About Wivenhoe in 1961 (Pop. 2,600)

The Official Guide published by the Wivenhoe Urban District Council (WUDC) in 1961

Page created by Peter Hill

Advert from the WUDC's Official Guide to Wivenhoe published in 1961
Cover of the Official Guide to Wivenhoe published by the Wivenhoe Urban District Council in 1961
Booklet loaned by David Kemble

The text below is from the Official Guide to Wivenhoe produced by the Wivenhoe Urban District Council in 1961. The text appears to have been written by L. Edgar Pike since his name is at the end of the text.  The full booklet with its many photographs and advertisements from local businesses is available in two pdf documents which are available to read in the two attaching files at the end of this page.  This Official Guide, comprising 37 pages, gives a fascinating overview of Wivenhoe around 1961 when the population was around 2,600 people. Rosabelle Avenue hadn’t long been constructed and Heath Road and houses in Broomfield Crescent were just being started.

Introduction to Wivenhoe

Situated in the north-east of Essex, Wivenhoe is on the River Colne and only a few miles from where this river and the Blackwater, which together form such fascinating creeks and islands, unite their estuaries as they flow into the North Sea.

From early times Wivenhoe has been a port, and for many generations its craftsmen have built boats, as they still do. Wivenhoe, which was an adjunct of the Cinque Port of Sandwich, contributed a ship to defeat the Spanish Armada. Later it became a particularly convenient spot for landing contraband from the Continent, and stories are still recounted of the spirited encounters between the free traders and the Excise officers.

During the last war Mulberry Harbour sections and minesweepers were built at Wivenhoe. Now the shipyards specialise in sea-going yachts and distinctive types of smaller craft for which they hold a high reputation. The sailing tradition is maintained by the unique Nottage Institute where instruction is given in seamanship and practical boat building. There is a certain amount of fishing to supply the local canning factory. Other light industries of a non-traditional nature have also become established in the town.

Perhaps the most dramatic event in the life of this place was the East Anglian earthquake in 1884, as the main axis of this was in a south-westerly direction from the port of Wivenhoe, and considerable damage occurred here.

Being on the dryer side of Britain, Wivenhoe has a very moderate rainfall and a good sunshine record. The salt-tanged air is bracing and very healthy. Although Wivenhoe has for long been well known to keen yachtsmen, it is becoming increasingly popular as a resort because there is always much of interest going on here, and it makes excellent small holiday centre.


Wivenhoe is situated 5 miles south-east of Colchester, 14 miles north-west of Clacton which is the nearest coastal resort, and 20 miles south-west of the North Sea port of Harwich. London is 59 miles distant by road and 561/4 miles by rail.

The town is served by the Eastern Region of British Railways with the main line from Liverpool Street to Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea. This is now electrified between Colchester and Clacton, and the whole of the line from London to Colchester is due to be electrified. Diesel rail cars run on the branch line between Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea. The average journey time to or from London is one and a half hours. Passengers usually have to change at Colchester but certain trains include through carriages.

Bus routes link Wivenhoe with Colchester and other surrounding towns and coastal resorts. Long-distance coaches may be connected for London and numerous provincial cities.

Wivenhoe is very directly reached by motorists from London by the A12 trunk road through Brentwood and Chelmsford to Colchester and then by the B1028 to Wivenhoe. Equally good main road access from the West of England is via Oxford, St. Albans and the A120 from Bishop’s Stortford and Braintree; from the Midlands through Rugby to Huntingdon, or from the North through Leicester or Stamford to Huntingdon, and then by the A604 via Cambridge to Colchester.


Area of the Urban District.—1,480 acres, or over 2\ square miles.

Banks.—Barclays Bank Ltd., High Street.

Churches.—Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, High Street; Congregational Chapel, West Street; Methodist Chapel, The Avenue. Roman Catholic churches and other Nonconformist chapels are in Colchester and Clacton.

Early Closing.—Thursdays.

Education.—Advancement may be gained from the pri­mary grade school in the town to grammar, secondary modern and technical schools at Brightlingsea, Colchester and Clacton. Evening courses are arranged by the Essex Education Committee in commercial and advanced subjects and handicrafts whenever there is sufficient demand.

Seamanship, navigation, boat designing and construction are the principal subjects taught at the Nottage Institute, The Quay, Wivenhoe. Known as the nautical academy of the Colne, this is a unique local foundation, with part time evening tuition during the winter months.

Health Services.—Hospitals administered by the Col­chester Management Committee of the N. E. Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board provide for local needs. There are natal clinics and a child welfare centre in the town.

Housing.—To date the Urban District Council has erected 142 houses. The present building programme includes a block of flatlets for old people. Houses and bungalows are also being built here by private enterprise.

Industries.—Agriculture and its associated rural under­takings are still maintained in the undeveloped parts of this Urban District. The soil is very fertile, producing excellent crops and good pasturage. There are sand and gravel workings in the vicinity.

Although a port from early times, the sea-going trade at Wivenhoe is now small. Sea fishing is still carried out by the boats of the North Sea Canners (Gt. Britain) Ltd., and by a few private boats which are also operated from Wivenhoe. This town which was famed for its fast sailing yachts in the 19th century, still has its shipyards and marine engineering works, and the Colne Marine Yacht Company which continues to build sea-going craft specialises in the individual one-off class of boat rather than the pro­duction lines that occupy most modern boat yards.

A canning factory, electrical and general engineering works and some small clothing factories comprise the other industries in this Urban District. The canning factory is expanding and now deals in frozen foods.

Library.—There is a branch of the county library at the Wivenhoe Centre.

Local Government.—Administration is by the Wivenhoe Urban District Council which consists of 9 members. This Urban District was created in 1898 under the pro­visions of the Local Government Act, 1894. Council meetings are held on the second Monday in each month at 6 p.m. The Offices of the Council are in High Street, Wivenhoe. Telephone No.: 364.

Market Days.—Saturdays at Colchester.

Newspapers.—East Anglian Times (daily), Colchester Gazette (Tuesdays), Essex County Standard (Fridays), Essex County Telegraph (Tuesdays and Fridays).

Population.—Estimated at 2,590 (mid-1958).

Post Offices.—High Street and Wivenhoe Cross.

Public Services.—A piped supply of soft, pure water is provided by the Urban District Council. Electricity is distributed by the Eastern Electricity Board, and gas by the Eastern Gas Board. Drainage is to a sewage disposal scheme operated by the Urban District Council.

Allotments and cemeteries are maintained by this Local Authority. The Fire Station at Brook Street, Wivenhoe, is a unit of the Essex Fire Brigade and is administered by the Essex County Council. It is controlled from Colchester and is summoned by a remote calling system.

Rateable Value.—£21,908. A penny rate produces £87. General rates for the year ending 31st March, 1961:— 18/4d. in the £.


Hunting is with the Essex and Suffolk Foxhounds. There is some rough shooting and wild fowling in the surrounding district. Coarse fishing is available in the Colne and other rivers on the Essex and Suffolk borders. Sea fishing provides good sport, particularly during autumn and early winter. The principal fish to be caught in the estuary and off the coast are whiting, soles, plaice, dabs, codling and whiting pout.

The River Colne offers excellent opportunities for sailing and boating. The Wivenhoe Sailing Club, which has a very keen membership, holds an annual regatta and takes part in regattas at Brightlingsea, Mersea, Clacton, Frinton and Walton.

There are 18-hole golf courses at Colchester, Clacton and Frinton.

The King George V Memorial Field of 16.5 acres is a public recreation ground in the ownership of the Urban District Council. It has been laid out with games pitches and has a children’s playground. There are well supported clubs in the town for football, cricket, tennis and bowls.

Dances, whist drives, entertainments, socials and club meetings are held in the local halls. There are cinemas in the surrounding towns and a theatre at Colchester. Organi­sations in this Urban District include a branch of the British Legion, a Women’s Institute, the St. John Ambulance Brigade, various cultural societies and recreational clubs, also Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Cubs, Brownies, and the Youth Club at the Wivenhoe Centre.

The imprint of history goes deeply at Wivenhoe. The derivation of the place name—which is variously spelt in old records as Wienhoe, Wyvinho, Wyveho, Wivenhoo and Wienhow—is from the Saxon and means the hoe, or spur of rising land, associated with or belonging to Wifa.

There was therefore at least a family settled here well over a thousand years ago. It is also possible that this place was known to the Romans, being so close to the great city they established in 43 A.D. at what is now Colchester; and undoubtedly the oysters they so esteemed were often dredged from the creeks around Wivenhoe.

After the withdrawal of the Roman legions in a vain effort to save their crumbling empire, the Saxons landed in increasing numbers along this east coast. Driving the native Britons westwards, they took possession of their land and were able to establish the kingdom of the East Saxons, or Essex, by the end of the 5th century. This remained inde­pendent until AD 823 when it was absorbed into the greater kingdom of Wessex.

Later in this century the Danish invaders entrenched themselves on Mersea Island at the mouth of the Colne and began pillaging and burning the Saxon villages, including Wivenhoe, which were situated up the estuaries and the creeks. Under the Treaty of Wedmore, made in AD878, their further advance into Wessex was stopped, but they retained their conquest of East Anglia until displaced in AD913. They returned, sailing up the Colne and the Blackwater in great numbers in AD991 to re-establish themselves here, occupying this part of England, except for a further short break, until the Saxon supremacy was restored by Edward the Confessor.

After the Norman Conquest in 1066 the Saxon lord of Wivenhoe, named Alric, was dispossessed by Robert Ger-non to whom this manor was granted by William I as recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086.

Traditional Industries

During medieval days the inhabitants of Wivenhoe gained their living principally by fishing. Records of the 15th century show that these fisheries were then declining; but the maritime industry of boat building had begun to develop, and the wide reputation gained by the shipwrights of Wivenhoe has been maintained to the present day. During those times the lordship of the manor was held by various families which included the famous Howards and the powerful de Veres, Earls of Oxford, who had great landed possessions in East Anglia.


Because of its secluded but eminently useful position up river within a short distance of the open sea and within easy distance of the Continental ports, Wivenhoe became a notorious haunt of smugglers. Many exciting encounters took place in the estuary, particularly between the ” free traders ” and Daniel Harvey, commander of the Wivenhoe Customs House cutter, who became noted for his fearless exploits in the interception of illicit cargoes.

The Earthquake

The great East Anglian earthquake which occurred in April, 1884, was particularly felt in the district around Wivenhoe where the effects were both startling and severe. In fact, the main axis of this subterranean eruption took a general direction from north-east to south-west, extending from Wivenhoe to Peldon.

Altogether over 1,200 buildings were damaged. A relief fund organised by the Lord Mayor of London amounted to £8,906 which was mainly distributed amongst private owners whose property had suffered. These included a considerable number in and around Wivenhoe.

The Port

Situated at the head of the Colne estuary, Wivenhoe has a waterfront which extends for some distance along the river. Viewed from the opposite bank, where the Roman River flows into the Colne, this forms an attractive picture of colour-washed old houses and the medley of buildings, large and small, which characterise the quayside of so many small ports.

Berthed by the quay, or anchored in the broadening curve of the river where their tall masts with their fluttering pennants sway rhythmically against the buildings and the sky on the ebb and flow of the tide, are craft which, like the buildings, are of all ages, sizes and designs.

Although this one-time member of the Cinque Port of Sandwich in Kent has lost its medieval maritime trade and its importance as the port of Colchester when coal, timber and grain were unloaded here for the city before the advent of the railways, it is still a busy little place, carrying on its traditional undertakings with the same skill and spirit as in past centuries.

Every port, ancient or modern, possesses a strong fascination, and this is certainly true of Wivenhoe; for something of interest is always taking place here. There is constant movement; of the ever flowing water, of the varied craft upon it, and of comings and goings at the quay. There are, too, the sounds which are essentially associated with a waterfront; the perpetual lap of the tide against the shore and the moored vessels, the wind trilling through the rigging, the creak of blocks and the pull of tackle, and the echoes across the river from the repair shops and the boat yards.

Although the types of maritime work have largely changed with the years, and up-to-date machinery has replaced older and more laborious ways of carrying it out, the original craftsmanship has not been lost. Handed down through succeeding generations, it is still a characteristic of which this little port and boat building town is justly proud. For only those who go down to the sea in ships know and fully appreciate that, in such industries as these, modern mechan­isation cannot dispense with traditional craftsmanship.

The Quay

The appearance of this part of Wivenhoe has hardly changed over the last two hundred or so years, and there is an atmosphere amidst these colour-washed, mellowed brick and weather-boarded buildings which seems to linger from a much more distant past. There is here, too, that pervading sense of timelessness which is so characteristic of all old waterfronts.

Quayside Cottage was damaged during the great East Anglian earthquake and its brick back is dated 1884, having been repaired and partly rebuilt after this occurence. Next to it stands Maple Cottage which, like the nearby Trinity House, is now scheduled as of historical and architectural interest under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. It has slated roofs and a dormer, and there are old cellars below. The front elevation is notable for its double bow windows. Trinity House, of painted brickwork and dating from the 18th century, has typical Essex weatherboarding on its east side. There is a six-panel door with panelled reveals. The interior of this building is little altered from its original Georgian appearance.

The Nottage Institute

Also situated on the Quay is the Nottage Institute which occupies a brick and tiled building into which it moved from less convenient premises on Black Buoy Hill in 1947.

It was founded in 1895 as a result of a bequest by Capt. C. G. Nottage who was prominent in the yachting world and invariably selected his skippers and crews from the Colne. He desired to establish an institute where sailors and yachtsmen could improve themselves in navigation and might also have a club with a reading room and library of standard works on navigation, charts, maps and books of travel.

Trustees, appointed with the fullest and widest discretion to carry out these wishes, decided that Wivenhoe should be selected as the most suitable place for such an institute. Ever since it was established here it has filled a most useful and noteworthy place in the life of Colneside and north-east Essex, and has become fittingly known as the nautical academy of the Colne.

There are well-equipped classrooms for instruction and study, a lecture room, and a workshop where boat building is carried out. Subjects taught include navigation and seamanship, practical boat construction, knotting, splicing and canvas work, ship designing and building. Tuition in all these subjects is free. In more recent times a develop­ment has been the introduction of apparatus for films and screen illustrations for fortnightly lectures on subjects of general maritime interest.

In 1950 the students built a 16 ft. motor dinghy which was presented to the Royal Research ship ” Discovery ” at Pilgrim’s Wharf, London, for use in the training of Sea Scouts. In 1955, a year which marked the sixtieth anniver­sary of the Institute, a Maritime Exhibition was staged here which, with the co-operation of shipyards and craft owners, presented a survey of the Colneside tradition of yachting, seamanship and craftsmanship.

There arc qualified instructors in all subjects, and from time to time World Voyagers and Master Mariners have given valuable aid in the courses. By gift and purchase this unique Institute has acquired an excellent library. It has also become the repository of interesting maritime records, pictures and relics. The Hon. Secretary is Mr. W. J. Cracknell, of Charmaine, Belle Vue Road, Wivenhoe.

The Town

Although the waterfront is naturally the main attraction for visitors, the rest of the older part of the town is also of interest. It has quaint byways and picturesque buildings, some with overhanging upper storeys and steep gables with carved bargeboards.

In East Street stands Garrison House, now a class I scheduled building under the Town and Country Planning Act. This is most notable for its characteristic pargework, said to be the largest and finest example of such in Essex. Built about the middle of the 17th century, this house is timber-framed and plastered, with a tiled roof. Some restoration has been carried out by brick and weather-boarding

On the south side the upper storey projects on three moulded and shaped brackets and there is a moulded eaves cornice. The north front has its upper storey com­pletely covered with elaborate pargetting, or raised plaster decoration in, foliage and strapwork. There is a dormer in the roof with its original moulded frame and a pargetted gable. The interior displays traces of wall-paintings.

The traditional history of this fine old house is that it has been variously used as offices of the East India Company, by smugglers, press gangs, as a place of detention, and a revenue office. It subsequently fell into a state of con­siderable disrepair, especially as regards the interior; but it has now been carefully restored and is in use as a guest house.

Also of considerable interest, and similarly scheduled although as a class II building, is what was formerly known as Last’s Bakery (now Halsey & McKay) which is situated on the west side of High Street. This is a 17th century house, of timber-framed and plastered construction with tiled roofs. The front elevation has two modern dormers inserted, and the projecting upper storey has been underbuilt. The pair of bay shop windows were fitted here last century. The principal features of this old building are the original coved eaves, the plaster cornice decorated with running foliage, and the contemporary interior wall-paintings which were only discovered fairly recently.

Wivenhoe Park

The more modern residential development of Wivenhoe continues inland from the quay and the old part of the town, rising to Wivenhoe Cross and beyond to the main road between Colchester and Clacton where an elevation of 116 feet above sea-level is the highest point in this Urban District. Wivenhoe Hall, seat of the Earl and Countess of Oxford in the 16th century, has been largely rebuilt but still retains a gabled wing dating from that time.

Between the main road and the river lies the well timbered estate of Wivenhoe Park, extending to about two hundred acres. The residence here was added to the already com­piled list of local buildings scheduled as being of historic and architectural interest on the authority of a letter to the Urban District Council from the Minister of Housing and Local Government on 24th November, 1958, with a class II classification.

The house was originally built for Colonel Isaac Martin Rebow, the work being begun in 1759. Alterations are said to have been carried out by General Francis Slater, who took the name of Rebow on marrying the family heiress in 1796. The residence was painted for him by the celebrated Suffolk artist, John Constable, in 1816, this picture now being in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

General Slater-Rebow had only one child, a daughter, who predeceased him. In consequence he was succeeded in 1845 by his son-in-law, John Gurdon Rebow, who commissioned Thomas Hopper to alter the house. This work, which consisted of remodelling the facade in Elizabethan style, building a new entrance porch on the north front and a staircase wing on the east, was completed in 1853. In 1902 the property was purchased by Mr. C. E. Gooch, father of the present owner.

The Parish Church

Situated in the picturesque old High Street and just above the quay where its tower forms a well-known land­mark from the river, the parish church is approached through a churchyard which contains some interesting old grave­stones and a fine group of chestnut trees.

Dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, this church is mainly of 14th and 15th century dating. The chantry chapel of the de Veres, Earls of Oxford, was erected in 1413. Extensive restoration work was undertaken in 1859 at a cost of £3,000 and again in 1884 as a result of the damage from the earthquake. The western tower, constructed of local flints in or about the year 1500, has corner buttresses and an embattled parapet above which rises a wooden cupola.

The spacious interior of this church is noteworthy for its 14th century nave arches. The north door panelling illustrates the Miraculous Drought of Fishes. In the Vestry is preserved a very handsome nail-studded and embossed parish chest, believed to be of Flemish workman­ship and probably about five hundred years old.

The most notable memorial is a really magnificent pair of 16th century brasses. The first depicts William, second Lord Beaumont, who died in 1507 and is considered to be the work of Flemish craftsmen. He is in Tudor armour with his head supported by a helm bearing a lion cresl and his feet upon an elephant carrying a castle. This splendid engraving is completed with a most decorative triple canopy.

The second brass is to his widow, Elizabeth, who subse­quently married John, Earl of Oxford, and died in 1537. She is shown in a heraldic robe with a pedimental headdress and a coronet beneath a triple canopy and the further enrichment of an embattled supra-canopy. Another good brass depicts Thomas Westley (1538) in his mass vestments. He was chaplain to the Countess during her time of residence at Wivenhoe Hall. A further brass, dated 1537, commemorates Lady Elizabeth Scroope and members of the Sutton family.


This most pleasant small town is becoming increasingly popular as a resort for those who prefer the less conven­tional type of holiday. There is always activity here, at the quay and in the boat yards. The passing river traffic pro­vides a constant but ever changing interest. Wivenhoe is also an ideal centre for yachting, boating and fishing.

The well-known coastal resorts of Clacton, Frinton and Walton-on-the-Naze are within easy reach, as are the growing resorts of Holland-on-Sea and Jaywick, and the historic small port of Brightlingsea where there are some of the most noted Essex oyster beds. A ferry across the Colne from Wivenhoe provides access to Hyde Park Corner and the picturesque village of Fingringhoe set above the Roman River. There used to be a ford from Wivenhoe to the south bank where Rowhedge stands. This one-time port was, like Wivenhoe, a member of the Cinque Port of Sandwich and became famous for its iron boat industry. Boat building is still carried on here.

Close to these two villages passes the main road from Colchester to the very popular Mersea Island which is situated between the estuaries of the Colne and the Blackwater with its extensive beaches facing the open sea. A few miles inland lies the city of Colchester, which proudly claims to be Britain’s oldest recorded town and preserves many interesting relics of its long past, including a Roman gateway and city walling, a magnificent Norman castle and picturesque abbey and priory ruins.

L.Elgar Pike

Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this guide, and the statements contained herein are believed to be correct, the publishers and the promoters of this publication will not hold themselves responsible for any inaccuracies,


This page was added on 13/01/2018.

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