The origin of the Village Names

1,000 years ago, Manningtree and Mistley (Misty Thorn) was known as Sciddinchou (various spellings of this old name) in the Domesday Book. The suggestion is made by P. H. Reaney in The Place Names of Essex this could mean ‘hill of the shed dwellers’.

As for Manningtree itself, there have been many ideas that range from the simple ‘many trees’ to a place belonging to someone or a tribe called the Manni.  

Mistley has been suggested by J. Yelloly Watson in his Tendring Hundred in the Olden Time as coming from the Saxon word for the herb basil – mircel – combined with ‘ley’ meaning pasture, whereas Professor Eilert Ekwall postulates Mistltoe Wood, the old English for mistletoe being ‘mistel’.

Sciddinghoo was a manor within the parish of Mistley of which Hubert de Roylly was lord of the Manor when he was granted a charter to hold a market by Henry III in 1238 on the site later known as Manytre [ “Place of Many trees” ].  It has held a market to this day with the exception of a brief period in the 14th century when it was closed down for being in competition with the King’s market in Colchester.The original market day being a Monday.  Sciddinghoo was sold by the de Roylly family to the countess of Hertford who used it to support the Nunnery of Canon Leigh in Devon until the Dissolution.

Archaeologists have traced a road running from the Roman town of Camulodunum (today’s Colchester) to Mistley, part of the Roman alignment being used by the modern Bromley Road across Crockleford Heath. It appears to have reached the crossroads near Mistley Hall and to have run a straight course to the shore just west of Hopping Bridge; the road down into Mistley is shown as straight on the 1838 Ordnance Survey map, but it was diverted to its present course later in the 19th century. There was another Roman river crossing further up stream at Flatford with connections north to Caister south of Norwich.

From Clacton Road [Lodges Corner] crossroads a track runs in an easterly direction to the corner by the old Mistley pound and the much newer ‘secret bunker’, and it has been suggested that this is also a Roman route running to a ferry terminal on the Stour, possibly near Nether Hall, Bradfield. The ferry ran across the Stour to what is now called Graham’s Wharf at Stutton, from where there is evidence of a Roman road running into the middle of Ipswich and on to the north, possibly forming an alternative route to the main Roman road that crossed the Stour at Flatford.

It does appear that there might have been a small settlement in the Mistley area during the 400 years of the Roman occupation. This may have led to a ferry-crossing point to reach the other side of the River Stour and then on into Suffolk as an alternative to the "Hythe". It is probable that the stone for the Colchester Town wall was conveyed via this port from Harwich and Wrabness.

In 1280 a religious house took ownership of the market and parts of Manningtree as a gift. St. Mary and St. John the Evangelist of Leigh, later known as Canonsleigh was founded in the twelfth century as a priory in Devon for Augustinian canons by Walter de Clavile, lord of Burlescombe. But in 1317 the market was declared to be injurious to the king's market at Colchester nine miles away. Although ceased for a time it wasn't long before the market found fame again.

Manningtree and the surrounding area became an important stop on the route from London to the port at Mistley and also Harwich.

The original medieval settlement of Mistley lay around the old church of St Mary the Virgin at what we now call Mistley Heath, south-east of the modern village centre originally known as Mistley Thorn. Just when a few fishermen and seamen took up residence down by the river we do not know. The development of Mistley Thorn really began in the 18th century when the Mistley estate came into the hands of the Rigby family following the death of the Earl of Oxford, previous owner of that estate, in 1703. However, the appeal of the area for trade was only made possible by the River Stour.

By the 16th century Manningtree had become a recognised resting point for travellers journeying to the ports of Harwich and Mistley from London. The town had an annual Whitsun fair at which a whole ox would be roasted. It is believed that William Shakespeare travelled to the region with a touring play and may have visited Manningtree because of his reference to it in Henry IV part 1, ii 4 : He has Prince Henry describe Falstaff as "that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with a pudding in its belly”. To celebrate this piece of history our local Rotary club provided the town with a life-size sculpture of the Ox, complete with pudding, situated at Market Cross.

There is some confusion over the name of Lawford. Many believe it comes from Low Ford, being the lowest point that the river Stour could be crossed on foot. Another suggestion is that is derives from an Anglo Saxon Tribal name of ‘Lawford’ who settled in the area. Equally the tribe could have taken their name from the established village already there. We know from ‘The Tye Henge’ there was a settlement here from much earlier times.