There appears to have been a church at Theydon
Mount in 1236, for in that year
Robert, parson of the church at
Theydon, was involved in a dispute
with Robert de Briwes and his wife Beatrice over 26
acres of land. (fn. 37) In 1248 the advowson passed with the
manor of Theydon Mount to John de Lessington. (fn. 38)
They continued to descend together until 1925, when
the advowson was sold with Hill Hall to Sir Robert
Hudson. The advowson then passed with Hill Hall until
the house was purchased by the Prison Commissioners,
when it remained with Lady Edward Hay, now Lady
Menzies. (fn. 39) Since 1755 the rectory of Theydon Mount
has always been held jointly with that of Stapleford
Tawney (q.v.) although not formally united with it.
In 1291 the rectory of Theydon Mount was valued
at £4 6s. 8d. (fn. 40) In 1428 the value was said to be 6
marks. (fn. 41) In 1535 the valuation was £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 42) The
'improved' value was given as £30 in 1604 and as £92
in 1650. (fn. 43) The tithes were commuted in 1838 for
£307 15s. (fn. 44) In 1621 the glebe consisted of five pieces
of land totalling 40 acres. (fn. 45) In 1824 27 acres belonging to the rectories of Theydon Mount and Stapleford
Tawney were exchanged for lands in Stapleford
Tawney belonging to the Hill Hall estate. (fn. 46)
In 1777 the parsonage house of Theydon Mount
was shown as lying between the church and Hill Hall. (fn. 47)
By this time the union of Theydon Mount and Stapleford Tawney had rendered one of the rectory houses
redundant. In the 19th century the rectors lived at
Stapleford Tawney and the house at Theydon Mount
was evidently demolished. (fn. 48) The rectory continued to
be at Stapleford Tawney until the time of the present
rector, the Revd. E. B. Rees, who arranged for the sale
of the old house and built a new one at Theydon
Mount in 1951. This is a red-brick building to the
north of Hill Hall. (fn. 49)
In his will of 1389 John de Northampton provided
for the endowment of a chantry in the parish church
of Theydon Mount, out of the income from Hill Hall
(see above). It is not clear how long this chantry lasted.
In 1421 the feoffees of Edmund Herde conveyed to
Simon Archer and two others properties in Theydon
Mount for the purpose of providing a suitable priest to
celebrate in the parish church for two following years for
the souls of Edmund and his father Thomas. The priest
was to receive an annual stipend of £10 13s. 4d. unless
the trustees could drive a better bargain (nisi meliori
precio poterint). (fn. 50) The chantry certificates of 1546-8
contain no reference to a chantry in Theydon Mount.
The original parish church of Theydon Mount was
dedicated to ST. MICHAEL and ST. STEPHEN.
In 1400 the Pope offered indulgences to those who
should visit the church and contribute to its upkeep. (fn. 51)
Reynold Malyns (d. 1431) left 66s. 8d. to the church
and for the seats that had been made there. (fn. 52) This
church was burnt down in 1611; it is said to have been
struck by lightning. (fn. 53) The present church was certainly
in use by 1614. (fn. 54) Unlike its predecessor it is dedicated
to ST. MICHAEL only. It adjoins the park of
Hill Hall. This was effected between 1777 and about
1800 by the diversion of the road south-east of Hill
Hall. (fn. 55) The church consists of nave, chancel, south
porch, and west tower. It is of red brick with plaster
dressings. Its special interest lies in the fact that it
dates from the single period 1611-14 and has had few
alterations. One or two early renaissance details have
been used but the main structure is of late gothic style
and arrangement (see plate facing p. 270).
Externally the window and door openings are of
moulded brick covered with plaster to simulate stone.
The windows on the north and south sides and in the
upper stages of the tower have four-centred heads.
The larger east and west windows have interlacing
tracery and may date from the 18th century.
The square tower is of three stages with a castellated
parapet and a small shingled spire. The stair turret on
the north side reaches to the belfry and has splayed
angles. Near the top these are corbelled out to give a
square section, a feature which is also found on a stair
turret at Hill Hall. The parapet is of moulded brick
and has a segmental pediment. The stair is lighted by
pierced quatrefoil openings.
The south porch has a curvilinear gable with a
heavily moulded brick coping. The archway is fourcentred with classical imposts from which rise flanking
pilasters supporting an entablature and pediment. This
entrance feature is plaster covered and is the only
typically renaissance detail to be found externally.
Inside the church the chancel and tower arches are
pointed and the general impression is gothic. Many
of the fittings are of the original date. The marble font,
which stands against the west splay of the south doorway, is of most unusual design and may be by the same
hand as some of the family monuments which are
described below. The stem consists of a square pillar
supporting a moulded bowl of black marble. Above
the bowl is a bearded mask set in a shell-headed niche.
In the west window are several pieces of heraldic
glass of the 16th century and later, all of which have
been moved from Hill Hall. They include a Tudor
royal arms, crowned badges of Henry VIII and
Elizabeth I, the arms of Sir Thomas Smyth, and a
damaged achievement of arms that has not been identified. On the south wall of the nave the Lord's Prayer
and the Creed are painted in black letter of the
original date. The Ten Commandments in similar
script are visible above the chancel arch. (fn. 56) The oak
benches in the nave are apparently original. The
reredos, which has coupled and fluted Corinthian
pilasters, dates from about 1700. The black and white
floor paving is of the same period.
In 1762 the spire was reshingled, the gutters releaded, the windows reglazed, and the flooring of the
seats made good at a total cost of £32. (fn. 57) In 1837 the
church was restored and a gallery was erected under
the west tower. This was for the use of the musicians
and for the servants at Hill Hall. (fn. 58) The communion
rails and those of the gallery at that period were of cast
iron. (fn. 59) The oak pulpit, reading-desk, and credence
table were presented in 1888 by the Revd. L. N.
Prance. (fn. 60) The stained glass in the east window was
given as a memorial to Major Charles Hunter (d.
1917). In 1926 another restoration took place during
which the rafters of the roof were exposed, the gallery
removed, and the iron communion rails replaced by
oak. (fn. 61) The square new belonging to Hill Hall was
removed in 1953.
There is one bell cast by John Clifton in 1653. The
church plate, all of silver, consists of cup and paten
cover dated 1587, paten given in 1714 by Dame Jane
Smyth, flagon given in 1824 by the rector, the Revd.
Edward Smijth, and a salver of 1780. In 1683 there
was some pewter plate (fn. 62) but none of this now remains.
There is a fine series of monuments to the Smyth
family. The first of these, that of Sir Thomas Smyth
(d. 1577) and 'Philip' his wife (d. 1578), was preserved from the earlier church. It was put in hand
during the lifetime of Sir Thomas and there is a suggestion that it was of his own design. (fn. 63) It is of alabaster
and black marble and stands against the north wall of
the chancel. The reclining effigy of Sir Thomas is in
armour and Garter robes and has a salamander at its
feet. Below is an inscribed altar tomb and above an
arched canopy under which are a long inscription and
symbolic carving. There are flanking Ionic pilasters
supporting an entablature. Above the cornice are two
black marble obelisks and an achievement of arms.
Opposite is a monument of similar proportions to
Sir William Smyth (d. 1626) and Bridget his wife.
A crested helmet and part of a surcoat, said to have
belonged to Sir William Smyth, (fn. 64) hang near by
together with a painted cartouche shield.
Against the north wall of the chancel is the alabaster
tomb of the second Sir William Smyth (d. 1632). The
carving is of fine quality and the costumes are of great
interest. Opposite this monument is an alabaster and
black marble tomb enriched with consoles and cherubs'
heads. On it is the recumbent effigy of Sir Thomas
Smyth, bt. (d. 1668), in armour and with a curled wig.
On the walls of the chancel are many tablets to
members of the Symth family dating from the 18th
and 19th centuries, and several painted hatchments of
the same family. The two black-letter inscriptions on
the south wall of the nave have been adapted as
memorials. One serves as a memorial for the First
World War and the other is in memory of Sir Robert
Hudson (d. 1927).