Essex is a large and populous County, so surrounded by Waters, that it makes a Peninsula; for it is bounded on the East by the German Sea, on the North by the River Stour, which separates it from Suffolk and Cambridgeshire; on the West by the River Stort, which divides it from Hertfordshire, and the River Lea, or Ley, which parts it from Middlesex; and on the South by the River Thames which separates it from Kent.
It extends from Horsey-Island in the East to Heydon in the West 40 Miles, and from West Ham in the South to Haveril in the North 35 Miles, and so (according to Mr. Speed) the whole circumference is 146 Miles, and within these Limits contains 20 Hundreds, 22 Market-Towns, 415 Parishes, 46 Parks, one Forest, one Castle, 1240000 Acres of Ground, 34819 Houses, and 208800 Souls. It sends eight Members to Parliament, viz. two Knights of the Shire, and for Colchester, Maldon and Harwich, two apiece.
The chief Rivers are the Thames, the Stour, the Lea, the Stort or Little Stour, the Coln, the Chelmer, the Blackwater, the Crouch, the Roding, and divers others, either nameless, or less considerable, which yield both Plenty and Variety of Fish to the Inhabitants, and for Travelling have 28 Bridges over them.
In the Times of the Romans, this County with Middlesex, and that Part of Hertfordshire that now is in the Diocese of London, made up the Country inhabited by the Britains, called Trinobantes, and by Ptolomy, Trinoantes, who were, when Caeser arriv’d in their Isle, the stoutest People in it. They were then govern’d by Immanuentius, but soon fell into Cassibelan’s Hands, the most worthy and potent of the British Kings, who being chosen by an unanimous Consent to be their General against the invading Romans, slew Immanuentius, and expelled Mandubratius his Son, and so became the King of the Trinobantes, Mandubratius being thus forced out of his Kingdom, fled to Caeser then in Gaul, and put himself under his Protection; and returning with him into Britain, Caeser, at the request of the Trinobantes, who sent Embassadors to him, to desire that Mandubratius might be his Deputy-Governor, and declare their Submission to the Romans, restored him to his Kingdom, and having taken forty Hostages of them as Pledges of their future Subjection, returned to Rome. After this, Britain enjoyed Peace for some time, the Romans being taken up with their Civil Dissensions at home; and Mandubratius dying, Cunobeline obtain’d the Government of these Parts. He was the Son of Lud, and having had his Education at Rome, kept the Britains by his Interest in Peace, and paying their Tribute, they enjoyed their own Laws. He was the First that stamped the British Coins after the Roman manner.
Cunobeline being offended with his eldest Son Adminius, banish’d him his Kingdom; whereupon the young Prince, with a small Train, flies into Italy, and submits himself and Kingdom to the Emperor Caligula, who immediately represents it to the Senate by his Letters, which he commanded to be deposited in the Temple of Mars, as if the whole Isle had submitted to him.
After the Death of Cunobeline, Caratacus or catacratus reign’d over the Trinobantes, who, weary of their Subjection to the Romans, with-held their Tribute, and grew uneasy, that such as were the Betrayers of their Liberties and Countries were cherished by the Romans. A. Plautius was sent by the Emperor Claudius to reduce them to their Obedience, but found a brave Resolution in Caratacus to maintain their Freedom, for which he engaged him in Several Battels; but the Roman Soldiers proved victorious at length, and Caratacus himself being taken Captive, was carried in Triumph at Rome, to the great Honour of Plautius.
Togodumnus, third Son of Cunobeline, and Brother of Catacratus, assumed the Government in his Brother’s Absence, and with equal Boldness and Courage, prosecuted his Country’s Quarrel against the Romans, then conducted by Vespasian, who not discouraged by some losses in the first Battel, nor deterred by the great Danger of losing his Life in a second, gained a compleat Victory in a third, wherein Togodumnus and many of his Britains were slain; which Overthrow, when Claudius was certified of, he immediately went in Person with greater Forces, and in a few Months reduced them into the Form of a Province.
From this time the Trinobantes had no more Wars till Nero’s Reign, when they enter’d into a Combination with the Iceni to shake off the Roman Yoke, because they had abused Boadicea their Queen, and her Daughters, whom Prafutagus, their King, had left to that Emperor’s Protection; but this Insurrection was quickly suppressed by Suetonius Paulinus, with the Loss of 80000 Britains.
When the Romans had relinquish’d this Island, and the Britains finding themselves too weak for the Scots and Picts, were forced to call in the Saxons out of Germany for their Help, this Country of the Trinobantes was given (as Ninnius tells us) to the Saxons by Vortigern, whom they had taken Prisoner, for his Redemption, and upon the Division of the Isle among the Saxon Generals, came to be the Portion of Uffa, or (as others say) Erkenwin, who settled his Kingdom here.
The Saxons having settled themselves here, changed the Name into East- Seaxa, which the Normans retained with very little Alteration, calling it Exssesa or Exsessa, from whence by contraction ’tis commonly called Essex. The Word is Plainly taken from the Saxons, and their Eastern Situation from Middlesex and the other Part of the Trinobantes. This was the least, and consequently the weakest of the Saxon Kingdoms, who almost from their first Settlement were ever warring and encroaching one upon another, and so was always a Feudatory either to the Kingdom of Kent or Mercia, till it was subdued quite by Egbert, and made a Province to the West-Saxon Kings; yet it bore up the Face of a Principality for the Space of 281 Years, and had the following Kings:
Suthred, conquer’d by Egbert.
This Kingdom was one of the first that embraced Christianity; for King Sebert being Nephew to Ethelbert, King of Kent, the first Christian Prince of the Saxons in this Isle, was so wrought upon by his Uncle, that he became a zealous Christian, and among many other pious Acts, converted the Heathen Temples of Diana at London, his chief City, into a Cathedral Church, of which he made Melitus Bishop, and of Apollo at Westminster into a Collegiate, dedicating the one to St. Peter, and the other to St. Paul.
After the Saxon Heptarchy was dissolved, and become a Monarchy, we find nothing particularly related in History concerning the Inhabitants of this Shire, save that when the Danes became formidable for their Power, they are said to favour them more than any other Part of England.
At the Norman Conquest, they submitted to the same Fate as other Parts did, and continued in their Loyalty to the Conqueror’s Posterity, save that in the Reign of K. Richard II. they began that terrible Insurrection which ended in Wat. Tyler’s Rebellion; but they made some Amends for this Fault, in rising under Colonel Far and Sir Charles Lucas to support K. Charles I’s Interests, and prevent his Death, and again under Mr. Thomas Fanshaw in 1659 to promote K. Charles II’s Restoration, tho’ in both these Attempts they were disappointed, and shewed only their good design.
This County and Hertfordshire were anciently united under the Jurisdiction of one High Sheriff, of whom Richard Bassset, in the first of K. Henry II was the first, and so continued till the 9th Year of Qu. Elizabeth, when George Tuke Esq; was declared High-Sheriff of Essex alone, as it remains to this day.
This County is divided into eighteen Hundreds, and two Half-Hundreds, which have each of them, for their better Government, two Officers, called High Constables, except Wytham Half-Hundred, which hath but one; and Hinkford Hundred, which being the largest, and reckon’d an eighth Part of the County, has three.