A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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The early history of the advowson of Little Laver is not clear. It was certainly granted to the priory of Rumilly, a Cluniac house in the Pas-de-Calais, by a count of Boulogne after the beginning of the 12th century. (fn. 1) It is probable that the grant was made by Count Eustace during the reign of Henry I. (fn. 2)
For some time in the 13th century, if not before, the prior and monks of Rumilly found it impossible to exercise their rights of presentation. (fn. 3) This led them in 1279 to make an agreement with Queen Eleanor, wife of Edward I. (fn. 4) The queen was to help the priory to recover the advowson from usurpers. The prior and monks were then to grant the advowson to the queen for 50 marks but they reserved to themselves the pension of 16s. which they were 'wont to receive in times past from the church'. Apparently the priory's claim was successfully established, for in 1280 the prior granted the advowson to the king and queen. (fn. 5) Thereafter the advowson remained in the Crown until late in the reign of Henry VIII when it was granted to Richard, 1st Baron Rich. (fn. 6)
In 1559 Lord Rich conveyed the advowson with the manor of Bourchiers Hall to John Collins who presented to the church in 1569. (fn. 7) Nicholas Collins presented in 1599. (fn. 8) In 1607 James I presented through lapse. (fn. 9) In 1609 Nicholas Collins conveyed the advowson to John Adams. (fn. 10) In 1637 Benjamin Oliver presented to the living. (fn. 11) In about 1654 Anne Gilbert presented William Hiccocks who in 1655 presented Edward Whiston. (fn. 12) Presentations were made by Richard Collins in 1662, Ann Bayn in 1670, Samuel Burnet in 1690, and Maurice Hunt in 1697. (fn. 13) Matthew Blucke held the advowson with the manor of Bourchiers Hall before his death in about 1713. (fn. 14) After this the advowson descended with the manor until 1767. (fn. 15) In 1767 Robert Palmer came into possession of the advowson as well as the manor. (fn. 16) He immediately sold the next presentation to Timothy Earl for £525. (fn. 17) The right of presentation afterwards reverted to Palmer according to the agreement of 1767. (fn. 18) The living then remained in the gift of the lords of the manor of Bourchiers Hall until the manor was sold to William Clark in 1801. (fn. 19) The advowson was also offered for sale by Richard Palmer in 1801 but did not find a purchaser. (fn. 20) It remained with the Palmers or their trustees until 1910 when it was transferred to the Bishop of St. Albans from Mary Isabella, widow of the Revd. Henry Golding-Palmer, grandson of Richard Palmer. (fn. 21) In 1914 the right of presentation was transferred from the Bishop of St. Albans to the Bishop of Chelmsford. (fn. 22) Since 1933 the living has been united with that of Moreton in the gift of St. John's College, Cambridge, who have first and third turns, and the Bishop of Chelmsford, who has second turn. (fn. 23)
In about 1254 the church was assessed at 6 marks. (fn. 24) This sum did not include the pension of 16s. which was at that time paid to the monks of Rumilly. (fn. 25) In 1291 the church was assessed at £8. (fn. 26) In 1428 it was still taxed on this valuation. (fn. 27) In 1535 the rectory was valued at £15 10s. 4d. (fn. 28) Its 'improved' value was £80 in 1604, £90 in 1650, and £140 in 1661. (fn. 29) In 1610 there were about 87 acres of glebe. (fn. 30) The tithes were commuted in 1848 for £260; there were then 89 acres of glebe. (fn. 31)
A terrier of 1610 described the rectory as 'a fair dwelling-house, the greater part whereof was built by John Oliver, rector of this parish in 1600' with 'an old kitchen a little distant from the house, a great barn for corn, and a barn for hay, with a stable at the east end of it, two gardens, a little square green court, a great old orchard, and other yards and easements for the most part compassed about with a great ditch or small moat'. (fn. 32) The separate kitchen was a medieval feature which evidently survived when the house was rebuilt by Oliver. The north side of the moat was still in existence in 1848 (fn. 33) but only short stretches now remain. The house was rebuilt in 1831 at a cost of £2,000. (fn. 34) It consists of a square two-story block with a pedimented porch on the north side and a splayed bay to the south. A large wing adjoins it on the west. It ceased to be used as a parsonage after the living was united with that of Moreton in 1933 and it is now a private house called White Lodge.
The parish church of ST. MARY consists of nave, apse, south porch, and combined north vestry and organ chamber. The walls are of flint rubble. The porch is of timber. In 1872 the church was largely rebuilt and very little medieval work now remains.
Nothing is left of the pre-13th-century church except the font (see below). The nave was probably rebuilt in the 14th century. It retains two windows, much restored, of this date. The south window has a chamfered hood-mould externally and two muchdecayed head stops. The braced collar-beam roof appears to be partly ancient. The only other original feature is the trefoil-headed piscina, which is probably of the 14th century and which has been reset in the apse.
Drawings of the church before 1872 showed that it had a square-ended chancel (fn. 35) with a doorway and a 15th-century window on its south side. (fn. 36) In about 1768 the church was described as 'small, of one pace, and the same width, with the chancel, and the whole tyled. The belfry stands in the middle of the church, with a spire shingled, in which there is only 1 bell.' (fn. 37)
In 1872 the church was restored and enlarged at the expense of the Revd. Richard Palmer in memory of his brother, the Revd. H. Palmer. (fn. 38) The architects were Messrs. Turner & Son of Wilton Street, Grosvenor Place (Lond.). (fn. 39) The west wall, the apsidal chancel, the porch, and the vestry are all of this date. In general the new work is a free interpretation of an early-14th-century style. The apse has three-light windows with an inner arcade resting on polished shafts of pink-veined marble. The west window is three-light and there are single-light lancets elsewhere. The south doorway of the nave is 13th-century in style with a Norman zigzag moulding superimposed on the arch. The opening from the vestry to the nave has a large trefoil-headed arch. In 1884 the floor of the church was raised and relaid. (fn. 40)
There is one bell by Anthony Bartlet inscribed 'All Glory Be To God' and dated 1674. (fn. 41) It has been rehung in the stone cupola above the west end of the nave.
The square font bowl is of the late 12th century and is similar in character to those in some neighbouring parishes. (fn. 42) The base is an addition of 1872 (fn. 43) and the carving of the bowl was probably recut at the same time. The decoration includes the fleur-de-lis, crescent, disk, and whorl found on other fonts of the type. (See plate facing p. 184.)
There is a chair which has early-17th-century carving and may have been made from a pulpit and sounding board of this period. (fn. 44) The stone pulpit, carved with niches and figures, dates from 1872. (fn. 45) The carved stone reredos was given by the Revd. S. C. Beauchamp in 1886 in memory of Miss S. Caroline Palmer. (fn. 46)
The plate includes a silver cup with a bowl of 1562 which has a gilded band of foliage ornament, a silver cup with a bowl of 1563 to which a stem with a scalloped collar, probably of the 17th century, has been added, and an undated silver paten of which the foot possibly fits the bowl of 1562.