A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2001.
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The advowson of the rectory de- scended with the manor until the later 19th cent- ury, the lords presenting regularly. In 1439 and 1558 the presentation was made by the Crown and in 1726 by the bishop of London, presum- ably all by lapse. (fn. 1) In 1878 J. Edwards presented himself, presumably having bought a turn, and trustees apparently presented in 1888 and 1894. In 1895 the advowson was exchanged with that of Nidd vicarage (Yorks.) and the Duchy of Lancaster replaced H. E. Butler of Nidd Hall (Yorks.) as patron. (fn. 2) Easthorpe was united with Copford rectory in 1922 and thereafter the Lord Chancellor and the Duchy of Lancaster pre- sented alternately. (fn. 3) From 1994 the advowson of the united benefice and that of Messing with Inworth were held jointly, turns being taken consecutively by the Lord Chancellor, the Duchy of Lancaster, and the Diocesan Board of Patronage. (fn. 4).
In 1254 the rectory was valued at 100s., from which the prior of Leighs received 13s. 4d.; by 1428 only 16d. of the prior's pension was still being paid and by 1535 it was lost. A payment of £1 8s. a year to Coggeshall abbey was re- corded in 1491. In 1535 the rectory was worth £12. (fn. 5) In 1650 the glebe was worth £20 and the tithes £40. (fn. 6) In 1705 the rector received 7s. 2d. a year for the use of the altar, from Thomas Porter's land. (fn. 7) The average net income in 1835 was £211. (fn. 8) In 1837 the tithes were commuted for an annual rent-charge of £274. (fn. 9) In 1887 the tithe and glebe rentals together amounted to £312. (fn. 10) In 1897 stock worth £1,667 of the endowment of Methley rectory, co. York, was transferred to Easthorpe. (fn. 11)
The rectory house was described as ancient in 1637 and good in 1841. (fn. 12) It was mortgaged to the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty in 1895, presumably to finance improvements. (fn. 13) It was sold in 1929, and subsequently called St. Mary's Grange. (fn. 14) The earliest part of the house, timber- framed with plastered facades and tiled roofs, lies on the south side. It consists of a 15th- century two-storeyed west cross wing and, prob- ably built after 1637, a two-storeyed hall range with attics and an east cross wing with a hipped roof. The west cross wing, which has a chimney stack partly of 16th- or 17th-century brick, had been extended north by 1841, at which time it was attached to a range of outbuildings. (fn. 15) The east end of the house was extended in brick, first by one bay to the east, probably in the 18th century to judge from the interior, and then north-east by three bays after 1841. Additions since 1700 have been given a fake Tudor appear- ance and some genuine 16th-century material was applied, probably in 1933 when the house was restored. (fn. 16) The glebe comprised c. 40 a., with a cottage divided into two tenements, in 1637, and 35 a. in 1848. (fn. 17) A 2-a. pasture field south of Well Cottage was sold in 1918. (fn. 18)
The earliest recorded rector was Nicholas, clerk to the bishop of Ostia, in 1214. (fn. 19) In 1325 Roger Gernon, parson, and others were accused of hunting unlawfully in Wakes Colne manor and assaulting men. (fn. 20) A guild of Our Lady sur- vived in 1543. (fn. 21) John Kingston, rector 1528-58, was one of Bishop Bonner's commissaries; he bequeathed to the church a cross of copper and gilt 'with a font of the largest sort'. (fn. 22)
Stephen Beaumont, rector 1579-1609, who was accused in 1583 of failing to wear a surplice or use the prayer book, and of 'seditiously' cele- brating other services, joined the Dedham classis. (fn. 23) Thomas Johnson, rector from 1641, was sequestered in 1646 for frequenting taverns, drunkenness, and blasphemy; he was restored in 1660 and died before 1669. (fn. 24) In 1685 the church needed a linen tablecloth for the communion table, a book of homilies, a book of canons, and a table of marriage. In 1705 a new book of common prayer with the canons and articles, a book of homilies and a table of the degrees of marriage were needed, and the lord's prayer, creed and commandments needed repainting. (fn. 25)
In 1723 there were two Sunday services in summer, one in winter, and communion four times a year; the children were catechized in the summer. (fn. 26) From 1726 there was only one Sunday service, and a succession of non- resident, pluralist rectors employed curates who lived at Easthorpe rectory house or in neigh- bouring parishes. In 1766 there were c. 14 com- municants. In 1790 James Round was curate at both Easthorpe and Birch. (fn. 27).
From the early or mid 19th century consecu- tive rectors served the cure personally. In 1841 all but one of the 30 families in the parish belonged to the church, and the average number of communicants was 50. (fn. 28) On census Sunday 1851, out of a population of 161, attendances of 129 in the morning and 208 in the afternoon were reported, including 32 and 24 Sunday- school children respectively; some of the congre- gation were Birch parishioners who lived nearer to Easthorpe church than their own. (fn. 29) In 1862 there was an assistant curate and the average number of communicants was 40. (fn. 30) In 1928 there was one Sunday service and monthly com- munion. In the 20th century the number of communicants ranged from 2 to 23 from the small congregation. (fn. 31) From 1929 the rector lived at Copford rectory and from 1994 at Messing vicarage. (fn. 32)
The church of ST. MARY, Easthorpe Road, the dedication of which was recorded in 1427, (fn. 33) was built of mixed materials with Roman brick in the dressings, and has an undivided nave and chancel with a west bell turret and spire of timber. The nave and west end of the chancel, which originally had an apse, (fn. 34) are 12th-century and of that period are all or part of five windows and north and south nave doorways. In the mid 13th century the apse was destroyed and the chancel lengthened: it has an east triplet of lancets and sedilia, both enriched, and a piscina. Paintings in the splays of a nave window may also be 13th-century. The east end of the nave and west end of the chancel were mostly refen- estrated in the 14th century, a west window inserted, and a tomb recess, which incorporates a quatrefoil window, was made in the nave south wall. In the 15th century the porch, recon- structed in 1910, (fn. 35) and a stoup were added, as was a rood loft from which rood-stair doorways remain.
In 1685 the floor needed mending in several places and the tiled roof needed repair. (fn. 36) One nave window seems to date from the 16th or 17th century and the communion table is 17th- century. There was presumably a west bell- turret by 1705 when the steeple needed shingl- ing. (fn. 37) It was repaired in 1866 and in 1910. By 1892 the nave roof and walls and the porch were in poor condition, (fn. 38) and the church was exten- sively restored in 1910-11 by F. Hutton of Birch, builder, to plans by Wykeham Chan- cellor. The walls were repaired, especially the north wall where a buttress was built, a new roof was constructed, the tower was straightened and the north doorway was reopened. The old vestry was removed. The church was reseated with chairs and refloored and a pulpit was provided. (fn. 39)
In the tomb recess window is stained glass with several coats of arms; there are also remains of arms in a chancel south window. In 1831 there was in a north window a figure of an armed knight, with a red cross on his breast, supported under his arms by two angels, his helmet being removed by another angel. (fn. 40) Members of the Kingsmill family, buried in the chancel, are commemorated by floor slabs. There is a medie- val scratch-dial. (fn. 41) The church sustained minor damage in the Second World War. (fn. 42) The tower was damaged in a gale c. 1969, and subsequently restored. (fn. 43)
Two bells were sold at the Reformation. (fn. 44)
Two bells were recorded in 1867 and 1877, one of which was of 1663 by Miles Gray, which sur- vived in 1909 and was an exact duplicate of the single bell at Abberton. (fn. 45) The plate included a small Elizabethan silver chalice and cover; a pewter flagon was recorded in 1685. (fn. 46)