An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 4, South east. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1923.
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32. GREAT BURSTEAD. (C.c.)
Great Burstead is a parish 8 m. S. of Chelmsford. The small town of Billericay, at the N. end of the civil parish, was formed into a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1844. The church in Great Burstead village is the principal monument.
a(1). Ovens or Kilns. In 1724, "a place made like an oven, of hard dark clay, large enough to hold 6 half-peck loaves" was found 3 ft. below the surface "at the windmill on a high hill near Billericay." This site is usually identified with that on which a windmill now stands, about 1 m. N. of the parish church of Great Burstead; formerly, however, another windmill existed close by but on the W. side of the Rayleigh road. With the oven was a large bed of black earth or ashes containing Roman potsherds, fibulae, two denarii of Trajan and Hadrian, and other coins (Morant, Hist, of Essex, I, 196; Salmon, Hist, of Essex (1743), 264, 303, 334, and MS. note in Gough's interleaved copy of Salmon in the Bodleian Library, quoting Soc. Ant. MS. Minutes for 1725).
In the middle of the 19th century, in graveldigging, similar finds of dark earth, potsherds and "the remains of an oven" were found (Essex Arch. Soc. Trans. (O.S.), II, 70), and near it "subterranean masonry," thought to be part of a hypocaust but perhaps connected with a kiln. Close by was a pit 25 ft. deep full of potsherds, and a number of incineration burials with a British gold coin and coins of Trajan, Hadrian, Pius and Constantine (B.A.A. Journ., III, 249–50; IV, 74, 155–6; Essex Arch. Soc. Trans. (O.S.), II, 70–1; V, 209–11; Proc. Soc. Ant. (2nd S.), VII, 370–2).
a(2). About 500 yards W. of (1), in digging for a gasometer (now removed) in 1877, a "pavement or platform" of mortar or concrete 3 in. thick and 6 ft. square was found. On it lay a number of broken vessels, including 'Samian' (one said to have been stamped DACMVS) and, it is said, some cinerary urns (Arch. Journ., XXXVI, 76). Burials were also discovered in the Dissenters' Burial Ground, Billericay, about ¼ m. N. of (1), and a vault containing stone-coffins, probably post-Roman, was also found there (Arch. Journ., XXXVI, 75; Essex Arch. Soc. Trans. (O.S.), II, 72).
b(3). Norsey Wood, at the N.E. corner of the parish, contains various earthworks including trenches of different sizes which run in different directions without coherent plan. These have been partially disturbed by the digging of gravel. One was 8 ft. deep, 300 yards long and 4–5 ft. wide, ending in a circular pit 15 ft. in diameter; the largest was 10–12 ft. deep, twice as wide, and curved at the bottom. Many had been filled with dark soil containing broken Roman pottery and tiles. In one of the eastern group of trenches was a primitive smelting-furnace containing a little slag, black ashes and lumps of gritty substance like mortaria. "Two rods" from it in the same trench a kiln was found 3–4 ft. in diameter, domed and built of square bricks (6–8 in. square and about 2 in. thick). When found, "a score or two" of black pots, apparently whole, were in it. Other kilns were also found and cinerary deposits associated with flanged tiles were encountered in great numbers. Some of the urns were apparently of Late Celtic type, and it is in any case clear that the wood was a pre-Roman site, the occupation of which was continued into the Roman period. At least some of the trenches must have been made before the kilns, since these were built in them. Good clay is found below the gravel in the neighbourhood, and it was perhaps for this that the trenches were cut. It may here be noted that a hoard of 1,000 bronze coins was found about 1820 at Tylde Hall, Ramsden Crays, just outside the wood and parish, but is not recorded in detail (Essex Arch. Soc. Trans. (O.S.), II, 70).
a(4). Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalen stands towards the S. end of the parish. The walls are mixed rubble partly covered with cement; the tower is of ragstone; the dressings are of limestone; the roofs are tiled. The Nave was built in the 12th century. Late in the 14th century the West Tower was added. The Chancel was probably re-built and enlarged in the 14th or 15th century. In the 15th century the South Aisle was added, incorporating re-used 14th-century work; late in the same century or early in the 16th the South Chapel and North and South Porches were added probably in the order given.
Architectural Description—The Chancel (31 ft. by 21½ ft.) has in the E. wall a window with a two-centred head and probably of the 15th century, but now blocked. In the N. wall are two windows, the eastern of early 16th-century date and of three four-centred lights in a square head with a moulded label; the western is probably of late 15th-century date and is of three cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label; below the eastern window is an early 16th-century doorway with a moulded rear-arch and now blocked. The late 15th or early 16th-century S. arcade is of two bays with two-centred arches of two moulded orders, the outer continuous and the inner springing from attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. There is no chancel-arch.
The South Chapel (31 ft. by 16 ft.) is of early 16th-century date. The E. wall has two courses of flint and stone chequer-work above the plinth; the E. window is of three cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label. In the S. wall are two windows similar to that in the E. wall but of smaller size; between them is a doorway with moulded jambs and two-centred head with a moulded label; it is now blocked.
The Nave (44 ft. by 23½ ft.) has in the N. wall three windows; the easternmost is of late 14th-century date and of three trefoiled ogee lights with tracery in a two-centred head with a moulded label and one defaced head-stop; the middle window is a small 12th-century light with a round head; the westernmost window is probably of early 16th-century date and is of three four-centred lights in a square head with a moulded label; the late 15th or early 16th-century N. doorway has moulded jambs and two-centred arch in a square head with a moulded label and crowned head-stops; the spandrels (Plate, p. 84) are carved with the Annunciation. The figure of Gabriel holds a scroll inscribed "Ave Maria [gratia] plena dominus tecum." The 15th-century S. arcade is of three bays with two-centred arches of two chamfered orders; the octagonal columns have moulded capitals and bases and the responds have attached half-columns; E. of the arcade is a cutting, through the wall, of doubtful date with an arched head.
The South Aisle (15 ft. wide) has in the S. wall two re-set early 14th-century windows each of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head; the 15th-century S. doorway has double hollow-chamfered jambs and two-centred arch with a moulded label. The W. wall has been largely re-built and contains a modern window.
The West Tower (14 ft. square) was built late in the 14th century and is of three stages with a moulded plinth and embattled parapet; it is finished with a timber spire of some height (Plate, pp. xxxii–iii). The two-centred tower-arch is of two chamfered orders; the responds have attached semi-octagonal shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The W. window is of two cinque-foiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head; the label, jambs and mullion are modern; the W. doorway has moulded jambs and two-centred arch. The N. and S. walls of the second stage have each a partly restored window of one trefoiled light. The bell-chamber has in each wall a much restored window of two trefoiled lights in a square head with a moulded label.
The North Porch is of c. 1500, timber-framed and of two bays; the outer archway is four-centred and is flanked by openings with remains of traceried heads; the gable has foiled barge-boards, carved with foliage. The mullions and heads of the lights of the side bays have been removed. The roof is of king-post type with curved braces, forming four-centred arches.
The South Porch is of early 16th-century date, partly restored; it is timber-framed and of two bays; the outer archway is two-centred. The side bays are each of two lights with modern three-centred heads. The roof is of similar character to that of the N. porch.
The Roof of the chancel is of the 15th century and of two bays with moulded and embattled tie-beams and wall-plates and square rebated king-posts with four-way struts. The early 16th-century roof of the S. chapel is similar to that of the chancel; the curved braces of the tie-beams rest on stone corbels, one carved with an angel holding a blank shield; the spandrels of one truss are carved with a quatrefoil and a grotesque face. The 15th-century roof of the nave is of four bays, with moulded and embattled plates and moulded tie-beams supporting octagonal king-posts with moulded capitals and bases. The late 15th or early 16th-century roof of the S. aisle is of four bays with king-post trusses, moulded wall-plates and hollow-chamfered tie-beams.
Fittings—Bells: five; 4th by John Walgrave, early 15th-century, inscribed "Vox Augustini Sonet In Aure Dei." Chairs: In chancel—two, one with carved back and rails, twisted legs and posts, and arms; the second with carved back, curved legs and twisted rails, late 17th-century. Chest (Plate, p. xliii): heavy 'dug-out' of oak, bound with iron, seven hinges and three hasps, 12th or 13th-century. Communion Rails (Plate, p. 53): with moulded upper and lower rails, panelled uprights and turned balusters, gates now in belfry, quadrant-shaped corners, late 17th-century, said to have come from a London Church. Doors: In S. doorway of S. chapel—of battens with strap-hinge and two drop-handles, 15th-century. In N. doorway—of overlapping battens with trellis-framing, strap-hinges and drop-handle, 15th-century. In S. doorway—similar to that in N. doorway, with ornamental pierced scutcheon-plate, 15th-century. Font: octagonal bowl with moulded under-side, plain stem and moulded base, 15th-century. Glass: In chancel—in N.W. window, foliated quarries, a sun, stars, rose and fragments, 15th and 16th-century. In nave—in N.E. window, various fragments, 14th and 16th-century. In S. aisle—in S.E. window, fragments including borders of crowns, foliage, etc., partly in situ; in S.W. window, similar ornament and in situ in head, foliage and a shield (Plate, pp. xliv–v) barry argent and azure a label of five points gules for Grey of Wilton, 14th-century. In W. window of tower—two foliated roundels, 14th-century. Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In chancel—on S. wall, (1) to Ursula (Thresher), wife of John Cooke, 1705, and to their daughter Ursula, 1703, marble tablet with cherub-head and shield-of-arms. In churchyard—N. side, (2) to Robert Chignall, 1695, head-stone; S. side, (3) to Eliza Hewes, 1694, head and foot-stones; (4) to Thomas Price, 1714, head-stone; (5) to Samuel Finch, 1713, head-stone. Floor-slabs: In chancel—(1) to Thomas Stokes, 1701; (2) to Samuel Thresher, 1702. In S. chapel—(3) to John Tyrell, 1712, with achievement-of-arms. In nave —(4) to Samuel Bridge, 1661, preacher; (5) to Joseph Fis . . ., and Ann, his wife, late 17th-century. Piscinae: In chancel—with moulded jambs and trefoiled ogee arch in a square head, 15th-century. In S. chapel—on S. wall, with moulded jambs and four-centred head, broken round drain, 15th-century. Reredos (Plate, p. 53): of oak in three bays, divided by fluted Corinthian pilasters, middle bay with two round-headed panels and a curved pediment with the sacred name, irradiated, and above a pelican in her piety, side bays each with rectangular panels and above them small panels filled with carved foliage, late 17th-century, said to have come from a London church. Scratchings: On arcade on S. of chancel—various masons' marks. Seating: In S. aisle—ten pews (Plate, p. 5) and one front, of oak with buttressed ends each with a cinque-foiled and traceried head, the back of one pew and the single front have similar buttresses and heads, 15th-century. Stoup: In N. porch—recess with moulded four-centred arch in a square head with rosettes in the spandrels and a moulded label, 15th-century. Miscellanea: In S. aisle—a length of moulded and embattled beam, probably from a roof, 15th-century.
a(5). Church of St. Mary Magdalen, Billericay, stands on the E. side of the High Street. (Plate, p. xl). The West Tower was built late in the 15th century, but the rest of the church was re-built in the 18th century and the two staircases flanking the tower are modern additions.
Architectural Description—The West Tower (8 ft. by 8½ ft.) is entirely of red brick (Plate, p. xxxviii). It is of three stages, the lowest divided into two storeys internally; the tower is finished with a crow-stepped parapet projecting on trefoiled corbelling; at the angles are small hexagonal pinnacles. The tower-arch is two-centred and of two hollow-chamfered orders; the responds have each an attached shaft with moulded capitals; the lower part of the tower-arch is blocked and has an 18th-century archway inserted in the blocking. The N. and S. walls have each an opening, both probably modern. The W. doorway has moulded jambs and two-centred arch in a square head with a moulded label; above it is a window of two cinque-foiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head with a moulded label. The second stage has in the E. wall a pointed opening. The N. and W. walls have each a window of one four-centred light. In the S. wall is a doorway with a two-centred head, now blocked. The bell-chamber has in each wall two windows, both with two-centred heads.
Fittings—Recess: In second stage—in S. wall, plain rectangular recess with corbelled head, late 15th-century. Stoup: S. of W. doorway, externally, recess with square head and stone sill, basin destroyed, late 15th-century.
The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered or weather-boarded; the roofs are tiled. Some of the buildings have original chimney-stacks and exposed ceiling-beams.
a(6). House, formerly an inn, at W. end of the churchyard, is of two storeys with attics. It was built on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the S. and W. but has been added to on the S. The upper storey originally projected at the N. end of the E. front but has been under-built by the modern additions. The original chimney-stack at the W. end of the house has two diagonal shafts. Inside the building is an original battened door.
b(8). House and barn, on N.W. side of the road, 50 yards N. of the church. The House is a small building of late 16th or early 17th-century date with later additions. The lower part of the main chimney-stack is original but the upper part has been re-built. Inside the building some of the timber-construction is exposed and there is a blocked two-light window with a moulded frame and mullion in the S. wall. There is a small portion of early 17th-century panelling and an original doorway with a four-centred head.
b(10). Highbury, house (Plate, p. xxxiv), 1 m. N.E. of the church, was built late in the 16th or early in the 17th century on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the N.E. and N.W. but later additions make the present plan T-shaped. The timber-framing is exposed both externally and internally. Inside the building is a heavy battened door.
b(11). Bullstead Farm, house, ¾ m. N.N.E. of the church, is a long 17th-century building which has been slightly altered and added to at later dates. The chimneys have been re-built but most of the first floor windows retain their original lead casements and iron fastenings.
a(12). Chantry House (Plate, p. xl), with shop and tenement adjoining on the N., 300 yards S. of the railway bridge, was originally one building of the central-hall type with N. and S. cross-wings and a S. extension. It was built probably early in the 16th century but a floor has since been inserted in the Hall and considerable modern alterations have been made. On the E. front the timber-framing is exposed at the S. end; the date 1510 below the S. gable is said to have been discovered when this was done. In the upper floor of the S. wing are two blocked two-light windows divided vertically by iron bars and in the roof over the central block is a gabled dormer. Inside the building some of the timber-construction is exposed. The two blocked doorways in the N. wall of the S. cross-wing suggest this to have been the buttery wing. The ground-floor room is lined with 16th-century panelling and the two disused doors are panelled in a similar manner. A late 17th-century moulded wood cornice runs round the room and by the fireplace is a panelled cupboard of the same date with a segmental head and archivolt supported by fluted pilasters with moulded caps. In the room above is some 16th-century panelling and a late 17th-century cornice and fireplace. On the same floor are two battened doors and a 16th-century door with wrought-iron cocks'-head hinges.
a(13). Red Lion Inn, 240 yards S.S.W. of (12), is a fragment of a late 15th-century house, but has been considerably altered and added to. Some of the original roof-timbers are visible in the bedroom ceilings. The purlins are moulded and have curved wind-braces and the collar-beams are cambered.
a(14). Burstead House and tenement adjoining on the N., 10 yards S. of (13), are of two storeys with attics. Originally one house, the present building has been refronted in brick and considerably altered; it now forms a rectangular block with two modern additions at the back. The main chimney-stack is of grouped diagonal shafts. Inside the building, three of the first-floor rooms have late 17th-century fireplaces with panelled overmantels and one room has a panelled dado. The main staircase is of the same date and of massive character with square newels, moulded, string and handrail and twisted balusters.
a(15). House, now two tenements, 150 yards S. of the railway bridge, has a cross-wing at the S. end and is of early 17th-century date or possibly earlier. The roof of the N. block is much lower than that of the cross-wing which has a slightly projecting upper storey. There are. two early 17th-century chimney-stacks, the one to the S. wing having three diagonal shafts.
a(17). House, adjoining (16) on the S., is a late 16th-century rectangular building with a later addition at the back. In the E. wall of the original building is a moulded beam inscribed "THE: YEAR: OF: OUR: LORDE: 1577 (?) ELIZABETH . . ."; the rest of the inscription is hidden by the floor-beams in the back addition. There is a battened door on the first floor.
a(20). Chequers Inn and baker's shop, adjoining on the S. immediately S. of (19), were built probably in the 16th century as one house with a central Hall and N. and S. cross-wings. Additions have been made both on the back and front and in adapting the building to its present purposes the interior has been completely altered. The upper storey of the S. cross-wing originally projected on the street front but has been under-built by the modern shop-window.
a(22). Two tenements, in Chapel Street, adjoining (21) on the S., were built late in the 16th or early in the following century and were probably parts of the same house. The southernmost is of two storeys with attics. Both have been added to at the back and otherwise altered. The upper storey of the N. tenement projects on the street front and is carried on curved brackets at either end. Inside the building is an original door and the stairs to the attics are probably of the same date.
a(27). Council Offices, 140 yards S. of (26) has a central block, N. and S. cross-wings. The lower storey of the N. cross-wing forms an open carriage-way to the yard at the back; the S. wing has been extended. Both internally and externally the building has been much altered.
a(29). Dryden House, adjoining (28) on the S., is of two storeys with attics and cellars. The roofs are covered with slates. It was built early in the 18th century on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the N. and E., but later additions make the present plan rectangular. The street front has a wooden modillioned cornice.
a(31). House, now two tenements, 50 yards S. of (30), has a cross-wing at the S. end with a projecting upper storey on the street front. There are modern additions at the back. Inside the building are some moulded battened doors.
b(32). Burial-Mounds, etc., in Norsey Wood, 1 m. N.W. of Billericay Church. The wood is thickly planted and partly enclosed within a strong bank from 5 ft. to 6 ft. high. In it are two burial-mounds which were opened in 1865. (Essex Arch. Soc. Trans., V, p. 214 (1873), N.S., V, p. 227.) The S. burial-mound is 45 ft. in diameter and 5 ft. high and was found to contain "a British urn of rude workmanship and three large burial urns with ashes and calcined bones in them."
The N. burial-mound is about 50 ft. in diameter and 5 ft. high and contained seven similar urns all within 3 ft. of the summit. Across the S. end of the wood is a bank about ½ m. long shown on the O.S. sheets as "The Deerbank." There are several shallow pits in the wood of doubtful origin but of considerable antiquity. (See also Roman (3).)