History: Shenfield Common - Brentwood’s gem!

PUBLISHED: 12:06 20 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:07 20 September 2018

Shenfield Common. Picture: Sylvia Kent

Shenfield Common. Picture: Sylvia Kent

Sylvia Kent

This week, historian and vice-president of the Brentwood Writers’ Circle Sylvia Kent tells us about what makes Shenfield Common so special.

Shenfield Common. Picture: Sylvia KentShenfield Common. Picture: Sylvia Kent

This 40 acres of greensward, thicket and woodland, is within easy walking distance of the town.

Fringed by a pretty millpond, it is one of the jewels in Brentwood’s crown.

The recorded history of the Common can be traced back to 1042 when the area was known as ‘Scenefelda’.

King Edward l was on the throne at the time when Bodd, a Saxon freeman, administered the land, followed by Eustace, Earl of Bologne.

In latter centuries, Lord Petre’s family owned Shenfield Common.

This was the time of badger-baiting, cock-fighting and bare-knuckle combats, which brought the town’s citizens to the Common for these now outlawed events.

Brentwood writer John Larkin wrote: “The Common afforded amusement to our forefathers in various ways.

“On Good Friday, wrestling matches between the neighbouring parishes took place – also prize-fights.

“On one occasion Lord Petre presented a purse of money to the victor – a Brentwood man – who fought and defeated a Weald man… for the championship of the neighbourhood.”

Parts of the common were sold off during Victorian times.

In 1840, when railway-engineering work began, navvies excavated the deep cutting, creating the famous “tips”.

In 1881, commoner’s rights were extinguished so that the site could be made into a public park.

Four oak trees on the grassland area of the common were planted by four parish chairmen in 1900 to commemorate the approaching 20th Century; the avenue of lime trees through the centre of the woodland was planted in 1895 to give work to the unemployed; trees that line the adjacent Seven Arches Road were planted in 1901 to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII.

A bandstand once stood on the Common.

Nowadays, the common is open for the public to roam, play sport, hold band concerts and is now the home of the famous annual Strawberry Fair.

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