Belchamp St Paul and Belchamp Otten
The three parishes named Belchamp occupy a high land district, and though generally of the description of strong wet lands, yet in some parts, particularly in Belchamp Walter, there is a fine white sandy loam of considerable extent, in productiveness nearly equal to any in the county; and the ancient Norman appellation of Belle Champ, that is, beautiful fields or meadows is with strict propriety applicable to some of the grasslands of this district.
Belchamp St Paul
Belchamp St Paul is situated in the north corner of Essex. The village is eight miles in circumference and is approximately 200 feet above sea level. In 1848 the village was referred to as 'a long straggling village' and so it remains today.
The name Belchamp is derived from the old English word ‘Bylcham’, which means a house with a beamed roof. St Paul comes from the fact that in 930 AD King Athelstan granted the manor to St Pauls Cathedral. It is a beautiful chestnut tree-lined village, surrounded by fields. The church and Hall are almost one mile away from the main settlement of Belchamp St Paul, namely Cole Green. Knowl Green, which is at the south end of the village is named from knoll, meaning ‘high point’. The green that end is enclosed by a hawthorne hedge which dates back to the Enclosure Act.
There is a population of just over 300 people, with many newcomers seeking peace and quiet from town life.
One famous inhabitant during the history of this old village was Arthur Golding, who in Henry VIII’s reign resided in Pauls Hall, behind the church. He was a classical scholar and translated plays from the Latin, which Shakespeare made use of. In fact, there are people who believe that he and his brother-in-law, the Earl of Oxford were the real authors of Shakespeare’s plays. His descendants living in the USA presented a stained glass window in the parish church, dedicated in 1935. Unfortunately, this was badly damaged in the 1987 October gale.
St Andrews Church
It is not known when the first church was built - the first mention being in 1181. St Andrew’s church was rebuilt during the latter part of the 15th century being completed in 1490. It is large for a small village, and today stands about a mile from the village centre. The chancel has two choir stalls of 15th or 16th century with grotesque and foliated misericords (only two churches in Essex have misericords), the fronts are elaborately decorated with poppy heads and foliated scroll mouldings and two standards with elaborately carved figures of a seated king and a monk.
Until the Second World War the majority of the men worked on local farms. There were sheep and cows but it is mainly arable farming in this area. Originally there was a forge, a shoemaker with three men working for him, a coffin maker and three bakers, namely Amos, Mantle and Crisps. The latter lived and worked at the mill (now demolished). A descendant of the Crisps - ‘Annie at the Mill’, lived to be 100 years old and died on 7th February 1963. There were two grocers’ shops, a separate post office, a wheelwright and four public houses. Now all that is left are two public houses - the Half Moon and the Cherry Tree.
The Community House
There was a reading room on the village green, but this was pulled down at the end of the Second World War and replaced with the Pemberton Room, named after former inhabitants and benefactors. Money was left for a charity to be paid to the poor of Belchamp St Paul and this continues to be done to the present day.
After the Pemberton Room, the village was presented with the present beautiful village hall called the Community House, by the Bryce family of Birdbrook, who were friends of the then vicar. This was opened in 1961 and endowed for its upkeep. It was a reed thatched house, looking very much like a stately home. However in 2022 the thatched roof was replaced by an equally good looking slate one which would be easier to maintain.
In the 17th and 18th centuries wives and children used to plait straw for the Luton hat industry, sitting on doorsteps working in the summer. Previous to that there were a number of wool spinners who supplied their wool to Essex clothiers.
This Estate belonged to Ledmar, a Saxon freeman previous to the Conquest; but at the time of the Survey (the Domesday Book was finished in 1086), it belonged to Eustace, the great Earl of Bologne.
About the time of Henry the Second (1154-1189) according to Morant, it came into possession of the family of Otto or Otho, from whom it took its name.
After being in the family for some generations it was conveyed by the marriage of Maud FitzOtho, daughter of the last Otho Fitz William to sir John de Boutetort. It remained in this family for more than 50 years, when Joane, the daughter and heiress of John Boutetort conveyed it by marriage to Sir Robert Swynborne. Their daughter, Alice, brought this Estate in marriage to John Helion. Their son inherited this property. By Editha, his wife, he had two daughters; the younger, Isabell, married Humphrey Tyrell.
Their daughter, Anne, had an immense fortune, including the estates of the Ottos, Boutetorts, Gernons, Swynborne, Helion, Rolfe and Finderne. All these she brought in marriage to SirBO Church Roger Wentworth. In this family it remained until 1623 when the last male sold it to Thomas Smith of Sudbury. It afterwards became the property of the De Signes, Poulton, Helbutt and other families.
One of the Manors in this Parish, Le Vaux, belonged in the 14th Century to the De Veres, but was sold by Edward (17th Earl of Oxford, the famous Elizabethan poet who, some say, was one of the possible writers of Shakespeare’s plays) to William Carew Esq. It afterwards belonged to the Dister Cleeve and other families.
Belchamp Otten from FowesThe Church, according to Newcourt, was originally dedicated to St Ethelbert, but appears subsequently altered to All Saints. The Advowson was originally in the Beauchamp family, and was appendant to the Manor of Belchamp Oton. Several owners of that Property, as previously mentioned, acted as Patrons of the living.