Chipping Ongar

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Not to be confused with High Ongar.
Chipping Ongar
Chipping Ongar, Essex - - 78211.jpg
Chipping Ongar, High Street
Chipping Ongar is located in Essex
Chipping Ongar
Chipping Ongar
Chipping Ongar shown within Essex
Population 6,093 
OS grid reference TL555035
Civil parish
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town ONGAR
Postcode district CM5
Dialling code 01277
Police Essex
Fire Essex
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament
List of places
EssexCoordinates: 51°42′11″N 0°14′38″E / 51.703°N 0.244°E / 51.703; 0.244

Chipping Ongar is a small market town in the civil parish of Ongar, in the Epping Forest district of the county of Essex, England. It is located 6 miles (10 km) east of Epping, 7 miles (11 km) southeast of Harlow and 7 miles (11 km) northwest of Brentwood. For population details taken at the 2011 Census see under the civil parish of Ongar.

Origin of the name[edit]

The name "Ongar" means "grass land" (akin to the German word: Anger).[1] "Chipping" is from Old English cēping, "a market, a market-place", akin to Danish "købing" and Swedish "köping"; the same element is found in other towns such as Chipping Norton, Chipping Sodbury and Chipping (now High) Wycombe.[2]


Ongar was an important market town in the Medieval era, at the centre of a hundred and has the remains of a Norman castle (see below). The Church of England parish church, St Martin's dates from the 11th century and shows signs of Norman work. A small window in the chancel is believed to indicate the existence of an anchorite's cell in medieval times.[3] The Gothic Revival architect C.C. Rolfe added the south aisle in 1884.[4]

David Livingstone lived in Chipping Ongar on the High Street in 1838.

The civil parish of Chipping Ongar was abolished in 1965 and a new parish of Ongar was created which also incorporated the former area of the Greensted and Shelley civil parishes.[5] The parish was part of Epping and Ongar Rural District until 1974 when it became part of the Epping Forest District.

St. Andrew's Parish Church in Greensted is 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Ongar. It is believed to be the oldest wooden church in the world.[6] Several of the small private-sector businesses that operated through to the closing decades of the 20th century have closed down or relocated as the economic focus of the region has been redirected, especially since the opening of the M11 motorway in the 1970s, to larger towns in west Essex, especially Harlow and Brentwood. Local planning policies have focused increasingly on residential development, and Ongar, like very many of the smaller towns in the green belt round London, can be viewed primarily as a dormitory town for commuters to London, Brentwood, Harlow and Chelmsford. However, the single-track railway branch line that connected Ongar to Epping (and thereby to London), operated by the London Underground, was closed down in 1994. Ongar also retains a range of retail shops. Jane Taylor, the author of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, is buried in Ongar.[7] Chipping Ongar features in Will Self's novel, The Book of Dave.

The nursery rhyme "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" is reported to have been written in Chipping Ongar.

Not to be confused with RAF Chipping Ongar, RAF Station Chipping Ongar (also known as Willingale) is a former World War II airfield in Essex, England. The airfield is approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) northeast of Chipping Ongar; about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of London. Opened in 1943, it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces. During the war it was used primarily as a bomber airfield. After the war it was closed in 1959 after many years of being a reserve airfield.


The first Ongar Academy was opened in 1811 by William Stokes M.A. as a private grammar school for boys. By 1936, Essex County Council had established the Ongar County Secondary School in elegant neo-Georgian building fronting Fyfield Road. The school expanded greatly in the 1960s when it became the widely regarded Ongar Comprehensive School. By the late 80's the area's baby boom generation had grown beyond secondary education and Ongar Comprehensive School was closed in 1989 despite vigorous local protest. Its buildings were demolished to make way for a new residential development and new Youth and Adult Education centres. Ongar Leisure Centre, a joint use sporting facility, was retained. Secondary school children were then bussed to school in surrounding towns, notably Brentwood and Shenfield.

In September 2015 secondary education returned to Ongar with the opening of The Ongar Academy adjacent to Ongar Leisure Centre on Fyfield Road, on land originally forming part of the Ongar County Secondary School.[8]

Chipping Ongar Infant School, originally located in Victoran school buildings off the High Street (behind Budworth Hall on the site of today's Sainsbury's) was re-located in the mid-1980s, merging with Chipping Ongar Junior School at Greensted Road, at the southern edge of the town, thus forming Chipping Ongar Primary School. Shelley Primary School is at the northern end of town.


Chipping Ongar is located at the convergence of several old roads, being between Chelmsford and Epping on an east-west axis and between Dunmow and Chigwell (beyond which is London) on a north-south axis. To the southeast lies Brentwood, on the old road to the former River Thames ferry crossing at Tilbury, though the building in the 1970s of the M11 and M25 motorways means that Ongar is no longer directly on a principal route for petrol tankers (and other less prominent vehicles) travelling from the current Dartford Crossing and the Thames Estuary oil refineries.

The civil parish of Ongar, which has a town council, includes from north-to-south Shelley, Chipping Ongar and Marden Ash, with Greensted to the southwest.

The central part of Ongar High Street comprises a widened main street of the type found in many older English towns whose status as market towns is believed to have originated during the (little chronicled) Saxon period. This historic thoroughfare is lined with over 70 listed buildings and protected by the Chipping Ongar Conservation Area, one of the first to be designated by Essex County Council nearly 50 years ago. The wide high street is used to permit some 'no charge' short term parking that benefits the local shops. The high street does however retain a very narrow stretch, with shops and houses either side very close to the road due to pavement that is barely adequate for two people to pass each other.

Much of the surrounding countryside is occupied by large mechanised farms devoted currently, for the most part, to arable agriculture. During the 20th century the proximity of London encouraged dairy farming, but the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were characterised by the removal of hedges and an increase in average field sizes as cattle numbers diminished. This policy was gradually reversed from the 1990s with schemes to replant hedges and trees. The subsoil is of heavy clay, rendering the land too soggy in winter for sheep, and inviting a greater level of attention to ditching and drain maintenance than has been applied to the district's road network since 1974.

Ongar Castle[edit]

The motte of Ongar Castle

Ongar Castle is a good example of a late 11th or early 12th century Motte and Bailey, although only the earthworks survive. The motte or mound is about 70 metres in diameter at the base and is surrounded by a wet ditch up to 15 metres wide. A kidney-shaped inner bailey is to the west of the motte and there is a second bailey to the east. The remains of a town enclosure embankment extend to the west.[9]

The castle may have been built by Eustace II, Count of Boulogne who obtained the manor of Ongar in 1086. It was visited by King Henry II in 1157, when it was held by Richard de Lucy.[10] A stone keep was built on top of the motte, but this was pulled down in the 16th century and replaced by a brick building, itself destroyed in the 18th century. The motte itself is now covered with trees and is in private ownership, but can be seen from a public footpath that starts at the north end of the High Street.



Ongar is less than 25 miles from Central London, 6 miles from M11 J7 Harlow and 8 miles from M25 J28 Brentwood. The A414 runs from Chelmsford, through Ongar, to Harlow.

Parking restrictions operate throughout the town centre where a 20-minute no-return 2-hour scheme applies. Three Pay and Display car parks are available with a total 530 capacity.

Local residents have previously called for lowering of the current national speed limit between The Mulberry House and the Four Wantz roundabout on the A414 Chelmsford-bound. However, Essex police's senior traffic management officer, Adam Pipe, deemed lowering the speed limit " inappropriate, as drivers would feel 30 mph (48 km/h) is not adequate and would not comply ".[11]


The main destinations served by buses are Brentwood, Chelmsford, Harlow and Epping. Routes are operated by Arriva Shires & Essex, First Essex, Regal Busways, Stephensons of Essex and SM Coaches. Epping Ongar Railway also operate a limited number of heritage bus services between Ongar and North Weald and also Epping on weekends and Bank Holidays.


Since the closure of the Central Line branch between Epping and Ongar in 1994, there is no longer a commuter train service to/from the town. The Epping Ongar Railway operates both steam and diesel heritage services on the former Central line track, from North Weald Station on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays every hour to Ongar Station. It first operated (Sundays and Holidays only) between 2004 and 2007, and then after refurbishment again with the additional Saturday trains from May 2012.

The nearest London Underground station to the town is Epping, 7 miles away, the terminus of the Central line. The closest railway station is Brentwood, also 7 miles away, which is served by TfL Rail trains that are soon to be a part of Crossrail. Harlow Town Station, a National Rail station operated by Abellio Greater Anglia, is 9 miles to the north west.

In popular culture[edit]

On the Who's album Live at Leeds, drummer Keith Moon refers to Chipping Ongar in a bit of stage banter as part of the introduction to their so-called "mini-opera", A Quick One, While He's Away. Guitarist Pete Townshend is in the middle of explaining the storyline to the audience, involving a lonely wife and her lover, Ivor the Engine Driver: "So what happens is uh, they uh, fu, they fornicate."

Moon interrupts to ask, "What's that, Pete? I thought it was a little station outside Chipping Ongar!" and Townshend tells him, "No no no."

Moon replies, "That's the trouble always sitting here in the back," to which Townshend deadpans back to the audience, "He always gets off at the wrong stop."[citation needed]

The endgame of Will Self's The Book of Dave takes place in Chipping Ongar.

In Ade Edmondson's book "How To Be A Complete Bastard", in the section on "How to be a Bastard to Japanese Tourists" he says "tell them all of London's tourist attractions are within walking distance of Ongar Tube"

In the BBC series Just Good Friends, Penny's mother and father live in Chipping Ongar.




External links[edit]