Great Chesterford

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1, North West. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1916.

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'Great Chesterford', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1, North West, (London, 1916) pp. 113-116. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

In this section


(O.S. 6 in. (a)ii. S.E., (b)iii. N.W., (c)iii. S.W.)

Great Chesterford is a parish and large village 3½ m. N.W. of Saffron Walden, on the S. border of Cambridgeshire. The site of a Roman town or village lies just beyond the village on the W. side.


a (1). Town or Village. Remains of two or three dwelling-houses, many rubbish-pits, thick walls of flint, concrete and bonding-tiles as of a town, etc., noted at various periods since 1577 in or near the Borough Field (O.S. 25", II. 8 and 12, fields 74–6, 94–7) indicate a small town or village. The exact size of the walled area is doubtful. The London and Cambridge road runs on or near the E. and S. limits; the Granta flows past the W. side, which is still traceable by a long scarp in the ground; the N. end is uncertain; the total area has been put at about 50 acres. The site has been dug for gravel for a century and a half, and no structural remains are now visible. Other buildings belonging to the place seem to have stood outside the walls, one or two even W. of the Granta, in Ickleton parish, Cambridgeshire (see Sectional Preface, p. xxii). The ancient name of the place is unknown.

(2). Temple (often miscalled a 'villa'), about 40 ft. sq., with mosaics, was found in 1847 on a hill overlooking the Chesterford valley, a mile E. of the Borough Field. Its exact site is not known. (For plan, see Sectional Preface, p. xxii).


a (3). Parish Church of All Saints stands S.W. of the village. The walls are of flint rubble with stone dressings, some shelly oolite being used in the quoins; the walls of the S. chapel are plastered and all the details have been much scraped. The roofs are covered with lead. The history of the building has been obscured by modern restorations. The Chancel is of early or mid 13th-century date, and a little later the present Nave was built, aisles were added and probably a W. tower was built; the two western bays of the existing nave-arcades are of late 13th-century date; at that time the nave was two bays longer than at present and had also a crossing and transepts between it and the chancel. The W. tower and with it the two westernmost bays of the nave fell or was destroyed probably late in the 14th or early in the 15th century; the W. wall of the nave and the tower were then rebuilt in their present position and the crossing was thrown into the nave; the N. and S. arches, formerly opening into the transepts, were under-built with two smaller arches, and the chancel-arch was rebuilt further E. At the same time also the North and South Aisles were rebuilt and widened and the North Chapel and a S. chapel added. Early in the 16th century the S. chapel and part of the S. aisle were pulled down and a large South Chapel was built. In the 18th century the tower fell and was rebuilt in 1790. The church was restored in 1842, when the West Tower was altered, the chancel-arch rebuilt, and other arches were probably rebuilt at the same time; the building was again restored in 1891, and a former N. porch and N.E. vestry were removed.

Architectural Description:— The Chancel (36 ft. by 18 ft.) has a modern E. window, with a 14th-century rear arch, internal label and splay; under it is a sill-course of roughly worked stone, dropped and carried along part of the wall on each side. In the N. wall, at the E. end, is a lancet window of the 13th century with an external label; below it and a little to the W. is a 15th-century blind arch, two-centred and of two orders, possibly a former doorway, but not externally visible; further W. is an obtuse two-centred arch, either entirely re-cut or a copy of 13th-century work; it is of two hollow-chamfered orders, with a chamfered label and cone-shaped stops; the responds have each a semi-octagonal shaft with moulded capitals and bases. In the S. wall is a 13th-century lancet window similar to that in the N. wall, but smaller, and externally entirely modern; further W. is an archway, similar to that in the N. wall. The chancel-arch is modern.

The North Chapel (see North Aisle).

The South Chapel (42 ft. by 16½ ft.) overlaps the chancel by one bay and the nave by about one and a half bays. The E. window is modern, with a few 15th-century stones in the S. jamb. In the S. wall are three windows of the 15th-century, much restored; the easternmost is of three lights, the wave-moulded internal splay and flat segmental-pointed internal head are original; the second window is of two lights, with the original external label and grotesque stops, two-centred rear arch and internal splay; the third window is of three lights, part of the label and mullions and one jamb-stone are original. Between the two eastern windows is a doorway, entirely modern, except one stone.

The Church, Plan

The Nave (53½ ft. by 18½ ft.) has N. and S. arcades, each of four bays; the two western bays are of mid 13th-century date, the others have been either re-cut or are copies of the earlier work, inserted when the crossing disappeared; the piers are octagonal and the E. responds semi-octagonal; the W. responds were originally free piers: over the easternmost column of the N. arcade the apex of an arch is visible, probably that formerly opening into a N. transept; the second pier from the E. on each side, has a straight joint down the middle showing the limits of the 13th-century work. The clearstorey has, on each side, three modern windows, and near the E. end of the N. wall externally there is a vertical quoin, probably that of the older N.E. angle of the nave. The foundations of the two destroyed bays of the nave, with those of the former W. tower, have been discovered extending W. of the present church.

The North Aisle (10½ ft. wide) overlaps the chancel by one bay, and the W. tower by about 8½ ft. In the E. wall is a modern doorway. In the N. wall, at the E. end, the moulded E. jamb of a 15th-century window is visible outside, and the former opening shows inside as a narrow splayed recess with a square head. Further W. are four modern windows and at the W. end of the wall, probably not in situ, is a doorway of two chamfered orders, entirely modern, except the E. jamb.

The South Aisle (10½ ft. wide). In the S. wall are two windows, both modern, except part of the W. jamb in the eastern window, which is of the 15th century. In the W. wall is a modern window.

The West Tower is entirely modern, except the capitals and bases of the tower-arch, which are of the 13th century and probably re-used material from the destroyed bays of the nave.

The Roof of the chancel is partly modern, but incorporates much 15th-century material; it is of four bays, low-pitched, with king-posts; the wall-brackets rest on wooden corbels, some of them carved with crowned heads and some with angels holding shields. The roof of the nave is similar to that of the chancel, but of slightly higher pitch, and with modern work; the moulded corbels are of stone, two at the E. end are carved with grotesque half-figures. The N. aisle has a lean-to roof almost entirely modern but including some 15th-century work; one corbel is grotesque and the rest moulded. The roof of the S. chapel is also almost entirely modern; it is of low pitch, ridged, and resting on corbels of moulded stone or wood carved with grotesque figures. The roof of the S. aisle is of the first half of the 16th century, low pitched and ridged, with carved principals and intermediates, roll-moulded rafters and large wall-brackets; the spandrels are carved and rest on stone corbels.

Fittings—Bells: On roof of tower, clock bell, by Roger Reve, first half of 16th century, inscribed "Ave Maria gracia plena." Brasses and Indents— Brasses: In S. chapel—S. side, (1) figure of woman, with indents of another figure and inscription plate, early 16th-century; on E. respond of arch to chancel, S. side, (2) to Mary Bales, 1642, inscription only; under same arch, (3) of John Howard, 7th son of Thomas Lord Howard, baron of Walden, 1600, swaddled, figure of child, and inscription, with indent of shield. In nave—in middle, (4) to George Felsted. yeoman, 1638, inscription only. Indents: In S. chapel—E. end, (1) of woman's figure, with inscription plate, early 16th century; (2) inscription plate. Chairs: two, upholstered, with carved backs, legs, and rails, arm supports and posts to back twisted, second half of 17th-century. Communion Table: with moulded rail, shaped apron and twisted legs, second half of 17th-century. Chest: In N. aisle— W. end, plain, rough, iron-bound, with three locks, late 16th-century. Font: In tower—plain octagonal moulded basin and stem, much scraped, 15th-century. Monuments: In churchyard—(1) to Thomas Dean, 1680; (2) to Annie Brimbl, 1690; (3) to Thomas Desmond, 1704; (4) to Mary, wife of William G——, 1710–11. Piscinæ: In chancel—two, the eastern with cinquefoiled head, much defaced; second with pointed, hollow-chamfered head, much weathered, possibly 13th-century. Miscellanea: In chancel—W. side, pavement, of stone in elongated hexagons. Over doorway of S. chapel—externally, inscription on stone with moulded frame, two texts, late 17th-century.

Condition—Good, much restored.


c(4). Homestead Moat, in Paddock Wood, 2 m. E. of the church, is of irregular form and fairly well preserved; the uneven surface of the enclosed area may indicate the existence of foundations.

Monuments (5–32).

The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled or thatched. Many houses have original chimney stacks, wide fireplaces and exposed ceiling-beams.

Condition—Good, or fairly good, unless noted.

a (5). The Elm Tree Inn, about 30 yards N. of the church, was built c. 1600 on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the W. and N. At the E. end of the S. front the upper storey projects and is gabled. Inside the building some of the doors are of old oak battens.

a (6). House, 30 yards E. of the church, was built probably late in the 15th century and is rectangular, with a modern addition on the E. side. The N. or front elevation is gabled and the upper storey projects, and is supported on moulded brackets and a corner post enriched with carving; between the storeys is an ornamental plaster band probably of early 17th-century date; the upper storey has plaster, panels with the date 1692. On the W. elevation the upper storey projects and has moulded brackets, and on the ground floor is a window of two lights originally cusped but now pointed, with carved spandrels and moulded frame and mullion of wood. The interior of the original building is divided into two rooms, of which the southern has richly moulded beams and wall-posts.

a (7). The Manor Farm, ¼ m. S.E. of the church, was built probably c. 1500, on a rectangular plan. In the 16th century a wing, subsequently shortened, was added at the back, making the plan L-shaped, and there are modern additions on the E. and S. Inside the building the arrangement of rooms was much altered in the 18th century. On the ground floor, in the main block, the E. room has two moulded beams, which are continued across the Hall, with a carved boss at the intersection representing a pelican in her piety. On the first floor the room over the Hall has similar beams with a carved rose as a boss. The shaped wall-posts are visible in the 16th-century wing and there is a door of old oak battens in the cellar.

Manor Lane, W. side

a (8). House, 300 yards E. of the church, is probably of late 16th-century date. In front the upper storey projects and is supported on brackets; the two N. brackets are carved.

E. side

a (9). House, 300 yards E. of the church, has a small gable in the middle of the front elevation. The original chimney-stack is cross-shaped on plan and set diagonally.

a (10). Old School House, now two tenements, 400 yards E. of the church. The upper storey projects at the S.W. end.

a (11). The Crown and Thistle Inn, 300 yards E. of the church, was built c. 1500, on a rectangular plan, but bay windows have been added in front, and a large modern addition made at the E. end.

The stone fireplace of c. 1500 deserves notice.

The N. or main elevation is covered with 17th-century ornamental plaster and has a gable at the N.W. end. The back elevation has three gables, and the brick chimney-stack, which has two octagonal shafts with moulded caps and bases, is original. Inside the building, on the first floor, is a stone fireplace of c. 1500, with a square head, chamfered jambs and half-octagonal side shafts with moulded bases.

High Street, S. side

a (12). Cottage, 600 yards E.N.E. of the church, is of one storey with attics.

a (13). The White House, 80 yards S.W. of (12). The original part forms a small wing and a cottage attached to the modern house. The N. or main elevation has a gabled projection at the W. end and a small gable in the roof of the cottage.

N. side

a (14). Cottage, 500 yards E.N.E. of the church, is of one storey with attics.

a (15). Cottage, S.W. of (14), is of two storeys. The original central chimney-stack has two shafts, one circular and the other square.


a (16). House, S.W. of (15), with two small gables on the S. side.

a (17). House, S.W. of (16), with a projecting upper storey at the S. end. The original chimney-stack has two shafts set diagonally.

a (18). House, now a range of four tenements, S.W. of (17).

Great Chesterford, Plan Shewing Position of Monuments

Rose Lane

a (19). Cottage, 500 yards E.N.E. of the church.

Carmel Street, S.W. side

a (20). House, 270 yards E. of the church, was built probably late in the 16th century, on a rectangular plan. On the N. elevation the upper storey projects and is supported on small brackets. The E. end, now a butcher's shop, was formerly a slaughter house. Inside the building, a room on the ground floor has crossed ceiling-beams with a foliated boss at the intersection.

N. side

a (21). House, now a shop, 300 yards E. of the church, has two gables on the W. front and a low modern addition at the back. The original central chimney-stack has sunk panels.

a (22). Cottage. N. of (21). The original chimney-stack has one shaft set diagonally.

a (23). Carmelstead, house, N. of (22), is built on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the S.W. and S.E.; on the N.W. is a modern addition. It has been considerably restored and altered. At the S. end of the S.W. wing the upper storey projects. Interior—The original Hall, now the dining room, is in the middle of the building, with a passage at the W. end dividing it from the kitchen; in the ceiling is a slightly moulded beam.

a (24). Cottage, 130 yards N.W. of (23), is of a modified L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the N.W. and S.W. There are some original casement windows.

Condition—Of N.W. wing, bad.

Fag End, S. side

a (25). Cottage, formerly three tenements, 230 yards N.N.E. of the church.

School Street, W. side

a (26). House, 165 yards N.E. of the church, is built on an L-shaped plan, with the wings extending towards the S. and E. At the E. end of the E. wing the upper storey projects.

a (27). The Maltings Inn, about 30 yards S. of (26). On the front elevation are four gables and the upper storey projects, but has been partially under-built. In the maltings at the back are some old timbers.

E. side

a (28). Cottage, 120 yards E. of the church.


a (29). Cottage, now two tenements, S. of (28), at the corner of Church Street. The front and back elevations each have a central gable, with moulded barge boards.

Newmarket Street, E. side

a (30). Cottage, 340 yards N. of the church.

W. side

a (31). Cottage, 20 yards S.W. of (30).

b (32). Park Farm, house, 2 m. N.N.E. of the church. The main block is rectangular on plan with three small wings projecting towards the S., and modern additions at the W. end and to the W. wing. The S. or back elevation has seven gables, three of them are at the ends of the projecting wings.