The popular village of Stock, a short drive from Billericay, dates from Roman times or perhaps before. The name’s origin is unclear but it could have derived from the Saxon word for wood, “stocce”.
The area was heavily wooded back then and the main road through Stock, the B1007, would have been a track through this forest. In the days before tarmac, the road was deeply rutted and it was common for Stock to be cut off in bad weather. These would have been the perfect conditions for highway robberies, and it’s reported that the infamous Dick Turpin lived nearby, somewhere between Stock and Wickford.
Today, the village thrives as a commuter village but for centuries agriculture was key. There’s been a mill in the village since the 13th century though the current structure on Mill Lane dates from the beginning of the 19th century.
In the 17th and 18th centuries brick and tile-making flourished along with the manufacture of potash; hence you’ll find a Potash Road in nearby Billericay. These days, there’s a strong community feel in Stock, aided by several excellent pubs, including The Hoop, The Bear, The Harvard Inn (until recently the Cock Inn) and The Bakers Arms (once the Jolly Miller).
The Hoop was once three weavers’ cottages built around 1460, but has been an ale house for at least 450 years. It probably takes its name from the metal hoops encircling the beer barrels. In olden days, if you had a full tankard of beer you’d have described yourself as “cock-a-hoop” which still rings true for many regulars. It’s been my mother’s favourite local pub since it started selling East London pie and mash with liquor.
The Bear, so legend has it, is haunted by the ghost of an ostler, Charlie ‘Spider’ Marshall. Charlie’s party trick was to climb up one of the pub’s chimneys, across the recess used for smoking bacon and down a second chimney into the other bar. Sadly one night he never emerged from the chimney and his ghost has haunted the place ever since. Watch out for him while you’re there.