as one of the government’s specialist language colleges.

When built, the college was one of only ten such training colleges for women in the country. Today, with a third of its pupils and half of its staff living on site, it is currently the only maintained boarding establishment in England to offer the prestigious International Baccalaureate programme to sixth form students.

Read Lesley Tarrant Belcourt’s memory of the college on the Memories page

In 1962 during redevelopment of land between the Branch line and Stansted Road, a Roman coffin was found on the north side of Dunmow Road. Made of stone it was slightly damaged during removal from the site, but for safe keeping was transferred to the garden of Rhodes museum. Unfortunately the coffin was then mistakenly used by workmen to pack the foundations of the new Rhodes Centre being built at that time.

Approximately where Urban Road is sited once stood the Bishop’s Stortford Steam Laundry, owned by Frederick Newey and more popularly known as Newey’s Laundry. It was also where, on land behind the laundry called Laundry Field, Bishop’s Stortford football club played their home matches between 1903 and 1914. The laundry itself was destroyed by fire in the 1930s.

The large 19th century detached property that is No 60 Dunmow Road was originally called Plantation House, and where William Holland J.P. (of the Holland & Barrett partnership) lived from the 1890s until his death in 1915. The property was later renamed Hillside.

A prominent business once resident in Dunmow Road was Ernest Lake & Harvey Frost Ltd, manufacturer and trader of motor and garage equipment.

Arthur Ernest Lake, born at Rayne, Essex in 1876, began his business career with the firm of Lake & Elliott in Braintree. In 1920 he moved to Bishop’s Stortford and started up in small premises at Dunmow Road, producing car jacks for Fords of Dagenham. The firm grew substantially, later enabling him to acquire the London firm of Harvey Frost & Co Ltd., amalgamating it with his own business in 1935.

Harvey Frost was responsible for taking over the patent for what is believed to have been the first piece of garage equipment in this country: a small vulcaniser for repairing car tyres and tubes. He also originated the garage equipment section at the annual Motor Show held first at Earls Court, then latterly at the Birmingham Exhibition Centre.

During World War II, the merged firm produced specialist equipment for the armed services, at the same time becoming part of the Birmingham based Brockhouse Group.

Arthur Ernest Lake was well known in the district for his strong political convictions, as well as his fearless and outspoken comments on public questions. As an active worker in the Conservative party he took part in the affairs of the Bishop’s Stortford Conservative Association, of which he was vice-chairman for several years. He was also vice-president of the local Chamber of Trade.

He died 13 February 1943, aged 67, and was buried at All Saints Church, Hockerill. The company was bought out in 1983 but finally closed on 29 December 1988.

Manor Road & Sandle Road

Approximately 6 acres of land bordered by Stansted Road and Dunmow Road – that now encompasses All Saints church, Hockerill College, Sandle Road and Manor Road – was originally common land known as Bramblefield. It was owned in the early 1800s by Charles Hosely, Thomas Samuel Mott and John Myson, who together, in February 1845, sold all or part of it to one William Sandle of Park Hall, Great Bardfield, Essex.

In 1847, approximately 3 acres of this same land was sold for the building of All Saints church and the Diocesan Training College for Schoolmistresses (now Hockerill College), both of which were completed in 1852. Whether the land on which they stand was purchased from the original owners, Hosely, Mott and Myson, or from William Sandle isn’t entirely clear, but Sandle divided the remaining land into 24 plots and in 1870 sold 21 of them at public auction in the George Hotel, North Street. The buyer was Robert Cole, a merchant of Bishop’s Stortford, who paid £1,627. The following year Cole purchased the three plots not included in the auction: one from George Steednam, a Grocer, for £110. 10s, the other two from George Nash Skipp for £200.

An auction sale plan of the site shows numbered plots of land on either side of a proposed road running east from the Stansted Road as far as the college’s boundary. It would seem, though, that Robert Cole only developed a small part of the land, and that when he died in 1905 most of it was sold at auction (in 1906) by his executors, Charles MacAdam and Walter Pinder.

It was then bought by Hubert Spencer Gee for £2,600. He changed the layout of the land by creating a new road – later Manor Road – running north to south between All Saints church and Dunmow Road, with plots on either side. Planning permission was granted in 1907, with the stipulation that detached houses should cost no more than £250 and semi-detached houses should cost no more than £400 for the pair. Gee then sold various plots to builders. Sandle Road was also created around this time, named after former landowner William Sandle.

The Red Cow

Reputed to have been built on the site of two cottages, this small pub was opened around 1840 and taken over by brewers EK & O Fordham in 1849. The landlord in 1851 was Ernest Sheldrake, a railway porter, and in the 1990s it was Carl Hoddle, brother of ex Tottenham Hotspur player and former England manager, Glenn Hoddle. The turn of the Millennium saw a gradual downturn in the pub’s trade, but it hung on until December 2011 when owners Admiral Taverns finally called time on trading. The Red Cow was once one of only four pubs in Hertfordshire to go by this name – a ‘red’ cow supposedly being the provider of the best milk.

Plans are already afoot to extend and convert the pub into offices and living accommodation, and for additional housing on the pub’s former car park.