A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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In 1181 Norton was included for ecclesiastical purposes in the parish of High Ongar. The church of High Ongar received all tithes from the manor of Norton belonging to St. Paul's (see Forest Hall, High Ongar) but propter vicinitatem christianitatis rendered to the church of Fyfield 1 sack of corn and 1 sack of oats. (fn. 1) Norton must, however, have had its own church within nine years of that date, for Bartholomew de Dammartin (d. before 1190) and Galiena his mother granted the church to the priory of St. Leonard, Stratford-atteBow. (fn. 2) The rectory was appropriated by the nuns of Stratford, who retained it until the Dissolution. No vicarage was ordained, probably because the living was so small. In about 1254 the value was only 6 marks. (fn. 3) The parish is not mentioned in the Taxatio of 1291. In 1428 the taxable value was said to be 8 marks de novo. (fn. 4)
In 1539 the rectory and advowson were granted by the king to William Rolte, one of his serjeants-atarms. (fn. 5) The benefice remained a donative. The impropriator took all tithes and the incumbent was usually styled a curate, not a vicar. In 1541 rectory and advowson were granted by the king to Sir Ralph Sadler, one of his chief secretaries. (fn. 6) In 1543 Sadler conveyed them to William Pawne (d. 1570) lord of Chivers Hall in High Ongar (q.v.). (fn. 7) They descended with Chivers Hall until 1578, when Bridget and William Chatterton conveyed them to Edward Elliott in accordance with the will of William Pawne. (fn. 8) Elliott died in 1595 leaving as his heir his son Thomas, later knighted. (fn. 9) In 1627 Sir Thomas conveyed rectory and advowson to Edward Ditchfield senior, Thomas Ditchfield, and Edward Ditchfield junior. (fn. 10) In 1656 they were conveyed by John Ditchfield and Elizabeth his wife to Anthony Nicholas. (fn. 11)
Anthony Nicholas was impropriator in 1683. (fn. 12) In 1685 he settled the rectory and advowson upon his son John (d. 1714). (fn. 13) John was succeeded by his son Anthony, who died in 1727, leaving his property to his brother William Nicholas. In the following year William sold the rectory and advowson to William Binkes of North Weald for £1,712. Binkes immediately mortgaged them to Nicholas for £1,000. In 1736 the mortgage was purchased from Nicholas by Elizabeth Bayley, widow. In 1739 rectory and advowson were bought by William Elderton, apothecary of London, who paid £1,625 to Binkes and £1,291 to Mrs. Bayley. (fn. 14) A map of the parish drawn for Elderton in 1740 by Thomas Skinner still survives. (fn. 15) Elderton died in 1755, leaving William his son and heir. In 1761 William Elderton mortgaged the property for £600, and in 1763 he sold it to John Searle, who paid £2,600 for the freehold and £600 to redeem the mortgage. Searle or his father had been tenant of the glebe in 1740. (fn. 16) He made his will in 1764, on the eve of his departure to China as a supercargo in the service of the East India Co. (fn. 17) He died after 1772, leaving an only daughter and heir Mary Anne, wife of James Flint of Ospring, Kent. In 1800 Mrs. Flint sold the rectory and advowson to Capel Cure of Blake Hall in Bobbingworth (q.v.). (fn. 18) They remained in the Capel Cure family and had the same descent as Blake Hall until 1923, when the titular vicarage of Norton Mandeville was merged with the vicarage of Blackmore. (fn. 19) The patronage of the joint vicarage has subsequently been vested in the Bishop of Chelmsford. (fn. 20)
Owing to impropriation the curate's income from the benefice continued to be very small after the Dissolution. In 1769 the curate received only £6 a year, and held services once a month for a congregation of 6 or 7 whose lives were said to be endangered by the damp of the church. (fn. 21) By 1810 the income was £58, of which £6 came from the impropriator, £18 from a cottage and 9 acres of land at Radley Green (in Roxwell), £30 from a house and 27 acres of land near Rochford and £4 interest from a £200 endowment from Queen Anne's Bounty. In 1810 the curate raised the rent of the cottage to £24 and that of the house to £60, thus bringing the total income to £94. (fn. 22) In 1847 the tithes of the parish were commuted for £198, of which £10 were payable to John Caton, and £3 to John Mullocks. The remaining £185 was payable to Capel Cure, who also owned the 23 acres of glebe. (fn. 23)
In 1610 there was a parsonage house at Norton Mandeville, with barn, stable 'and other necessary houses pertaining thereto'. The house was probably on the site of the later Parsonage Farm, ¼ mile east of the church. By 1740, if not earlier, this had ceased to be occupied by the curate and in 1848 there was said to be no parsonage house. (fn. 24) The non-residence of the curates was no doubt caused in the first place by the poverty of the living, which made it necessary for them to hold another benefice in addition to that of Norton Mandeville. In the 19th century the curate sometimes held this living alone and in this case evidently had to find his own accommodation. (fn. 25)
The parish church of ALL SAINTS is a very small building consisting of nave, chancel, and south porch with a small bell-cote at the west end of the nave. The walls are of flint rubble dating mostly from the first half of the 14th century, but mixed with this are blocks of freestone from a 12th-century church. Buttresses have been built externally at various dates. The south porch dates from 1903.
As noted above there is reason to suppose that the original parish church of Norton Mandeville was built between 1181 and 1190. It is probable that this stood on the same site as the present church. The worked stone, visible in the external walls of the church, has late-12th-century detail, including nail-head ornament. The font bowl, set on a later base, is of Barnack stone, square, with angle shafts, and is of the 12th century. Part of a pillar piscina in the nave with spiral fluting to the shaft is of the same period. The pointed inner arch of the south door may be of the 13th century, later reset. The north doorway has a semicircular arch but it has been much restored and the date is obscure.
During the first half of the 14th century the church was entirely rebuilt. There are two two-light windows of this period in both north and south walls of the nave, the tracery design being a little different on the two sides. On the south side the original stonework is much decayed. There is a double locker in the north wall and an original piscina with a trefoil head but without a drain on the south side. The roof of the nave has three trusses with 14th-century king-posts with moulded caps and bases and two-way struts. On the westernmost truss two braced posts support the bell-cote which may be of this century or the next. Fourteenth-century slip-ware tiles, recovered during the restoration of 1903, have been set round the font. (fn. 26) In the chancel the single-light window in the north wall is original, that in the south wall a copy, probably retaining its original splay. Farther west is a 'low side' window, probably also of the 14th century. The east window has an original chamfered rear arch and splay: the tracery is a copy of 14th-century work. The piscina is modern but similar in design to that in the nave, the scalloped drain being original.
The chancel roof truss has a chamfered king-post with two-way struts and is probably of the 15th century. Some restoration of the church may have taken place in the 19th century. The wooden frame to the west window appears to be of this date.
In 1903 the church was restored largely by means of a donation of £900 from the Revd. W. M. Oliver, former Rector of Bobbingworth, given anonymously. (fn. 27) The timber porch was built or rebuilt at this time, and among other items several windows were renewed. In 1944 the church was damaged by blast from a rocket bomb.
The chancel screen, probably dating from 1903, incorporates tracery carving of the 15th century. Six 16th-century benches in the nave have roughly carved finials. An hour-glass stand of wrought-iron, probably of the 17th century, was formerly fixed to the splay of one of the nave windows. (fn. 28) It has recently been taken down but is still in the possession of the church. The communion table is of carved oak of the 17th century. Carved and painted figures of the lion and unicorn from a royal arms of the early 18th century are set on brackets at the base of the westernmost rooftruss of the nave. The turned balusters of the communion rails are of mid-18th-century date. The altered pulpit has enriched 18th-century mouldings. In the 'low-side' window is stained glass given in memory of John Caton (d. 1892). The glass in the east window was erected in memory of the anonymous benefactor of 1903. There are inscribed floor slabs in the nave to Mary and Robert Hadsley, 1824 and 1840.
There is one bell, dated 1872, by John Warner &Sons, London. It replaced a bell of the same size dated 1782, and 'obviously by Chapman & Mears'. (fn. 29) The plate consists of a cup of 1724, a paten of 1703, given by John Searle, and an almsdish, undated, also given by him. (fn. 30)
The church hall at Norton Heath was built in 1913. (fn. 31) It is a rectangular wooden building.