Little Dunmow

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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, 'Little Dunmow', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1, North West, (London, 1916) pp. 175-180. British History Online [accessed 19 May 2024].

. "Little Dunmow", in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1, North West, (London, 1916) 175-180. British History Online, accessed May 19, 2024,

. "Little Dunmow", An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1, North West, (London, 1916). 175-180. British History Online. Web. 19 May 2024,

In this section


(O.S. 6 in. (a)xxiv. S.W. (b)xxxiii. N.W.)

Little Dunmow is a small parish and village about 2 m. E. of Great Dunmow. The most important monument is the Parish Church.


Little Dunmow Priory

a (1). Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin stands at the S. end of the village. The walls are of flint rubble and modern brick, and the dressings are of limestone and clunch; the roof is covered with slates. The present church was probably the Lady Chapel of the Augustinian Priory of St. Mary the Virgin, founded in 1106 by Geoffrey Baynard, and is all that remains above ground of the Priory. The Presbytery, and probably the South Transept, were rebuilt c. 1190, when an aisle was added or rebuilt S. of the presbytery, and probably an aisle on the N. side also. The North Transept and its chapels were rebuilt shortly afterwards. The S. aisle of the Presbytery was rebuilt and widened, probably to form a Lady Chapel, c. 1370, and a Transeptal Chapel adjoining it on the S. side was added or rebuilt at the same time. Early in the 16th century a Tower over the crossing was rebuilt. After the Dissolution in 1536, the conventual buildings and church were pulled down, except the Lady Chapel, which became the parish church. The S. wall and arcade of the presbytery, the E. wall of the S. transept, and part of the S.E, pier of the central tower also remain, and a narrow N. aisle was added to cover the arcade. Early in the 19th century the aisle was removed, and the arcade was built up. Later in the 19th century the filling of the arcade was removed and a wall built against the N. face, the Vestry was added, and a slender Turret built on the base of the remaining pier of the former tower; the church was also generally restored. The measurements given below are those of the original Priory church, discovered during the excavations of 1913–14.

The church is one of the finest monastic buildings of the county. The late 12th-century arcade, and the 14th-century windows and panelling are characteristic of their respective dates, and the two 15th-century altar tombs are noteworthy.

Architectural Description—The Presbytery (90 ft. by 23½ ft.) has been destroyed, except the S. wall and arcade, which form the N. wall of the existing church. Part of the rough foundation of the E. wall was uncovered during the excavations of 1913–14, and, a few feet W. of the wall, three graves built of rubble, brick and tiles were found, one being in the presbytery and the other two probably in the N. aisle of the presbytery. The S. arcade of c. 1190 (see Plate, p. 177) is of five bays, and has two-centred arches of three richly moulded orders, with remains of moulded labels on the N. side; the piers each consist of four keeled shafts divided by plain circular shafts, all with moulded and foliated capitals under a common circular abacus; the capital of the third pier is of later date, possibly of the 14th century; the moulded bases have been much restored, and have spur ornaments; they rest on a common octagonal and chamfered plinth with a square chamfered sub-plinth; the responds have attached half-columns. Further E. are remains of two blocked windows, each of one pointed light; they are of c. 1190, and only visible on the N. side; the W. splay of the eastern window, and both splays and the spring of the rear arch of the western window remain; the rear arch is of two moulded orders and the splays were moulded and shafted, but only the westernmost shaft remains, and has a moulded band and a foliated capital. At the level of the sill are traces of a moulded string-course, and below it are remains of four bays of a wall-arcade of interlacing semi-circular arches of c. 1190; the arches were richly moulded, but, except half the westernmost bay, the mouldings have been cut back; they formerly rested on circular shafts with moulded and carved capitals; of these only the westernmost capital remains.

The Central Tower (21½ ft. square) has been destroyed, except the lower part of the E. respond of the S. arch, which adjoins the N.W. angle of the present church; it is of early 16th-century date and of two chamfered orders; the upper part is of late 16th-century brickwork, and on it is the modern brick turret. The rough foundations of the N.E. and N.W. piers of the tower were uncovered during the excavations in 1913–14.

The North Transept (50 ft. by 23½ ft.) has been completely destroyed above ground, but during the excavations the bases of the early 13th-century buttresses of the N.W. angle were discovered, with part of the chamfered plinth of the first pier N. of the central tower on the E. side. There were apparently two chapels opening from the transept and adjoining the N. aisle of the presbytery; the base of the early 13th-century respond between the chapels was uncovered, and had a semi-octagonal shaft and two semi-circular shafts with moulded bases. The inner or southern chapel projected further E. than the outer chapel. A considerable stretch of the soft stone paving of the transept was also uncovered during the excavations.

The South Transept has been destroyed, except the E. wall, which forms the W. wall of the present church. In the E. wall is a two-centred archway, probably of the 13th century, but now blocked; part of the moulded arch remains, and a straight joint marks the position of the S. respond; the blocking is of the 15th century, and in it is a 15th-century doorway, with double-chamfered jambs and a moulded four-centred arch; further S. are remains of the moulded N. splay of a window or recess, now destroyed.

The Lady Chapel (76½ ft. by 18 ft.) now the Chancel and Nave, is entirely of late 14th-century date, with some modern restorations. In the E. wall is a window of five lights, all modern, except a few external stones, and the internal splays which are continued down to the floor and have attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases; in the hollows of the splays are four niches (see Fittings); below the embattled internal sill, which has been much restored, is a rectangular panel, and below it are two pairs of panels, each with a trefoiled ogee head and carved spandrels; between the pairs of panels is a reredos (see Fittings); on each side of the window, at the level of the sill, is a moulded string-course, all modern, except a piece adjoining the N. splay, which is carved with the head of a canon. On each side of the upper part of the window are two panels with cinquefoiled heads; the outer panel has a gabled and crocketed label. At the E. end of the N. wall is a splayed recess with a foiled head. In the S. wall are five windows; the easternmost and the third are of similar design, and of four cinquefoiled sub-cusped lights with flowing tracery in a four-centred head, which has a moulded label with carved stops; the easternmost window has splays moulded like those of the E. window, and a moulded rear arch with an enriched moulded label which has head-stops and a foliated finial; the second window is of three cinquefoiled and sub-cusped lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head; the fourth window is of three cinquefoiled lights with leaf tracery in a two-centred head; the second, third and fourth windows have mouldings similar to but simpler than those of the easternmost window; the westernmost window is of the 16th century, and of one light with a three-centred head set in a square-headed panel. Below the sills of the first four windows are panels similar to those below the E. window; the spandrels have good carvings, mostly of animals, and the upper panels are carved with foliage and figures; internally, at the level of the sills and of the spring of the window-heads, are moulded string-courses enriched with small carvings; at the E. end, and between the windows, between the string-courses, are sunk panels in two tiers, with cinquefoiled or trefoiled heads, and some with crocketed and finialed labels; between the first and second windows the middle panel of the lower tier forms a shallow niche with a moulded pedestal; similar panels are repeated above the upper string-course, either singly or in pairs. At the W. end of the wall is an arch, now blocked, which formerly opened into an outer transeptal chapel; it is two-centred and of two moulded orders under a moulded label, with head-stops, partly restored; the shafted jambs have moulded capitals and bases of Purbeck marble. In the gable of the W. wall is a modern window, and lower down is a moulded string-course, much restored; above it are three panels with trefoiled ogee heads, crocketed and finialled labels, and carved stops.

The Nave (106 ft. by 23 ft.) has been destroyed, but two rough foundations marking the W. and N. walls of the N. aisle were found.

Fittings—Brasses and Indents. Indents: On S. wall—(1) of kneeling figure, scroll and inscripton plate, probably 16th-century. On threshold of W. doorway—(2) of two figures under canopy, probably 15th-century, much defaced. In churchyard—near N. wall, (3) of marginal letters, canopy, etc., part of slab only, much defaced, (see also Monuments). Chair: At E. end—known as the 'Dunmow Flitch Chair,' of oak, made up of part of a 13th-century stall and later work, one side with shaped and moulded top, trefoiled opening at base and small attached shaft in front, with moulded capital and base, circular panels at side; other side made up; back with moulded top-rail, probably 15th-century (see Plate, p. 307). Chest: In vestry—with panelled lid and strap-hinges, probably 17th-century, with piece of foiled wood in front, 15th-century. Coffin-lids: In westernmost bay of arcade—(1) with double chamfered edge and cross in relief, animal and perhaps shield at base, c. 1300. On S. side—(2) of Purbeck marble, coped, with moulded edge and foliated ends to ridge, 13th-century. Font: octagonal, with moulded bowl and trefoil-panelled stem, 14th-century, base modern; near it, two fragments of square bowl with plain round-headed panels, 12th-century. Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In second bay of N. arcade—(1) altar-tomb with alabaster effigy of woman in sideless gown and corded cloak, with collar of s.s., cushion at head, supported by two angels, two small dogs at feet; altar-tomb of Purbeck marble, panelled on N. and S. sides, each with three diagonal cusped panels, with plain shields to which brasses were formerly attached; similar panel at E. end, W. end blank; effigy early 15th-century, tomb late 15th-century. In fourth bay of arcade—(2) of [Walter Fitzwalter, 1432, and Elizabeth (Chideock) his wife, 1464] (see Plate, p. 178); altar-tomb with alabaster effigies of man in plate armour with mail standard and skirt, collar of s.s. with 'tireth' pendant, elaborate hip-belt, head on helm with broken crest, feet destroyed, but headless lion remaining; effigy of woman in sideless gown, narrow hip-belt and corded cloak, richly ornamented horned head-dress, cushion supported by two angels at head, two dogs at feet; tomb of alabaster with two fragments of panelling on S. side, one having two shields with painted arms—(a) a cheveron with three stars thereon, for Cobham; (b) Cobham impaling quarterly 1 and 4 palewise and fessewise indented, 2 and 3 a scocheon; second fragment with legs of naked figure; at E. end another panelled fragment with figure holding an oblong shield—a fesse between two cheverons, for Fitzwalter, impaling the impaled quarters of (b), all c. 1450. Floor-slab: near E. end—to John Wylde, infant son of Sir William Wylde, 1665. Niches: In internal splays of E. window—four, with gabled, crocketed and pinnacled canopies, having moulded and cusped soffits, moulded and foliated brackets, c. 1370; (see also architectural description of panelling on the S. wall of the presbytery). Piscina: In S. wall—with moulded trefoiled head and label, having finial and dog-tooth ornament, shafted jambs with moulded bases and foliated capitals, spirally fluted basin with carved front, partly broken and resting on semi-octagonal attached shaft with moulded base and capital, from which spring two pointed and foiled arches, 14th-century, much defaced. Pulpit: modern, incorporating seven richly traceried panels, Flemish, late 15th-century. Reredos: Below E. window— a range of five niches, the middle one larger than the others, with moulded divisions having foliated capitals and moulded bases, all niches with three-sided canopies having traceried, crocketed and finialed gables and cinquefoiled vaulted soffits, c. 1370, much defaced. Table: In vestry—with turned legs, shaped brackets and modern top, late 17th-century. Tiles: In vestry—two, with two figures; built in to S. wall, one with patterns, 14th-century, defaced. Miscellanea: On eastern column of arcade—on W. side, scratched inscription in Latin, to John Montchesney, 15th-century; on third column—grotesque figure in cowl; near W. doorway—names and dates etc., 17th-century; on S. jamb of W. doorway—a cross formy in a circle. Loose in church—architectural fragments, including a coupled moulded capital, and portions of gable-crosses, 13th to 15th-century. In churchyard—fragments, including part of stone coffin. In church—ten traceried panel-heads of oak from screen or bench-ends, now incorporated in communion rails and reading-desk, 15th-century.

The monastic buildings lay S. of the church, but nothing remains above ground.



b (2). Millponds or Fishponds, of the former Priory, about 150 yards W.S.W. of the church, are four adjoining rectangular basins; a stream ran through them, and the S. enclosure is now bisected by the railway.

Condition—Poor; now dry.

b (3). Brick House, now two tenements, nearly ½ m. S. of the church, is of two storeys, with attics and cellar; the walls are of brick, and the roofs are tiled. It was built probably early in the 17th century, on a half-H plan, with the wings extending towards the W., and with a long outhouse-wing extending towards the E. The outhouse-wing was apparently lengthened later in the 17th century. Round the main block is a plinth and a string-course, which is moulded on the N. and W. elevations. Against the W. front of the N. wing are two buttresses, one of them is original; against the S.W. corner of the S. wing is a modern diagonal buttress. On the W. front the two main wings are gabled, and there is also a gable between them; many of the windows are blocked; three of them have moulded oak mullions, and a doorway has a moulded frame. On the E. elevation a small staircase projection and the outhouse-wing are gabled. The N. and S. elevations of the main block each have two gables. The original S.W. chimney-stack has two diagonal shafts; the original E. stack is stepped in three stages, and has one shaft; the original N.E. stack has four shafts, one is set diagonally and one is modern. Inside the building, on the ground floor, are four, and on first floor three moulded door-frames; the jambs have moulded stops, and one door is of moulded battens. Two of the staircases have old oak treads; one staircase has a cupboard with a panelled door of late 16th or early 17th-century date.

Condition—Good, but floors of attics bad.

Monuments (4–12).

The following monuments are, unless otherwise described, of the 17th century, and of two storeys, timber-framed and covered with plaster. The roofs are tiled or thatched. Some of the buildings have original chimney-stacks, wide fireplaces and exposed ceiling beams.

Condition—Good or fairly good, unless noted.

a (4). Grange Farm, house, and two barns, 300 yards W.N.W. of the church. The House has wings, probably of the 18th century, extending towards the N.

The two Barns stand S. of the house. The smaller barn is of four bays, and has two original king-post roof-trusses; one of the trusses has a moulded tie-beam and the king-post has a moulded square capital and base and octagonal shaft with broad stops; it is probably of the 16th-century, but suggests earlier work. The larger barn is weather-boarded and plastered, on a plinth of old bricks, and is probably of the 17th century.

a (5). Priory Place, house, now four tenements, 100 yards W. of the church, is of two storeys, with attics and cellar. It was built in the first half of the 17th century on a half-H plan, with the wings extending towards the E., and with a third wing at the S. end of the W. side, and a small staircase projection, also on the W. side; a N.W. wing was added, probably in the 18th century, and there is a modern addition on the W. side. The wings and the staircase projection are gabled. The central chimney-stack is original and has four clustered semi-octagonal shafts, partly rebuilt, on a base of corresponding form.

Interior:—On the ground floor the S.E. room has 17th-century oak panelling and a panelled door, and the adjoining room on the N. side has panelling on the N. wall, a panelled cupboard-door, and an oak panelled settle fixed against the S. wall, all of the 17th century. There is an old oak battened door with strap-hinges, and, on the first floor, a 17th-century panelled door.

a (6). House (see Plate, p. xxvi), now two tenements, about 200 yards N. of the church, is of two storeys, with attics, and is partly weather-boarded. It was built in the 15th century on a half-H-shaped plan, with the wings extending towards the N., and has modern additions at the E. end and on the N. side. At each end of the S. front the upper storey is gabled and projects on plain brackets. Inside the building, one fireplace has an embattled and moulded oak beam of the 15th century, now partly cut away. The roof of the main block retains the original central purlin, one strut and a curved brace.

a (7). Rose Farm, about 160 yards N. of the church, on the E. side of the road, is of two storeys, with cellars; the walls are weather-boarded. It was built in the 16th century, on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the S. and W. At the end of the W. wing the upper storey projects. The original central chimney-stack has grouped diagonal shafts, partly rebuilt, and set diagonally on a square base with a moulded capping. Inside the building, one room has a moulded ceiling-beam and joists, with carved stops at the intersections. One of the fireplaces has a moulded oak shelf, and there is a panelled cupboard-door of the 17th century.

a (8). House, two tenements, about 200 yards N.E. of the church, is partly weather-boarded; it is of T-shaped plan, with the cross-wing at the W. end.

a (9). Barn, about 250 yards N.E. of (8), is weather-boarded, and has aisles and a projecting porch.

a (10). Ivy House, about 130 yards N.N.E. of the church, on the E. side of the road, is of two storeys, with attics and cellar. It was built on an L-shaped plan, with the wings extending towards the S.W. and S.E., and has modern additions on the N.E. side and at the S.W. angle. The original central chimney-stack has grouped diagonal shafts, partly rebuilt, on a rectangular base with a moulded capping.

a (11). Tile End, house, about 500 yards E.S.E. of the church, is partly weather-boarded; it was built on a T-shaped plan, with the cross-wing at the N.W. end, and has modern additions on the S.W. side. Inside the building are two oak panelled doors of the 17th century.

a (12). Bourchier's Farm, house, nearly ¾ m. E. of the church, was built in the 17th century, and has been subsequently lengthened and almost entirely altered. Preserved in it are some tiles from the church; they are of various sizes and patterns, including (1) and (2) a leopard, rampant; (3) an animal, rampant, reversed; (4) part of a cross; (5) and (6) heads of hounds, and several tiles with small geometrical incised patterns. There are also other fragments, said to have come from the church, including the cresting of an oak screen, and a piece of Purbeck marble, moulded and carved with two quatrefoils and part of a third, probably from a tomb of c. 1480.