Thatched cottage in Little Dunmow
Little Dunmow is not on any main route nor even, today, on a direct road form Great Dunmow: it sits south of the A120 trunk road, on a lane running south from the old Roman road, Stane Street, now the B1256 running east from Grea Dunmow.
The Flitch Way, a linear country park along the route of the old Braintree to Bishop's Stortford railway, links Little Dunmow and the new settlement of Flitch Green. The new village, built on the site of a former sugar beet factory, is a self-contained community of 850 dwellings and is another mile along the road towards Felsted.
Little Dunmow formed the head of a feudal barony the first holder of which was Ralph Baynard, as recorded by Domesday Book (1087).
Ralph was the builder of Baynard's Castle in the City of London and was followed by his son Geoffrey, whose son William rebelled against King Henry I (1100–1135) and thereby forfeited his lands. The barony was re-granted by the king to Robert FitzRichard (d.1134/6), younger son of Richard FitzGilbert de Clare (d.1091), feudal baron of Clare, Suffolk. He was succeeded by his son Walter I (d.1198) who was succeeded by his son Robert FitzWalter I (d.1235), founder of the family of FitzWalter, who left as heir a minor, his son Walter FitzWalter (1219–1258). Walter's son was Robert FitzWalter II (1247–1326). His son was Robert FitzWalter III (d.1328) who was succeeded by his son John FitzWalter (1315–1361).
The Parish Church was founded in 1104 by Lady Juga Baynard, wife of Ralph Baynard. After her death her son Geoffrey Baynard founded in 1106 an Augustinian priory dedicated to St Mary. One of its canons served as curate to the parish.
The majority of the original structure has been lost but the Lady chapel survives and became the east end of the choir of the large and stately Little Dunmow Priory church, now the Parish Church. It retains the magnificent columns and beautiful Gothic windows as evidence of its former grandeur. The monastic buildings stood to the southwest of the church but, along with much of the Priory, were razed to the ground after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, when the priory site, with the manors of Little Dunmow and Clopton Hall, were granted to the patron of the priory, Robert Radcliffe, 1st Earl of Sussex.
About the village
Many fine 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th-century buildings may still be found in the village, notably Priory Place (on the site of the old Priory), Brick House (beside the footpath to Barnston as it approaches the Chelmer valley), Ivy House (at the junction of The Street and Brook Street, Monks Hall (at the junction of The Street and Grange Lane) and Rose Farm (At the Junction of Grange Lane and the Street). A number of thatched cottages are scattered around the village.
The centre of Little Dunmow has a defined conservation area.
The Flitch Trials
Little Dunmow was the original home of the Flitch Trials which now take place in Great Dunmow every four years. The ancient custom is to reward a couple who had been married in church and remained 'unregreted' for a year and a day, with a flitch of bacon. The claimants had to swear an oath kneeling on two sharp pointed stones in the churchyard. They were then carried through the village to be acclaimed. In later years they were carried in the Flitch Chair, thought to be made from pew ends from the Priory Church. The original kneeling stones and 15th century Flitch chair can still be seen within the church.
The last recorded Priory trial was held in 1751 but the custom was revived in Victorian times following the 1854 publication of the novel "The flitch of bacon" by William Harrison Ainsworth
Flitch Green is a new village founded in the parish of Little Dunmow but since then separated into its own civil parish.
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about Little Dunmow)
- Essex country parks, countryside day out - Great Notley and the Flitch Way
- Sanders, I J: English Baronies, Oxford, 1960, "Probable Baronies, Little Dunmow", pp.129-130
- 'Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Little Dunmow', A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2 (1907), pp. 150-54. 
- "Welcome to the official Dunmow Flitch Trials website". Dunmowflitchtrials.co.uk. 2012-07-14. http://www.dunmowflitchtrials.co.uk/. Retrieved 2013-06-29.