Layer Marney

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 3, North East. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1922.

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'Layer Marney ', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 3, North East, (London, 1922), pp. 155-160. British History Online [accessed 20 June 2024].

. "Layer Marney ", in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 3, North East, (London, 1922) 155-160. British History Online, accessed June 20, 2024,

. "Layer Marney ", An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 3, North East, (London, 1922). 155-160. British History Online. Web. 20 June 2024,

In this section

54. LAYER MARNEY. (C.d.)

(O.S. 6 in. (a)xxv. S.E. (b)xxxvi. S.W.)

Layer Marney is a parish 6½m. S.W. of Colchester. The church and Layer Marney Towers (Plate, p. 154) are both important monuments.


b(1). Parish Church of St. Mary (Plate, p. 156) stands about the middle of the parish. The walls are of plastered brick, with dressings of limestone and brick; the roofs are tiled. The whole building consisting of Chancel with South Porch, Nave with South Porch, West Tower, North Chapel and North Aisle with Priest's Lodging, was built during the first quarter of the 16th century; the chapel and aisle being added probably c. 1525.

The church is a good example of Tudor brickwork and among the fittings the monuments, especially those of the early Renaissance, and the paintings are noteworthy.

The Church, Plan

Architectural Description—The walls have embattled parapets and moulded plinths; the details where unrestored are all of early 16th-century date.

The Chancel (35½ ft. by 21 ft.) has a partly restored E. window of stone and of five trefoiled ogee and transomed lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred head with a moulded label and shield stops; the jambs are moulded; the base of the window has a stepped filling for a former reredos; below the internal sill is a moulded and embattled string-course, returned a short distance along the side walls; the E. gable has a crow-stepped parapet. In the N. wall is a plastered segmental arch containing monument (5); further W. is a doorway with chamfered jambs and four-centred head; W. of the doorway is a window of one trefoiled light lighting the rood-loft staircase. In the S. wall are three windows; the two eastern are partly restored and each of three cinquefoiled and transomed lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label; the rear-arch is of three chamfered orders; the westernmost window is much restored and is of two cinquefoiled lights in a square head with a moulded label; E. of it is an opening to the S. porch, now used as an organ chamber.

The North Chapel (44¼ ft. by 16½ ft.) has an E. window similar to the S.E. windows in the chancel, but with a plain rear-arch. In the N. wall are two windows, the eastern is probably of the 18th century with some reused 16th-century work; the western window is of brick and of three four-centred and transomed lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label; the head and mullions have been rebuilt; W. of the eastern window is an external projection with a crow-stepped head and enclosing a recess, said to be a fireplace, but now plastered over; further W. is a doorway with moulded jambs, four-centred arch and label. In the S. wall, W. of the doorway is a second doorway to the rood-loft staircase, with rebated jambs and four-centred head; the staircase is set in a projection with a stepped head.

The Nave (46¼ ft. by 22½ ft.) has a N. arcade of two bays with four-centred arches of three moulded orders and moulded labels on both sides and a shield stop on the S. side above the column; the column is an irregular octagon on plan, with moulded capital and base and fluted faces to the shaft; the responds have attached half columns; E. of the arcade is the upper doorway to the rood-loft staircase, with a four-centred head; W. of the arcade is a doorway to the priest's lodging with chamfered jambs and four-centred head. In the S. wall are four windows each of three four-centred and transomed lights in a four-centred head with moulded jambs, mullions and label; between the two western windows is the S. door way with moulded jambs, four-centred arch and label; the jambs have a moulded plinth.

The North Aisle (16¼ ft. wide) has in the N. wall two windows uniform with the N.W. window in the N. chapel, but not rebuilt.

The Priest's Chamber at the W. end of the N. aisle has in the N. wall a window uniform with those in the N. aisle. In the W. wall is a restored doorway with a four-centred head and moulded label; further S. is a fireplace, now blocked, and a recess set in a projection with a stepped external head, terminating in an octagonal chimney-shaft with moulded capping and base.

The West Tower (11¼ ft. square) is of three stages (Plate, p. 155) and of unplastered red brick, with black brick diapering with an embattled parapet having pierced water-chutes. The plastered tower-arch is four-centred and of three orders, two chamfered and one moulded, with a moulded label; the semi-octagonal responds have moulded capitals and bases. The partly restored W. window is of brick and of three transomed and four-centred lights with intersecting tracery in a four-centred head with moulded jambs and label. The second stage has in the N. wall a window of one four-centred light with a moulded label; at the N.E. angle is a splayed projection or corbelling enclosing a gangway to the roof of the N. aisle. In the W. wall is a partly restored brick window of two four-centred lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label. The bell-chamber has in each wall a window similar to that just described but with a transom.

The South Porch of the Chancel (Plate, p. xxix) is now used as an organ chamber and has E. and W. archways, the western now blocked; each archway has moulded jambs, four-centred arch and label, and is set in a slight projection with a moulded and crow-stepped capping. In the S. wall is a window of two four-centred lights in a four-centred head and with moulded jambs and label.

The South Porch of the Nave has a moulded and four-centred outer archway of brick, with double-chamfered responds having moulded capitals and bases; above the archway is a projecting niche with a four-centred head and a coved soffit. The side walls have each a window of three transomed and four-centred lights with moulded jambs and label.

The Roof of the chancel is of four bays with moulded principals and moulded and braced collars; the middle principal has short hammerbeams. The flat roof of the N. chapel has moulded wall-plates and main timbers dividing it into square panels. The roof of the nave is similar to that of the chancel, but there are no hammerbeams.

Fittings—Altar: see Monument (6). Bells: three; 1st uninscribed, but probably late 14th or early 15th-century; 3rd by John Thornton, 1711. Bell-frame, probably 16th-century. Brasses: see Monument (3). Chair (Plate, p. 157): In chancel—with turned front legs, carved and panelled back and shaped arms and cresting, mid 17th-century. Chest: In N. aisle—large iron-bound, with two locks, 14th or 15th-century. Communion Table: With turned legs, mid 17th-century, top modern. Doors: In S. doorway— of overlapping nail-studded battens, with straphinges and grip-latch, early 16th-century. In doorway to priest's chamber—similar, but without latch, early 16th-century. Glass (Plate, p. 192): In N. chapel—in E. window, four shields of arms, (a) with the garter and Marney—gules a leopard rampant argent, quartering Sergeaux and Venables; (b) the quartered coat of Marney impaling Arundel —sable six swallows argent, quartering Chideock and Carminow, with supporters and wreath; (c) similar to (b), but without supporters and with a garter surrounding it; (d) a mutilated shield of Radcliffe—argent a bend engrailed sable, quartering two destroyed coats, and barry gules and argent, and encircled by the garter; also several quarries with a wing, the Marney badge, all early 16th-century; hanging loose, small panel of foreign glass with figure of St. Peter, 16th-century. Monuments: In chancel—on N. wall, (1) to John and William Bridge, 1674, white marble tablet with cornice and corbelled base; (2) to Nicholas Corsellis, 1674, marble wall-monument with Ionic side columns, cornice, pedestal and achievement of arms; against S. wall, (3) to Robert Cammocke, 1585, and Elizabeth (Badby) and Mary (Everton), his wives, also to Thomas, his son, and Ursula (Wyrley), and the daughter of Robert, Lord Riche, his wives, altar-tomb with plain slab and flat classic canopy on two Doric columns, at back inscription and three shields of arms on brass plates. In N. chapel—in middle, (4) probably of Sir William Marney, c. 1360, alabaster tomb (Plate, p. 158) with moulded top and plinth, sides and ends with elaborate cusped panelling in squares each with a blank shield; effigy (Plate, p. 159) in armour with bascinet, camail, jupon with the arms of Marney, hip-belt and remains of sword and dagger, head of helm with crest of a hat between two wings, and feet on lion, front band of bascinet inscribed "Ihs nazarenus"; round tomb, six oak posts spirally reeded (except one), and with moulded capitals and bases and supporting seated leopards holding shields, one with the arms of Marney and the rest with the Marney badge, early 16th-century. Under arch between chapel and chancel, (5) of Henry, Lord Marney, K.G., 1523, Lord Privy Seal, etc., altar-tomb (Plates, pp 157, 158), effigy and canopy of terra-cotta and touch, altar-tomb of terra-cotta with four square panels on each side enriched with egg and tongue and acanthus ornament and divided by enriched Renaissance shafts supporting the slab, each panel with a gartered shield of the arms of Marney impaling Venables; below each panel on the S. side a deeply cut quatrefoil in a square panel; slab of touch with moulded edge and on it recumbent effigy (Plate, p. 159), of touch of man in armour of the period with bare head, long mantle, tabard of the arms of Marney quartering Sergeaux and Venables, garter on left leg and feet on lion; flat-topped canopy of terra-cotta flanked by outer shafts terminating in Composite capitals and surmounted by vases and inner shafts with enriched baluster ornament and Composite capitals supporting an enriched entablature carried across the width of the monument, the end walls of which are carved and divided into two panels by another shaft uniform with the inner shafts just described; from the entablature springs the canopy proper, divided into four bays by pilasters terminating in Composite pendants and forming part of a continuous main entablature with rich Italian decoration; above are two segmental pediments enclosing a shield and surmounted by richly carved and foliated cresting; the soffit of the canopy has moulded trabeations and richly carved panels. In middle of W. part of chapel, (6) of John, 2nd Lord Marney, 1525, altar-tomb and altar of terra-cotta with slabs and effigy of touch; altar - tomb with square panels at sides and end with pilasters and enrichments similar to panels on monument (5) and each enclosing a shield of Marney impaling Venables and surrounded by a wreath; slab of touch with moulded edge and effigy of the same material and almost a replica of that on monument (4) but without the garter; altar across W. end of tomb with pilasters, panels, shields, etc., all similar to those on altar-tomb and with a modern slab of touch. Painting: In nave —on N. wall, rectangular panel with large figure of St. Christopher (Plate, p. 155) bearing the Christ and holding a ragged staff in his right hand; he is dressed in hose, tunic and cloak; background of river and rocks with small figure of fisherman; traces of foliage in the top W. corner, early 16th-century. Piscinae: In chancel—with moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head, square drain, early 16th-century. In N. chapel— in wall, with chamfered jambs and four-centred head, oak shelf, early 16th-century. Pulpit: semi-octagonal and made up of early 16th and 17th-century woodwork, including linen - fold panels, upper and middle moulded rails with running foliage ornament and upper rail with the Marney badge, carved 17th-century bookboard; sounding-board with panelled soffit, jewel ornament dentilled cornice, acorn pendants, mid 17th-century. Screens: Between chancel and nave (Plate, p. 156)—with central doorway and six bays on each side, moulded posts and mullions, doorway with four-centred head and traceried spandrels, side bays each with trefoiled and sub-cusped head and tracery, close lower panels 15th-century, partly restored, cornice modern. Between chapel and aisle—of twelve bays two forming the doorway and all with moulded posts and rail, plain lights with an iron stancheon, close lower panels with linen-fold ornament, moulded head-beam with diaper ornament, early 16th-century. Seating: In nave—some pews incorporate early 16th-century linen-fold panelling, early 17th-century panelling and 16th-century moulded rails. Stoup: In S. porch—recess with four-centred head, early 16th-century, basin destroyed. Miscellanea: In N. chapel and aisle— various worked stones, including 12th-century cheveron and billet ornament and fragments of 16th-century terra-cotta.

Condition—Fairly good, but unsatisfactory foundations tend to render the structure insecure.


b(2). Layer Marney Towers or Hall (Plates, Frontispiece and p. 160), N.E. of the church, is generally of two storeys with a gatehouse of three storeys. The walls are of brick, with terra-cotta dressings to the gatehouse; the roofs are tiled. The house was begun early in the 16th century by Henry, 1st Lord Marney, but at the time of his death in 1523, and that of his son in 1524, the building was probably incomplete, and it has never since been finished. It has been restored in the 20th century, when the gap between the gatehouse and the E. wing was filled in. A short N. wing is also modern and the barn has been rebuilt.

The gatehouse is a valuable example of early Renaissance ornament and the roof of the long gallery is interesting.

The house appears to have been designed on the courtyard plan with an irregular outer court on the S. side. Of this the S. range of the main courtyard and the three sides of the outer court remain standing.

Elevations—The S. Elevation of the main block consists of the great gatehouse with a short wing on the W. and a long wing on the E. The gatehouse is of three storeys and is flanked by semi-octagonal towers, each of eight stages; the walls have diapering in black bricks and stand on a moulded plinth. The outer archway has moulded jambs and four-centred arch with traces of a square label; between the two lower storeys is a band of cusped panelling continued round the turrets and much broken away; the two upper storeys have each a large window of five transomed and trefoiled lights of terra-cotta and with a moulded label; the mullions and transoms are enriched with moulded Italian ornament and the mullions have Corinthian capitals; the trefoiled heads are formed of Renaissance scroll work with winged putti in the spandrels; the parapet has a series of segmental pediments with radiating panels and moulded and shaped terminals. The side turrets have angle-pilasters and are divided into four main storeys by bands of cusped panelling, and each face of the eight stages has a window with a four-centred head; windows in alternate stages have moulded labels; the turrets are finished with a trefoiled corbel-table with a cresting similar to that of the main building but retaining a pair of conventional dolphins to each pediment; the cresting of the E. turret is much damaged. The terminals have each a true lover's knot and the initials M O. Flanking the outer sides of these turrets are two subsidiary turrets, each seven stages high, but otherwise similar to the main turrets and with windows only in the S. face of the W. turret and two faces of the E. turret. The return walls of the gatehouse have trefoiled corbeltables and some original windows above the adjoining roofs. The W. wing has in the ground storey three windows and a doorway covered with modern cement. The upper storey has four transomed windows, two of four and two of two lights; they are similar in character to the main windows of the gatehouse, but have no putti in the spandrels. In the middle dividing these windows are two small lights with four-centred heads. The E. wing has a modern building adjoining the gatehouse. The remainder of the wing has a moulded band between the storeys. The westernmost bay of the old work is gabled and has a moulded plinth; the lower storey has a window of three four-centred lights with a square moulded label continued as a string-course; the upper window is set in a projection with a corbelled and moulded head; the window is of three four-centred lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label, voluted stops and spandrels ornamented with shields bearing the initial H. and a device of doubtful meaning. The rest of the wing has in the upper storey several original two-light windows and an original doorway with a four-centred head and a moulded label; the projecting chimney-stack has tabled offsets and the moulded base of an original shaft.

The N. Elevation of the main block. The gatehouse has moulded string-courses between the storeys, an embattled parapet and square turrets at the angles with trefoiled corbel-tables and traces of former cresting. The inner archway of the gatehouse is set in a projection with a square moulded head and has moulded jambs and a four-centred arch. The two main windows above it are similar to those in the S. face of the gatehouse. The turrets have each seven two-light windows in the return walls. The gatehouse has six chimneyshafts (Plate, p. 176) all with moulded bases and above these four have been rebuilt, but the other two have spiral flutings and moulded caps with spurs. The W. wing (Plate, p. 176), has trefoiled corbelling between the storeys; the three lower windows are each of two four-centred lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label; they are covered largely with cement; further E. is a doorway with moulded jambs and a four-centred arch with a square moulded label. The three upper windows are each of three lights and are similar to the corresponding windows on the S. side of this wing. The end of this range is covered by the modern wing. The E. wing beyond the modern block has several original windows and doorways of stone in the lower storey and four original windows of brick in the upper storey; these are each of two four-centred lights with a square moulded label; one is now blocked. A short distance from the E. end is a stepped gable wall with a chimney-stack at the apex resting on trefoiled corbelling and having the bases of two shafts.

The W. End of the main block has a crow-stepped gable with a moulded coping and some original windows of brick with four-centred lights and two with moulded labels; the top window has a projecting brick sill. This wing has the bases of two original chimney-stacks.

The Outer Court is bounded on the N. by the E. wing described above, on the E. by a large modern barn incorporating much old timbering and on the S. by the 'Gallery' range. This building is of brick and of two storeys with diapering in black bricks. The N. side has a number of original doorways of stone with four-centred heads; in the upper storey are nine original windows with moulded labels. The S. side is divided into eight bays by buttresses of three stages. There are remains of several original windows. The E. end has an original doorway with a four-centred head and now blocked. The W. end has a crow-stepped gable. At the S.W. angle are traces of the moulded jamb of a former window showing that the range extended further W.

Layer Marney, Towers or Hall.

Interior—The main block contains many original doorways with moulded or chamfered jambs and four-centred arches. The eastern room in the W. wing has a fireplace made up of original moulded oak jambs and four-centred head; the mantelshelf incorporates a 17th-century carved cornice. The western room has a 17th-century marble fireplace of foreign work, with terminal pilasters, consoles, carved frieze and shelf. In the passage N. of this room is a fireplace (Plate, p. xxxiii) with an overmantel incorporating early 17th-century woodwork including two terminal figures, carved frieze, consoles, etc. All the above rooms have panelling partly of the 16th century and partly modern. A room in the modern wing has a reset original fireplace (Plate, p. xxxiii) of terra-cotta; it has enriched Corinthian pilasters, acanthus consoles and an enriched entablature. On the first floor the room adjoining the S.W. turret of the gatehouse has an original fireplace with moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head; the spandrels are carved with shields and vine ornament. Two rooms in the W. wing have stone fireplaces of similar character, but different detail to that just described. These rooms also retain original plaster ceilings with moulded ribs, in one room forming a geometrical pattern and in the other a similar design of intersecting lines. The W. wing has the main timbers of the roof exposed. The E. wing has at the E. end on the ground floor a large fireplace with a four-centred arch surmounted by a moulded horizontal set-back; adjoining it on the S. is a large recess now communicating with the fireplace by a modern arch. The first floor is divided into two main rooms, each with an original roof of five and four bays respectively; the trusses have arched principals and above the collar-beams are scissor-shaped braces; the purlins have wind-braces of ogee form. The gallery range has an original open roof (Plate, p. 161) of similar character to that just described. In the N. wall of the main room is a modern fireplace with an overmantel made up of mid or late 17th-century material and divided into five bays with a carved and arched panel in the middle and diminishing pilasters enriched with jewel ornament.


b(3). Duke's Farm, house and moat, about ½ m. N.N.E. of the church. The House is of two storeys with attics; the walls are of brick and the roofs are tiled. The W. cross-wing was built in the second half of the 16th century but the main block was rebuilt in the 17th century. There are modern additions on the N. side. The original wing has a moulded string-course and a splayed plinth. The two windows at the S. end are each of five transomed lights with moulded jambs and mullions of brick. The return walls have similar windows but of a single light each. The entrance has a 17th-century nail-studded door with moulded ribs. Inside the building is a considerable quantity of early 17th-century panelling and some original moulded beams. On the first floor one room has an original fireplace with a moulded and four-centred head. In the S. window is some late 16th-century glass with a Tudor rose and the initials E.R. On this floor are some 17th-century doors with cock's head hinges.

The Moat is fragmentary.

Condition—Of house, good.

b(4). Wick Farm, house, 280 yards E. of the church, is of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. It was built in the 16th century and has an addition of c. 1700 at the N. end. One chimney-stack is original and has diagonal pilaster strips and a square base with a moulded capping.

Condition—Of E. part, bad.

b(5). Parkgate Farm, house, now two tenements, about ½ m. W. of the church, is of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. It was built in the 15th century and has a cross-wing at the E end. The upper storey projects at the N. end of the cross-wing, on curved brackets. Inside the building the cross-wing has an open timbered ceiling.


b(6). Cottage, about ¾ m. N.W. of the church, is of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are thatched. It was built late in the 17th century; inside the building the ceilingbeams are exposed.


b (7). Thorrington's Farm, house, about 270 yards N.E. of (6), is of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. It was built in the 16th century, but has large 18th-century and modern additions. Inside the building are exposed ceiling-beams and joists and moulded wallposts.



a(8). Dyke, about 1 m. W. of the church, extends for about 470 yards from E. to W. and consists of a ditch about 9 ft. deep and 35 ft. wide with a slight bank on each side.

Condition—Fairly good.