Hawkwell is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but not as ‘Hawkwell’, it is Hacuuella or Hechuuella. In ancient records it has been spelt in various ways, such as Hacwell, Hachewell, Heckwella and Hawkeswell. In 1858, Hackwell was used on a deed in connection with the Manor of Clements. It could be derived from Hawk and Well, although Philip Benton in the late 19th century suggested that it could be from the German ‘Hochwell’, or High Well. There were many wells in the Parish, but the High Well was the one near the White Hart. There was also one at the top of Victor Gardens and one in Ironwell Lane, which was called the Iron Well because the water was hard, compared with the soft water of the High Well. Also Hacuuella, or Hechuuella, could be from the Saxon words for “bend in the stream – the truth is hidden in the mists of time!”
Our entry in the Domesday Book is as follows: “Pirot holds Hawkwell from Eudo, which Wulfmer held before 1066 as a manor, for 3.5 hides less 15 acres (1 hide = 120 acres) Then 11 villagers, now 8; always 5 smallholders. Then 2 slaves, now 3. Always 2 ploughs in lordship. Then 6 men’s ploughs, now 5. Meadow 4 acres; woodland, 10 pigs. Then 2 cobs (sturdy horses), 5 cattle, 102 sheep, 20 pigs; now 16 cattle, 106 sheep, 20 pigs, 2 beehives.” Value then £6; now £7. (This entry has been translated into English.)
Another mystery is the age of the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Philip Benton estimated the date to be about 1400, but others think it could be older -perhaps 1300. William de Bayeuse is the name of the first Rector, but the date cannot be confirmed. The second, Alexander de Bayeuse, dates back to 1323. In the church porch, and as it is listed in the church records, was once kept part of the top of a stone coffin believed to be of a former Rector of the church and dated 1280 AD. Perhaps this belonged to the first Rector? This could confirm the earlier date.
There were two Manors in Hawkwell. Clements Hall Manor took its name from Philip Clement who owned it in 1440. Many years later, Thomas White was the owner. He was the brother of the Rev. Gilbert White who wrote the very well-known book, ‘The Natural History of Selborne’. The present house, a timber framed, weather boarded building is 16th century and has a restored fireplace with a carved wooden mantel and some 17th century panelling.
The jurisdiction of the Manor of Hawkwell became extinct, but in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1005-66), Ulmar, a free man, owned the Parish and at the time of the Domesday Book survey, Eudo and his under tenant Pirot, together with Suene (Sweyne) had land here. Pirot’s successors continued at Hawkwell Hall until 1340. Hawkwell Hall is now a farm and can be seen from St. Mary’s Church. The present house was built in 1833.
There are several other old houses in the parish. Mount Bovers Farmhouse, built approximately in 1448, was at one time owned by Christ’s College, Cambridge. Sweynes (Swaines) Farm (known by Philip Benton as “Porters”) is 16th century, with later alterations, timber framed and black weather boarded and is the Main Road opposite Mount Bovers Lane. Sweynes Farm House, now the priest’s house of St. Teresa’s Roman Catholic Church in Rochford, is in Ashingdon Road. This is c1500 with later alterations and additions, also timber framed, 18th century, red brick-faced and part of the Lord Rich Estate (1557). Holly Tree Cottage is mid-17th century with later alterations and additions, timber framed and weather boarded and resides in Main Road, Hawkwell. Benton’s Cottages, just past the White Hart, were three clap boarded cottages with rope staircases and peg tiles on the roof. They were pulled down in 1936 and the present house called “Benton’s” was built using materials from the old cottages, some of the bricks were said to be 400 years old. The White Hart, the earliest date found so far is 1792 when James Benton was the inn holder. This building does not appear to show on the map by Chapman & Andre of 1777. In the mid-18th century a stage coach went three times a week through Ironwell Lane, which was then the main road, and on to London. So perhaps the date of 1792 was right for the White Hart to appear, to take advantage of the new influx of travellers!