Great Canfield

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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'Great Canfield', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2, Central and South west, (London, 1921) pp. 90-93. British History Online [accessed 24 April 2024]

In this section


(O.S. 6 in. (a)xxxii. N.W. (a)xxxii. N.E.)

Great Canfield is a parish 3½ m. S.W. of Great Dunmow. The Church and Castle are the principal monuments.


b(1). Parish Church of St. Mary stands N.W. of the Castle on the S.E. side of the parish. The walls are of flint-rubble, partly coursed and set diagonally in the 12th-century work and mixed with some Roman bricks; the 12th-century quoins are apparently of Barnack stone; the roofs are tiled.

The Church, Plan

The Chancel and Nave were built in the first half of the 12th century. Later, probably in the 13th century, the nave was lengthened about 11 ft. towards the W., perhaps to accommodate a bell-turret. The South Porch was added in the 15th century; the North Vestry is modern.

The church is a good example of 12th-century work with important remains of wall-paintings and an interesting piece of pre-conquest sculpture.

The Chancel (26 ft. by 21 ft.) has in the E. wall two round-headed windows separated internally by a round-headed recess, all of the 12th century (Plate p. 93). In the N. wall are two round-headed windows of the same date. In the S. wall are two windows; the eastern is a lancet probably of the 13th century, partly restored; the western is modern except for the splays and square head, which are probably of the 15th century; between the windows is a doorway with chamfered jambs and two-centred head, double-chamfered label and round rear-arch, probably of the 13th century. The round chancel arch (Plate p. 93) is of the 12th century, partly restored; it has a moulded edge and double billeted label, and the responds have attached shafts with moulded bases and modern capitals with double-chamfered abaci, partly restored; in the S. respond is a small sinking, probably connected with the former rood-loft; above the arch is a modern bulls-eye piercing. The N. impost is re-used material and has on the upper face Anglo-Danish carving of early 11th-century date. Most of the subject is covered by the 12th-century masonry, but the lower part, probably of a conventionalized beast, is uncovered.

The Nave (62 ft. by 24 ft.) has in the N. wall two windows; the eastern is of the 14th century and of two trefoiled and sub-cusped ogee lights with tracery under a square head; the segmental-pointed rear-arch has a moulded label with headstops, one representing a man, the other defaced; in the window-ledge are cut three steps of a former winding stair to the rood-loft; the western window is round-headed and of the 12th century; further W. is the 12th-century N. doorway (Plate p. xxxi); the jambs have attached angle-shafts covered with incised chevron fluting, and having cushion capitals with zig-zag carving on the under slopes and moulded bases with spur-ornaments; the semi-circular arch is moulded and has a modern tympanum. In the S. wall are three windows; the easternmost is a lancet probably of the 13th century, restored; the second is of two cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a square head with a flat segmental rear-arch, of the 15th century restored; the westernmost is a 13th-century lancet, restored. W. of the second window is the 12th-century S. doorway (Plate p. 93), similar to the N. doorway but with more elaborate detail; the cushion capitals are each carved with a mask, the eastern with pelleted ribbons issuing from the mouth, the western with two birds pecking the beard; in the reveal next the W. capital are incised squares with the swastika; the chamfered abaci have on their vertical faces incised zig-zag ornament; the moulded arch has a double billeted label and a tympanum carved with zig-zag ornament in con-centric semi-circles and enclosed by a cable-border. In the W. wall is a modern window. The bell-turret and framework in the W. part of the nave is probably partly of the 15th century; the oak framing consists of four posts with tie-beams and struts, and supports a timber bell-turret covered with modern boarding and having pointed lights in the N., S. and W. walls.

The 15th-century South Porch has a moulded plinth and an embattled parapet with a moulded string-course and containing in the middle of the S. side a cinque-foiled niche with a square head; the entrance archway has a two-centred arch in a square head with a moulded label and quatre-foiled spandrels each with a blank shield; the moulded jambs have each an attached shaft with a moulded capital and base; in each side-wall is a window of two trefoiled lights, flanked internally by trefoiled panels with moulded jambs and head.

The Roof of the chancel is probably of the 15th century; it is of two bays with a moulded wall-plate, partly modern, and a moulded and cambered tie-beam. The roof of the nave has moulded wall-plates, three rough tie-beams and trussed rafters of 14th or 15th-century date. The 15th-century roof of the S. porch has moulded and embattled wall-plates and moulded main timbers, partly restored.

Fittings—Bells: said to be three; 1st by Miles Gray, 1634; 2nd possibly by John Dier, 16th-century; 3rd by John Hodson, 1664. Brasses: In chancel—on floor, (1) of John Wyseman, auditor "of the revenue of his crown," to Henry VIII. and of Agnes, his wife, 1558; figures of man in armour, and woman, both kneeling before prayerdesks; behind them, figures of four sons and six daughters; four shields of arms; (2) of Thomas Fytche and Agnes (Wyseman), his wife, 1588; figures of man in armour, woman, three sons and three daughters. Chest: (Plate p. xxxiii) In vestry —deal, of hutch type, lids and front with reeded mouldings, 17th-century. Coffin-lid: In church-yard—S. of nave, with double chamfered edges, broken. Consecration Cross: See Paintings. Monument and Floor-slabs. Monument: In nave —on S. wall, of Sir William Wyseman, Bart., 1684, and Anne (Prescott), his wife, 1662; tablet with half-length figures of man and woman flanked by Ionic columns supporting entablature and segmental pediment with a cartouche of arms. Floor-slabs: In chancel—(1) to Elizabeth (Wiseman), wife of Robert Tyderlegh, 1654; (2) to Elizabeth (Capell), wife of Sir William Wiseman, Bart., 1660, with lozenge of arms; (3) to Anne, Lady Wyseman, 1662, with shield of arms. Niche: See under South Porch. Paintings: In chancel— on E. wall, in arched recess between the windows (Plate p. 93), figure of the Blessed Virgin suckling the Child, who is seated on her lap; she is crowned and wears a full red cloak over a girdled gown, and is seated on a stone throne with fluted cornice and raised on a dais of two steps, the upper with rounded edge and fluted riser; the recess has below the dais a border with running foliage pattern; the edge of the arch has painted foliage, and below the figure are masonry lines and a formy consecration cross in white on a red circle. The windows flanking the recess have their arches outlined with a band of stiff foliage and, on the N., with a masoned pattern, on the S. with zig-zag pattern; the splayed soffits have large red and yellow foliage designs and radiating masonry lines; the imposts are indicated by bands of foliage; the splays and most of the E. wall have painted masonry lines, restored. The central group is little restored and is good work of late 12th or early 13th-century date. Plate: includes a cup and paten of 1577. Sedile: the window-ledge of the S.E. window of the chancel is set low to form a sedile. Stoup: In nave—externally in wall W. of N. doorway, part of a rough basin hollowed out of the front of the jamb. Miscellanea: built into N. wall of nave, cushion capital of attached shaft, 12th-century.



b(2). Canfield Castle (Plan p. 92) (mount and bailey), a few yards S.E. of the church, is situated on low ground close to the River Roding.

The work is worthy of note as a well-preserved example of the mount and bailey type of earthwork.

The origin of the work is doubtful, but it was possibly one of the castles of the de Veres, Earls of Oxford.

The plan consists of a large moated mount, with a horse-shoe shaped bailey on the S. side, and traces of a weaker enclosure on the W. The moats surrounding the mount and bailey are fed by a small stream which could, in dry seasons, be reinforced by closing the dam to the E. of the mount and diverting water from the River Roding into the moats.

The mount (48 ft. high and 280 ft. in diameter at the base from E. to W.) has a distinct berm, about 10 ft. wide, upon the slope, but it does not run round the moat at the same level. There is no apparent entrance. On the summit is a small mound. The encircling moat, now nearly dry, varies considerably in width, but is generally about 45 ft. wide at the bottom. The mount is thickly planted and there is no trace of masonry at the summit. The bailey to the S. of the mount, covering, with its defences, about 7½ acres, was originally enclosed within a double rampart and ditch, but the outer ditch has disappeared, except on the E. The inner rampart is about 10 ft. above the interior level and 20 ft. above the bottom of the ditch, which is 100 ft. wide from crest to crest. On the E. the outer rampart is from 5 to 8 ft. above the ditch and 5 ft. above the exterior level. The outer ditch is very slight. The entrance to the bailey appears to have been at the N.E. corner.

A ditch on the W. side leads into the moat of the bailey but at a higher level. Another ditch, parallel with the S. wall of the churchyard, communicates with the ditch of the mount, and a large pond further to the W. may mark the site of the W. arm of the enclosure.

Condition—Of mount and bailey, good; of enclosure, imperfect.

a(3). Homestead Moat, opposite (7), 1½ m. N.W. of the church.

Canfield Mount.

Monuments (4–11).

The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are 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 exposed ceiling-beams, wide fireplaces and original chimney-stacks.

Condition—Good, or fairly good, unless noted.

b(4). Barn, belonging to the Hall, 200 yards W.S.W. of the church, is weather-boarded and of seven bays divided by massive roof-trusses.

b(5). Marsh Farm, house, 1,100 yards W.S.W. of the church, was built on a half H-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the N.; the wings have modern extensions, and the S. front has been refaced. At the E. end of the S. front is a gable. An original chimney-stack has grouped diagonal shafts.

b(6). Terriers, house, 1,400 yards W.N.W. of the church, was built probably on a half H-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the S., but the W. wing has been re-built, and there are modern additions at the back.

b(7). Peckers, house, 1½ m. N.W. of the church, was built probably in the 16th century with a central Hall and a gabled cross-wing at the N.W. and S.E. ends; the building has been largely altered and extended at the back. On the N.E. front the upper storey formerly projected at each end but has been under-built. An original chimney-stack retains part of four octagonal shafts.

a(8). Sawkins, cottage, at Puttock's End, ½ m. N.N.W. of (7), with modern additions at the back.

a(9). Great Canfield Park, house, 2¼ m. N.W. of the church, incorporates a fragment of a house built late in the 15th century; in the 17th century a rectangular block was added on the S., and at the back are 18th-century and modern extensions. At the N. end of the original block the upper storey projects. Inside the building in this block are an original moulded wall-plate and ceiling-beam and a door of 16th-century panelling; in the roof is an original king-post with rebated and hollow-chamfered angles and with four-way struts. In the 17th-century block is a door of panelling contemporary with it.

b(10). Ashfield, house, ¾ m. N.N.W. of the church, was built on a T-shaped plan with the cross-wing at the W. end. The original chimney-stack has grouped diagonal shafts.

b(11). Hobbs, house, 1 m. N.N.E. of the church, was built probably late in the 16th century; at the S. end is a modern addition. At the S. end of the E. front the upper storey projects and is gabled. Inside the building is a small piece of fluted panelling.


b(12). Moated Enclosures, two adjoining each other, S.W. of the Elms house, 1,500 yards N.N.E. of the church, each about 250 ft. square; probably cattle enclosures.