The Barrow Marshes



    Canterbury Farm

    Barrow Marsh Farm

    Chigborough Farm

    Windmill at Millbeach

    Ancient tumuli

    Tidemill at Barrow Hill

    Essex Records Office documents

    Saltworks and Saltcote Mill

    Newspaper article & letter

Saltcote Hall      Saltworks       Saltcote Maltings      Tidemill           Tidemill House          Millhouse      Mill Beach       Barrow Marsh Farmhouse



Before the seawall was completed in the early 1800s on this section of the north bank of the Blackwater Estuary, called Barrow Marsh was part of a long stretch of salt marsh from Wash Brook, Goldhanger to Heybridge. On the 1777 Chapman & Andre map the road from Goldhanger to Heybridge and Maldon (now the B1026) is shown as dotted lines crossing the marshes, indicating the road was not always passable at high tides...

Over the centuries this area of land had been divided in several ways between Gt. and Lt. Totham and Goldhanger parishes to give the inland villages access to the navigable waters and to the salt, and the Tothams each had their own north-south route to reach this part of the estuary.

Before the Reformation, this strip of marsh land was owned by Beeleigh Abbey, and during the 18th and 19th centuries most, if not all of it, was owned by the Coe, Coe-Coape and Coape-Arnold families. The main residence of the Coe and Coe-Coape family was Vaulty Manor, which is within Goldhanger parish. Many of their Deeds and other documents relating to their ownership of the Barrow Marsh features give a Goldhanger address, which in the past has led to some confusion. 

The name Barrow Marsh is derived from the presence of various mounds that were investigated in the past to see what they contained and establish their origin. It was mainly that early archaeological work resulted in their disappearance.

The word Barrow has been spelt many ways over the centuries:

Barrowe Hills, Burrowe Hills and Barrowe Marsh, Burrowe Marsh – in ERO Deeds

Barrow Hills, Borough Hills - in Maldon & the River Blackwater, by E A Fitch in 1898

Barrow Hills – in the Tithe Awards of 1820 & 1838

Burrow Marsh - Whites directory of 1848


Barrow Marsh Farm

Of the locations included on this webpage, Barrow Marsh Farm is the closest to Goldhanger and some of its land is still within Goldhanger Parish. The farmhouse was destroyed during WW-2, and today most of the land is used a caravan site for holiday makers, due to its proximity to the south facing bank of the Blackwater Estuary. In several Deeds in the Essex Records Office (ERO) the farm is called “Vans, Vanns and Vaus farm”. This map from 1895 shows Barrowmarsh farmhouse and dotted lines of the parish boundaries between Goldhanger, Lt. Totham and Gt. Totham...


a postcard view of Barrow Marsh Farm

The Windmill at Millbeach

Below is an extract from a paper written by Miller Christy and W H Dalton in 1925, published in the Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society...

A windmill with the suggestive name " Barrow-hill Mill" stood formerly close to the water-side, and adjoining the present Mill Beach restaurant, which is in the narrow tongue of Great Totham. It was probably so called because it was placed actually on one of the Barrow hills. Mr. G. W. Johnson says (History of Gt. Totham, p47 1831) that it "was erected about the year 1703" (very likely in place of an earlier mill destroyed in the Great Storm) and that, having been destroyed by a hurricane on the 30th June, 1830, it was rebuilt in the following year.

This last mill has now, in its turn, completely disappeared. Possibly the mound on which it stood is that standing on the bank of a large pool of water and on which a detached dining-hall has recently been built; or this mound may be, in whole or in part, that of which Mr. Fitch says (Maldon and the Blackwater, p31 1896) that it was "the result of Mr. Green's spending £200 to have his mill pond cleared out about fifty years ago." Its base is, we judge, three or four feet above mean sea level.

1890s sketch in... Essex Highways, Byways & Waterways

by C.R.B. Barrett.

photograph from the early 1900s

The photograph on the right above shows two buildings in the background. The closest appears to be where the Mill Beach public house is now located and was most likely the millhouse for the windmill at that time. The further building is probably the millhouse for the tidemill, still located at the east end of the tidemill pond. This can be confirmed by a close inspection of the 1873 map and the recent aerial view shown below. The Christy and Dalton extract above indicates that the “Mill Beach restaurant/dining-hall” was created around 1925.





Many postcards were produced over a twenty year period that indicate in it’s day the Mill Beach Hotel was a high-class establishment that attracted affluent clientele with the means of transport to get there. Here are four typical postcards from that period...

(select image to enlarge and zoom in)





The Tidemill

There are several indications that there was once a tidemill or watermill near the village.

In Goldhanger - an Estuary Village the late Maura Benham wrote:

"The Jarpenville family settled at Little Totham in the 12th century . . . part of the estate was handed over to Philip and Matilda in 1271 during the lifetime of Matilda's father, Roger de Jarpenville, and included was a water-mill at Goldhanger with suits and all other things appertaining to that mill".

The Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle of 1842 advertised for an apprentice...

In  Heybridge in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,  Beryl Claydon wrote:

“The tide mill, located in the section of the river known as Mill Reach, is recorded in documents as far back as 1819. As the tide rose, water was allowed to flow into three enclosed ponds. When the tide began to drop, sluices would divert the flow past the mill building and drove a large water wheel. The mill was converted to steam, but then demolished in 1892.

Sluice gates were wound up and down by turning a handle. As the gates were raised, a frame of enclosed mesh that captured eels and flounders was placed in front of the sluice gate. The eels were placed in a bucket with eel shears and covered with sacking to prevent their escape”.

The 1873 map below identifies both the Barrow Hill windmill and the Barrow Hill tidemill/watermill. Unfortunately no photograph or sketch of the tidemill has been found, but it was very likely to have been a simple wooden weather boarded structure and similar to others in the region, particularly the tidemill at Thorrington. near Brightlingsea...

1873 map

how the tidemill may have looked


aerial view of the location today

Deeds dated 1845-1851 (ERO D/DU 627/4 - and summarised below) identify both mills as belonging to Coape family.

This extract from the 1907 Essex Review, refers to a corn-riot at “Burrow-hills” in 1629...

A comparison of dates in various documents indicates this was associated with the tidemill rather than the windmill.




Although no photos or drawing of the tidemill itself have been found, there are photographs available of the tidemill house which is still at the side of the mill pond and old postcards of that are available. These pictures show:

The tidemill house in the 1930s and 40s then operating as a guest house; the tidemill house beside the millpond and close to the estuary; two views from the beach in the 1920s; and as it appears in recent years now surrounded by trees and hardly visible from public paths.

(select image to enlarge and zoom in)


The Saltworks and Saltcote Mill

The saltworks has very ancient origins and has been described as both the Heybridge saltworks and Maldon saltworks, and has also been recorded with a Goldhanger address. The orgins of saltworks at Heybridge and Goldhanger go back to the Bronze age and the formation of Redhills. “Salthouses” at Heybridge and Goldhanger were listed in the Domesday Book, along with eighteen other locations around the Blackwater Estuary. There is more about the local saltworks at...

Salt Extraction on the north bank of the Blackwater

Between 1820 and 1825 the Heybridge saltworks closed down and the business moved to the river bank in Maldon and a new mill and malting building was build at the site adjacent to the old saltworks building. The demise of the salt extraction at this location could well have been in part the result of a new seawall was built along Barrow Marsh and around the saltworks in 1807 (see letter below). A 1873 map shows the “Salt Court (Malthouse)” located close to the tidemill and adjacent to the seawall...

The photo on the left below, taken in the 1970s, shows the two saltworks buildings in the foreground in a state of dereliction with the malthouse in the background. The photo on the right, taken in 2016, shows the two saltworks buildings in the foreground, having restored and converted to a private residence, with the malthouse in the background, which was converted into residential flats and holiday accommodations in the 1980s.


Canterbury Farm

Letters & Papers of Henry VIII, dated 1553, refers to lands called “Caunterberyes in Goldaunger”...

Also ERO D/DVz/359 (shown below) dated 1569 refers to “Canterberies at Goldhanger”. These documents would suggest that the farm which is near Jacobs Farm on the Goldhanger Road and quiet close to Heybridge , was once within Goldhanger parish. It is now called Canterbury Farm. The name appears to originate from an owner or farmer called Thomas Caunterbury in the 1381, rather than any connection with Kent or an archbishop.


Chigborough Farm

Surprisingly, three references to Chigborough Farm with a Goldhanger address have been found, although the two in ERO as also associated with Great and Little Totham. However, a newspaper advert of 1855 for properties of the Coape family refers only to it being at Goldhanger. This may a reflection of its ancient connections with Beeleigh Abbey, or simply that the Coape family had a preference for a Goldhanger address.


The Ancient Tumuli

A great deal has been written about the mounds, burrows or tumuli around the Barrow Marsh area. Up to 25 were recorded and investigated in the past to establish what they contained and to determine their origin, and this early archaeological work was largely responsible for their disappearance. Many early antiquarians believed they were burial mounds resulting from the Battle of Maldon. However the two more recent reports cited below dismiss that theory. There were Tumuli at the site of Salcote Mill which were investigated when the maltings was built in the 1800s and then destroyed during the construction work.

an extract from... The Maldon Archaeological and Historical Group - Maeldune, Battle site,   by Barbara Smith:

In 'The History and Antiquities of The County of Essex' Morant noted that in 1768 there were in Totham parish, by the shore, many tumuli or mounds of earth, called Borough Hills, which seemed to be the graves of Danes or Saxons slain in assaulting and defending the area. Similarly in 'Maldon and the River Blackwater' (1898), Fitch noted that some of these tumuli were in Heybridge parish but the most noticeable were in that part of Great Totham "that runs down to Blackwater Bay".

Both authors refer to the shore-line at Mill Beach. A mound was opened in 1773, but no antiquities were found. Possibly the mounds were soil heaps resulting from the digging of the mill pond for Heybridge Tide Mill built during the 18th century.


Below is an extract from a paper written by Christy Miller and WH Dalton in 1925 and published in the Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society...

 Two Large Groups of Marsh Mounds on the Essex Coast

IV - Description and known history of the group near Maldon

This group, which was entirely destroyed long since, was known as the ‘Barrow’, or ‘Borough’ hills. It is not now possible to give any but a vague description of this group as it existed originally, owing to its complete disappearance. Fortunately, however, the group attracted the notice of several of our early local historians, and their remarks, though very meagre, give us some idea of what it was like. We have, however, the testimony of antiquaries as to what they sa w-in one case, over a century and a half ago, when some of the hills were in course of demolition.

How many hills there may have been originally, it is now impossible to say; but most of the early Essex historians speak of "many”, and one speaks of "near fifty". Frequent reference is made to the lands, pastures, and marshes "known as Barrow-hills and Barrowmarsh," in Goldhanger, Great Totham, and Little Totham. It remains to consider the various theories which have been put forward to account for these curious groups of mounds and to draw conclusions...

(a) The Burial-Mound Theory - Mr. G W Johnson adopts the view. He says of the hills that "They undoubtedly mark the burying places of the Saxons and Danes” who fell in some one of the numerous conflicts which took place in this neighbourhood between those nations. I am "inclined to consider it to have been that in which Brythnoth, Ealdorman of Northumberland and Governor of Essex, fell in 991".

However tempting the theory that these mounds are sepulchral memorials, one cannot get away from the awkward fact that, of all those which have been opened, not a single one has been found to contain anything even suggesting an interment therein. Equally awkward is the fact that none of the mounds occupy the kind of situation in which burial-mounds are generally placed-namely, on high ground; but they all occupy, on the contrary, ground so low that it is below high-tide level and, before the construction of the seawalls, must have been constantly under water. One cannot imagine either sepulchral or memorial mounds being erected in such a situation.

(b) The Cattle-Refuge Theory - If they were cattle- shelters, they would not be found closely grouped together in considerable numbers at two spots only and no other such anywhere on our marshes. 

(c) The Red-Hill Theory - Red-hills occur almost invariably close to the inner edge of the marshes, where the dry land begins to r ise. These other mounds occur, not near the rising ground, but right out on the level marshes and close to the salt water. Red- bills consist throughout of a fine burnt clay, having a curious dull-red tinge which is quite unmistakable by those familiar with it. Nevertheless, it seems possible that the mounds in question may be built upon older red hills.

(d) The Beacon-Mound Theory - This is a highly-improbable hypothesis, the position of the mounds and th eir c lose grouping being both against it.

(e) The Land-Mark or Sea-Mark Theory - It is hard to imagine that many could be required together or what particular service any could be in such low positions as those occupied by the groups in question.

(j) The Gun-Placement Theory - thrown up at the time of the Dutch invasion of 1667. It has been shown that some of the mounds existed before 1667.

It seems then, that the various hypotheses which have been put forward all fail completely.

What is the approximate age of these mounds?  - We know that the Barrow Hills group was in existence at least as early as 1574. There is no evidence that they are of great antiquity; for nothing which can be regarded as prehistoric, or even as Roman or Saxon, has been found in them.

Next, what was the probable origin and use of the mounds?  - It is admirably summed up in Mr. Francis Reader's report to the Morant Club... There is little doubt that the 'tanks' were the main object of the construction of the works; and that they may be regarded as dumps of refuse, the surplus of what was not required for forming banks around 'sun pools'.

If the tanks were the principal feature of these works, what were they used for? - Two kinds of tanks have been used commonly on the Essex marshes, of w ich we still have existing examples - one for the preservation of fish, the other to hold seawater to be evaporated by the sun, the brine thus produced being subjected to further heating by fire, thus producing salt crystals.

We cannot regard the mounds as "contingencies" or as "dumps of refuse" merely. It seems to us that the piling of waste material into mounds 15 or 20 feet high is far from being the most convenient way of disposing of it, especially where there is ample space all round for disposing of it, as there is on these marshes. It seems to us, therefore, that the mounds must have served some definite purpose, as mounds, though we are unable to indicate the nature of that purpose.


Summary of Essex Records Office held documents [with the word Goldhanger highlighted by the author]

1569 D/DVz 359 Vaizey Family of Halstead and North Essex

Deed of Livery... including manor of Fallyfantes ... grange of Langwyke, in previous possession of Monastery of Coggeshall ... Canterberies in Goldhanger, previously in possession of monastery of Beeleigh.

1646 D/DU 1675/1/2

Toft and 40a. of ‘upp Lande’ and 40a. of marsh called Barrowe Hills otherwise Burrowe Hills and barrowe Marsh otherwise Burrowe Marsh in Great Totham., Little Totham, and Goldhanger, now occupied by William Sidey.

1676 ERO D/DU 1675/1/1-35  Deeds of Barrow Hill Farm, Goldhanger

Messuage called `the salt coate house’ and loft called Barrow Hill otherwise Burrow Hills Barrow Marsh otherwise Burrow Marsh, containing 80a., in Great Totham, Little Totham, Heybridge and Goldhanger

1697 D/DU 1675/1/14 D/DU 1675/1/1-35  Deeds of Barrow Hill Farm, Goldhanger

Assignement of remainder of mortgage term (demise for 1000 years)

(i) Francis Freshfield mariner of Colchester and Richard Waller merchant of Colchester; (ii) Charles Coe grocer of Maldon; (iii) William Coe linen draper of Maldon

1792 extract from Origins and failure of New South-End,

written by J. R. Smith and published by ERO & Univ. of Essex in 1991

“ 1792 the Pattison family began operating a bathing machine and lodgings at Burrow Hills in Goldhanger”.

1811-1817 ERO D/DU 627/14 

Messuage, windmill, watermill called Burrow Hill Mills, granaries and land (10 acres) in Great and Little Totham.

1819 ERO D/B 3/3/664/1 Court Papers avoid payment of tolls on goods imported by ship and that Thomas Plume ...keepeth and maytayneth a Wharfe late made and Heigh Bridge...and the said Wm.Syday hath also lately erected and made and keepeth a Wharfe at Barrow hills [in Goldhanger]... at which Wharfe in every of the said five years now last past he hath landed charged and discharged bought and sold Iron two hundred quarters of Wheate, two hundred quarters of Rye, two hundred quarters of Malte, two hundred quarters of Oates, two hundred loades of Weed and other Goods and Wares.

1845-1851  ERO D/DU 627/4 Deeds of Coape Family In Goldhanger

Deeds of Chigborough Farm (113 acres) in Goldhanger and Great and Little Totham; Barrow or Barrow Marsh alias Vans Farm (91 acres) in Goldhanger and Little Totham; Cobbs and Sewells Farm (101 acres), lands [21 acres] [field-names] and marshes (38 acres) near Goldhanger Wash; Ovesey Island Farm (242 acres) in Great Totham; Vaultys Farm (95 acres) in Little Totham and Goldhanger; The Wash Farm alias Gardners Farm and Decoy Farm (190 acres) and saltings (80 acres) in Great and Little Totham; messuage, windmill and watermill called Barrow or Burrow Hill Mills, granaries and lands (10 acres) in Great and Little Totham and Heybridge; and messuage with salt office and yards called the Salt Cote and land (1 acre) at back of Malting and adjoining Salt Cote March and Salt Pond, and cottage in Little Totham, all in Heybridge and Little Totham.

1824 and 1839 D/DOp B17 Letters and draft leases

Burrow Marsh otherwise Vaus Farm in Goldhanger and Little Totham.

1850 D/DU 1675/1/20

Henry Coe Coape esq. of Goldhanger and James Weston gentleman of Fenchurch St. City of London to Rt. Hon. Lady Adelaide Georgiana Fitz Clarence spinster of Addision Road Kensington Middlesex.

Messuage called Chigborough Farm (113a. Or.7p.) in Goldhanger, Great Totham and Little Totham, occupied by Sarah, Elizabeth and Anna Carter; freehold parts of messuage called the Barrow or Barrow Marsh otherwise Vanns (94a. or 27p.) in Goldhanger and Little Totham, occupied by Thomas Challis Carter.

1918 D/P 112/28/1 Sale catalogue

Sale catalogue of Barrow Hill Farm (90 acres) in Goldhanger


Newspaper article and letter

Advertisement in the Essex Herald of 1855 for the sale of properties of the Coape family at Goldhanger and Barrow Marsh...

Below is part of a letter dated 1807, published in the Transactions of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce Society, from a William Lawrence, after being awarded a silver medal for his achievements in building a seawall across the Barrow Marshes. The new wall enabled the saltworks to continue to operate, but admits that several tumuli were destroyed. (in fact it only operated for another 14 years)...

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