For the purpose of the census Fordham was divided into east and west along the road from Wormingford to Colchester. The enumerator for the west side from 1861 to 1881 was Oliver Bull, blacksmith and innkeeper of the Horseshoes Inn. The 1841 census contains more place information than in 1851 when the enumerator covered the whole parish and no road or house names were recorded.
Fordham has a long history, reflecting national events and social change. There is evidence that the hillside north of the River Colne may have been occupied since the Bronze Age. In 1984, the discovery of a Roman burial suggested that the Romans lived here too. Roman brick and tile was used to build the church indicating the presence of some form of Roman building. This is currently under investigation.
All Saints Church has seen almost 1000 years of history. The first recorded reference to the church is in 1086. By 1391 the church would have been recognisable by us today. Roger Walden, the Rector at the time went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1515 Alice Creffield, buried in the church, left her silver girdle to be made into a chalice. In 1554-55 the Rector Simon Baghot was imprisoned in Colchester for heresy but he recanted, unlike his companion, Thomas Hawkes of Coggeshall who was burnt at the stake for refusing to follow Roman Catholic practices.
The village was the scene of religious turmoil during the 17th century. There was opposition to the Puritans, demonstrated by John Potter and his associates who moved the pulpit. John Owen who became chaplain to Oliver Cromwell seemed to have been accepted in the parish while John Bulkley, a puritan from New England possibly was not. An alteration in the parish registers reads ‘John Bulkley hireling of the church of Seyton at Fordham’. The plague was a visitor to Fordham in 1666 and was responsible for 13 deaths. All this and more can be found in Pat Lewis’ Guide to All Saints Church written in 1984 and in ‘Notes on the Rector’ 2009.
.......Fordham's rustic nook,
The lonely walk, the silent brook,
The quiet lane, so grassy green
Where waddling geese alone are seen,
These lines come from Thomas Twining’s poem ‘The Boat’. Thomas Twining, scholar and member of the tea firm family, was the curate of Fordham from 1763 to 1789. During the summer months he lived at the Rectory where he rowed his boat on the moat.
In 1588 the effect of the Armada was felt when a marriage contract was stopped as the bridegroom was sent to Tilbury Fort. In 1815 Henry Johnson fought at the battle of Waterloo. He returned to spend the rest of his years in Fordham.
Many of those who died in the two world wars are from families with long Fordham histories and with descendants still living here. The men on the memorial were; A W Balls, F C Broyd, A H Bull, P W Cant, R E Cawdron, E H Crisp, S Davey, F B and R C Francis, C W Horne, C W Partridge, M. G. Pettit, T E Potkin, A H Pudney, A S and J T Rayner, C S Taylor and E J Wright.
As a result of the Ww1 Community Project, another 12 names will be added to the memorial in 2017:- Fred Arnold, Edgar Harvey Bailey, Amos Arthur George Boutell,George Bunting, Alfred George Chinnery, Charles Samuel Everitt, Albert Edward Kettle, Henry William Kettle, Walter Miller, Walter Perry, Harry George Webber and Walter Edward Starling R.N.
Fordham Local History Society
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Four more names were added to the war memorial after the Second World War, James Bugg, Douglas Edward Cudmore, John Arthur Treby, John Edward Hewitt.
May Gunary’s description of Fordham in her book published in 1954, has echoes of Thomas Twining.
…a straggling village on a gentle slope crowned by the Norman church which dominates that part of the Colne valley. The most important highway through the village is no more than a by-road linking the village of Ford Street with the neighbouring parish of Wormingford. This inaccessibility has preserved it from any radical change, as the only industry is agriculture.
In spite of recent building and an increase in traffic through the village, Fordham still retains much of its rural identity. Land-use changes on the Fordham Hall Estate from arable to new woodland, planted by the Woodland Trust are beginning to bring changes but the views from the village still remain some of the most spectacular along the Colne Valley. Looking towards Colchester, the water tower Jumbo can be seen on a clear day.
Of the public houses ‘The Three Horseshoes’ remains. That and the former ‘Shoulder of Mutton’ and are both listed buildings; medieval hall houses of the 15th century with evidence of mullion windows. Sadly ‘The Vulcan Inn’ which was opposite the new village green served its last pint in June 1998; it has been replaced with new housing.
Pat Lewis, whose ancestors lived in Fordham has made the village the subject for her research and publications. Education in Fordham is the subject of her book, ‘A Big Round Hand’. In ‘This Barren Land’ she has documented the Chapel of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion in depth.
Richard Shackle has investigated and recorded a number of the timber framed buildings.
The history of the parish has been thoroughly researched and recorded by Shirley Durgan for the Victoria County History, Volume X.
The publication of ‘Fordham Essex, A Photograph Album in October 2000 was the result of the efforts of the Local History Society over three years and the 2011 publication ‘Fordham Essex, A Miscellany’ contains articles reflecting the various interests and activities of the Society.
Our latest book is by Wendy Shepherd, it is called Fordham's Finest - Preserving the memory and it focuses on WW1 and the village war memorial. This book was the result of a community project funded by the Heritage Lottery.These and other publications mentioned in this article can be consulted at the Colchester Local Studies Library.