Listed below is a selection of books about the history of our locality, or which contain passages relating to it. We are indebted to Eric Hall of Layer Breton for compiling by far the greatest part of the list. If you would like to suggest other books for inclusion please send details of title, author, publisher, date published, ISBN number together with brief comments or a summary, to Geoff Russell Grant (see Contact page). We do not undertake to include all recommendations.

A good collection of local history books is available for study at the Colchester Local Studies Library. This is on the first floor of Colchester Central Library at 21 Trinity Square, Colchester (Tel: 01206-245900).

Another important resource for researching local history is the Essex Record Office at Wharf Road, Chelmsford, CM2 6YT. Telephone: 01245-244644. Website:

Birch, Layer Breton and Layer Marney History

The Churches - Old and New - of Birch, and Layer Breton. T B Millatt
Note: Tom Millatt was sometime Headmaster of Birch School and had a keen interest in local history. The booklet has been out of print for many years but there may be a copy in Colchester Library. In the interests of making the text accessible to a wider audience it can now be viewed here and/or downloaded for the purposes of private study or research. Use this link to view it. For download details see the Download Page

Glimpses into the History of Three Villages - Birch, Layer Breton and Layer Marney.
Written by the late Mrs Jean Eames in about 1988, this document records some local history research she did with a group of friends. The main focus is on the late 19th century. Eric Hall in considering doing an update with information available from recently released census returns.
The text is available as a download - for details see the Download Page.

Night Flyer. L Brandon DSO, DFC & Bar.
William Kimber & Co, London. 1961.
Note: the author was the navigator of the aircraft which shot down the Layer Breton German aircraft.

Margery Allingham. Julia Thorogood.
Heinemann, London, 1991.
Note: Miss Allingham spent some of her early life in Layer Breton and later lived at Tolleshunt D'Arcy.

The Oaken Heart. Margery Allingham
Sarsen Publishing, 1987.

Layer de la Haye History

The Story of Layer-de-la-Haye. Mary Hopkirk.
Published privately, 1934. Printed by The Essex County Telegraph, 38 Head Street, Colchester.
Notes: This booklet traces the history of Layer de la Haye since the eleventh century. Mary Hopkirk was the wife of the Revd Frank Stuart Hopkirk, MA, Vicar of Layer de la Haye from 1932 to 1936. A few village residents still have a copy or photocopy of the booklet.
The text is available as a download - for details see the Download Page

Memories of a Village Chapel. Mrs H J Hayhoe
Published privately, 1952. Printed by The Manor Press, Colchester.
Notes: This pamphlet is about the Methodist Chapel at Layer de la Haye which was built in 1864. The Chapel no longer exists, having been demolished in 1970.
The text is available as a download - for details see the Download Page

A History of the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Layer de la Haye. Canon James Allen
Published privately. Second Edition 1972. Third Edition 1978.
Notes: Canon Allen was Vicar of the parish when he wrote his history. It is believed the first edition was written in about 1965. It draws heavily on Mary Hopkirk's booklet for the history up to 1934, but adds history about the church in the period from the mid-1930s.
The text is available as a download - for details see the Download Page

Layer de la Haye - A Special Village. Basil Loven.
Layer de la Haye Environmental Group. 1990.

Aspects of Abberton Reservoir. Andrew Thompson.
Essex Wildlife Trust, 1996.

Symonds' manuscript notes on Essex churches,
which include notes on Layer de la Haye, are in the possession of the College of Heralds.

Other Local Villages' Histories

The Parish of Stanway - People & Places c1700-c1840. Christina Edwards.
Belhus Books, 2001. ISBN 978-0-9541896-0-0.

Lexden & Winstree Union Workhouse (St.Albright's Hospital). Christina Edwards.
44 pages. ISBN 978-0-9541896-1-7. Published by Belhus Books, 1 Guide Post Cottages, Warren Lane, Stanway, Colchester CO3 0LL.

Stanway c1900-c1920 - A Community & its Fallen Men. Christina Edwards.
ISBN 978-0-9541896-2-4. Published by Belhus Books, 1 Guide Post Cottages, Warren Lane, Stanway, Colchester CO3 0LL.

Shrub End, Looking Back. G Pettit & R Cooper. 1998.

Tiptree, One Day a City. Elaine Bamford. 1996.

The Creation of a Village - Tiptree. F Boot and A Davonport. 1977.

Easthorpe, Essex. A R West. 1989.

Not Just a Name - Mersea Island's Fallen of the First World War. Roger Bullen.
Mersea Island Museum Publications, 2000.

Colchester History

Colchester 1815-1914. A F J Brown.
Essex Record Office, 1980.

Essex History and Miscellaneous

The Victoria History of Essex. Volume X
This major reference book covers all aspects of local history (population, communications, domestic architecture, manors and estates, agriculture, industry, local government, poor relief, churches, education and charities) from earliest known times to the present day. Volume X covers 21 parishes in the area of Lexden Hundred - to the north and west of Colchester - including Birch and other nearby parishes but not Layer Breton, Layer Marney, or Layer de la Haye. The volume should be available now in the major reference libraries.
Further information is available from the County Editor: Janet Cooper, Dept of History, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ. Email
330pages, 20 pages of plates, over 40 maps and line drawings.
Volume X published 2001. ISBN 0 19 722795 3. 85.

The history and the antiquities of the most ancient town and borough of Colchester, in the county of Essex. Philip Morant.
Bowyer, London, 1748.
2nd edition: T Osborne, etc, London, 1768. This second edition is more than double the size of the first.
Notes: Philip Morant was Rector of St Mary's Church, Colchester. Much of the material for his history was drawn from collections of William Holman, a Congregational Minister of Halstead.

The history and the antiquities of the County of Essex (2 vols). Philip Morant.
London, 1768. Reprinted Chelmsford 1816.

A new and complete history of Essex from a late survey. By a gentleman. (6 vols). Peter Muilman (of Castle Hedingham).
Chelmsford, 1770-72
Note: Like Philip Morant, Muilman also drew much of his material from the collections of William Holman of Halstead.

Reports on Archidiaconal Visitations are in the keeping of the Essex Record Office.

Essex. Arthur Mee. 1942.

Prosperity and Poverty, Rural Essex 1700-1815. A F J Brown.
Essex Record Office, 1996.

Meagre Harvest. A F J Brown.
Essex Record Office 1990

The Essex Landscape. John Hunter.
Essex Record Office, 1999.

Elizabethan Life. F G Emmison.
Essex Record Office, 1991

The Great English Earthquake. Peter Haining.
Robert Hale, London, 1976.

Earthquake in Essex 1884 being extracts from the Essex Chronicle in 1884.
Westcliffe Litho Co in 1974.

History through Essex Town and Village Signs (3 volumes). Keith Lovell.

In the Land of the Tolles. Keith Lovell.

A View into Essex. Stan Jarvis. 1979.

A Guide to Essex Churches. Edited by C Starr. 1980.

A Discovery of Old Essex. R Pusey. 1985.

Country Copper. Supt G H Totterdell, Essex County Police.
George G Harrap & Co Ltd, London, 1956.

Essex Airfields in the Second World War. Graham Smith.
Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire, 1996.

Church Bells of Essex. Deedes and Walters. 1909

Page updated: 02 DEC 2010