It is believed that Little Clacton has its roots in the 11th century when settlers turned north from the track which stretched from St. Osyth to Little Holland at a place known as Bockings Elm. The land was divided into two estates, which were given to the Essex families of Bovills and Engaynes. These two farms stood opposite each other in what is now called St. Osyth Road West. Later the land, where the village of Little Clacton now stands, was parcelled out to a group of settlers who had made their home there. Bovills Hall, with part of the farm’s original moat, still stands on the site and Gidea Hall, re-built after a fire, is on the site of Engaynes Hall. The oldest houses still in existence in the village were farmhouses when this was a flourishing agricultural area. Other notable buildings are Saint James Church, The Blacksmith’s Arms; The Methodist Chapel- built in 1851- and the old school, which is now an art studio, erected in 1868.
In 1806 there was a murder in the village when a fight broke out at the Blacksmith’s Arms between local men and the Cameron Highlanders from barracks in Weeley. Alexander McDonald was chased along The Street where he was set upon and died. His grave is in Weeley Churchyard. This fight was during the St. James’ Day Fair, which was held annually in front of the Blacksmith’s Arms until 1872 when it was abolished.
In 1830 there were riots among the farm workers who marched to Lodge Farm and smashed a threshing machine that they thought was threatening their livelihood. In the 19th century Little Clacton had all the shops and businesses needed for day to day living. There was a grocery and drapery shop near the churchyard, shoemaker, dressmaker, pig dealer, wheelwrights, coal carters and a basket maker, who incidentally was blind. On the other side of the road there was a butcher, grocer, alehouse, the smithy and the village saw-pit.
In 1935 the Lord Lieutenant of Essex opened the Rifle Club Hall, built by volunteers and public subscription. This building, after some alterations, is now the Village Hall. During the two wars troops were billeted in the village and in 1920 Lord Byng unveiled the War Memorials in St. James and beside the Methodist Chapel. The names of those who died in the Second World War have since been added and the stone memorial moved to The Green. During the latter half of World War 2 some American soldiers were billeted in Orchard Lea, which was once the Street Farm.
The first Parish Council Meeting was held in the Old School (now the art studio) on 1st January 1895 with seven councillors elected consisting of four farmers, one publican, one carrier and one pork butcher. (Today there are 13.) A Parish Clerk was elected, a Mr. Eldred, his total salary being £17.10p. The first meeting did not attract much attention from parishioners, only two present and this seems to have set the subsequent pattern up to the present day accept when matters of public concern are on the agenda.
It was not until 1925 that three ladies were nominated to join the council for the first time. (They were not successful.) For a further 20 years it continued to be men only but in 1945 our first lady councillor, a Mrs. Grace Wagstaff, joined them and in 1994 Miss Nora Pannell was elected as the first lady chairman. Today it is much more evenly balanced.
Over the years the range of the council activities have increased. From being a public health body it has become involved directly or indirectly in nearly every local concern, has served as a means of communication between the parishioners and other authorities. From time to time committees have been appointed to deal with specific areas.
Meetings were transferred to Engaines School when it was opened in 1914 and to the Village Hall in 1967. Today it meets at the Youth and Community Centre (part of the Parish fields complex) on the first Monday in the month generally at 7.30pm. Here are a few dates taken from past minutes:
1920s Roads tarred for the first time.
1920s Main water scheme laid. (Taking over from pumps.)
1930s Completed the laying on of electricity.
1940s Part street lighting.
1950s Main drainage.
1993 By-pass started. (This was first mentioned in 1928.)
One of the first items to receive attention from the newly formed Parish Council (1894) was the Hubbard’s Charity, a farm of twenty six acres that was situated on the border of St. Osyth. The rent of the farm, for three hundred years, had been expended for the benefit of poor parishioners.
Under the Parish Council the charity ran smoothly but then in 1944 they offered the farm for sale for the sum of £640.
Shortly after the sale Councillor Harvey gave a gift of £100. Hence this fund became known as the Hubbard & Harvey Charity. This is still functioning today.