An extract from ‘Jottings’ by EHL Reeve written in 1881 and now available in a booklet entitled ‘After Dinner Anecdotes’.
Mr Oldham, sometime rector of the parish of Stondon Massey [1791 – 1841] was a man reverenced far and wide for his great abilities. He had been brought up to the Law before taking Orders and his proficiency in this branch of learning raised him in the eyes of his parishioners and neighbours. Veterans of the village can recollect fours-in-hand driving up to his rectory and carrying off legal advice from this clerical lawyer.
Mr Oldham built the present rectory house in a style possibly of his own peculiar. Certainly if not his own – it is peculiar; The rector – so the story goes – was one day inspecting his laurel bushes by the front gate when some passers by made rather rude remarks upon the architecture of the buildings observing finally that “the man who built that house ought to be hanged”. “But he’s not hanged yet” said the old gentleman, starting up from his place of concealment. Imagine the traveller’s horror!
Mr Oldham was strict and stern, but kind-hearted and somewhat eccentric it would seem. I have from Mr Noble a tradesman of Ongar that the Rev. gentleman was very fond of snuff and to save trouble to him domestics had a tub of water in his study wherein a number of handkerchiefs could be always soaking and washing in numbers. “We would have them to dry before his fire!”
This same Mr Oldham erected a tomb for himself in Stondon churchyard and had the inscription relating to himself placed upon it in his lifetime, only the date of his decease remaining for his relatives to supply. Now and again he would visit the spot, inviting his friends to come with him, and see “his house”.