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Hatfield Broad Oak manor was the largest of the Essex manors belonging to King Harold and  by 1066 it was already an important settlement with a church.  In the medieval period Hatfield Broad Oak became a considerable market town with a Benedictine priory. By 1086 Hatfield Broad Oak manor was one of the largest settlements in Essex, ranking ninth in terms of population and sixth in assessed value.  In 1327  86 men were assessed in the lay subsidy for Hatfield Broad Oak, making it the sixth highest area in Essex in terms of population and the seventh in  value.  The taxation returns (Thornton, 1997) from the late medieval and early post-medieval period chronicle a slow decline in population and wealth from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries and a sharp drop in the sixteenth to seventeenth century.  This decline appears to have been due to a number of factors; Hatfield Broad Oak was not sited on a main road and it lost custom due to the growth of other towns, the dissolution of the priory meant the loss of a major source of revenue and the growth of the Barrington estate in the sixteenth century, which incorporated many of the smaller farms, led to unemployment and population loss.