Nostalgia: The history behind the name of Havering’s River Ingrebourne
PUBLISHED: 09:00 24 February 2013
Havering’s main river is a little-known secret, says Prof Ged Martin, a local history enthusiast who lives in Ireland.
The Ingrebourne rises in small headwaters in Navestock and South Weald before making a ten-mile journey to the Thames at Rainham.
The earliest mention comes in a charter of the boundaries of Upminster Hall manor from 1062, four years before William the Conqueror.
There it’s called “Ingceburne” – probably the river of somebody called “Inga”.
But for the next 600 years, we can’t find that name.
Official documents rarely mentioned the river at all.
A document from 1247 called the stream “Haveringesheth” – “sheath” in the sense of a divider.
In 1269, it was “the water which divides Havering and Upminster”.
Unlike the London Borough Havering, the royal manor was just the land on the west bank of the river.
Around 1285, field names near Hacton suggest that it was just called “Bourne”.
Another clue comes from the bridge at Shepherd’s Hill, Harold Wood. This was called Cocklebourne Bridge in 1720, and the name can be traced back (as “Cocklebone”) to a murder in 1659, when a woman was found strangled there.
Cockle was a local surname.
A law case in 1688 called the Ingrebourne below Hacton bridge “Raineham river”.
The Ingrebourne estuary, Rainham Creek, was called “Wadeflet” in 1206.
So how did the 1062 name come back into use?
In 1661, a historian called William Dugdale published old charters in a heavy tome called the Monasticon. One of them was the 1062 Upminster document.
The Monasticon would not have been bedtime reading in Havering cottages. It must have been somebody important – a landowner or a clergyman – who spotted the old river name and thought it sounded good.
Dugdale used an antique typeface for his old charters – and this must have confused one local reader!
William Derham, learned rector of Upminster from 1689 to 1735, was the first person to note that Ingceburn was “now written Ingreburne”.
Essex historian Philip Morant in 1768 called it “the rivulet Ingreburn”.
White’s Directory of Essex in 1848 has the modern pronunciation if not quite our spelling – “Ingerbourne”.
The name never caught on north of the A12, where the river is called “Weald Brook”.
But Romford’s much shorter river manages to have three names.
Called the “Rom” as a back formation from Romford, it is “Bourne Brook” north of Collier Row and the “River Beam” in Dagenham.
Havering’s Ingrebourne has an invented name which is a spelling mistake!