After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, Aubrey de Vere - who was related by marriage to William the Conqueror - was put in charge of several towns in eastern England. When his grandson was granted the title of ‘Earls of Oxford’ in 1142, the largest settlement in the river valley to the east of Halstead became knows as ‘The Earls Colne’.
The de Vere family’s coat-of-arms had a five-pointed silver star in the top left-hand quarter.
That star became a familiar badge, or logo, which they placed on any buildings that they owned or sponsored.
On the tower of St Andrew’s church, Earls Colne. The stars are placed under the battlements on all four sides. Another building that was important to the de Vere family was Colne Priory. The Priory church, which was twice as long as the parish church, became the burial place for seventeen generations of the de Vere family.
Each person’s grave was marked by an elaborate monument like this one of Thomas, the Eighth of Oxford, who dies in 1371. After the Priory was closed on the orders of Henry the Eighth in 1536, three of the family monuments were rescued from the ruins and, eventually, found their was to a private chapel at Bures.
The best-known member of the de Vere family is Edward, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford.
He was a prominent figure in his own lifetime, but interest in him grew when a book was published in 1931 claiming that he wrote plays and poems under the pen-name ‘William Shakespeare’.
His lavish life-style at the court of Queen Elizabeth the First caused him to become heavily in debt and hi Earls Colne estate had to be sold to balance the books
Josselin - Red House
The Reverend Ralph Josselin became Vicar of Earls Colne in 1640 and, from then until his death in 1683, he kept a daily record of events in the village and beyond.
A full edition of the Diary was published in 1970 and has become a valuable source of information for students of social history all over the world
Ralph had already adopted strict Puritan beliefs, so one of his first decisions as Vicar, was to remove all religious pictures and stained glass from the church.
Without such distractions, his congregations had to endure his long sermons as his Diary tells us in November 1645.
“It was wet in the morning, so we went not to church until eleven and I continued preaching until sun was set.”
It’s not surprising that more and more villagers started to leave the Church of England and join the growing group of Quakers.
They soon had enough support to build their own Burrows Road meeting house in 1674, one of the earliest in Essex and still used regularly today.
Ralph Josselin’s diary gives many details about the events of the Civil War, when troops loyal to King Charles the First were fighting a Parliamentary army led by Oliver Cromwell. On one occasion, Earls Colne became accidentally involved in the conflict.
A troop of Royalist soldiers, led by Sir Charles Lucas,
were on their way to Colchester via Braintree but were
forced to make a detour through Halstead and Earls
Colne. Ralph, who was a supporter of Cromwell,
takes up the story:
“On Monday morning, the enemy came to Colne, were resisted by our town men. No part of Essex gave them so much opposition as we did. They plundered us – and me in particular – of all that was portable except brass, pewter and bedding.”