History of the present village of Great Warley
Anglo-Saxon in origin and originally known as ‘Wareleia’, the name changed to ‘Warley Magna’ and was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086, when there was a population of 38. Great Warley once covered an area seven miles long and three miles wide, but it is now much smaller, with parts of it having been incorporated into Cranham, Warley and Little Warley.
Until 1539 the two village manors, Warley Magna and Warley Franks, were owned by the Abbess of Barking. The original village was centred round these two manors, which were situated south of the present A127. It gradually moved to higher ground and was established where it is today, with the village green as its centre. Parish records date from 1538.
Great Warley now has a population of about 450 people. It is the third highest point in Essex, at 368 feet above sea level. There are miles of public footpaths and bridleways through some of the prettiest scenery in south-west Essex.
The centre of the village is a conservation area, and 31 listed buildings are to be found in and around the village.
The house ‘Wallets’ was built in the 15th century and is said to have acquired its name from the wealthy pilgrims journeying south to Canterbury and leaving their monies at Wallets before crossing the dangerous plain and marshes of the Thames estuary.
‘Warley Place’ was once the home of the Victorian lady gardener Ellen Willmott. The house was built in the early 18th Century, with 19th century additions. Miss Willmott died in 1934, and the house was pulled down in 1939. The estate, which once had the most wonderful gardens, is now a nature reserve under the care of the Essex Wildlife Trust.
‘Goldings’, the house now known as the de Rougemont Manor Hotel, was bought by Evelyn Heseltine in 1875. It has been enlarged several times since then. Several of the cottages in the village were built in the 1880s as part of the Goldings estate.
‘Blake House’, across Dark Lane from the Thatchers pub, was once a corn merchants’ store, and later served as the village tea room.
Until recently ‘the Forge’ in Great Warley Street housed a thriving blacksmith’s business. Seven new homes have been built on this site, the first new houses to be built in the village for a long time.
Great Warley is traditionally a farming area, and it is a thriving rural community. It has no shop, but it has a pub, two hotels, two restaurants, three small industrial areas, and a cricket ground with spectacular views over the Thames to Kent. It has an active Conservation Society which has done much to safeguard the rural district and village character.