Mount Bures Community Web Site
History of "Old House or Craxes"
old house
craxes shed
Old House
Old Wheelwights Barn or Smithy outside Old House circa 1970
First recorded 1769

OLD HOUSE once Godfreys farm earlier Craxes tenement in Mount Bures; Copyhold.
1551. Land tenant to scour ditch agaynst Crackseys.
1612. William Dyer died and left to his wife Winifred, Craxes a tenement and 9 acres of land, 10 acres of Cowfen, 2 acres of le Pond, a hollow way of 1 rood, and 4 acres of le Down, Holmes and Hall Holmes of 5 acres near the river Stour with half acre in Mount Bures Meadow (the old Common Meadow).
1613. Andrew Smith, now married to Winifred, widow of William above; her son to inherit on her death.
1645. Daniel and Joanna inherited on death of his mother Winifred, lately brother William, 1662 MR confirms.
1683. Daniel Dyer junior and his wife Sarah on the death of his parents.
1696. Thomas Everard lately Daniel Dyer.
1744. Thomas Everard junior.
1769.Thomas Everard son of above occupied by Thomas Godfrey wheelwright.
1780. Abraham Newman purchased a tenement of four acres called Smiths and Ingulfs held also by the Dyer family of Craxes above; the property was on the 1614and 1662 rentals; and from the position described on the deed lay close to Craxes and may even have been one half of Craxes used then as a double tenement. A Thomas Ingulf appeared on the 1393 Manor rolls.
1785. Abraham Newman obtained a lease and a mortgage on Pudneys farm, Bures Hamlet, which included the above Craxes cottage still in the occupation of Thomas Godfrey and called Godfreys farm with 29 acres. Smiths and Ingulfs had vanished.
1799-1830. Ann and George Caswall followed by their daughter Ann Rolt, heirs of Abraham, inherited above properties Godfreys lands went partly to Pudneys and partly to Bakers Hall which they also owned. The house and barn at Godfreys were leased to blacksmith Joseph Hayward.
1862. John Garrad purchased all Anne and John Rolts estates, Godfreys included which was then occupied by James Sawyer senior, blacksmith.
1881. James Sawyer junior, blacksmith, and wife Phoebe were tenants.

Recent renovations on the timber framework of Old House revealed that it had not originally been built for domestic purposes. It was intended for a public Court Hall or small Guild Hall. When plaster was removed from the inner side of the long jettied front wall, two original arched doorways were revealed, in addition when plaster was removed from the same outer front wall, a third door with a rectangular headed frame was seen between the two arched doors. The Public Court room would have been on the first floor with stairs leading straight up from the central square-headed doorway which opened outwards as could be seen by the rebated frame. The roof space was included in the court room and it boasted a fine crown post visible to the assemblies. However, the area to the east of the crown post was partitioned off as a small waiting room where the roof space had an inserted ceiling no doubt giving privacy to the court. The two ground floor rooms would have been for storage and a possible ante chamber for private interrogation in which wives could be seen separately concerning their dowry rights, inheritance and other such matters coming before the manor court.

The study was carried out by Dave Stenning of the County Planning Department and his illustration is shown. He was assisted by Richard Shackle who made all the drawings of the timber framework. The work is published by Colchester Archaeological Group (McMaster & Shackle 1989, 20).

There were no signs that the building had come from elsewhere and been re erected. The estimated date of construction was 1500-1550 indicating that the project was undertaken mainly in the reign of Henry VIII; he ordered large scale demolition of monasteries and guilds which may have caused the demise of manor court halls; the villagers not wishing to be found attending forbidden gatherings. So far, apart from its structural features, there has been no suggestion from the Court Rolls that Craxes tenement was anything other than a yeoman farmer's abode.
As a Court House the manor Steward would have had little reason to mention it during that first century. Conditions in Mount Bures by 1588 were, as elsewhere, dire; there was poverty and terrible cold, even the church lacked tiling and glazing and the incumbent was absent and excommunicated. The upkeep of the Court House might have proved impossible for the villagers particularly as both Sir Richard Sackville and his son Sir Thomas were busy with Queen Elizabeth's affairs. In any case our manor was sold by Sir Thomas in 1578.

By 1769 Thomas Godfrey was tenant of Craxes with 9 acres and all the same fields originally held by Dyers in 1612. Several of these field names are in use today. Thomas also farmed Yocklettes across the road which he probably used in conjunction with his wheelwrights business. Both properties had barns at the time, the one at Craxes was only demolished about 20 years ago. Thomas was also the problem tenant of John Josselyns farm.
Old Thomas Godfrey was first recorded in th'e church register for 1761; he died in 1786 having been churchwarden for many years. He appears not to have had any children in the village though his presumed forebears during the previous century all had mostly eight children per family. A Mary Godfrey, perhaps his wife, died in 1793.

Craxes, still known as Godfreys Farm, finally became the property of John Garrad who had old Pudneys farm nearby re-named new Brookhouse in Bures Hamlet.
The Garrad family owned Craxes smithy (see above photo) for over a century and the last member, George Garrad who died a bachelor in 1978 aged 90, had kept Old House, as it is now known, and used it as a workers' cottage when the smithy closed.

Claud Newman of the milling family, see Abrams, was the last tenant before a local Mount Bures resident purchased Old House at auction in 1989. His renovations led to the exciting find of the Court House.

Reprint courtesy of "Mount Bures it`s Lands and People" dated 1996.