Hedingham Heritage Society

Sible Hedingham, in terms of area, is the second largest village in Essex.  It is thought the ‘Hedingham’ is derived from the ‘ham of Hedin’s people’ and ‘Sible’ from the family of Sibil, widow of Geoffrey de Laventon, who held land in Sible Hedingham in 1237.  

The area itself has probably been occupied since at least the Bronze Age.  Indeed, in 1929 some unique Bronze Age finds were unearthed near Tower House in Lamb Lane.  Roman pottery was found nearby and some Roman brick is incorporated into the construction of St Peter’s Church, indicating a Roman settlement in the village. There is also evidence of Mediaeval pottery and pottery kilns at Braintree Corner (Crows Cross) and the appropriately named Potter Street.

For many centuries, agriculture was undoubtedly the larger single employer in the village and in the Hedinghams there were once over two hundred acres of hop plantations.  This crop was grown from the Tudor era until the latter half of the nineteenth century.  Sible Hedingham had the distinction of being the last village in Essex where hops were cultivated but wild hops can still be found growing, particularly along the banks of the River Colne.

The cloth trade was another important contributor to the local economy for many years as was tanning, the livelihood of the father of Sir John Hawkwood, the military adventurer who was born in the village.  

The brickmaking industry expanded rapidly towards the end of the nineteenth century following the arrival of the Colne Valley and Halstead Railway in 1861 although the earliest recorded brickworks were in existence by the 1700s at Southey Green.  In around 1900, the local industry employed some 500 men, making around eight million bricks per year.

Until the 20th century, the main settlements of the village were Church Street, Alderford Street, Queen Street and Potter Street.  The village expanded significantly in the 1920s with developments that included a hundred homes built by the woodworking company Rippers, whose factory is now occupied by the Earl’s Garden housing development.

Sible Hedingham has also been home to many interesting people including, George Theodore Manning, the author of Rural Rhymes; poet and author John Redwood-Anderson; MPs Godfrey Blundell Samuelson and Henry Greville Montgomery; two suffragette leaders Rachel Barrett and Emily Katherine Marshall and the highly acclaimed surgeon and anatomist, John Hilton.  The village also claims to be the last place in England where a case of witchcraft arose.