Tolleshunt Major

Pages 222-224

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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In this section


(O.S. 6 in. xlv. S.E.)

Tolleshunt Major is a parish and scattered village 4 m. N.E. of Maldon. The principal monuments are the church and Beckingham Hall.


(1). Parish Church of St. Nicholas stands S.E. of the village. The walls are of boulder clay, flint and pudding-stone rubble with dressings of limestone; the tower is of red brick; the roofs are tiled. The material used seems to indicate the existence of a 12th-century Chancel and Nave but there is no detail of this period remaining and the side walls appear to have been subsequently lowered. Probably in the 15th century the chancel was extended about 8 ft. to the E. Early in the 16th century the West Tower was added; later in the same century a N. chapel with a vestry W. of it was built, but the vestry was subsequently destroyed. The church was restored in the 19th century when the N. chapel was rebuilt as a North Vestry and the South Porch added.

The Church, Plan

Architectural Description—The Chancel (21 ft. by 16 ft.) has a much restored 15th-century E. window of three cinquefoiled lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred head. In the N. wall is a 16th-century archway of plastered brick with a four-centred arch of two chamfered orders and semi-octagonal responds with moulded capitals and bases. In the S. wall are two windows, the eastern is of the 15th century, partly restored and is of two cinquefoiled lights in a square head; the western window is modern; between them is a 15th-century doorway with moulded jambs and two-centred arch in a square head with traceried spandrels and square foliated bosses; E. of the western window is a plastered groove, part of the W. splay and part of the arch of a window perhaps of the 12th century. There is no chancel-arch.

The Nave (34 ft. by 16 ft.) has in the N. wall a 15th-century window of two cinquefoiled lights in a square head with a moulded label; E. of the window is a 16th-century doorway of plastered brick, with double-chamfered jambs and four-centred arch; it is now blocked; at the W. end of the wall is an early 16th-century doorway with moulded jambs, two-centred arch and label; it is now partly blocked and fitted with a wooden window. In the S. wall are two modern windows; between them is the late 14th or early 15th-century S. doorway with a two-centred arch of two moulded orders and jambs of two hollowchamfered orders.

The West Tower (11 ft. by 10½ ft.) is of early 16th-century date and of red brick with blue brick diapering. It is of three stages (Plate, p. 220) and has an embattled parapet with the merlons cut down. The tower-arch is plastered and has semi-octagonal responds with moulded capitals and bases and a four-centred arch of two chamfered orders. The stair-turret has doorways with four-centred heads and the brick stairs are supported by a four-centred arch at every quarter turn. The W. window is of three four-centred and transomed lights with tracery in a four-centred head with a moulded label. The second stage has in the S. wall a loop and in the W. wall a 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 the W. window but without a transom. The angles of this stage have counterfeit masonry quoins of plaster.

The Roof of the chancel is of late 15th-century date and of braced collar-beam type with a moulded wall-plate and tie-beam; the plain W. tie-beam has a king-post. The 15th-century roof of the nave is of three bays of which the western is of later date than the others; of the two main tiebeams, the eastern has a king-post with moulded capital and base; the western tie-beam supports a timber-framing probably for a former bell-turret which rested further W. on an intermediate collar-beam with similar framing.

Fittings—Bells: three; 1st, uninscribed but probably pre-Reformation; 2nd inscribed "Vox Edwardi sonet in Aure Dei," late 14th-century. Coffin-lid: In chancel—with raised cross and omega ornament, 13th-century, formerly used as a window head. In porch—tapering slab of Purbeck marble. Font: built against S. wall, semi-octagonal, Purbeck marble bowl, two faces with trefoiled-headed panels, one face with a shield and two faces with rosettes, moulded under-side, early 14th-century. Glass: In E. window—in tracery, fragments with rosettes, 16th-century. Niches: In nave—in N. wall, shallow, with remains of double vaulted canopy in brick; in S. wall, similar niche, much defaced, both early 16th-century. Paintings: In nave—on N. wall, L-shaped panel with traces of colour, date uncertain; on S. wall, remains of head and hand of figure; on W. wall, remains of strap-work frames and black-letter inscription, 16th-century. Piscina: In chancel, rough segmental-headed recess, with oak shelf and quatrefoiled drain. Plate: includes 17th-century cup. Sedile: In chancel—sill of S.E. window carried down to form seat. Stoup: In nave—in N.W. angle, with four-centred head and plastered bowl, early 16th-century.



(2). Homestead Moat, at Wicks Manor Farm, nearly 1 m. N.W. of the church.

(3). Beckingham Hall, house, gatehouse, walls and moat, 200 yards N.E. of the church. The House is of two storeys, partly of brick and partly of plastered timber-framing; the roofs are tiled. It was built c. 1546, the date on a panel (now at the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington). Early in the 17th-century a wing was added on the W. side and there are modern additions on the S. and N. The fact that the house is unimportant in comparison to the gatehouse and walls implies either the former existence of a much larger building or at any rate the intention to erect such a building. The E. side of the house has an original moulded string-course and a blocked window. Inside the building is some early 17th-century panelling and some exposed timberframing.

The Gatehouse (Plate, p. 230) W. of the house is of c. 1546 and forms the central feature of the boundary wall of a large courtyard, 130 ft. by 120 ft., with the house adjoining the S.E. angle. The gatehouse is of two storeys and of red brick with remains of plaster having painted decoration in black and white, the ground white in the one part and black in the other, the pattern remaining the same; at each angle is a circular turret, the inner pair partly solid and the outer hollow and entered by external doorways with four-centred heads; these turrets are lit by cruciform loops and have internal doorways opening into the room above the gatehouse. Above the S.W. turret is a circular chimney-shaft with a moulded necking on which stands an ornamental cap with four attached shafts. The outer archway has moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head with a double label; the spandrels have remains of painted tracery on plaster. The upper floor has a window of two four-centred lights in a square head with remains of a moulded label. The responds of the inner archway have each an attached semi-circular shaft with a moulded capital; only the springers of the original moulded arch remain, the rest being replaced with modern brickwork. The inner turrets have embattled parapets. The building has no floor or roof but in the thickness of the S. wall are straight staircases entered by doorways with four-centred heads. The upper floor had in the N. wall a fireplace with a four-centred head now partly destroyed; there are remains also of a barrel-vaulted roof.

The boundary wall of the great courtyard is of red brick with black brick diapering and a broad coping set on oversailing courses. At the N.W. angle is a circular hollow turret, with a top of pepper-box form and finished with a truncated cone. At the S.W. angle is a plain circular turret forming with a similar turret further S. a pair flanking an outer gateway; these turrets have embattled parapets, but the gateway arch has been removed. Near the middle of the N. and S. sides of the main courtyard are the bases of two more turrets, corbelled out below the coping of the walls.

The Moat probably surrounded the house but only the E. arm remains.

Condition—Of house, good; of gatehouse and walls, poor.

Monuments (4–7).

The following monuments are of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered or weather-boarded; the roofs are tiled. All have exposed ceilingbeams.

Condition—Good, or fairly good.

(4). Manor Farm, house, ½ m. S.S.E. of the church, was built in the 16th century with a cross-wing at the S. end. Inside the building the roof of the main block has a queen-post truss.

(5). Cottage, on N. side of road, 1,100 yards W. of the church, was built early in the 16th century with a cross-wing at the E. and W. ends.

(6). Cottage, 100 yards S.W. of (5), was built probably in the 15th century with a cross-wing at the E. end. A former W. cross-wing has been destroyed. The upper storey projects at both ends of the cross-wing. Inside the building is an early 17th-century panelled door and the roof of the E. wing has original cambered tie-beams.

(7). Long's Farm, house, 220 yards S.W. of (6), was built early in the 17th century on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the S. and E. Inside the building are some original battened doors.


(8). Mound, 220 yards S.W. of the church. A circular mound about 8 ft. high and 50 ft. in diameter with slight traces of a ditch at the base.

Condition—Fairly good.

Totham, see Great Totham and Little Totham.