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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'Fairsted', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2, Central and South west, (London, 1921) pp. 66-67. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/essex/vol2/pp66-67 [accessed 12 April 2024]

In this section

25. FAIRSTED. (G.a.)

(O.S. 6 in. axxxiv. S.W. bxxxiv. S.E.)

Fairsted is a small parish 4 miles S. of Braintree. The church is the only important monument.


a(1). Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin stands about the middle of the parish. The walls are of flint and pebble rubble; the dressings are mostly of limestone and clunch, with some brick, partly Roman; the roofs are tiled. The Nave and the western half of the Chancel were built late in the 11th century. The shortness of the original chancel seems to imply the former existence of an apse. The West Tower was added c. 1200, and c. 1230 the chancel was lengthened towards the E. In the 15th century the North Porch was built. Probably early in the 17th century the spire was added. The church has been restored during the 19th century.

The church is interesting from its early date, and the paintings are noteworthy.

The Church, Plan

Architectural Description—The Chancel (30 ft. by 16¼ ft.) has, near the middle of each side wall, the quoins of Roman brick of the 11th-century chancel. In the E. wall are three 13th-century lancet windows, partly restored; the middle one is set high in the wall above an internal recess or reredos. (See Fittings.) In the N. wall are three lancet windows similar in date and detail to those in the E. wall. In the S. wall are three windows similar to those in the N. wall, but much restored; further W. is a 13th-century 'low-side' window, with a two-centred head; it is now blocked and has been much restored; between the two eastern windows is a modern doorway, and between the westernmost window and the 'low-side' is a late 16th-century doorway, now blocked, with jambs and two-centred arch of brick. The 11th-century chancel-arch has square plastered responds with chamfered imposts to the E. angles, and a semi-circular arch, of which the voussoirs of Roman brick have been exposed on the E. face.

The Nave (30½ ft. by 19 ft.) has quoins of Roman brick. In the N. wall are two windows; the eastern is modern, except for the 15th-century splays and segmental rear-arch; the western window is of c. 1100, and of one light with plastered jambs and semi-circular head; below it is the N. doorway, probably of the 14th century; it has jambs of two chamfered orders and a two-centred arch of two hollow-chamfered orders, and is fitted with a modern frame. Towards the E. end of the S. wall is a 17th-century buttress of brick with crow-stepped offsets; in the S. wall are two windows uniform with those in the N. wall; below the western window is the early 13th-century S. doorway, now blocked; it has chamfered jambs and two-centred arch with a moulded label, and is set in a wider doorway of c. 1100, with a semi-circular arch of Roman bricks.

The West Tower (about 14 ft. square) is of three stages with brick quoins and divided by stringcourses of brick; it is surmounted by an octagonal broach spire of timber covered with shingles. The tower-arch has square responds and semi-circular arch, all plastered; above it is a 'bull's-eye' window of doubtful date. The N., S. and W. walls have each an early 13th-century lancet window with jambs and head of brick; the early 13th-century W. doorway, much restored, has a two-centred arch of two chamfered orders; the outer order of each jamb has a modern detached shaft with a much weathered foliated capital. The bell-chamber has, in the N., S. and W. walls, a 13th-century lancet with brick jambs and a 17th-century brick head, except the S. window, which has a stone head. The Spire is probably of c. 1600, and is timber-framed with shaped wall-posts, carried down within the walls of the bell-chamber, and curved braces.

The North Porch is of the 15th century, timber-framed and of two bays. The outer archway is four-centred and is flanked by rectangular windows. The E. and W. walls have each plain openings to the N. bay with the mortices of former mullions; the rest of both walls is weather-boarded.

The Roof of the nave has three cambered tiebeams, probably of the 17th century. The ground storey of the tower has old ceiling-beams. The 15th-century roof of the N. porch has a cambered tie-beam with curved braces.

Fittings—Bells: four; 3rd by Peter de Weston, 14th-century, inscribed "Vocor Johanes" with the founder's name; 4th by Richard Bowler, 1601. Chest: In tower—iron-bound 'dug-out' with lid in two sections, possibly 13th-century. Communion-Table: With twisted legs, possibly late 17th-century. In vestry—table with turned legs, carved top rails and moulded lower rails, early 17th-century. Consecration Crosses: In nave— seven, three on the N. and four on the S. wall, two on each wall of Latin type and later date than the rest, these probably replaced the three earlier which are of formy form, all in red colour. Monuments: In chancel—on S. wall, (1) to Joshua Blower, the elder, 1694, rector of the parish, slate tablet; (2) to Elizabeth (Oliver), second wife of Joshua Blower, 1656, slate tablet. Paintings: In nave—above chancel-arch, in four tiers, in apex of roof apparently a firmament, much damaged; second tier, apparently scenes from the Passion including a Last Supper, the rest almost obliterated; in the third tier, possibly a Doom; in the fourth tier, a row of figures much damaged, and only two now distinct, 13th-century. On N. wall, short length of blue, red and white border. On S. wall, black letter inscription, injunction to pray for King James I. and the royal family, traces of border, early 17th-century; higher up on wall, traces of a row of figures, and below them a band of ornament; near W. end, head of man with cap, all 13th or 14th-century. On W. wall, N. of tower-arch, illegible inscription in ornamental frame, early 17th-century. Piscina: In chancel—with hollow-chamfered jambs and segmental head, c. 1240, basin cut back. Plate: Includes a pewter flagon, possibly of the 17th-century. Recess: In chancel—below middle window in E. wall and of same width, with chamfered jambs and trefoiled head, sill about 2 ft. above sills of windows on each side, 13th-century. Reredos: In nave—N. of chancel-arch, wall cut back and recess returned the same distance along N. wall of nave, both with remains of ornamental ribbed vault with bosses, front cut back to face of wall, late 15th or early 16th-century. Seating: In nave and tower—14 benches with moulded top rails, panelled bench-ends mostly with linen-fold ornament; panelling against walls, early 16th-century. Sedilia: In chancel—two with chamfered jambs and two-centred heads with moulded labels and imposts, middle pier finished with an octagonal shaft having a moulded base and resting on a bracket with mask-stop corbel, c. 1240, back of W. bay cut away to form modern doorway.

Condition—Good, except for some cracks in the walls, tower secured with iron ties.


a(2). Homestead Moat at Dines Hall, 1 m. N.W. of the church. The island was formerly divided by a cross-arm.

a(3). Beauchamp Farm, house and moat, about ¼ m. N.W. of the church. The House is of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. It was built in the 15th century with a central Hall and wings at the N. and S. ends. The N. wing has been destroyed. The upper storey projects and is gabled at the S. end of the E. front. The 17th-century central chimney-stack stands on a square base. Inside the building both storeys have chamfered ceiling-beams and joists. On the ground floor is an old door.

The Moat is imperfect.


Monuments (4–9).

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 have original chimneystacks, wide fireplaces and exposed ceiling-beams.

Condition—When not specially mentioned, good, or fairly good.

a(4). Phoenix, house, 700 yards S.W. of the church, with a modern addition on the N. side.

a(5). Cottage, on the S.W. side of Fuller Street, nearly 1½ m. W.S.W. of the church, with modern additions on the W. and N. The original central chimney-stack has two attached shafts, set diagonally.

a(6). High Hall, cottage, nearly 1¼ m. W.N.W. of the church, has an original central chimney-stack with two attached shafts, set diagonally.

a(7). Cottage, on the N. side of the road at Ranks Green, about 1½ m. N.W. of the church, with 18th-century or modern additions at the E. end.

a(8). Great Walley Hall, house, now two tenements, and barn, almost 1 m. N.N.W. of the church. The House is of T-shaped plan with the cross-wing at the E. end; there is a modern addition at the N. end of the cross-wing, and the walls are now largely weather-boarded.

The Barn, S.W. of the house, is of five bays with aisles. It was built in the 15th century, and has weather-boarded walls and a roof of the king-post type.

(9). Great Troys, house, now two tenements, about ½ m. E.N.E. of the church. It was built in the 15th century with a central Hall and crosswings at the N. and S. ends. Late in the 16th or early in the 17th century the Hall was divided into two storeys and a chimney-stack inserted. There are modern additions on the N. and E. sides. On the W. front the upper storey of the original wings projects and is gabled; under the northern projection are three curved brackets. Inside the building, between the former Hall and the S. wing, is a blocked opening with a four-centred head, now papered over. The roofs of both wings have original tie-beams with curved braces, but the upper parts are ceiled in. At the head of a staircase in the N. wing are some late 17th-century twisted balusters.