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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There was a church by the earlier 12th century when Robert of Essex, or his son Henry, gave the advowson to Prittlewell priory. The priory held it until the Dissolution. (fn. 1) As an alien house the priory was frequently in royal hands, and the Crown presented in 1301, 1327, 1331, 1349, 1350, and 1372. (fn. 2) In 1536 the advowson was granted to John de Vere, earl of Oxford, who sold it to John Lucas. It passed, with Breewood Hall, to John's descendants, the Lucas family of St. John's abbey, Colchester, barons Lucas of Crudwell, who presented regularly. (fn. 3) The advowson was obtained by Balliol College, Oxford, in 1921 and the college remained patron in 1996. (fn. 4)
In 1254 the rectory was worth 12 marks, out of which the prior received a pension of 20s. (fn. 5) It was taxed at £10 in 1291, and £15 in 1535. (fn. 6) In 1650 the glebe was worth £16 and the tithe £84. (fn. 7) The glebe, which between 1610 and 1810 comprised c. 40 a. concentrated between Nayland Road and the church, had increased to over 49 a. by 1817. (fn. 8) By 1835 the rector had a gross income of £750 a year, which had risen to £1,005 17s. 6d. by 1887. (fn. 9) In that year the glebe lands, worth £50, comprised 42 a. 3 r. 24 p. (fn. 10)
The medieval parsonage house was probably on the site of the later one, immediately north- east of the church. In 1634 it needed repair. (fn. 11) It was replaced by an early 19th-century stucco villa which may have been built by Sir John Soane in 1808 for the Revd. Philip Yorke, grandson of Philip Yorke, 1st earl of Hardwick, for whose family Soane carried out several important commissions. The house has principal fronts of three bays: that to the west has a central bow while that to the south has an entrance with debased Doric columns in antis. The interior retains a plaster vaulted hall and many contemporary fittings. The house was sold in 1937, renamed The Chantry, and given a new lodge designed by Raymond Erith in 1938. (fn. 12) The new rectory house was The Bungalow on Tog Lane, but it moved again in the late 1940s to a house, later the Old Rectory, Nayland Road. That house was sold in 1986 when the rectory moved to Ivy Lodge Road. (fn. 13)
Although there was no incumbent or vicar in 1254, rectors are recorded from 1278. (fn. 14) In 1494 Richard Hagis, rector 1484-8 and later bishop of Kildare, left a vestment to the church. (fn. 15) In 1278 John de Frowyk, rector of Great Horkesley, left his houses and rents in Colchester for the maintenance of a chantry in the church. (fn. 16) There is no further evidence of a chantry in the church until one was endowed with lands in Great and Little Horkesley by John Breewood in 1500. (fn. 17) John Falcon of Nayland (fl. late 15th century) gave a croft worth 10s. for a yearly obit and another for scouring the candlesticks. Other early 16th-century testators endowed lights in the church or left money or cows for obits. In 1513 a man left a vestment to the church on condition that he was buried there, and that his descendants could wear the vestment when singing on feast days. (fn. 18)
In 1528 John Wyley of Great Horkesley was one of a group of heretics, possibly Lollards, who denied transubstantiation and who met in Colchester houses to read the New Testament. (fn. 19) In 1532 the church's statue of St. Parnel was destroyed. (fn. 20) Three men withheld rents, probably from obit cows, from the church in 1540 and 1542, and another man refused to keep the light before the cross in 1540. (fn. 21) Between 1548 and 1552 the churchwardens sold church plate, ornaments, and vestments worth over £14, spending some of the proceeds on church repairs. (fn. 22) In 1555 a Protestant carpenter from Horkesley was imprisoned and died at Newgate, and in the following year a sawyer and his wife signed confessions of faith sufficiently ambiguous to save their lives. (fn. 23)
The rector, Robert Coates, refused to subscribe to the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity, and was ejected in 1562. (fn. 24) In 1594 the churchwardens were presented in the archdeacon's court, probably at the instigation of the puritan John Bound (rector, 1580-1617), for allowing three unsuitable persons to sit in the chancel. (fn. 25) The frequent use of Old Testament names such as Zachariah, Abigail, Abraham, and Issac, in the 1620s suggests continuing puritanism. (fn. 26) The Laudian William Eyres, rector 1618-42, had previously been Colchester's common preacher. (fn. 27) William was succeeded by Thomas Eyres from whom the church was sequestered by Parliament in 1645-6. Nathanial Bugg, rector c. 1646-55, was a member of the Presbyterian classis in 1645 and signatory of the 1648 'Testimony' and 1649 'Watchword'. John Wright, probably rector from 1655, was ejected at the Restoration, but remained as curate to the restored Thomas Eyres until 1664. (fn. 28)
Eighteenth-century rectors included the poet, essayist, and tragedian John Brown, 1756-60. (fn. 29) Throughout that century there were two Sunday services and communion three or four times a year. (fn. 30) Rectors in 1723, 1738, and 1778 were resident, but that in 1763 was not. (fn. 31) The curate's salary, £50 in 1778 and 1790, had risen to £100 by 1810. (fn. 32) Phillip Yorke, rector 1796-1817 and resident in 1810, had been highly regarded as a preacher when he was a prebendary of Ely. (fn. 33) William Ward, rector 1817-38, was also Bishop of Sodor and Man 1819-38. In 1851 average attendances were 181 in the mornings and 289 in the evenings in a church which in 1886 could seat 300. (fn. 34) Sir Henry William Baker (d. 1877), the hymn writer and first editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern, was curate 1844-51. (fn. 35)
The church of ALL SAINTS, a dedication first recorded in 1512, (fn. 36) is built of rubble with ashlar and brick dressings. It comprises a chancel with north vestry and chapel, a nave with north aisle and south porch, and a west tower. The nave is 12th-century, the unbuttressed tower was added early in the 14th century, and later in that century the north chapel and vestry were built. The church was much altered during the 15th century, the aisle and porch were added, the tower was raised by one stage, all the windows of the nave and chancel were renewed, and the church was re-roofed. In the 19th century the church was restored. (fn. 37)
In 1569 the church needed glazing and in 1581 whitewashing and paving. (fn. 38) Windows and the vestry needed repair in 1633 and 1684, as did the tower and north buttress in 1684 and 1705. In the latter year the porch required repair, and the chancel floor needed relaying and its walls plastering. (fn. 39)
There is a sundial with Roman numerals cut on a buttress on the south side of the church. The font is 19th-century. The remains of a 15th- century font cover are incorporated in the present one. There is a 14th-century door between the chancel and vestry and a 15th-century one in the south doorway of the nave. Furniture includes a 16th-century church chest, an early 17th-century pulpit obtained from St. Margaret's, Ipswich, in 1848, an early 17th-century chair, and a late 17th-century communion table. (fn. 40)
The silver cup and paten in the church in 1684 (fn. 41) were replaced by a silver cup and two patens dated 1741 and a paten of 1717 inscribed 'Great Horkesley 1751'. A silver flagon of 1732 is inscribed with the names of two churchwardens and the date 1832. (fn. 42)
There were five bells in 1684 and 1862. In 1909 there were six: (i) John Warner and Sons 1902 (ii) Thomas Mears 1793 (iii) Miles Gray 1679 (iv) Bury St. Edmunds, late 15th century or early 16th (v) Gardiner of Sudbury 1747 (vi) Bury St. Edmunds as (iv). (fn. 43) The bell cast by Gardner of Sudbury was commissioned by William Sadler of Colchester and inscribed with a libellous rhyme, later removed, about a business partner. (fn. 44) There is a 13th-century coffinlid in the nave. In the chancel is another grave slab commemorating the rector Richard Oliver (d. 1327), and a black marble grave slab of Samuel Gibbs of Horkesley Park (d. 1692). (fn. 45) There is a portrait and a funeral hatchment of William Ward in the vestry.
In 1491 the bishop of Ely granted an indulgence to all those contributing to the lights and ornaments in the chantry chapel of St. Mary the Virgin at the cross called 'the five ashes' in Great Horkesley. (fn. 46) It was probably the chapel dedicated to Our Lady on Horkesley Causeway endowed by John Falcon, who also left a croft to support a 'drinking' in the chapel. In 1500 John Breewood left lands in Great and Little Horkesley to support a chantry priest at the chapel and gave his wife Margaret the advowson during her lifetime. (fn. 47) The total endowment appears to have comprised the chapel, two houses, 60 a. of land, and 40 a. of pasture. (fn. 48) In 1508 Agnes Bounde of Colchester left two painted cloths to the chapel. (fn. 49) In 1525-6 the lands were enfeoffed for the performance of the wills of John and Alice Falcon and John Breewood to provide a secular priest to sing masses in the chapel for 99 years. (fn. 50) In 1535 the chapel was worth £6. (fn. 51) In 1548 the chapel and its lands were purchased by John Lucas. (fn. 52) The clerk living in the chapel was then 80 years old and 'of small learning, very lame and impotent but of good conversation'. (fn. 53) The chantry lands were still recorded in 1651, but were thereafter presumably re-absorbed into the Breewood Hall estate from which they were probably taken. (fn. 54)
The former chantry chapel, c. 1 mile south of the church on Horkesley Causeway, is a small red brick building probably of the late 15th century. It was originally thatched but is now tiled. The priest's lodging on two floors was at the west end, divided from the chapel by a studwork partition. The chapel extended to the full height of the building and had decorated roof timbers. The piscina survives. After the Reformation it became a labourer's cottage. In 1996 it was a private house with a 19th- or 20th-century red brick extension. (fn. 55)
In 1866 the main church could only seat a third of the inhabitants and the shortage of space probably explains why by 1874 the rector had acquired as a chapel St. John's formerly a nonconformist chapel. In 1878 services were held there on Sunday evenings and Wednesdays, but from 1922 on Sunday evenings only. (fn. 56) The freehold of the building was bought for the church in 1902 by E. B. P. Kelso of Horkesley Park and transferred to the parish by his executors in 1925. (fn. 57) The building was still in use in 1997.
ST. JOHN'S CHURCH,
of white brick, was originally built as a nonconformist chapel c. 1845, its west end apparently clasping an earlier wooden chapel which was subsequently replaced by a brick vestry. The original twin chapel doors were blocked and replaced by a single porch, probably in the later 19th century. A chancel built in memory of E. B. P. Kelso, was added in 1925 and the building was further extended in 1977. The entrance drive to the chapel is flanked by two brick lodges, one round and early 19th-century, the other octagonal and mid 19th-century. (fn. 58)