The River Colne was named by the Celts who were here before the Romans. Flint arrow heads have been found showing that Stone Age people has lived in this river valley long before the Celts, cutting down woodland, hunting and gathering food.
Of the four villages called Colne ours was the largest - Colne Magna - Colne Monacorum came later on.
When the Romans arrived in the valley they built a new road to the south of the flood plain. This connected Tilekiln with a Roman settlement at Tey passing through Chalkney Wood. The present A120 road (excluding the modern by-passes at Dunmow, Braintree and Coggeshall) roughly follows the route set by Stane Street, the Roman road running from Colchester to St. Albans.
The Saxons came by river and built churches on higher ground at villages along the banks. These churches were dedicated to St. Andrew.
It is not known exactly when the first church was built here. The first recorded incumbent, Ranulph, was instituted in c1100, indicating that a church was present at this time.
A Short history and guide to the parish church is contained in a separate booklet available in the church or library. This states that the parish church of St. Andrew was rebuilt between 1313 - 1360, but it was not until 1534 that the building of the present tower was completed.
came the de Veres, Aubrey de Vere was the friend and brother-in-law of William the Conqueror. His descendants became the Earls of Oxford, and it was this title that gave the village the first part of its name. Their signs were the star and the boar, and these star sign were found on houses in the High Street as well as on the battlements of the church tower. Aubrey held the manor of Earls Colne and founded a priory dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin and to St. John the Evangelist. It was a place of worship for four hundred years. The de Veres provided land and several churches in this area for the upkeep of the priory, and many generations of their family were buried there.
The parish church of St. Andrew was rebuilt by John, the seventh Earl, in the first half of the fourteenth century. The building of the tower was begun by another John, the thirteenth Earl, and completed by John, the fifteenth, who died in 1539.
After dissolution of the monasteries, the church was given back to John, the fifteenth Earl, but was subsequently sold to the Harlackenden family by Edward, the seventeenth Earl.
The site of the old church and the priory is now scheduled as a national monument. The Earls Colne Society has taken the opportunity to mark the end of the second millennium by recording these events and to place a cross (based on a design by Constantinople just before the end of the first millennium) beyond which the site of the monastery can be viewed.
The Baptist Church stands at the end of the High Street. There has been a Baptist Church in the village since 1786. The congregation first met in two converted cottages. A church was built in 1796, and in 1818 a building to seat 400 was erected. The church continued to grow and in 1861 the present building was completed with a seating capacity of 750 - the largest Baptist Church in Essex at the time.
The Village Hall was given to the parish in 1912 by Reuben Hunt. This was in return for the village agreeing to the closure of a footpath which ran from Halstead Road through the site of the Atlas Works. The Hall was extensively refurbished 1991.
A Grammar School was founded in the village in 1520. the original school buildings were in Lower Holt Street, but in 1893 the school moved to York Road into premises partly funded by Reuben Hunt. The school provided a first class education to generations of pupils until 1975, when it was amalgamated with schools in Halstead to form the Ramsey Comprehensive School. The headmasters house, boarding house and some of the original buildings can still be seen.
The Village pump was given to the village in 1853 by Mrs. Gee of Colne House. "in thankful commemoration of the absence of cholera" Unfortunately the water from the pump proved to be undrinkable.
The Friends Meeting House was built in 1674 on land donated by a local farmer, John Garrard. It is the oldest Quaker meeting house in the county and is still in regular use, having been extended in recent years.
There are a number of timber framed buildings in the High Street, but most of them have had additions to the front so the original design is obscured. 112/114 High Street, however still looks much the same as when it was built in 1520. Its projecting first floor and beam display the five pointed star, the heraldic symbol of the Earls of Oxford, who were then the Lords of the Manor.
As well as providing employment in the village, Reuben Hunt also provided housing for his workers. Some of the terraced houses he built at the turn of the century can be seen in Foundry Lane and Hayhouse Road. They were model houses at the time.
To experience the history of the village and get some exercise at the same time why not walk The "House detectives" Trail? A wonderful walk around the village with information about the villages historic buildings.
My thanks to Earls Colne Parish Council for supplying me with the above pictures and text