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Help and advice for Rayleigh

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"RAYLEIGH, a parish (formerly a market-town) in the hundred of ROCHFORD, county of ESSEX, 14 miles (S. E. by S.) from Chelmsford, and 34 (E. by N.) from London, containing 1203 inhabitants. This place, formerly the head of an honour, or barony, was at the Conquest in the possession of a Dane, named Sweyn, or Swene, who built a stupendous and magnificent castle, some ruins of which, with earth-works and ditches, yet remain, and from the eminence which they occupy is an extensive prospect of the surrounding country. The town is situated upon the shore of Hadley bay, and had formerly a market on Saturdays a cattle fair is held on Trinity-Monday. At King's hill is occasionally held what is termed the "Lawless Court." On the Wednesday morning next after Michaelmasday, the tenants, or their agents, are bound to appear at the first cock-crowing, and, kneeling, offer their homage of suit and service. The steward of the court, at this dark hour of the night, in a low tone of voice, and without any previous notice, calls over the names of all who are bound to appear, and he who answers not, forfeits to the lord of the manor double his rent for every hour of his absence. All the business is transacted in whispers, and the use of pens and ink not being allowed, the deficiency is supplied by a coal. Some years ago, a tenant forfeited his land from non-attendance, but it was restored to him in consideration of a reasonable amercement. The penalties are said to have been originally imposed upon certain tenants of the adjacent manors, for having conspired in this place to raise a commotion. The living is a rectory, in the archdeaconry of Essex, and diocese of London, rated in the king's books at £17. 17. 6., and in the patronage of R. Bristow, Esq. The church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, has a tower with a low spire, and is principally in the later style of English architecture. There is a place of worship for Baptists. A small sum, arising from land bequeathed, in 1640, by Isaac Gilbert, and from £200 South Sea stock, left by Dr. Sykes, in 1756, is applied, according to the directions of the respective testators, to the instruction of twenty poor children." [From Samuel Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of England (1831) - copyright Mel Lockie 2016]



  • Census returns are available from the usual sources for 1841-1911, which includes most copies held at the ERO, Wharf Rd, Chelmsford. More information on other ways to view these census returns on the Essex

Description and Travel

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Historical Geography

  • Rayleigh was a member of the Rochford Hundred

You can see the administrative areas in which Rayleigh has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.


Poor Houses, Poor Law etc.

  • Rayleigh was a member of the Rochford Poor Law Union