Orwell Village Green

Creation and disappearance of the centre of a village

Creation of the Village Green

Orwell village green was established in 1254

Orwell village green was established in 1254 when Ralph Camoys, Lord of Orwell Manor, was granted Royal permission to hold a weekly Market (to be held on a Thursday) in the village. Additionally permission was granted for a fair to be held “on the Eve, Day and morrow of Trinity”. This date implies the month of June.

The village green, broadly following what is now Town Green Road, was initially long and narrow, stretching from below the church to the brook at Greenford Close, and was probably laid out around this time to accommodate the market and the fair. Incidentally around this date, Ralph Camoys also erected a gallows in the Parish to help enforce law and order.

Closure of market

The formal village green market seems to have closed by 1523, probably as a result of general population shrinkage in the 14th and 15th C (note the impact of black death in mid 14thC). For example, by 1337 the population was down 25% on that of 1279 and labour shortage meant that much land went out of cultivation.

Photo:The Map of 1686. The larger version is slow to load, but this copy can be enlarged by using Control and +.

The Map of 1686. The larger version is slow to load, but this copy can be enlarged by using Control and +.

Over time the north end of the village green gradually became enclosed as gardens and orchards. The state of encroachment of the village green in the 17thC can be viewed on the Chicheley map of about 1686 (Thomas Chicheley was leasing Orwell Manor at the time). The map records the cottages, their garden plots, and orchards, plus the names of the individuals who lived there. The map shows that the village green had by then been reduced to about a third of its original length. All the land between the present day village shop and  Stocks Lane has been taken by private owners, although the 'Camping Close' does not appear to have any houses on it, so perhaps it was still in use for its original purpose as a football field (Champion was an early, and much rougher, form of football).  The tiny square shown on the map as a part of the Camping Close might possibly have been the village pound, where stray animals were impounded until their owners claimed them, and paid the fine for letting them wander. On the other hand, it could have been a well. There is a well shown on the 1887 Ordnance Map a little further down the road opposite the Chapel. There is, to this day, plenty of water near the surface here, as is shown sometimes by water running down the road from the turning into Lordship.

Disappearance of formal village green:

Photo:Orwell in 1836

Orwell in 1836

The last vestiges of the village green disappeared when the 1836 Enclosures Act resulted in land being allocated to three parties, including the Lord of the  Manor, John Bendyshe of Barrington. Note that on the map the dog-leg in Stocks Lane has now been removed by making a straight road right across Baldock Mead.  The dog-leg is still there as well, however, and traces of it still remain today in the form of small footpaths, and the oddly angled front garden boundary between nos. 8 and 10.

Some of the houses still in existence today (2012) which will have fronted or have been built on the village green include:

Lordship Cottage, Barnards, Orchard Cottage, Manor Cottage, Manor Farm, Town Green Farm House and No 35, all in Town Green Road; plus Melrose Cottage and Nos 22 and 23 in Lotfield Street.


Photo:Manor Cottage 1920s

Manor Cottage 1920s

Photo:Orchard Cottage 1920s

Orchard Cottage 1920s

Photo:Lotfields 1960

Lotfields 1960


Photo:Barnards 1960
Photo:Manor Farm 2012
Photo:Town Green Farm before its extensive renovation by the Miller family.
This gallery was added by Martin Grigor on 27/08/2012.

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