The Essex & Suffolk Rushen's.

The first recorded Rushens to be found in this area lived in Clare, Bury St. Edmunds & Sudbury. Over the years they migrated into Essex. The year in which they are first recorded in a location is denoted by the town being coloured red. I think it is safe to assume that the Rushens who lived in Suffolk in the 1500's are the ancestors of what was to become the Essex branch.

Link to Suffolk Christenings 1593 - 1734.

Link to Suffolk Marriages 1525 - 1747.

Link to Suffolk Burials 1615 - 1740.


1504 & 1518 Severe epidemics of the plague in Essex, and again between 1543 & 1546 plague spread into the county from London. In one Colchester parish it caused four times the usual number of burials. In 1563 there were minor epidemics of plague in Epping, Chelmsford, Maldon and Romford where the first victims included two orphans from London who were being nursed in the town. There were were epidemics presenting all the signs of the plague in one or more Essex villages in 1570-71, 1577-80, 1582-5, 1593-4, 1603-10, 1625, 1631 and 1637-40, as well as in the final outbreak of 1665-6.

circa 1525 William Cole of Sudbury, Suffolk, married Elizabeth Rushan.

1561-1588 During this period Queen Elizabeth made no less than nine progresses through Essex and Suffolk. With a large retinue of courtiers she travelled as a rule about ten miles a day. The daily journey seems short but the roads were bad,"full of deep holes and broken by broad pools of water and mud." The route of one of these royal progresses was:Greenwich, Havering (five days), Ongar Castle, Rookwood Hall, Leighs, Gosfield Hall (five days) then into Suffolk as far as Ipswich, returning to Harwich (three days), St Osyth (three days), Colchester, Layer Marney, Maldon, Moulsham Hall, Ingatestone Hall and back to Havering.

1593 Clare, Suffolk.       Wililm Rushin christened on the 15 July 1593, married Martha Harvy 25 April 1615. In the parish records he was noted as "William the younger".

1617 In Clare substantial rebuilding work was being carried out in the chancel of the parish church of St. Peter and St. Paul with the benefactors who paid for the work being commemorated by their coats of arms in the East window.

1625-1626 The plague of 1625-26 moved with great rapidity through the heart of Essex. A "wretched fellow" from Colchester lodged an infected family in 'a little base cottage' he owned in the Suffolk village of Polstead,'whereby it pleased God that the plague did spread itself'. The epidemic of 1637-40 moved more slowly and was particularly widespread.

1629-1640 Charles I managed to carry on the government of the country without summoning a Parliament, and was compelled to resort to various means of raising money without the help of the Commons. Inparticular he demanded the payment of ship-money to increase the strength of the navy. In October 1634, Essex and Suffolk were ordered to provide one warship of 700 tons with a crew of 250 by March 1 1635. The constant demand for more money and men caused so much disaffection that in 1640 it was found quite impossible to levy the required number of men, and when Civil War broke out, Essex was on the side of Parliament and against the King. Between 1637 and 1639 there was unemployment in Bocking, Coggeshall and Colchester, and 'poor folks' in Chelmsford complained about 'the extreme hardness of these times'. In some of the clothing towns plague lingered on into the early 1640s, as in Witham where 140 families were said to be'in great want and likely to perish' in 1641.

1639 Clare, Suffolk.       William Rushen and Ann Drury were married at Clare on the 1 December 1639. A William Rushin was a barber in Clare in 1642 occupying a shop owned by William Barron, innkeeper of the "Angel".

1643 Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.        John Rushin christened at St James on the 2 December.

1643 At this time the Rushen name no longer appears in the Clare parish records.
Puritan influence was dominant, Clare parish church was among those visited by William Dowsing,"Parliamentary visitor for demolishing the superstitious pictures and ornaments of churches". He recorded: "We brake down 1,000 pictures superstitious. I brake down 200, three of God the Father, three of Christ and the Holy Lamb and three of the Holy Ghost like a dove with wings, and the twelve apostles were carved in wood on the top of the roof, which we gave order to be taken down; and the sun and the moon in the East window by the King's arms to be taken down." Bullet holes found in the roof show how his soldiers set about the task. Fortunately they lacked either the marksmanship or the lead to complete the job. 1648 Fighting took place in Essex. Charles I had been captured but a quarrel arose between Parliament and the victorius leaders of the army. Many people in Essex complained of the heavy burden of taxes and of the billeting of soldiers upon them. A force of Royalists from Kent was joined at Brentwood by a body of Cavaliers and marched against Colchester. After a feeble attempt at resistance they were admitted into the town. Fairfax in pursuit of the Royalists attempted to carry the town by assault, but was repulsed and settled down to a regular blockade. The besiegers received reinforcements from Suffolk. Several desperate sallies were repulsed but food became scarce and they were reduced to a diet of horseflesh and dogflesh, and even this was dear. After a siege of seventy six days the troops were compelled to surrender.

1665 Ashen, Essex        Thomas Rushing and Susan Golding were married on the 14 December 1676.
The Great plague struck. All the towns near London, including West Ham, Barking, Brentwood and Romford were affected, and the plague spread further inland, Colchester and Braintree, in particular, suffering heavily. At Braintree, nearly one third of the population perished; business ceased entirely and grass grew in deserted streets. The deadly natureof the disease is shown by the fact that out of 687 persons attacked at Braintree only twenty-two survived. Of the 284 households in the town 221 of them were infected. The great city of Colchester suffered most of all. Several different records of weekly mortality make it clear that more than 5,000 people died in the sixteen months between August 1665 and December 1666, all but 500 of the casualties being ascribed to plague. This disaster may have killed more than 40 per cent of the population - the highest death rate in any major urtban centre in the period.

1669 On the 15th of November John Forster a butcher of Ashen and the trading partner of Thomas Rushen was found guilty at the Sessions of stealing a sheep worth 10d and was sentenced to be whipped.

1670 By this time Braintree and Colchester had some of the highest proportions of poor people in the kingdom. In Colchester 52.8 per cent of all housholders were exempted from the hearth tax of that year, in Braintree 66.4 per cent.

1674 The Suffolk Hearth Tax Returns of this year list Jo Rushen of St James having two hearths and John Rushen of St Maries having two, possibly living in the same house as Edward Marsh who also had two hearths. Hearth tax was levied between 1662 and the spring of 1689.

1675 Bulmer.        Sarah Rushing christened on the 23 March.

1676 An inventory of all the goods and chattles of John Rushing of Bury St Edmunds was made in March.

1676 Ashen.        Susanah Rushen, wife of Thomas was buried on the 14 December at St. Augustine of Canterbury church, Ashen.

1700 Weaving concentrated in N Essex. Colchester produced perhaps half of Essex output & was famous throughout Europe for its bays. Most cloth went by sea to the Thames & London for export. Spinning was widespread. Majority of Essex village workhouses utilised the spinning skills of heir aged female inmates. Poor law records show that yarn was produced in such establishments at Gt Braxted & Tolleshunt Darcy. Wool halls were established at Colchester & Sudbury. One Colchester clothier employed spinners from Wickham Bishops. The clothiers servants took wool to a village shop or inn to be collected by farmworkers womenfolk who spun it at home & handed it back as yarn when they obtained their next supply of wool. Farmworkers children started work as soon as they could earn, the girls as spinners, the boys on farms. From 1700 the decline in the cloth trade was continual, relieved only by booms following the end of each war.

1702 Burnham on Crouch      Mary Rushing wife of John was buried on the 20 October at St. Mary the Virgin.

1729 With prospects of a treaty with Spain, the Corporation clerk reported 'abundance of looms standing still for want of hands'. However the slumps were longer than the booms and each one left the industry weaker than before. During this period the area around Wickham Bishops was developing and several large brickmaking works came into being. 1724 Smallpox outbreak was resposible for the majority of the 114 deaths in Witham.

1726 Sudbury.       Mary Rushen was christened at All Saints.

Link to Suffolk Christenings 1593 - 1734.

Link to Suffolk Marriages 1525 - 1747.

Link to Suffolk Burials 1615 - 1740.

1733 Great Braxted, Essex       On the 25 November James Rushing was christened.

1734 Bulmer, Essex        Thomas Russian was buried 6 January 1734.

1737 Smallpox epidemic May 1737 to May 1738. Daughter of Thomas Rushen buried at Sudbury on the 18 November, one of thirty two deaths in November due to smallpox.

1750 Witham was changing fast, weavers were dwindling,the number of firms fell to two and the fulling mill had apparently become no more than a corn mill. The apprenticing of boys and girls to Witham weavers, frquent until about 1740, stopped rather abruptly. From 1750 agriculture moved forward. Essex farmers could now probably sell to London everything they produced. Farms were well chalked, fenced and drained, and they were being enlarged to a size sufficient to prosper in an arable region. Poor rates rose, but only because prices and population were increasing. Most artisans lived the comfortable, unexciting life of the Great Braxted blacksmith who around 1750 supplied a ladder, a dew rake and parts for ploughs and harrows to one farmer, and spliced a plough handle,'headed' a foot plough and made wheelbarrows for another. He farmed some land before transferring this to his two sons and did not expand beyond his own vicinity. When John Strutt, of Wickham Bishops Mill, died, the sale catalogue of his property showed that his large house had been richly furnished and that he had owned two coaches. The chief gardener at Braxted Park was paid 11s 6d weekly. In 1751 1s 6d was paid a week to a permanently ill woman in Wickham Bishops to buy food, rent and clothes were paid for separately. Medicine and aids for the disabled were frequent items in an overseers accounts, like the 'stuff to cure the itch for Harvey's girl' at Wickham Bishops. Nursing was also provided in 1751, a girl being paid 3s to nurse her mother. After 1750 many Suffolk people moved into Essex, mostly they left South Suffolk for North Essex. Some as we know came to central Essex and settled in Chelmsford, Writtle, Witham, Wickham Bishops and Hatfield Peverell.

1759 Rayleigh, Essex       James Rushen married Judith Forster 26 June 1759.

1761 A woman who ran Great Braxted's workhouse with her daughters help received five guineas annually and board for herself, her daughter and her husband, who had his own occupation. Food was usually adequate. Between 1756-62 plenty of meat, butter, sprats, eggs, milk, beans, apples and once two whole pigs. No doubt these had come from the workhouse piggery. One months purchases included 80 lbs of fresh meat, 80 lb of 'bull beef' and 38 lb of cheese.

1765 Wickham Bishops.        Hannah Rushen was born.

1768 Rising incomes enabled the middle and upper classes to build new houses or modernise old ones, to furnish them elegantly, to dress fashionably and to travel in expensive carriages and other vehicles. Though they patronised London firms, they often drew on the services of local artisans. Two luxury trades to benefit were clockmakers and wig makers, with one wigmaker setting up in business in Tolleshunt D'Arcy.

1770 Benfleet.        Elizabeth Rushin was christened.

1774 People using the Witham - Maldon road succeeded in eliminating one of the worst hazards of that important route, the ford through the Blacwater at Wickham Mill, which was dangerous in wintry weather and could only be avoided by those paying 1s to use the private bridge at the mill. Farmers and merchants pressed Quarter Sessions for a public bridge and obtained grants of £210 and £80 on condition that the bridge should be a free parish maintained service.

1777 Little Braxted.        Hannah Rushen was christened on 7 September.

1781 A number of clergymen were helping to spread the progressive methods of farming owning or renting whole farms. Others like the vicar of Great Braxted farmed to feed themselves.

1781 Rivenhall, St. Mary & All Saints.      Jemima daughter of Sarah Rushen christened 14 January 1781.

1784 An unskilled labourer at Wickham Bishops mill got his keep and 2s 6d weekly, approximately what a farm labourer would have paid if living in the farm house. The mill at Wickham Bishops was a water mill like those at Great and Little Braxted. Both Little Braxted and Wickham Bishops mills were listed in the Domesday Book. (A.D.1086)

1794 By 1794 the number of people employed in the woolen industry around Colchester had fallen to 8,000 from a peak of 20,000 before the wars with Spain. Spain was the chief foreign market for Essex woolen makers. The decay of the woolen industry led to an increase in pauperism, with the result that in 1801 about seventeen out of every hundred of the population was relieved from the rates. By 1840 this once flourishing industry had vanished from Colchester.

1800 Up until this time farm labourers usually served one master for a long period, sometimes for a lifetime. Farmworkers' children started work as soon as they could earn, the girls as spinners, the boys on farms. Young workers sometimes lived in the farmhouse, especially if working away from home, and so did some older bachelors. From now on greater mobility reduced the length of service with one employer.

1812 A Penny Post was established at Maldon with footpost to Goldhanger and Tolleshunt D'Arcy.

1830 After two poor harvests there was distress in every village. No recovery had taken place by 1833 and large reductions in staff were being reported on individual farms. Resort to theft to feed their families exposed labourers to harsh sentences. Two Wickham Bishops labourers were imprisoned for three months and beaten for stealing six fowls.

1848 On the 15 August the railway line between Witham and Maldon,five and three quarter miles in length with a stop at Wickham Bishops and Langford, was opened for goods traffic. Passenger services started on the 2 October.

1851-71 Essex women and girls in regular agricultural employment decreased from 556 to 327 and indoor female farm servants from 2,343 to 693. The only escape from a life of poverty open to girls was to to London where domestic and factory work was available. If they stayed they almost always married farm workers and for the rest of their lives faced an unending struggle to enable their families to survive. At the end of their lives labourers' wives or widows were likely to have to subsist on the lowest possible allowance before entering the workhouse to die. Several Rushen families were to know both workhouse and charity in their lives. The quality of education was poor for labourers children until the 1860s. Some limited public money then became available but improvements were slow. Evidence is shown in Rushen marriage certificates where the majority could not sign their own name. Real social gains in 1850-72 were slight,with many cottages very poor in size, sanitation and repair.

1873 Emigration was suggested by the labourers Union as a means to escape the poverty on the farms. Parties were formed in a number of Suffolk and Essex villages and on a morning in April 1874 they converged on their nearest railway station to board the train for Tilbury where the "St. James" was waiting to bear them away to Australia. The lagest party, 200, boarded the train at Witham junction. The "St. James" sailed on the 19 April and arrived at Maryborough, Australia on 23 July 1874.
Although all Essex farmers refused to recognise the Union, a majority of them refrained from attempts to crush it in 1872-74. Their reluctance had several causes, goodwill towards their own men and a desire not to accelerate migration. However after 1874 migration slowed down and the agricultural depression set in by 1875. Its chief cause was the fall in wheat prices caused by cheap imports from the USA and Russia. Essex wheat acreage declined from 201,000 in 1874 to 93,000 in 1895 with prices being halved.

1878-88 The bleak summer of 1878 with poor and rain damaged crops,the low prices marked a new stage in the labourers depressing world. Labourers attempting to start a Union branch at Great Braxted were immediately dismissed. Still a closely controlled village where the Du Canes of Braxted Park owned most of the property, they and their tenants opposed the Union from the start in 1873. A small but determined group of Graet Braxted labourers stood firm and maintained a small branch for six years, defying as best they could the attempts to silence them, insisting on discussing their business at the Du Cane Arms. William Rushen received bread on 17 November 1878 from the John Freese charity in Little Braxted. 1879 was even worse with reductions in wages and staff. Depression in the industrial areas discouraged migration and farmers were determined to dispense with even more labour. In July 1882 a branch of the N.A.L.U. was formed at Wickham Bishops.

1884 At 9.20am on the 22nd of April an earthquake struck Essex. It was centred on the rural farming district just to the south east of Colchester in the vicinity of Peldon, Abberton and Wivenhoe. Tolleshunt D'arcy and Tolleshunt Major were hard hit. Its impact was experienced within a radius of 150 miles. It shattered more than 1,200 buildings, huge fissures opened up in the ground,enormous waves swept along rivers and spilled over the banks, panic was widespread. Sir Charles Du Cane was sitting at the writing table in the hall of his house at Braxted Park. The following day he wrote of his experiences in a letter to The Essex Standard. He tells of all the bells in the house being set ringing by the violent shaking of the house. The horses in the stable were frightened and reared and plunged violently. The only damage to the house was a crack in a bedroom ceiling

1900 The post man making the deliveries from the Witham Post Office to Little Braxted was still using the penny-farthing cycle, long after later models were introduced. Mills, wind & water were part of the countryside scene and also provided employment in their area. A smock mill stood east of Mill Lane eighty yards south of its junction with the road to Tolleshunt D'Arcy. (Tolleshunt Beckingham Green) First noted in the records in 1739 it continued in work until 1914 before finally being demolished in 1924. Local owners included William Larkin a farmer of Great Totham who purchased it for £407 10s in June 1840 but resold it within the year to occupier miller Simon Sampson for £520. Very rare were the millwrights' visits- limited to trimming of wooden cogs by Rowland of Wickham Bishops. A post mill which had stood at Tollesbury was moved circa 1888 to Tolleshunt D'Arcy at Oxley Green. Known as Oxley Green Mill, latterly Posford's Mill it stood about 50 yards west of the Plough Inn. Joseph Sorrell the younger took on the lease in 1858 and surrendered it in 1861. In 1863 a Joseph Sorrell, farmer - miller is given as leasing Virley or Smith's Mill. Three mills stood at Great & Little Totham. A post mill stood for many years in the centre of Great Totham near the Bull, this was referred to as Brown's Mill. Mentioned in 1718 it had a chequered history. Following Joseph Bridge (1796-1808) came Daniel Taylor who was bankrupt by 1810. By 1811 his successor, Samuel Unwin, absconded, being threatened with bankruptcy if he did not meet his creditors. One possible family connection to occupy the mill was Reuben Cottee who was in residence when the mill was put up for auction in 1833. The last known working date for the mill was in 1886 with it being pulled down by Digby's steam engine in 1911. Variously called Frost's, then Pulford's, finally King's Mill it stood in the north of Great Totham parish near the Compasses.It to was pulled down by Digby of Braxted in 1911. Smith's Mill, long known as Barrow Hill Mill stood on raised ground south of the Goldhanger road and immediately north east of The Millbeach public house. Erected in 1703 it stood about 350 yards from the tide mill which was in Great Totham parish, and the two were worked in conjunction. In 1831 Little Totham windmill, held by Mr Green, was destroyed by a hurricane on the 30th of June. After the collapse a stock mill was erected on the site, taking some five months to complete. Misfortune struck again in September 1880 when the mill was tail winded and damage to the amount of £40 was caused. One of the last hands to work in the mill before it was demolished in 1892 was Abraham Springett.