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The Royal Liberty of Havering, also known as Havering-atte-Bower, was an ancient manor and liberty whose former area now forms part of, and gives its name to, the London Borough of Haveringmarker in Greater Londonmarker. The manor was in the possession of the Crown from the 11th to the 19th centuries and was the location of Havering Palacemarker from the 13th to the later 17th century.


The name Havering is recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book as Haueringas and means 'the settlement of the family or followers of a man called Hæfer', an ancient folk name. From the 13th century the suffix -atte-Bower was added and means 'at the royal residence'. Haveringmarker and Havering-atte-Bowermarker continue to be used as the names of a London borough and a small settlement respectively.


The liberty was formed some time between 1066 and 1465 from the Havering manor of the Becontree hundred of Essex. It bordered Chaffordmarker hundred to the east, Ongarmarker hundred to the north and the reduced Becontree hundred to the west. The River Thames formed a short boundary with Kentmarker to the south.

Its status as a Royal liberty was confirmed by a charter issued in 1465 by King Edward IV to the area surrounding the royal manor house of Havering Palacemarker. This event was celebrated by the issue of a copper token for currency in the late 18th century, which uniquely among the many coins of that era bears the date 1465. The charter gave residents of the area freedom from taxation, its own local magistrates and gaol, and, earlier, freedom from the service of writs by the Essex Quarter Sessions. The famous Romford Marketmarker was another privilege that was guaranteed under this arrangement.

The government of the liberty was in the hands of a high steward, deputy steward, clerk of the peace and coroner. The high steward was chosen by the lord of the manor. The office of deputy steward was instituted by the 1465 charter, being appointed by the high steward. The clerk of the peace and coroner were elected by the tenants and inhabitants of the liberty. In 1848 other officers of the corporation were a high bailiff, under bailiff, two head constables and nine petty constables. Gallows Cornermarker was used as the place of execution in the liberty.

The manor and liberty originally comprised the large ancient parish of Hornchurch which included the chapelries of Havering-atte-Bower and Romford. However in the 1780s Havering-atte-Bower was split off as a separate parish and in 1849 Romford also became a parish in its own right. In 1831 the total population of the liberty was 6,812.


The manor was sold by the Crown in 1828 and the right to appoint the high steward and justices of the liberty was transferred to the private owners. During the 19th century ad-hoc boards, such as unions for poor law or public health, started to erode the powers of the liberty. It was unreformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 and the Municipal Corporations Act 1883 made provision for the liberty to be absorbed into the county of Essex, but did not force the amalgamation. Under the Local Government Act 1888 the property of the liberty was merged with that of the county, and the offices of high and deputy steward were no longer filled. The separate court of quarter sessions, limited to three justices, continued to exist, and a high bailiff and coroner continued to be appointed.

On October 21, 1891 the Essex quarter sessions resolved "that a petition be presented to Her Majesty praying that an Order in Council be made to unite the Liberty of Havering-atte-Bower to the County of Essex, so far as the same is not already united by the Local Government Act, 1888." The order in council, under the Liberties Act 1850, was made on May 9, 1892, and came into effect on July 1, 1892. The last high bailiff was paid a pension of £3 for life, while the coroner became a county employee.

In 1894, under the Local Government Act 1894, the central part of the Romford parish, named Romford Urban formed the Romford Urban Districtmarker while the remaining parts of the liberty went on to form part of Romford Rural Districtmarker. The modern day London Borough of Havering, created in 1965, takes its name from the liberty and incorporates the original area and other territories formerly part of Chafford hundred, including North Ockendonmarker, Rainhammarker, Upminstermarker and Wenningtonmarker. Modern day references to the liberty include the Liberty Shopping Centremarker and Royal Liberty Schoolmarker.


  1. The People's History of Essex, Chelmsford, 1861
  2. The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales, Vol. II, 1848, p.288
  3. The Essex Review, January 1892 (transcription at, accessed March 26, 2008
  4. London Gazette, issue 26287, published 13 May 1892

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