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A very short history of Newport

Newport from Debden Road

The earliest certain mention of the name Newport for this village appears in the Domesday Book of 1086, although there is evidence of human habitation going back possibly to the paleolithic period. The name means a new town; ‘port’ was often a name for a market in Saxon times, and Newport did have a flourishing market. The village grew and prospered until around AD1300, after which it declined and its market ceased; it was overtaken in importance by its near neighbour, Saffron Walden.

Until the 20th century Newport was mostly dependent upon agriculture, although a wide variety of occupations have been followed in the past, notably in the leather trade and in woolcombing and later, in malting.

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Crown House Monks Barn

It is likely that the first church here was built in the late Saxon period, but the present church (well worth a visit) was built in the first half of the 13th century. There are many attractive old buildings - the oldest apart from the church dates from the late 14th century. Perhaps the two most interesting are The Crown House (mostly late 16th century), with its 17th century pargetting, and Monks Barn, a Wealden type house dating from the 15th century and featuring an oriel window supported by a carved wooden bracket.

In 1588 Newport Free Grammar School was founded by Dame Joyce Frankland; although it has retained its name it began to take boys of all abilities in 1976, and is now fully comprehensive and also co-educational.

Until comparatively recently the village had six large mixed farms. The Enclosure Acts of the 18th century had no effect here; Newport was covered by the 1856 Enclosure Act and it was not until 1861 that the last of the open fields were enclosed and medieval strip farming finally came to an end.

Newport used to contain a very large royal fish pond and hence was known as Newport Pond, but the pond had dried up by the 16th century and that name has fallen into disuse. King Charles II probably drove through the village on his way to Newmarket and we know that Samuel Pepys visited a house here, although, tantalisingly, we do not know which one. On the creation of a turnpike trust in 1744 the road was greatly improved. This brought new people and new trade to the village, as did the arrival of the railway in 1845.

Until the second World War, Newport was heavily influenced by the great estates of Shortgrove Hall and Quendon Hall each of which had substantial land and property holdings in the Village. These provided substantial employment for farm labourers, gamekeepers etc and in the case of Shortgrove for gardeners, carpenters and both male and female house staff. However, the decline of the estates, the effect of agricultural revolution and the sale of much of the farms and other properties has almost entirely removed their influence.

The greatest changes have occurred recently. 100 years ago about 900 people, largely agricultural workers, lived in some 220 dwellings. By 1971 the population had increased somewhat to over 1,200. Since then all the livestock farms have closed, fields, orchards and farm premises in the centre of the village have been built over, and more than 2,200 people now occupy over 900 houses. Today, scarcely any Newportonians are engaged in agriculture; instead our occupations cover a diversity of industries, mostly outside the village, many commuting to Cambridge or London. Newport is fortunate to have retained it’s Station, Post Office, Village Stores, Plant Nursery & Florist, Men & Ladies Hairdressers, a number of retail and service businesses and enjoys a substantial Medical Centre.

Newport has a lively community with activities for all, ranging from Scouting to Local History. These are identified in Newport News, our twice-yearly village magazine. This is the principal medium for publication of local history research in the locality. including  A Village in Time: the history of Newport, Essex.