An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 3, North East. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1922.
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34. GREAT CLACTON. (F.d.)
(O.S. 6 in. (a)xxxviii. S.E. (b)xlviii. N.E.)
Great Clacton is a parish, village and seaside town 12½ m. S.E. of Colchester. The church is the principal monument.
b(1). Parish Church of St. John the Baptist (Plate, p. 114) stands in the village of Great Clacton. The walls are of septaria and mixed rubble; the dressings are of limestone and Roman brick; the roofs are tiled. The Chancel and Nave were built about the middle of the 12th century when the nave had a stone vault, removed at some uncertain period. The chancel was altered and partly refaced in the 14th century. The West Tower was added in the 15th century; it was either never completed or the top stage was subsequently removed and is now replaced by a timber bell-chamber. The church was restored in the 19th century when the N. Organ Chamber with its arcade were built.
The church is extremely interesting from the remains of its unusual system of vaulting, very similar to that at Copford. The N. and S. doorways have good 12th-century detail.
Architectural Description—The Chancel (38¾ ft. by 24 ft.) has in the E. wall two modern windows and a modern round window above them. The N. wall has a modern arcade. The S. wall is of a curious tapering plan, the inside being 12th-century work and the outside face probably a 14th-century repair; in the wall are three windows, the two eastern have 12th-century shafts with scalloped capitals to the splays, probably reused material or a 12th-century alteration to the original design which is represented by the lower part of the western splay-shafts of two former windows set higher in the wall and with a recessed order of Roman brick; the eastern of the later windows has two 14th-century trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head; the western window has a modern filling; further W. is a third window of the 15th century and of a single cinquefoiled light set low in the wall. E. of the modern window is a square label of the 15th century, but with no traces of a doorway below it. The chancel-arch is modern but springs from the original wide 12th-century responds with Roman brick quoins and chamfered imposts.
The Nave (56 ft. by 24½ ft.) is entirely of mid 12th-century date and is of three bays divided by wide pilaster buttresses with Roman brick quoins and partly restored. Corresponding with these buttresses, internally, are wide pilaster responds from which sprang the wide transverse ribs of the main vault; the grooved and chamfered imposts and springers remain on the eastern responds on both sides. Each bay had apparently round crossvaults groined into the main structure and the marks of these are visible in the E. bay of the S. wall. In the N. wall are three round-headed windows, all entirely restored externally and with plastered internal splays and rear-arches; below the middle one is the 12th-century N. doorway (Plate, p. 115) with a round arch of three orders; the two outer are roll-moulded and the inner encloses a brick tympanum with a plain lintel below it; the jambs have each two detached shafts, the outer plain, with a cushion capital and the inner diapered on one jamb and cable moulded on the other; the inner capitals are scalloped; the doorway has a few modern stones and the outer shaft and capital on the E. are modern; the doorway is set in a recess of which the head is carved with partly restored diaper ornament. In the W. bay of the N. wall is a 12th-century doorway to a turret staircase, with a stone lintel enriched with diaper ornament and a round arch of Roman brick enclosing a plain tympanum; the staircase probably led formerly to the space above the vault, but now communicates with the tower. In the S. wall are two windows similar to those on the N.; the S. doorway between them is similar to the N. doorway but the shafts are all plain and the work has been more restored; the head of the recess is similar to that on the N. side. At the W. end of the nave is the framework of a former bellturret, consisting of two tie-beams supporting uprights; it is of 16th or 17th-century date.
The West Tower (13 ft. by 12 ft.) is of three stages, including the modern timber bell-chamber; the two lower stages are of the 15th century. The two-centred tower-arch is of two orders, the outer moulded and continuous and the inner chamfered and resting on attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The W. window is of three cinquefoiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with a moulded label; the W. doorway has moulded jambs, two-centred arch and label. The second stage has in the N., S. and W. walls an opening of one trefoiled light; the heads of the N. and W. lights are modern.
Fittings—Bells: five; 4th and 5th by Miles Graye, 1649. Floor-slabs: In chancel—(1) to Larry Roris, 1648; (2) to Phillip Gardiner, 1704; (3) to Joseph Long, minister of the parish, and Ann, his wife, 1660. Font (Plate, p. xxxiv): octagonal bowl with panelled sides carved with three seated figures and two angels holding shields bearing the arms of the Trinity and a cross, 15th-century. Piscina: In chancel—in E. splay of S.E. window, with two pointed heads, octofoiled drain, 14th-century. Royal Arms: In nave—on W. wall, of Queen Anne after the Union, on canvas. Sedile: In chancel—sill of S.E. window carried down low to form seat.
Condition—Good, except roof of nave.
b(2). Ship Inn, 120 yards S.S.W. of the parish church, is of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled; it was built early in the 16th century and has a cross-wing in the middle; the E. part of the house is probably an addition. The upper storey projects on the original part of the N. front and has a moulded bressumer to the cross-wing. Inside the building are original moulded ceiling-beams.
b(3). Cottage, 400 yards S.E. of the parish church, is of one storey with attics, timber-framed and weather-boarded; the roofs are thatched. It was built in the 17th century and has rough ceiling-beams.
a(4). Cann Hall, house, nearly ¾ m. W.N.W. of the parish church, is of two storeys, timberframed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. It was built probably late in the 16th century. The upper storey projects on the S. front. Inside the building are some exposed ceiling-beams
b(5). Foundations, in garden of Church Hall, N. of the church. Rubble foundations of uncertain character were dug up during the autumn of 1921.