Layer de la Haye (often spelled Layer-de-la-Haye; locally known just as Layer) is a small village of around 2,000 people near Colchester in Essex, England. While its historical significance is limited, it nevertheless has an interesting and varied history, and today it offers vibrant and community and beautiful landscapes.
History of the village
The village is thought to have been founded in Saxon times, with its original name, Legra, meaning 'lookout'; indeed, its elevation made it an ideal vantage point for the Saxons against raiding parties from the coast. Later its name changed to Leire or Leger, meaning 'mud'. A Norse word, this is likely to have referred to the soil and marshland around the village. During the time of the Norman Conquests, the village was "owned" by the de la Hayes, and its name thus changed to Layer de la Haye. Layer was ravaged by the Black Plague of the 14th Century. The Church became derelict until it was restored by monks.
In 1289, John de Rye donated 160 acres (650,000 m²) of land to St John's Abbey in Colchester. As a token of appreciation, a manor and farm were named after him (Rye Manor and Rye Farm respectively). At the end of the 15th century, the Abbey built a toll-gate house, now called the Greate House (originally the Gate House) near Malting Green.
At the time of the dissolution of the Monasteries which began in 1536, Sir Thomas Audley, who in turn became speaker of the House of Commons and Lord Chancellor, appropriated the manors of Rye and Blind Knights, together with the Mill and the patronage of the benefice. Layer Mill is mentioned in the Domesday Book as a water-mill. The mill wheel was powered by water from the Roman River.
Layer de la Haye is among the villages which suffered damage from the 1884 Colchester earthquake.