Finley's survey of Pentlow Rectory
Occasionally, in the past, when we got little response or feedback, we wondered whether the F&DLHS website had any real purpose in the activities of a local history society. Now, a number of events have happened that have cast away any doubt. A phonecall from a reader of the website, John Hourigan, has led directly to the discovery of a long-lost survey that is essential to understanding Eighteenth Century Pentlow.
Pentlow Rectory is more famous than it really deserves to be, mainly because of its association with the Bull family, who later were behind the Borley Rectory 'Haunting'. It became their family home. It also gets its fame from the prominent tower that is a landmark for miles around.
The Bull rectory was built on the site of this previous rectory. We were pretty sure what it looked like due to a fine engraving. We also had a 'True Terrier'or exact description of the rectory and its land, written in 1810. Intriguingly, it referred to a survey done in 1767 which would have given a lot more information and provided the exact location of all the fields, moats, gardens and buildings. 'the moat ponds and gardens according to a survey of the premises, belonging to the Parsonage of Pentlow, Essex AD 1767 by Finley, Surveyor, contains two acres and thirty perches. We quickly discovered that Finley's survey, which was described as 'belonging to the parsonage' had disappeared. It was not in the records office or in the church.
Suddenly, we were contacted by John Hourigan, who had discovered the website. It was evident from the description he gave us that he had the original survey in his possession!
From a colour copy he sent, it was quickly apparent that we had a great deal of new information about the parish. Several mysteries were solved. The engraving of the rectory was indeed of the same house.
The old house had a splendid tower in the roof. It seems to have been a viewing platform, for the view would have been magnificent. It explains the Bull's later folly, which seems to have been a replacement for the viewing platform of the previous house. The house looks as if it was early seventeenth century in build, and it seems that when the Bull family demolished it, they were destroying a building of great antiquarian interest. Indeed the size and shape of the moat would suggest that the site is much earlier than the illustrated house, and it could be that it contains the core of a fourteenth century building. It has all gone, unfortunately.
Here is the map. We are still poring over it, working out where all the fields were and all the names of people. Together with the 'True Terrier' it provides a remarkably complete description of the rectory as it existed at the turn of the nineteenth century. A great rediscovery.