Wivenhoe’s Great Expansion in the 1860s
This article was written for the 2016 Regatta programme
Two large mansions in Lower Wivenhoe
In the early 1800s, there were two very large mansions which dominated lower Wivenhoe. One was Wivenhoe Hall, owned by the Corsellis family, previously owned by the De Vere’s but re-built in 1844 behind a high brick wall, and the other mansion, on the other side of The Street (that was the original name of the High Street in the 1800s) stood Wivenhoe House. This was also a very grand house of 30 rooms built in 45 acres of land which became owned by William Brummell. The estate went down towards the river and covered most of the east side of Wivenhoe. It stood a little way off The Street, facing towards the river, possibly below the road we now call Rebow Road but which didn’t exist then, as neither did any of Park Road, Queens Road, Paget Road or Anglesea Road nor the Valley Estate which was to come much, much later.
We don’t know why William Brummell chose to give instructions in his will that Wivenhoe House was to be demolished on his death. He died in 1853 and a year later the house and grounds were put up for auction and sold for £6,000.
Wivenhoe House demolished and roads as Park Road and Queens Road built
It was at this time that Wivenhoe was expanding rapidly. Thomas Harvey, who bought the estate, supervised the dismantling of the grand house, and divided the land for building and new roads as Park Road, Queens Road, Paget Road and Anglesea Road. He must have found ready buyers for these new building plots as Wivenhoe was expanding rapidly at that time.
The coming of the railway in 1863 heralded a new era
The railway came to Wivenhoe in 1863. This resulted in Station Road, and the new hotels, the Grosvenor (where Mollie’s is) and Park Hotel (now home of Michael’s estate agents), being built as Wivenhoe’s reputation was growing as a place where fine yachts could be commissioned, and crews found to sail them. These crews would mainly come from the fishermen who worked on smacks operating out of Wivenhoe.
Another street built for such fishermen in particular was Alma Street which, until 1863, was simply a field lying behind St Mary’s Church.
Two distinct communities
Wivenhoe Cross was then still a distant and slightly separate community of some 50 houses, including the ropeworks, the forge, the workhouse and three pubs.
The main road into lower Wivenhoe in the 1800s was not The Avenue, which was only a track in those days, but via Colchester Road down to the road which we now call Belle Vue Road but then called Rectory Road, since it led to the Rectory now a private house within Croquet Gardens.
The population was a lot smaller in those days
The population in 1861 was 1,838 people and by 1871 had grown to 2,124 people, a 15% increase.
It was the upstream and downstream boat-building yards employing as many as 350 men in the late 1800s, and the fishermen, which gave Wivenhoe its unique character which is valued by everyone who lives or visits Wivenhoe today.
Peter Hill, Chairman, Wivenhoe History Group
Note: There is a lot more information about the Wivenhoe House estate which has been researched by Pat Marsden. Click here to know more about William Brummell and his 30-room mansion