The farmstead of Shaws, called a Manor from 1542, derived from the holding of John at Shaws in Greenstead, recorded in 1269. A John atte Shawe is recorded in Patent Rolls of 13 Edward II (1319). The name Shaws, meaning woods, groves (Old English sceaga, from Old Norse skogr forest), suggests it was an assart¹. It was held of St. Botolph's priory in 1311, and passed into the priory's possession between 1318 and 1351, perhaps on the death of John at Shaws, who was last recorded in 1337. The priory appears to have cleared more woodland: at Shaws and at Rovers Tye in 1435 pasture was overloaded with 260 sheep. By 1542 Shaws, on the boundary between Colchester and Ardleigh, was the centre of an extensive estate comprising lands and rents in St Botolph's, All Saints, St Giles's, St Runwald's, St James's, St Peter's, St Nicholas's, St Leonard's, St Mary Magdelene's and Greenstead Parishes in Colchester, and in Ardleigh, Bromley, Tendring, Little Bentley, Elmstead, and Wivenhoe, presumably acquired by the priory at various times. At the Dissolution of the Monastries, it was granted to Sir Thomas Audley, later Lord Audley, and escheated to the Crown on his death in 1545.
The Crown retained the manorial rights, but not the demesne land, until at least 1596, and probably until circa 1626, when they were sold to George Whitmore, alderman and later Lord Mayor of London (died 1654). He was succeeded by his son William Whitmore (died 1678) and grandson, also William Whitmore, who died without issue in 1684. Shaws was then sold, with William's other Essex estate, Wrabness, to Sir Thomas Davall, who held it in 1698. On his death in 1712 it passed to his son, another Sir Thomas Davall (died 1714), who was succeeded by his infant son, Thomas (died 1718).
On the death of the last Thomas Davall, Shaws, together with Wrabness, passed to Daniel Burr, cousin and devisee under the will of the second Sir Thomas Davall. Burr sold the manor on or before 1749 to Nathanial Garland (died 1756) who was succeeded by his son Louis Peak Garland (died 1780) and by Louis Peak Garland's son Nathaniel (died 1845). Nathaniel's son Edgar Wallace Garland died without issue in 1902 and was succeeded by his nephew Arthur Nathaniel Garland, who was Lord of the Manor in 1928, by which time most of the manorial rights had been sold.
The Crown granted the manorial demesne, later Shaws Farm, in 1545 to William Beriff, a Colchester clothmaker, and John Moulton. The majority of the farm was in St Botolph's Colchester, but it extended into Ardleigh. Beriff may have built Crockleford Mill by Salary Brook on the farm: whilst the mill was not listed with the farm on his death, it was held by the holders of the farm in 1647, 1810 and 1811. Beriff died in 1595 in sole possession of Shaws which he left to his son, another William Beriff. By 1640 the farm had passed to Edmund Church. When he died in 1649, his lands were under sequestration for recusancy and Shaws does not seem to be amongst those recovered by his daughters Anne and Mary. By 1706 the farm belonged to William Hall; he sold Shaws before 1748 to Thomas Kilham of London (died 1753) who devised it to his son Leonard Kilham. Leonard, of St James, Westminster, died in 1799 leaving the farm to his cousin John Roberts (died 1820). In 1837 Robert's widow Sarah sold Shaws to Sir Thomas Mash, the principal mortgagee.
In 1821 Shaws Farm comprised 181 acres: 171 acres arable, 7 acres of former meadow presumably along Crockleford Brook, 1.5 acres of woodland, and the site of the farmhouse and buildings. A survey of the manorial farms (ie Shaws Farm, Rovers Tye Farm, and Dilbridge Farm) in 1824 showed that the tenants followed a rotation of turnips, barley, clover, wheat, and, if manured, oats, but poor drainage in places diminished yields.
¹Assart: a piece of woodland converted to arable by grubbing up the trees and undergrowth.
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