An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2, Central and South west. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1921.
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7. BLACKMORE. (E.c.)
a(1). Parish (formerly Priory) Church of St. Laurence stands S. of the village. The walls are of flint, with dressings of clunch and brick; the bell-tower is of timber; the roofs are tiled and the spire shingled. The existing building is the structural nave and aisles of a larger building which formerly extended much further E., and formed the parish church and chancel. The priory of Austin Canons was founded between the years 1152 and 1162 by Adam and Jordan, chamberlains of the queen; the existing Nave with N. and S. arcades of at least seven bays was built about that time. It appears at first to have had an aisleless chancel of which half of a pair of windows remain at the present E. end; there is no room in the plan for a central tower. About the middle of the 14th century the N. arcade, except the W. bay, and the North Aisle were re-built. Possibly at the same time the S. arcade was re-built as the W. bay of the original arcade remains on that side also. In the 15th century the timber Bell-tower was added at the W. end; the site of the older tower is uncertain. Early in the 16th century the two arches N. and S. of the parish altar were inserted; they were built low, and evidently the aisles outside were divided into two storeys, the upper with large openings towards the nave. These features possibly indicate that the pulpitum formerly extended across the nave at this point. In the 16th century the S. arcade may have fallen; it was re-built, together with the S. wall of the South Aisle, which is a rough patchwork shewing no traces of any former cloister-roof. This rebuilding is therefore probably of later date than the suppression of the priory in 1525, and may have accompanied the blocking of the E. end of the aisles and the demolition of the E. end of the church and of the monastic buildings, which stood on the S. side of the nave. Part of the chancel survived for some time and was destroyed at an uncertain date. The North Porch is modern but incorporates some old woodwork in the wall-plates and barge-board. The parish church was restored between 1895 and 1907, when the N. arcade was taken down and re-erected with the same stones; a wall dividing off the E. bay of the N. was removed; and the E. wall, with the E. part of the N. wall of the N. aisle, was re-built or refaced.
The Nave (87 ft. by 20 ft.) of the priory church forms the parish chancel and nave. It has a modern E. wall incorporating numerous worked stones (see Miscellanea); internally the wall is splayed back to show part of the 14th-century octagonal responds of a former transverse arch; they have moulded capitals and are tapered back to a point about 6 ft. above the floor. In the N. wall are six arches: the easternmost is of early 16th-century date, four-centred, and of three chamfered orders with semi-octagonal responds of which the eastern has a moulded capital and base and the western base is cut away; the arch is cemented, but is probably of brick, and is kept low to admit an upper floor over the E. bay of the N. aisle; the second, third, fourth and fifth arches are of the 14th century, re-built; the moulded two-centred arches have moulded labels with shield-stops, some modern, and spring from columns each with four attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases; the responds have attached half-columns; the sixth arch is of mid 12th-century date, semi-circular, and of one square order; the square pier has at each angle an attached shaft with scalloped or water-leaf capital and moulded impost; the respond of the fifth arch is built against this pier; the W. respond is similar to half a square pier; above the E. arch of the arcade is a square-headed window opening, now blocked on the S., with traces of the cusped heads probably of three lights; it must formerly have opened into an upper floor in the N. aisle; E. of the head of the arch and cut away for about a third of its width by the E. wall is a blocked 12th-century window with moulded splays and semi-circular rear-arch; it is at a lower level than the original clearstorey, and seems to imply a former aisleless chancel with taller windows and possibly a chancel-arch immediately W. of this window; above the W. respond of the first arch are remains of the W. jamb of an original clearstorey-window and, below it, part of the weathering to the original aisle-roof; above the fifth pier and centrally over the 12th-century pier is an original clearstorey-window of a single round light, now opening into the N. aisle but with the weathering to the original aisle-roof below it. The S. arcade is of six bays, the easternmost arch uniform with the corresponding arch on the N., but the capitals of the responds are covered with cement; above the arch to the E. is part of a blocked window corresponding to that on the N. side but with a short length of string-course running W. from it; centrally above the arch is a wide square-headed opening with a wooden frame and head, apparently indicating a former upper floor over the E. end of the aisle; the second to the fifth bays of the arcade have two-centred arches of three chamfered orders, and octagonal piers and semi-octagonal responds with moulded capitals and bases; the work is rough, probably of mid 16th-century date and probably of plastered brick; the second column has a circular chamfered base of stone, possibly early work re-used, and the first column may have a similar base now mostly covered; the sixth bay is original and uniform with the corresponding bay on the N. side except that all the attached shafts have scalloped capitals with impost mouldings repaired in cement. The W. wall is entirely of the 12th century and was formerly external before the erection of the bell-tower; the W. doorway (Plate p. 17) is of three plain orders, with a semi-circular head and a chamfered label; the jambs had each two free shafts and one worked on the inner order; the capitals are scalloped and have grooved and chamfered abaci; the free shafts have gone, and the jambs are repaired in brick; above the doorway are two hollow-chamfered and round-headed windows, and higher up a circular window, modern internally; to the S. of the doorway is a rough sinking in the wall with a ragged cutting above it, like a fireplace and flue; it apparently dates from before the erection of the bell-tower.
The North Aisle (7½ ft. wide) has in the E. wall the southern part of an arch, probably of the 13th century, dying into the modern buttress; the rest of the arch has been destroyed, and the filling is modern. The N. wall is modern E. of the porch and of the 14th century for the remainder of its length; in it are five windows; the easternmost is a single early 16th-century light with a four-centred head restored externally; the second is modern; the third is modern except for the head and tracery of the western light and the internal head of both lights, which are of the 14th century, re-set; it is of two cinque-foiled ogee lights with tracery in a square head; the fourth is similar to the third, and is of the 14th century re-set with some modern stonework; the fifth window is similar but with a moulded label and much weathered; between the fourth and fifth windows is the mid 14th-century N. doorway with two-centred arch, moulded label with modern head-stops, and restored moulded jambs; E. of the porch and projecting on modern buttresses are two gabled dormers, probably of the 17th or 18th century, each of three lights with an oval light above.
The South Aisle (7½ ft. wide) has in the E. wall a modern window incorporating some old stones and set in the blocking of a 13th-century two-centred archway with a moulded label on the W. side; the S. wall of the aisle is splayed back to allow for the width of the archway. The S. wall is probably of mid 16th-century date except at the E. end where it may be of the 13th century; near the E. end is the 13th-century doorway from the cloister, now blocked; externally part of the two-centred moulded arch is visible, and internally the whole arch and the segmental-pointed and shouldered rear-arch with moulded label; above the door-head internally is set the carved figure of a beast with the head broken off; further W. are three modern windows and between the two western is the 18th-century S. doorway which probably represents a former W. doorway from the cloister; on this side are three modern dormers, and the upper part of the W. end of the wall contains wooden framing. In the W. wall is an 18th-century window with a wooden frame.
The timber-framed Bell-Tower (28 ft. by 26½ ft.) is of three successively diminishing stages, the lowest plastered and the upper two boarded; the intervals between the stages are covered by pentroofs, of which the lower has projecting eaves supported at the W. corners by angle posts and curved diagonal brackets; the top stage is finished by a small octagonal spire splayed out to meet the square top of the tower. Internally the main timber-framing rests on four posts with an intermediate post and framing on the N. and S. sides and two-centred arches of timber on the E. and W. sides; round this central square runs a sort of aisle extending to the roof of the ground stage (Plate p. 17). In the N. wall is a modern doorway, and in the W. wall is a 15th-century window of four cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a square head, all of wood. The Bell-chamber has a two-light opening in each face.
The Roof of the nave is apparently modern but incorporates a number of carved bosses including faces, foliage and a series of painted shields of which the following can be distinguished—(a) France ancient and England quarterly; (b) Vere impaling sable a cross engrailed or for Ufford; (c) Fitzwalter; (d) Clare; all of late 14th-century date.
Fittings—Brass and Indent. Brass: In parish nave—of civilian in fur-trimmed gown, c. 1420, inscription and lower half of the figure lost. Indent: In chancel—of foliated cross with stem resting on breast, remains of marginal inscription in separate Lombardic letters SIRE THOMAS . . . . EMME, early 14th-century. Coffin-lid: In nave—plain tapering slab, date uncertain. Font: Octagonal bowl, stem and plinth, both plinth and under edge of bowl hollow-chamfered, 14th or 15th-century. Glass: In E. dormer of N. aisle, large square inscribed panel of the martyrdom of St. Laurence, early 18th-century. Monument and Floor-slabs. Monument: In S. aisle at E. end—(1) of [Thomas Smyth, 1594, and Margaret, his wife] altar-tomb of modern brick and cement with two enriched alabaster pilasters, and recumbent effigies of man in armour, and woman in ruff and close dress, all of alabaster repaired with plaster; in the bell-chamber are numerous fragments of this tomb including parts of the kneeling figures of four sons and two daughters. Headstones in churchyard—(2) to John Twogood, 1709, with skull and cross-bones; (3) to Joseph Twogood, 1710, date apparently altered from 1709, with skull and cross-bones: (4) to Robert Petchey, 1699, with skull and crosstorches. Floor-slabs: In parish chancel—(1) to Thomas Smyth, 1684, with achievement of arms; (2) to Henry Smith, 1671, with similar achievement; (3) to Stephen Smith, 1670, with similar achievement; (4) to Stephen Smyth, 1672, with similar achievement; (5) to Simon Lynch, Rector of Rumwell, 1660, "who for fearing God and the King was sequestered, prosecuted and persecuted to the day of his death by Gog and Magog," with achievement of arms. Miscellanea. Architectural fragments—built into modern E. wall, large number of worked and moulded stones including cheveron ornament, Purbeck-marble shafting, capitals, dog-tooth, and two head-stops, 12th to 14th-century. Built into modern part of N. aisle wall, numerous fragments mainly of the 12th century, including cheveron ornament and foliated capital of small attached shaft. Loose in bell-tower, fragments of 12th-century shafting, capitals, etc. In churchyard, outside porch, two capitals of former responds and base of small attached shaft, early 13th-century.
The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. Many of the buildings have original chimney-stacks, wide fireplaces and exposed ceiling-beams.
a(6). The Bull Inn, 20 yards N. of (5), was built late in the 15th or early in the 16th century, and was extended towards the S. at a rather later date. The upper storey projects on the W. front and there is a break in roof levels at the junction of the extension with the original block. Inside the building the roof at the N. end has an original king-post truss.
a(7). House, two tenements, behind the Post Office, and 70 yards N. of (6), was built in the 16th century and probably then extended further towards the W. The upper storey projects and is gabled at the E. end of the S. front. Inside the building one doorway has a roughly four-centred head.