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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William I gave Fordham church to Bec abbey in Normandy in 1087, (fn. 1) but the advowson descended with the manor from 1325 or earlier, the lord or his nominee presenting, except in 1391, 1451, 1454, 1486, 1492, and 1533 when the king presented. After the ownership of the manor was divided in 1543 the patronage alternated between the lords of Fordham Hall and Great Fordham manors, except that the bishop of London presented by lapse in 1561, as did Queen Elizabeth in 1597. (fn. 2) The Great Fordham manor share of the advowson was sold in 1893, presumably to Revd. T. M. Dunn who presented in 1897. (fn. 3) His share passed to Revd. E. V. Dunn between 1916 and 1919, and to A. Arwidson in 1928. (fn. 4) In 1961 Arwidson's turns were transferred by his executors to the Incorporated Trinitarian Bible Society Trust, (fn. 5) which thereafter took alternate turns with Balliol College to whom the Fordham Hall manor share had passed in 1921 or 1922. (fn. 6)
In 1961 the boundaries of the ecclesiastical parish were altered slightly, small portions of Copford and Stanway, and a detached part of West Bergholt being added to Fordham, and three small portions of Fordham being annexed to West Bergholt. All Saints' church, Eight Ash Green, built in 1898 as a chapel of ease to St. Michael's, Copford, was transferred to Fordham as a district church in Fordham parish with a separate district church council. (fn. 7)
The estimated value of the rectory was 10 marks in 1254, (fn. 8) and £8 in 1291. (fn. 9) Tithes assessed at 53s. 4d. in 1428 had been granted to Ogbourne priory (Wilts.), a cell of Bec abbey, and to Horkesley priory. (fn. 10) The rectory in 1535 was valued at £14 4s. (fn. 11) In 1650 tithe and glebe were valued at £116. (fn. 12) In 1723 the rector tried unsuccessfully to obtain tithes from Fordham Hall woodland. (fn. 13) The average net income in 1835 was £603, (fn. 14) and from 1875 was increased by the rent from a cottage bought with a loan from Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 15) In 1887 the tithe and glebe together amounted to £791. (fn. 16)
In 1610 the rectory house stood c. ¾ mile north of the church on a moated site of c. ½ a. (fn. 17) In 1662 it had 8 hearths. (fn. 18) It was replaced c. 1810 by a new square house of lath and plaster, with a tiled roof, which was in good condition in 1841. (fn. 19) In 1868 an extra wing of brick was added, financed by £500 borrowed from Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 20) A new rectory house was pro- vided at Wood Lane, Fordham Heath, by 1964 and the old one sold. (fn. 21)
The 29 a. of glebe, which in 1610 consisted of three fields north of the rectory house, 6 a. of wood next to Sir William Waldegrave's Priory grove with a small piece of adjacent land, and Parsonage meadow north of the Colne, (fn. 22) re- mained in 1810. (fn. 23) In 1893 the 33 a. of glebe included c. 6 a. adjoining the house, which included 'pretty pleasure gardens'. (fn. 24)
In the Middle Ages rectors, some pluralists, were appointed regularly. (fn. 25) The earliest re- corded rector was Henry in 1198, dean of Lexden, who in 1204 employed a curate. (fn. 26) Thomas of Reddeswell had a papal dispensation in 1291 to hold the living in plurality. (fn. 27) Roger Walden (d. 1406), rector briefly in 1391, was later archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 28) In 1526 there was a bequest to keep a light before St. John the Baptist. (fn. 29) A free chapel worth 12d. a year, dis- solved by 1549, possibly the chapel in Ford Street, Aldham, was perhaps connected with the Holy Trinity guild dissolved by 1552. (fn. 30)
In 1544 disputes among parishioners dis- turbed church services. (fn. 31) In 1547 the church- wardens sold a pax and a pair of censers worth £4, and in 1548 latten, vestments, and other goods worth 41s. 4d. (fn. 32) In 1569 the church- wardens held a copyhold strip in Woolpit meadow. (fn. 33) Samuel Baghett, rector 1544-58, was imprisoned in 1555 for refusing to follow Roman Catholic practices but released when he re- canted. (fn. 34) Thomas Upcher, rector 1561-96, and rector of St. Leonard's Colchester 1571-82, was an extreme Protestant and former Marian exile; in his time stained glass was removed. (fn. 35) Thomas Wither, rector 1597-1616, was archdeacon of Colchester 1598-1616. (fn. 36) In 1618, when Robert Cotton, apparently a puritan, was rector, parish- ioners broke into the church and removed the pulpit, presumably to register disapproval of him. (fn. 37) By 1643 the living had been sequestrated; John Alsop, who had been chaplain to Archbishop Laud, was replaced by the parlia- mentarian John Owen, (fn. 38) who served until 1646 and later became an Independent. (fn. 39) Richard Pulley, his successor, signed the Testimony of Essex Presbyterian Ministers in 1648, but the living was sequestrated in 1649 and served by the Harvard-educated puritan John Bulkley, until Pulley was restored in 1660. (fn. 40)
In 1633 the church fabric and furnishings showed signs of neglect, and in 1684 a cover for the communion table and a new pulpit cushion were needed. (fn. 41) In 1705 many furnishings needed repair or were lacking. (fn. 42)
In 1723 there were two Sunday services and communion three times a year; John Pulley, the resident rector, also held Wickford where he employed a curate. (fn. 43) Henry Craske, rector 1731-43 and chaplain to George II in 1738, paid John Halls, rector of Easthorpe and resident in Fordham, to serve the cure, while he preached at a church in Bury St. Edmunds (Suff.) every Sunday; Craske also held Shotley (Suff.) where he lived two months a year. Communion was celebrated four times a year. (fn. 44) Halls was after- wards curate to the non-resident rector, Dr. James Husbands, 1743-50, who held Little Horkesley. (fn. 45) Charles Onley, non-resident rector 1763-1804, presented by his father-in-law, Samuel Savill, employed Thomas Twining, fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, as curate 1763-89. Twining, an accomplished musician, linguist, and classical scholar who translated Aristotle's Poetics, lived in Fordham in the summer only. (fn. 46) Moses Dodd, curate in 1802 and rector 1804-39, was a prebendary of Chichester prebendal school. (fn. 47)
In 1841, when two-thirds of the 160 families in the parish were said to belong to the church, the average number of communicants was 15. (fn. 48) On census Sunday 1851 attendances of 119 in the morning and 204 in the afternoon were recorded out of a population of 740. (fn. 49) The number of communicants rose to 30 by 1862. (fn. 50) T. L. Lingham, rector 1868-97, left the parish's financial affairs 'in a deplorable condition', (fn. 51) and by 1898 there were only c. 3 communicants, though more on special occasions. In the early 20th century there were three Sunday services and one for children, and saints' day services. Congregations on special occasions were some- times over 100, but attendances started to decline before the First World War. In 1932 there were two Sunday services and a monthly children's service. (fn. 52) In 1963 the parochial church council expressed a preference for an incumbent with moderate views, (fn. 53) but in 1997 the evangelical churchmanship attracted wor- shippers from beyond the parish. (fn. 54)
The church of ALL SAINTS, Church Road, the invocation recorded in 1516, stands on high ground overlooking the Colne valley. It com- prises a chancel, nave with north and south aisles, south porch, and west tower. The nave and chancel are built primarily of rubble, with small amounts of brick and flint mixed in, but the aisles and clerestorey have regular, alternat- ing bands of flint and brick. The nave is prob- ably 11th- or early 12th-century, but the church was largely rebuilt in the earlier 14th century, when the chancel was rebuilt, the three-bay nave arcades inserted, the aisles constructed, the porch and lower storeys of the tower built, and the chancel arch rebuilt. The arcades have two- centred heads, two chamfered orders, and moulded capitals and octagonal piers very simi- lar to those at Langham. The matching chancel arch was built as a single unit with the eastern responds of the arcades, and the tower arch is similar, but not identical. The contemporary clerestorey has small, squat trefoil openings. The chancel, aisles, and porch retain parts of their 14th-century roofs. In 1547 the whole church was reroofed, all or partly of lead. A rood loft was mentioned in 1548. The church was whitened, and the windows mended and glazed in 1549, but in 1633 extensive repairs were needed, and the steeple was cracked. (fn. 55) In 1684 the roof at the chancel end needed repair and the tower was so badly cracked it was in danger of collapsing. In 1705 the church floor needed levelling and there were cracks in the outside walls. (fn. 56) The shingled spire, mentioned in 1768, fell down in 1796 damaging the west side of the tower, (fn. 57) and was rebuilt in red brick.
A conservative restoration by Joseph Grimes of Colchester was completed in 1861, providing seating for 242 adults and 88 children, financed partly by grants from the Incorporated Church Building Society and the Essex Church and Chapel Building Society. The plaster was removed from the outer walls, the windows reglazed, and the floors tiled. The former rood screen fixings remained visible after the resto- ration. The chancel walls were cracked in 1869 after the drought of 1868. (fn. 58) Alterations in 1907 included the provision of an oak reredos and a chancel screen. (fn. 59) Seventeenth-century panelling is incorporated into the 19th-century pulpit. A monument in the chancel to Capt. John Pulley (d. 1715) has a bust and frieze of sailing ships.
A chalice of parcel gilt recorded in 1552 was probably made from the girdle of Alice Creffield, in accordance with her will of 1522. (fn. 60) In 1684 there was a small silver chalice and cover, and a pewter flagon and paten. Charles Onley, rector, gave a flagon, paten, and shell, apparently of silver, before 1804, and an old chalice was exchanged. (fn. 61) All the silver plate was sold and electro-plate had been substituted by 1925. (fn. 62) In 1552 there were three bells. (fn. 63) The three bells in 1684 (fn. 64) included one of 1637 by Miles Gray, the three in 1768 included one of 1723 by John Damion. In 1859 there were only two bells, Damion's and Gray's, and in 1862 one was cracked. (fn. 65) The Hanoverian coat of arms, made at Joseph Wallis's iron foundry, Col- chester, was hanging over the north door in 1997. (fn. 66)
ALL SAINTS' DISTRICT CHURCH, Halstead Road, originally in Copford parish, (fn. 67) financed by a bequest of Mrs. E. M. Searles, was built in 1898 (fn. 68) of red brick in a plain lancet style. It comprises a chancel with south vestry, and a nave with apsidal western narthex with north and south porches. There is a bell-cote above the vestry. In 1942 there were two Sunday services and from 1949 a monthly children's ser- vice. In 1942-5 the number of communicants was usually less than 20, in 1954-9 often more than 20, but after 1959 declined. In 1978 there was a Sunday school and one or two other ser- vices, (fn. 69) but by 1998 only one service a month.