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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'Widdington', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1, North West, (London, 1916), pp. 345-348. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/essex/vol1/pp345-348 [accessed 19 June 2024].

. "Widdington", in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1, North West, (London, 1916) 345-348. British History Online, accessed June 19, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/essex/vol1/pp345-348.

. "Widdington", An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1, North West, (London, 1916). 345-348. British History Online. Web. 19 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/essex/vol1/pp345-348.

In this section

84. WIDDINGTON. (B.c.)

(O.S. 6 in. (a)ix. S.W. (b)xiv. N.W.)

Widdington is an agricultural parish and small village on a by-road about 5 m. S. of Saffron Walden. The principal monuments are Widdington Hall and the barn at Prior's Hall.


b (1). Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin stands N. of the village. The walls are of flint and pebble rubble with dressings of limestone; the roofs are covered with tiles and slate. The plan of the church is probably that of the early 12th-century building, but the only remaining detail of that date is a window in the N. wall of the Chancel. The Nave was possibly rebuilt in the 15th century, and the North Vestry was added during the same period. The church was completely restored in 1872, when the West Tower was rebuilt and the South Porch added.

The Church, Plan

Architectural Description—The Chancel (25 ft. by 14½ ft.) with the axis inclined slightly to the S., has a late 13th or early 14th-century E. window, partly restored and of three cinquefoiled lights with intersecting tracery in a two-centred head, under a plain external label; the splays and rear arch are hollow-chamfered and have broach-stops. In the N. wall are two windows, both towards the W. end of the wall; the eastern is of early 12th-century date and of a single light with a flattened round head; the western window is of the 15th century, and of two cinquefoiled lights under a segmental head with a moulded external label, which has grotesque beast-stops now defaced, and a foliated finial; the jambs are moulded and the mullion has an attached shaft with moulded capital and base; the moulded rear arch projects and forms a label with a foliated finial not in situ; E. of the eastern window, opening into the vestry, is a 15th-century doorway with chamfered jambs, two-centred arch and a segmental-pointed rear arch facing the vestry. In the S. wall are two windows; the eastern is of the 14th century and much restored, and of two trefoiled ogee lights with tracery under a two-centred head; the splays are of c. 1280 and have attached shafts with moulded bases and carved capitals set between two lines of dog-tooth ornament; the junctions of the bases and splays are carved with small grotesque heads, and the E. capital has foliage and fruit, with a bird eating fruit partly on the adjoining splay; on the splay adjoining the W. capital is a grotesque head with foliage issuing from the mouth; the western window is of the 15th century, and of two trefoiled ogee lights with modern tracery under a segmental-pointed head. The chancel-arch is modern.

The North Vestry has a window in the E. wall and a doorway in the W. wall, both modern.

The Nave (40½ ft. by 21 ft.) has one window in the N. wall, all modern, except the splays and chamfered, two-centred rear arch, which are of the 15th century. Further W. is a blocked doorway with a two-centred arch and a chamfered segmental-pointed rear arch, probably also of the 15th century. In the S. wall are two windows; both are modern except the 15th-century moulded splays and pointed rear arch of the western window. W. of the windows is the 15th-century S. doorway, partly restored, with moulded jambs, two-centred arch, plain label, and chamfered segmental rear arch.

Fittings—Brass: In nave—on N. wall, of a civilian, c. 1460, in loose belted cloak, feet missing. Door: In S. doorway—of oak, in two leaves, each leaf having three V-shaped battens with hollow-chamfered fillets between them, plain strap-hinges, circular scutcheon and trefoiled handle, back of each leaf with fillets in cross-pattern, probably 15th-century. Glass: In chancel—in N.W. window, hanging inside, two shields of old France and England quarterly, 14th-century, and one medallion with a sundial, hour-glass and crown, dated 1664. Niche: In chancel—in E. wall N. of window, shallow, with moulded jambs and the springing of a four-centred arch, rest of head mutilated, but probably canopied, 15th-century. Piscina: In chancel—with chamfered jambs, moulded stops, moulded and trefoiled head flanked by quatrefoiled panels, circular quatrefoiled basin, late 13th-century. Plate: includes cup of 1562, with two bands of ornament round the bowl; cover-paten, probably late 17th-century, with Elizabethan rim; and alms-dish, probably late 17th-century.

Condition—Good, much restored and rebuilt.


a (2). Homestead Moat in Shortgrove Park, about 2 m. N. of the church.

b (3). Widdington Hall, now a farmhouse, barn and moat, 150 yards E. of the church. The House is of two storeys, partly timber-framed and covered with plaster and partly of brick; the roofs are tiled. The earliest part of the house is of the 15th century; it then consisted of a Great Hall with a Buttery wing at the W. end, and probably a Solar wing at the E. end, but only the buttery wing and part of the W. end of the Hall are now standing. About the middle of the 16th century the house was lengthened towards the W., and a long wing was built, extending towards the N. Probably at the same time an upper floor was inserted in the Hall and cellars were excavated under it; they extend beyond the present building towards the E.; the Hall above them was shortened at some subsequent period. Probably early in the 17th century a low two-storeyed addition was made at the W. end of the main block. There is a small modern addition in the S. angle between the Hall and Buttery wing, and a small porch was added on the S. front.

The remains of the 15th-century house are particularly interesting.

The existing building is of modified L-shape, with the wings extending towards the E. and N. The E. end of the E. wing contains the remains of the original Great Hall and the Buttery, now cut up into rooms; W of the Hall are the present Kitchen and Dining-room. The N. wing is now a cow-house with lofts over it, and the addition at the W. end of the main block is used as a cart-shed and has lofts over it.

The N. S. and E. elevations are timber-framed and plastered.

The S. Elevation has three gables; that on the E. is smaller than the others. A modern addition in the angle between the Hall and the Buttery probably represents the original porch to the Screens. At the E. end are two late 17th-century windows, of two lights; the upper window has a transom, and the lights above it are now blocked. The central chimney-stack between the two larger gables is plain, and of 16th-century thin bricks.

The W. Elevation, except the S. half of the main block, which contains one old window, is of red 16th-century brick; the N. half of the main block has a stepped gable with a large chimney-stack of thin bricks behind it, apparently of slightly later date. The W. side of the N. wing has a diapered pattern in black bricks, and is of five bays; between the two southern bays is a wide overhanging pilaster in two stages, supported on moulded brick corbelling, and probably intended to support a bell-cot or similar structure; two original oak-framed windows, now blocked, remain at the S. end. The early 17th-century wing added against the base of the gable is timber-framed and has on the W. face, a small erection which covers an outside staircase, and is apparently original.

The N. Elevation of the main block has a plain oak-framed window on the first floor of the Buttery, it is probably of the 16th century and is of six lights, glazed with leaded diamond quarries, some of them original.

The E. Elevation of the main block contains a plain window of four lights, with an oak frame, probably of early 17th-century date. The E. end of the N. wing has, in the upper storey, original windows which are now covered with plaster.

Interior—On the ground floor most of the rooms in the main block have stop-chamfered ceilingbeams. The remaining part of the Great Hall has, in the S. wall, an original pointed doorway, now filled in and fitted with a smaller doorway opening into a modern addition; further E., in the same wall, is another blocked doorway, probably of later date, with rebated oak jambs and square head. In the W. wall is the original oak doorway to the Buttery; it is of two hollow-chamfered orders with a pointed arch under a square head. The roof includes many of the original timbers of the Hall-roof, but no truss remains; the purlin and wall-plate on the N. side are hollow-chamfered; on the S. side is a small gabled bay, probably the original roof of the porch, but now concealed by modern alterations. The Cellars under the Hall are of two bays from N. to S. and have groined vaulting in brick. The Buttery retains its original roof of three bays with two 15th-century king-post trusses, the tie-beams are cambered and have curved braces; they support octagonal king-posts with moulded bases and capitals, and below the collar and central purlin are curved four-way struts, some of which are now missing. The modern staircase has, at the top, some flat shaped balusters of late 16th-century date. The Kitchen has a large open fireplace on the W. side. The North Wing is divided into five bays by roof-trusses, each with a chamfered and cambered tie-beam, which has curved braces and purlins with curved wind-braces; the first floor has stop-chamfered beams, and under each truss at the ground floor level is a shaped post; those on the W. are embedded in the wall.

The Barn, S.E. of the house, is timber-framed and covered with plaster and weather-boarding; it is probably of the 16th century, and is of six bays with side-aisles; the roof has queen-post trusses and is covered with tiles.

The Moat is rectangular; the S. arm and part of the E. arm are obliterated. Traces of a ditch, probably the original outlet, are visible in a field on the W. side.

Condition—Of house, fairly good; of barn, good.

b (4). Prior's Hall, now a farmhouse, outbuildings, barn and moat, about 250 yards W. of the church. The House is of two storeys with attics, and the walls are of stone covered with plaster; the roofs are tiled. The existing rectangular stone building is probably of the 13th century, but there is no visible detail of that date. The house formerly extended further towards the E. and probably also towards the N. of the present building. The upper floor and the central chimney-stack were inserted probably in the 16th century. Probably in the 18th century the existing S. wing was added, making the plan L-shaped, and a modern addition at the E. end encloses a staircase. The elevations have no ancient features.

Interior—The ground and first floors have some 16th-century stop-chamfered ceiling-beams, and in the E. wall are two blocked doorways, one of them is cut skew-wise with a square head, and the other has a round head and plain imposts, probably of late 17th or early 18th-century date. At the foot of the attic staircase, on the first floor, is a late 16th-century panelled door. The roof has been a little altered, but is probably original; the two trusses are of rough workmanship, with king-posts, curved longitudinal braces, a centre purlin and collars, all smoke-blackened.

The Outbuilding, S. of the house, is of two storeys, mostly timber-framed and plastered, but partly of modern brick; the roofs are tiled. The plan is L-shaped, with the wings extending towards the N. and W. The W. wing is larger than the other, and is of the 15th century, with an E. bay and two W. bays of later date; the five original bays in the middle have the original trusses with tie-beams, curved braces, king-posts and a central purlin under the collars; the trusses are carried on shaped posts, and the ceiling-beams on the first floor under them are roughly chamfered; the two western bays have no roof trusses, but collarbeams only. The frames of the open lights in the N. wall of the ground floor are probably original. The N. wing is of later date, and was formerly a Brew-house; a chamfered ceiling-beam on the ground floor has moulded stops.

The Barn, N. W. of the house, is timber-framed and covered with weather-boarding, the foundations are of flint patched with brick, etc., and the roof is tiled (see Plate, p. 347). It is probably of the 15th century, and is of eight bays with side-aisles. The roof rests on heavy square posts and has braced tie-beams and king-posts supporting a central purlin below the collars. Over the two S. entrances are gables with original foiled bargeboards.

The Moat is roughly rectangular and encloses all the buildings; it is partly filled in on the N. side.

Condition—Of house, good; of outbuilding, fairly good.

b (5). Newlands, house and moat, about ½ m. S. of the church. The House is of two storeys, partly timber-framed and covered with plaster, and partly of modern brick; the roofs are tiled. It was probably built early in the 17th century, but the N. wing is possibly of later date, and the S. wing has been largely rebuilt recently. The house is of modified H-shape, and the S. wing is gabled at each end. The E. front has traces of a panelled decoration in plaster, and several oak-mullioned windows are original. The central chimney-stack, between the main block and the S. wing, is also original.

Interior—The room on the ground floor of the main block has a wide fireplace, now partly filled in, and a roughly chamfered ceiling-beam; the room over it has a fireplace with a painted, four-centred head, probably of stone. On the first floor a little original panelling remains, and there is one panelled door with a fluted frieze.

The Moat is imperfect, and encloses a large area of irregular shape.

Condition—Of house, good.

b (6). Swayne's Hall, now a farmhouse, barn and moat, about ½ m. E.S.E. of the church. The House is of two storeys, timber-framed and covered with plaster; the roofs are tiled. It was built in 1689, and is rectangular in plan, facing E.; at the back are two small wings, containing the staircase and brewhouse. The N. part of the E. front has, between the first floor windows, nine original pargetted panels, they are all small and bear conventional flowers, two fleur de lis and two lions reversed. Above the entrance doorway is a round panel, inscribed ST168982 Two of the upper windows have original frames, and the central chimney-stack, also original, has six square detached shafts with a common capping. Inside the building, the stop-chamfered ceiling-beams are exposed, and a wide open fireplace with corner seats is original.

The Barn, S.E. of the house, is timber-framed and covered with weather-boarding and plaster; the roof is mainly thatched. It was probably built at the same time as the house, and is of six bays with side-aisles and roof-trusses of somewhat light construction.

The Moat is narrow and formerly enclosed a rectangular area; the E. and S. arms are obliterated.

Condition—Of house and barn, fairly good.

b (7). The Rectory, W. of the church, is of two storeys with attics. It was originally timberframed and covered with plaster, but the walls are now faced with modern brick; the roofs are tiled. The House was built late in the 16th or early in the 17th century on a modified H-shaped plan, with the cross-wings at the N. and S. ends. An extension towards the S.E. was probably added in the 18th century; the main staircase between the wings on the E. side is modern. The elevations are almost entirely modern; the plastered timberframing is retained on the E. and S. sides only. The central chimney-stack of the N. wing is original at the base, and the two stacks on each side are of the 17th century. Inside the building several rooms have exposed ceiling-beams, and the three upper flights of the second staircase are of mid 17th-century date with turned balusters and a moulded rail and string. Hanging in the front door are four panels of old glass, slightly restored; two of them are of the 16th century and have shields of France and England quarterly within a garter; the other two are of the 17th century, and bear the arms of Waldegrave impaling 'Myldemay,' and the quartered coat of 'Myldemay' impaling the quartered coat of 'Radclyf'; both have the names below each impalement. The roof space over the N. wing contains a number of re-used oak timbers, one of which is chamfered and has foliated stops, and an ornamental sunk panel with the initials M.T.

Condition—Good, much altered.

Monuments (8–15).

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 of the buildings have exposed ceiling-beams, wide fireplaces and original chimney-stacks.

Condition—Good or fairly good, unless noted.

Main Street, E. side

b (8). Cottage, about 100 yards W.S.W. of the church, with low modern additions at the N. and S. ends. On the W. front is a gabled dormer.


b (9). Cottage, now two tenements, W. of (8), with half-hipped gables at each end.

W. side

b (10). Cottage, about 320 yards S.S.W. of the church, with a low modern addition on the W. side, and a half-hipped gable at the S. end. Inside the building the open fireplace has an old iron crane and hook.

b (11). House, now two tenements, about 90 yards S.S.W. of (10), is of late 16th-century date, and has a modern addition on the W. side, making the plan L-shaped. At the S. end a window in the upper storey has an original oak frame, and the original chimney-stack has ten diagonal pilasters and a rectangular base, with a moulded top course. Inside the building, on the ground floor, the middle room has an original moulded plaster cornice and frieze over the fireplace; in the frieze are five panels ornamented with double roses and foliage, and a blank shield in the middle. The room above has an original fireplace in plaster; the opening has moulded jambs and a four-centred arch, and is flanked by panelled pilasters, with running foliage ornament, supporting a moulded cornice and pediment, with a Tudor rose in the tympanum; above each pilaster is a defaced crown.

b (12). Cottage, on the E. side of the road, 600 yards S. of the church, with a half-hipped gable at each end and two dormers on the E. side.

b (13). Cottage, now two tenements, 180 yards S.W. of Newlands (5), has a half-hipped gable at each end, and is covered with modern rough-cast and weather-boarding. An upper window of three lights has an original oak frame.

b (14). Cottage, about 100 yards E. of (13), with a half-hipped gable at each end and two dormers at the back.

b (15). House and dovecot, on the S. side of the Newport and Debden Road, about 1 m. N.N.W. of the church. The House was probably built in the second half of the 16th century, but incorporates materials of c. 1500. It is now empty and ruinous, and the timber-framing is mostly exposed. The central chimney-stack has two original shafts, cross-shaped on plan, with an additional shaft of later date. Inside the building, each floor is divided into three rooms which have stop-chamfered wall-posts and ceiling-beams; the wall-posts of the upper floor are of flat ogee form. The E. room on the ground floor has a re-used door of late 16th-century date with plain straphinges; in the middle room the open fireplace has, at the back, a small locker with an incised oak frame; the doorway is also of late 16th-century date, and has chamfered jambs, a four-centred arch and foliated spandrels; in the W. room are two blocked windows, each of three lights with early 16th-century moulded oak mullions. Set above the present entrance doorway is a door-head similar to that in the middle room. On the first floor is a blocked window of three lights, similar to those on the ground floor.

The Dovecot, S.W. of the house, is timber-framed and covered with weather-boarding; the tiled pyramidal roof has a lantern. It is probably of the 17th century and is lined with two tiers of oak cots.

Condition—Of house, very bad; demolished since visit.