Lilley Farm Bay
This is a reminder that prior to the development of Clacton the land along this stretch of coast was under the plough. The original farm comprised a number of ancient small-holdings which were acquired in the middle of the 17th century by Ralph Harrison who was mayor of Colchester at the time of the famous siege in 1648 when he was criticised for his apathy. The estate descended through his family to William Mayhew of Colchester in 1737. He was a notable attorney whose portrait was painted by Gainsborough, and he was a leading figure in the fight to recover the borough charter. William was succeeded by his son of the same name after whose death, in 1787, the local estate was offered for sale.
The farm was then described as “pleasantly situated about half a mile from the village of Great Clacton, and a part of the land comes up directly to the German Ocean, from which land on the sea is a fine view; the house is very convenient, and large and fit for the summer residence of a small family; the gardens are neat, and well planted and laid out; the ponds are well stocked with fish, and the land is good”
The farm was bought by William Daniels, and at the turn of the century it was occupied by William Lilly whose name it preserves. Over 100 years later, as Clacton developed and the seafront in this area became a popular destination the beach below (what is now) First Avenue became known as Lilley Farm Beach – a derivation of Lilly Farm.
Daniels was succeeded by his son, yet another William, who lived at the house and extended the farm. It was he who, in January 1814, courageously went to the rescue of some Dutch sailors who were shipwrecked just off the shore near his fields. He plunged into the sea and, with the assistance of some of his men, performed this heroic deed but, in those days, his gallantry went un-honoured. Nineteen years later, in 1833, Charles Hall of Lilly Farm was accused of attempting to murder, by poison, the landlord of the Queen’s Head, Great Clacton, but was acquitted.
The old house and farm buildings were entirely destroyed in a disastrous fire in 1884 and the replacement premises remained until being demolished to make way for more urban development when Lilly Farm eventually descended to William Daniel’s granddaughter, Mrs Felkin, who died in 1944. She began selling off parts of the land for building, and let the foreshore for beach huts. Before and after the Second World War the farm was gradually developed from First Avenue across to Deanhill Avenue and whilst the farm buildings disappeared, the once well stocked fish pond remained for some time as a feature of the local petrol station and garage where Abbigail Gardens now sits.