Chipping Ongar

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2, Central and South west. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1921.

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'Chipping Ongar', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2, Central and South west, (London, 1921) pp. 51-55. British History Online [accessed 24 April 2024]

In this section


(O.S. 6 in. li. S.W.)

Chipping Ongar is a small town and parish 6½ m. N.N.W. of Brentwood. The Church and the Castle are the principal monuments.


(1). Roman foundations are vaguely recorded to have been found in the parish, "particularly in the church and churchyard"; and Roman burials found in or adjoining this parish in 1767 (Muilman Hist. (1770), III., 316–7; Gough (1789), II., 51; Wright, Essex (1836), II., 330), also indicate a house or settlement in the proximity (see Sectional Preface p. xxix).


(2). Parish Church of St. Martin stands in the town, E. of the main street. The walls are of coursed flint-rubble with the quoins and jambs of the N. doorway of bricks, possibly Roman, and some courses of tiles in the walls; the dressings are of limestone; the roofs are tiled, and the bell-turret is weather-boarded and surmounted by a shingled spire. The Chancel and Nave were built at the end of the 11th century. About the middle of the 14th century the chancel arch was re-built, and at some uncertain period the E. and W. gables of the church were lowered. The church was restored in 1884, when the South Aisle was added, and the North Vestry and West Porch are also modern.

The church is an unusually complete example of early date; the chancel roof is interesting and the remains of an ankar-hold discovered during the 19th century are noteworthy.

The Church, Plan

Architectural Description—The Chancel (30 ft. by 19 ft.), has in the E. wall a window entirely modern except the splays of c. 1300, which have a moulded two-centred rear-arch and attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases; flanking this window externally are traces of four single-light windows, showing that the present E. window replaces an original arrangement of six windows in two tiers under a higher gable. In the N. wall are two windows; the eastern is an original round-headed light, the western is of three early 16th-century lights of brick with four-centred heads and set in an internal recess carried down to the floor; between the windows, externally, is a much restored round-headed recess pierced by a small pointed opening or hatch with external hinges and bolt-socket, perhaps connected with a former ankar-hold; during the restoration of 1884 a hole, possibly for the purlin of the former roof, was discovered. W. of the western window is a modern doorway to the Vestry. In the S. wall are two windows; the eastern is uniform with the eastern window of the N. wall, the western is of the 13th century and of three grouped and graduated lancet lights under a chamfered segmental-pointed rear-arch; further W. and visible externally, is an original doorway, now blocked, of one plain order with a round arch and moulded imposts apparently cut back on the face; above the arch is a rough relieving-arch of tiles; a gap in the blocking shows the semi-circular rear-arch. The 14th-century chancel-arch is two-centred and of two chamfered orders; the chamfered responds have large attached semi-octagonal shafts with moulded capitals and bases.

The Nave (59 ft. by 22½ ft.), has in the N. wall (Plate, p. 52) four windows; the easternmost, second and westernmost are all modern; the third is an original round-headed light and has above it a rough relieving-arch of tiles, immediately E. of the second window are traces of a similar original window, and W. of the westernmost window is a third original window, now blocked; between the third and fourth windows is the original N. doorway, now blocked, with external jambs and fragmentary relieving-arch of tiles; the semi-circular rear-arch remains but the main arch has been removed. In the W. wall the W. window and doorway are modern, but above the window is a second window of one original round-headed light, restored externally but with original tile rear-arch and splays; flanking this window internally are remains of two other original windows which were partly cut away when the gable was lowered.

The Roof of the chancel is Jacobean except the moulded wall-plates, which are probably of the 15th century; it has three trusses, with curved principals and sub-principals meeting at a central post with stop-chamfered angles; the two easternmost posts have each a pierced pendant. The roof of the nave is probably of the 14th century and is of four bays with king-post trusses; the curved and hollow-chamfered braces spring from carved stone corbels, mostly 14th-century heads except one with early Norman volufes; against the E. wall the tie-beam is cut away and the ends are carved on the face with heads of a woman and a crowned man; on each side of the roof are two 18th-century dormers.

The Bell-turret at the W. end is of the 15th century and is supported by a massive framing with two uprights, curved principals and chamfered wall-plates against the W. wall, and with two curved struts forming a two-centred arch against the S. wall; the E. pair of main supports have been cut short at the level of a modern gallery.

Fittings—Bells: two; 1st by Anthony Bartlet, 1672. Indent: In floor of nave, of civilian and wife, inscription and four shields, c. 1500. Monument and Floor-slabs. Monument: In chancel on S. wall—to Nicolas Alexander, 1714, marble tablet supported by two cherubs' heads and surmounted by achievement of arms. Floor-slabs: In chancel—(1) to Robert Hill, 1648, and Anne (King), his 2nd wife, 1668, and Anne Greatherd, his daughter, 1683; (2) to Jane, wife of Tobias Pallavicine and daughter of Oliver Cromwell (i.e., Sir Oliver Cromwell), with achievement of arms, 1637; (3) to Horatio Pallavicine, with achievement of arms, 1648. In nave—(4) to John King, 1657, and Elizabeth, his wife, 1661, and Joseph King, his son, 1679. Piscina: In chancel—with two-centred head, chamfered jambs and fluted basin, probably late 13th-century. Plate: includes a large paten of 1697. Pulpit: of oak, hexagonal, with moulded top and two panels carved with jewel ornament and arabesques, late 16th-century. Stoup: In nave—E. of N. doorway, with round head and chamfered jambs, uncertain date. Weather-vane: of wrought iron, with pennon, late 17th or early 18th-century.



(3). Ongar Castle (mount and bailey) (Plan p. 54). on the E. side of the main street, stands at the S. end of a spur between the Cripsey Brook and the River Roding.

The work is especially interesting as a good example of a mount and bailey and town-enclosure, or "burgus."

The Castle is said to have been built by Richard de Lucy in the 12th century, but the Keep was pulled down in the 16th century and replaced by a brick building, which was demolished in the 18th-century.

The plan consists of a flat-topped mount with encircling moat, an inner bailey, a weaker enclosure to the N. and E., and the town-enclosure to the W.

The Mount, 50 ft. high, is now occupied by fragments of flint-rubble and brick, and is approximately 230 ft. in diameter at the base, and 70 ft. at the summit. It is surrounded by a wide and symmetrical moat, 50 ft. wide across the water. There is no trace of a bridge or causeway across the moat.

The bean-shaped inner bailey is defended by a strong inner rampart and moat, and covers about 2 acres. The moat communicates with that of the mount at both ends, and is about 80 ft. wide from crest to crest and 26 ft. deep from the top of the rampart. The entrance from the town-enclosure was in the centre of the west side through a gap in the rampart, on each side of which is a fragment of flint-rubble containing Roman bricks. The masonry does not appear to have extended along the rampart, which was probably surmounted by a wooden palisade.

The outer enclosure on the N. and E. was less strongly defended and is indicated by two ponds and a ditch of slight profile.

The defences of the town enclosure are well preserved on the N.E., and consist of a rampart and outer ditch branching off from the N. end of the inner bailey. The ditch, now nearly dry, is 55 ft. wide and 17 ft. below the crest of the rampart. The profile diminishes westward, and the rampart disappears before reaching the road, beyond which a slight scarp appears to mark its course as far as the Cripsey Brook. The S. arm of the enclosure probably followed the line of the curved road S. of the church, and carried on to the brook, towards which the ground drops sharply, and the defences on this side, if any, would be slight. The entrances were probably at the points where the main road passes through the enclosure.

Condition—Mount and inner bailey, good. Of outer enclosure and "burgus," poor.

Monuments (4–12).

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, and most of them have been much altered both inside and outside.

Condition—Good, or fairly good, unless noted.

(4). White House, 100 yards N.E. of the church. The original plan is obscured by 18th-century and modern alterations. Inside the building on the first floor is some panelling of early 18th-century date.

High Street

(5). Kings Head Hotel, 130 yards W.N.W. of the church, is of two storeys with attics and basement. The walls are of brick. It was built c. 1697 on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the N. and W., but has been largely altered and has modern additions at the back. On the E. front is a plain brick string-course, which is mitred up over a central carriageway opening into the stable yard; the cornice is moulded and has square modillions; on the first floor level is a square panel bearing the initials and date R S 1697. Inside the building, part of the staircase is original and has plain square newels, shaped flat balusters, and close string; at the foot of the staircase is part of an original panelled dado. In the upper floors are two original bolection-moulded fireplaces, and over some of the doorways are faded paintings of a crown, cross-keys, and a man in a dark peruke, possibly William III.; in the ground floor is a painted unicorn, probably part of the Royal Arms.

(6). House, now shops, and Outhouse, S. of (5). The House is of two storeys with basement and attics. It has been much altered. On the E. front the upper storey projects.

The Outhouse, W. of the house, is of two storeys. Over the doorway are incised the initials and date C.A. 1704.

(7). House, now shops, S. of (6), has been much altered. On the E. front are two gables. Inside the building, the staircase retains some original turned balusters.

(8). House, now shop, S. of (7), was built late in the 17th or early in the 18th century.

Ongar Castle.

(9). House, now shop, 30 yards S.E. of (8) on the E. side of the street, is of two storeys, basement and attics. It was built probably 1642 on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the S. and E.; it has been much altered and has modern additions at the back. The upper storey of the main block projects on the N. and W. elevations, except where altered for a modern shop-front; under the moulded bressumer are voluted brackets. On the W. front is the original doorway, much altered, with moulded frame, fleur-de-lis stops, and the initial and date W. 1642 carved on the lintel; on the N. half of this front is a coved cornice. On the N. elevation is an original window of three lights with moulded frame and mullions. The original chimney-stack has two octagonal shafts. Inside the building, the staircases retain some square newels, moulded balusters and handrails of the 17th century, and in an attic is an original fireplace with a three-centred chamfered arch.

(10). House, now shops (Plate p. 129), 30 yards S. of (8), has 18th-century and modern additions at the back, and has been much altered. On both the E. and W. elevations are three gables. The original central chimney-stack has eight octagonal shafts. Inside the building, the staircase retains original turned balusters; on the staircase is an original cupboard with a panelled door, and there is a similar door on the first floor. One room on the first floor has a wooden cornice of late 17th-century date.

(11). House, now shops, 100 yards S.S.W. of (10), was built probably in the 16th century; at the back is a modern addition. The back elevation has three gables. The original central chimney-stack has grouped diagonal shafts.

(12). House, now shops, S. of (11), was built probably c. 1600, on a half-H-shaped plan with wings extending towards the W. On the E. front of the N. wing the upper storey formerly projected.

(13). Rectory, 400 yards N. of the church, was re-built early in the 18th century, except the N. wing, which contains some original panelling.