An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1, North West. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1916.
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11. BIRDBROOK. (D.a.)
(O.S. 6 in. (a)iv. S.E. (b)v. S.W. cx. N.W.)
Birdbrook is a parish and small village about 10 m. E. of Saffron Walden and W. of Sudbury. The most important monuments are the Church, Baythorne Hall and Eagle Farm.
a(1). Parish Church of St. Augustine stands in the village. The walls are of stone, flint, and pebble-rubble, mixed with tiles, and the dressings are of limestone and clunch; the roofs are tiled. The Chancel and Nave were built late in the 11th or early in the 12th century; early in the 13th century the nave was lengthened towards the W. to form a chapel, and shortly afterwards the chancel was partly rebuilt, probably lengthened, and widened towards the S. In the 15th century an arch was built across the nave about 8 feet E. of the W. wall, to support a bell-cot. The church was restored in the 19th century, when the S. wall of the chancel and the South Porch were rebuilt.
Though much restored, the church retains some good examples of 13th century-work.
Architectural Description—The Chancel (30 ft. by 19 ft.) has, in the N. wall, several herring-bone courses of Roman brick, which possibly indicate that the wall is of late 11th or early 12th-century date. In the E. wall are three tall lancet windows of the 13th century, with double-chamfered and rebated jambs, moulded labels and mask-stops, much restored; the rear arches are moulded and spring from detached circular shafts with moulded bases, bands and bell-capitals; between the heads of the windows, outside, are two sunk and moulded quatre, foil panels, each carved with a human head. In the N. wall are three windows; the two eastern are 13th-century lancet windows, much restored, with double-chamfered and rebated jambs; the western window is of late 14th-century date and has the name 'Thomas Cersey' on the tracery, in Lombardic capitals; it is of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head; the cusps of the quatrefoil have foliated and grotesque points. In the S. wall are two windows, the eastern is a lancet similar to those in the N. wall, but externally almost completely restored; the western window is modern except some of the stones in the internal splays. Between the windows is a modern doorway. The chancel-arch is modern.
The Nave (64½ ft. by 20½ ft.) has, in the N. wall, some courses of Roman tiles set herring-bone-wise; the western third of the nave is of early 13th-century date. In the N. wall are three windows; the easternmost is modern, except the internal splays and rear arch, which are of the 15th century; in the E. splay, part of the sill is carried down to a ledge with a small embattled cornice; the second window is modern; the westernmost window is a 13th-century lancet with chamfered and rebated jambs, and is now blocked; W. of the easternmost window and set high in the wall, are the splays and semi-circular rear arch of an 11th or early 12th-century window, now blocked and not visible externally. Between the two western windows is the 13th-century N. doorway with jambs and two-centred head of two chamfered orders. In the S. wall are four windows; the easternmost is modern, except part of the internal splays and the rear arch, which are probably of the 15th century; it is of two uncusped lights under a two-centred head, and the sill is carried down to a ledge similar to that of the easternmost window in the N. wall, but quite plain; the second window is of the 14th century, much restored, and of two cinquefoiled ogee lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head; the third window is modern, except the internal splays and rear arch, which are of the 14th century; the fourth window is a lancet similar to that in the N. wall, and also blocked; between the easternmost and second windows, and set high in the wall, is an 11th or early 12th-century window, similar to that in the N. wall and now blocked. Between the second and third windows is the late 13th-century S. doorway with a moulded two-centred arch and label. In the W. wall are three early 13th-century lancet windows, that in the middle being set higher than the others; under the northernmost is a small crude window of one pointed light and of uncertain date. About eight feet E. of the W. end is a wall with a 15th-century arch in it, inserted to support the timber bell-cot; the arch is two-centred and of two moulded orders, and the responds have semi-circular attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases.
The Roof of the nave is of the 15th century, with moulded and embattled wall-plates, moulded collar-beams, purlins, and principals with curved braces.
Fittings—Altar: In churchyard—S. of chancel, slab with hollow-chamfered edge, possibly altar-slab. Bells: three; 1st by Richard Bowler, 1591; 2nd by Peter Hawkes, 1612; 3rd dated 1570. Brasses and Indents. Indent: In chancel— in S.E. corner, woman's figure standing on canopied brackets, with marginal inscription and four shields, late 14th-century. Communion Rails: with moulded rail and twisted balusters, early 18th-century. Locker: In chancel—in E. wall, rectangular, with wooden lintel, date uncertain. Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In chancel—at N.E. angle, (1) coped coffin-lid with traces of cross, 13th-century, much worn. In tower—(2) to Martha Blewitt of Baythorne End, the wife of nine husbands, of whom the last survived her, 1681, also to Robert Hogan of Birdbrook, the husband of seven wives. Floor-slab: In nave —to James Walford, 1713 or 1743, much worn. Piscinæ: In nave—in S. wall, E. of the wall of the bell-cot, with chamfered jambs and two-centred head, fluted drain, early 13th-century. Plate: includes a cup of 1562 with cover-paten of 1561. Screen: In chancel—incorporated in modern quire-stalls, nine cusped and traceried heads, probably from late 15th-century screen. Seating: In chancel—incorporated in quire-stall, one benchend with carved popey and moulded book-board, late 15th-century. Stoup: In S. porch—E. of S. doorway, small recess. Miscellanea: In the chancel—in N. wall, recess with three-centred head and remains of flue, possibly a fireplace in a vestry behind the altar. Above S. doorway— circular boss, carved with foliage, 13th-century.
Condition—Good, much restored.
b(2). Homestead Moat, at Whitleys, 1 m. E.N.E. of the church. Built into the modern house is a stone, roughly inscribed in Lombardic capitals "... pro anima Rogeri comitis de Clara."
a(3). Birdbrook Hall, N.E. of the church, is of two storeys with cellars; the walls are of plastered timber-framing and modern brick, and the roofs are covered with tiles and slate. It was built in the 17th century, on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the S.W. and N.W., and with a small staircase projection in the angle between the wings; the cellar under the N.W. wing is apparently of earlier date. On the S.W. side and at the end of the N.W. wing are modern additions.
Interior—At the E. angle of the house the rooms have original moulded ceiling-beams, and other rooms have chamfered ceiling-beams. The cellar under the N.W. wing has walls of old brick with small arched recesses, and a large chamfered ceiling-beam carrying wide joists.
b(4). Baythorn Hall, 1¼ m. N.E. of the church, is of two storeys; the walls are of plastered timber-framing, and the roofs are tiled. It was built in the 15th century, with an open Hall in the middle, and a cross-wing at each end. In the 16th century an upper floor and a chimney-stack were inserted in the Hall. On the S.E. front the upper storey of the cross-wing projects, and is supported by curved brackets.
Interior—On the ground floor, in the middle block, is a moulded and embattled ceiling-beam, re-used, and now partly cut away; it probably formed part of the original Screen. Opening into the N.E. wing is an original doorway with chamfered jambs and two-centred arch under a square chamfered head. On the first floor is visible the roof of the former Hall, which has moulded ceiling-beams, and joists with carved stops, probably original, but re-set. The other rooms have chamfered ceiling-beams. In the N.E. wing large curved and stop-chamfered braces are visible.
b(5). Baythorn Park, house, nearly 1¾ m. E.N.E. of the church, is of two storeys with attics; the walls are of plastered brick and the roofs are tiled. It was built probably at the end of the 17th century, but contains much material of c. 1600, or earlier. At the S.W. end is an addition, probably of the 18th century. The walls are now surmounted by a parapet. The roof is of two spans and is hipped at the ends. The chimney-stacks, apparently of late 17th-century date, have square shafts with attached tops and recessed angles.
Interior—On the ground floor, a room on the S.E. side is lined with early 17th-century panelling, re-set, and the fireplace, probably of early 18th-century date, has an enriched wooden architrave and a moulded marble shelf; above it is a 17th-century panelled overmantel, with an early 18th-century painting of a horse. On the first floor, one room has three walls covered with early 17th-century panelling, and the fourth wall with plain early 18th-century panelling; the fireplace has a bolection-moulded architrave of late 17th or early 18th-century date, and an overmantel of mid 17th-century date with fluted Doric pilasters, and arched panels with facetted projecting bosses. Another room is lined with early 17th-century panelling, re-set, and an adjoining room has a fireplace with a heavy moulded architrave and shelf, of late 17th or early 18th-century date. The roof contains a few timbers of c. 1600, re-used.
Condition—Good, much altered.
The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century, and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled or thatched. Some of the buildings have wide fireplaces, original chimney-stacks and exposed ceiling-beams, and many of them have modern additions.
Condition—Good, or fairly good, unless noted.
Main Street, W. side
a(6). The Plough Inn, 50 yards S. of the church, with extensive modern additions on both sides and at both ends. The original central chimney-stack has grouped diagonal shafts.
a(7). Cottage, now three tenements, 150 yards S. of the church, with a modern addition at each end.
a(8). Cottage, N. of (7), with a modern addition at the N. end of the E. side.
a(9). Moat Farm, house, 250 yards E. of the church, is of two storeys with cellars. It was built on a modified L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the N. and E., and has a small projection at the S. end of the W. side. There are large modern additions on the E. side, and at the end of the N. wing.
c(10). Wash Farm, house, now three tenements, ½ m. S.S.W. of the church, was built late in the 16th or early in the 17th century, and has a modern addition at the S.W. end. The original central chimney-stack has moulded capping and four octagonal shafts with moulded bases and modern tops.
c(11). Cottage, 120 yards S.W. of (10), originally of the central chimney type, has been shortened at the N.E. end.
c(12). Whitehouse or Upperhouse Farm, house, 1,000 yards S.S.W. of (11), was built on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the N.E. and S.E. The upper storey has been heightened, and the roofs rebuilt.
c(13). Baileyhill Farm, house, 1,200 yards S. of the church, was built on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the S.E. and S.W.
c(14). Cottage, now two tenements, 300 yards E.S.E. of (13), was built early in the 16th century. On the N. front the upper storey projects, and is supported by three original moulded brackets. Inside the building, on the ground floor, over a fireplace, is an original moulded oak lintel, carved with running foliage, but somewhat damaged. A partition wall is formed of old oak panelling with a fluted frieze, re-used. The roof has tie-beams with curved brackets.
b(15). Eagle Farm, house, now three tenements, at Baythorn End, 1½ m. N.E. of the church. It was built early in the 16th century, on a rectangular plan, but there is a large modern wing at the N.E. end, and a modern addition on the N.W. side.
The numerous moulded and carved ceiling-beams are of interest.
On the S.E. front of the original block the upper storey projects, and is supported by five curved brackets. The original central chimney-stack has an original rectangular base with moulded capping, and grouped diagonal shafts of the 17th century, rebuilt at the top. Inside the building, on both floors, are original moulded ceiling-beams, and joists with carved stops; some of the beams are carved with running foliage and others have Tudor roses, stars, etc. carved on the soffits.
b(16). The Swan Inn, at Baythorn End, 100 yards N.W. of (15), was built on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the N.W. and S.W., and has modern additions on the S.W. side of the N.W. wing. The N.E. front has an early 18th-century wooden eaves-cornice.
a(17). Chadwell Farm, house, ¾ m. N. of the church, is dated 1631, but may have been built at an earlier date. It is of T-shaped plan with the cross-wing at the W. end, and with a small projection at the E. end of the S. side. There is a modern addition at the S. end of the cross-wing. At the E. end of the N. elevation is a gable, and at the E. end of the S. elevation is a slight projection with a corresponding gable; both the gables have original moulded barge-boards, much weathered. The large central chimney-stack has a moulded capping and four attached octagonal shafts with moulded bases and modern tops; on one side of the stack is a sunk panel bearing the date 1631 and the initials M.S. E.S. incised in cement, but the chimney-stack is probably of earlier date. Inside the building is an old oak battened door.