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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56. MOUNTNESSING. (B.b.)
(O.S. 6 in. (a)lix. N.E. (b)lix. S.E. (c)ix. S.W.)
Mountnessing is a parish and hamlet 3 m. N.W. of Billericay. The church and Thoby Priory are the principal monuments.
c(1). Parish Church of St. Giles stands about 1½ m. S.E. of the village. The walls are of mixed rubble, with limestone dressings; the roofs are tiled. The Nave was built in the 12th century, but the only definite evidence of this is the N.E. angle which has quoins of Roman brick. About the middle of the 13th century the North and South Aisles were added. In the 15th century the timber belfry was built within the W. end of the nave. The W. end of the nave was re-built in brick in 1653. The Chancel was re-built late in the 18th or early in the 19th century, and the rest of the church largely re-built, using the old materials in 1889, when the South Porch was re-built and the Organ-Chamber added.
The timber-framed belfry is interesting.
Architectural Description— The Chancel is modern, but the chancel-arch may incorporate some 14th-century work retooled.
The Nave (40 ft. by 21½ ft.) has a mid 13th-century N. arcade (Plate, p. 91) of three bays, partly restored and re-set, with two-centred arches of two chamfered orders; the round columns have moulded bell-capitals, the eastern (Plate, p. 161) carved with 'stiff-leaf' foliage and a head; the E. respond is semi-octagonal and has a moulded capital carved with 'stiff-leaf' foliage; the W. respond is modern. The S. arcade is generally similar to the N. arcade, but probably of a slightly later date; the capital of the eastern column is modern and that of the western is simply moulded; the E. respond is semi-circular and has a semi-octagonal moulded capital of 15th-century detail; re-set below it is a corbel carved with the half figure of an angel and much defaced; the W. respond is semi-octagonal and has a moulded capital; E. of the arcade is a cutting through the wall containing steps and having the rebate for a door on the W. jamb. The W. wall is of red brick and in the gable is a panel with a moulded sill, broken entablature and high-pitched pediment; below it is the date 1653; the W. doorway is modern, and the W. window, probably of the 15th century, re-set, is of two cinque-foiled lights in a square head.
The North Aisle (8½ ft. wide) has an E. window, all modern except the splays and rear-arch, which are possibly of the 14th century. In the N. wall are two single-light windows with trefoiled heads; they are probably of the 13th century, but much restored and re-set; between them is the 13th or early 14th-century N. doorway, with chamfered jambs and two-centred head, now blocked. In the W. wall is a modern window.
The South Aisle (9½ ft. wide) has been mainly re-built and has no ancient features.
The Belfry at the W. end of the nave is of the 15th century and rests on heavy oak framing(Plates, pp. xxxviii–ix, 91), with four main posts, tie-beams and curved braces with side struts across the aisles; the main braces on the E. side form a two-centred arch and rest on attached shafts (that on the S. modern) with moulded capitals; the N. and S. sides have a middle post and a second and lower tie-beam with curved braces and trellis-framing; there is also a lower tie-beam on the W. side supported on two intermediate posts having curved braces to the side bays; the square weather-boarded turret rests on cross-beams with curved diagonal braces.
The Roof of the nave is of the 15th century and has king-post trusses with octagonal king-posts, which have moulded capitals and bases. The pent-roof of the N. aisle incorporates some old timbers.
Fittings—Bell: one; not accessible, but said to be by Thomas Bullisdon, c. 1500, and inscribed "Sancte Jacobe Ora Pro Nobis." Brass: In chancel—to John Peers, 1583, inscription only. Chest: In nave—long 'dug-out' with cambered lid and strap-hinges, probably 13th-century with later ironwork. Font: octagonal bowl, each face with square panel enclosing carvings of three fishes, compass, square and mallet, a formy cross, flowers and foliage, late 15th-century. Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In chancel—on N. wall (1) to Edmund Pert , white marble tablet with achievement-of-arms. In nave—at W. end (2) fragments of two small kneeling figures of man and woman, from former monument of c. 1600. In churchyard—E. of S. aisle (3) to Henry Pert, 1671, flat stone; S. of S. aisle (4) to John Bayley, 1702, flat stone; (5) to J. B., 1712, head-stone. Floor-slabs: In chancel—(1) to Edmund Pert, 1676, with shield-of-arms; (2) to Alexander Prescott, 1701, with shield-of-arms; (3) to Alexander Prescott, 17–9, with shield-of-arms; (4) to Mary, daughter of Francis Woolmer, 17(00?); (5) to Thomas Woolmer, 1707. Panelling: In N. aisle —incorporated in modern box, with jewelled ornament and carved frieze with strap-work, mid 17th-century. Plate: includes cup of 1564 with band of engraved ornament, and stand-paten of 1704 with the arms of Prescott. Miscellanea: In nave —in case, large rib-bone possibly of whale.
Condition—Good, largely re-built.
c(2). At Bacons, 1 m. N. of the church.
b(3). At Woodlands, 2 m. N.W. of the church.
c(4). At Arnold's Farm, 1 m. W. of the church.
c(5). Mountnessing Hall, house and moat, W. of the church. The House is of two storeys, timber-framed and refaced with brick; the roofs are tiled. It was built probably in the 17th century, but has been very much altered. At the E. end of the building is an original chimney-stack with grouped shafts.
The Moat is incomplete.
Condition—Of house, good.
a(6). Thoby Priory, house and ruins, nearly 2 m. N.W. of the church. The Priory was founded for Austin Canons sometime before the middle of the 12th century. It was suppressed by Wolsey in 1525. The ruins of the church (Plate, p. 96) consist only of the S. wall of the presbytery and the arch to the W. of it, which may have opened into a S. transept or may have been the first bay of a nave-arcade; the wall extending W. from this point appears to consist entirely of re-used material and to be of post-suppression date. The walls are of rubble and brick, with limestone dressings. The remaining arch is probably of 14th-century date and is two-centred and of two moulded orders; the lower part is blocked. The presbytery was apparently re-built in the 15th century and has a diagonal buttress at the S.E. angle and a 15th-century window in the S. wall, with a four-centred arch, a brick rear-arch and a moulded label; the mullions, etc., have been destroyed and the sill is carried down internally to form a sedile.
The House is of two storeys, with walls of brick or rubble plastered, and the roofs are tiled. It was evidently formed out of the W. range of the claustral block, but the walls of the hall are the only ones which appear to be of mediaeval date; the building was burnt out late in the last century and the existing hall, now of one storey, has no ancient structural features except the mid 16th-century fireplace in the E. wall, with stop-moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head with foliated spandrels; the doorway in the W. wall has a four-centred head and may perhaps be old, but is covered with cement. The S. block of the building is possibly of the 16th century, but has no ancient features except the fireplace in the S. room, which is generally similar to that in the hall and has foliage and blank shields in the spandrels. In this room and in the hall is a considerable quantity of late 16th-century panelling and the hall fireplace has an iron fire-back with the royal arms and the date and initials 1635 C.R.
Condition—Good; a wing has recently been added on the site of the W. part of the nave.
The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 16th century and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. Some of the buildings have original chimney-stacks and exposed ceiling-beams.
b(7). George and Dragon Inn, on N.W. side of the main road, nearly 1½ m. W.N.W. of the church, has been much altered.
b(8). Drury's Farm, on S.E. side of the main road, nearly opposite (7), is built on a modified H-shaped plan with the cross-wings at the N.E. and S.W. ends. It has been refaced with modern brick and much altered, but retains an original chimney-stack with three grouped diagonal shafts.
c(9). Wardroper's Farm (Plate, pp. xxxiv–v), 1,100 yards E. of the church, is built on a modified L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the S. and E. Except the E. end, which appears to be an addition to the original building, the upper storey projects along the whole of the N. front and has a moulded bressummer supported by curved brackets. Within the front door is the three-centred head of the original doorway.
c(10). Cottage, at Padham's Green, 1,100 yards N.N.W. of the church, is timber-framed, partly plastered and partly weather-boarded and is built on a L-shaped plan with the wings extending to the N. and W. The upper storey projects on the W. front of the S. wing.