Pages 109-114

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 4, South east. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1923.

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In this section


Prittlewell, the Parish Church of St. Mary.

(O.S. 6 in. (a)lxxviii. N.W. (b)lxxviii. N.E. (c)lxxviii. S.E.)

Prittlewell is a parish on the N. side of the Thames Estuary. It includes the town of Southend-on-Sea. The principal monuments are the church, Priory and Porters.


b(1). Parish Church of St. Mary stands in the village. The walls are of ragstone-rubble with a little flint; the dressings are of Reigate and Kentish ragstone; the roofs are covered with lead and slates. The N. wall of the chancel, and perhaps part of the N. wall of the nave, appear to date from the beginning of the 12th century, and the S. wall of the Nave above the arcade is of rather later date. At this period the church appears to have had a central tower. In the second half of the 13th century the three W. bays of the S. arcade, with probably a fourth further E., were built and a S. aisle added. The N. wall of the nave appears to have been re-built at some uncertain period, possibly the 14th century. The West Tower was added c. 1470. c. 1500–30 the church was much altered, the Chancel largely re-built, the South Chapel added, the S. arcade of the nave extended E. on the site of the former central tower, a clearstorey added to the corresponding portion of the N. wall, the South Aisle re-built and widened and the South Porch added. The church was restored in modern times, when the North Vestry was added.

The church is of considerable architectural interest from its variety of styles. Among the fittings the S. door and the well preserved coffin-lid are noteworthy.

The Chancel (33 ft. by 22 ft.) has an E. window all modern except the early 16th-century hollow-chamfered splays and four-centred rear-arch. In the N. wall are two windows, the eastern is modern except the early 16th-century splays and four-centred rear-arch; the western is also modern except for the 15th-century splays and hollow-chamfered segmental rear-arch; 'this window is set low in the wall; between the windows is the W. part of an early 12th-century round arch probably a doorway, partly of Roman brick and partly of ragstone; it is visible both inside and outside. In the S. wall is a 15th-century window of two cinque-foiled lights in a segmental head, all modern externally. Further W. is an early 16th-century arcade of two bays with two-centred arches of two orders, the outer moulded and the inner hollow-chamfered; the octagonal column has concave faces and moulded capital and base; the responds have attached half-columns. The early 16th-century chancel-arch is generally similar to the S. arcade, but with slightly different mouldings; the outer order is probably of 13th-century material re-used.

The South Chapel (24 ft. by 19 ft.) has an E. window, modern except for the early 16th-century splays and rear-arch. In the S. wall are two windows; the eastern is modern except the splays and two-centred rear-arch, which are probably of the 15th century, re-set; the western window is modern except the early 16th-century splays and four-centred rear-arch; below it is a doorway, modern except the early 16th-century splays and four-centred rear-arch. The early 16th-century W. arch is similar to the chancel-arch except that it is four-centred.

The Nave (100 ft. by 23½ ft.) has a square portion at the E. end, separately roofed and no doubt indicating the position of the former central tower. In the N. wall are four lower windows; the eastern is modern except the early 16th-century W. splay and segmental-pointed rear-arch; the second is modern except the splays and two-centred rear-arch, which are possibly of the 14th century; the third is modern except the early 16th-century splays and segmental-pointed rear-arch; the westernmost window is of early 16th-century date, partly restored and of three cinque-foiled lights in a square head; E. of the easternmost window is the early 16th-century rood-loft staircase; the lower doorway has rebated jambs and a modern head, and there are faint traces of the blocked upper doorway; further E. is part of a 15th-century splay of a doorway or window; above the head of the easternmost window is the E. part of the relieving-arch of an earlier window; E. of the head of the second window is part of the rear-arch of an earlier pointed window; the N. doorway is of early 15th-century date with modern jambs and chamfered two-centred arch. The wall of the two E. bays (representing the former central tower) is carried up as a clearstorey and has two early 16th-century windows, modern externally and each of two trefoiled lights in a square head. The S. arcade is of six bays (Plate, p. 110); the three eastern bays are of early 16th-century date and of detail similar to the chancel-arch; the three W. bays are of the 13th-century, with two-centred arches of one chamfered order; the three W. columns are octagonal with moulded capitals and bases, octagonal to square on plan; the W. respond has an attached half-column; above the two W. piers of the 13th-century work are two 12th-century windows (Plate, p. 110), each of one round-headed light and blocked when the arcade was built but now partly opened-out again; there are parts of a similar window above the third pier from the E.; the comparatively low level of these windows implies that the 12th-century nave was aisleless; the two E. bays of the wall are carried up as a clearstorey and have two windows similar to those of the N. clearstorey.

The South Aisle (17½ ft. wide) has a modern embattled parapet but old carved heads at the label of the string-course. In the S. wall are five windows all modern except the early 16th-century splays and four-centred rear-arches; between the fourth and fifth windows is the early 16th-century S. doorway with moulded jambs, two-centred arch and label; further E. is a small early 16th-century doorway to the staircase to the room above the porch; it has moulded jambs and four-centred head. In the W. wall is a window similar to those in the S. wall; below it is an early 15th-century doorway, now blocked, and with moulded jambs, two-centred arch and label.

The West Tower (14½ ft. square) is of the 15th century, and was finished c. 1470; it is of four stages with a moulded plinth and embattled chequer-work parapet with octagonal turrets at the angles continued down to the base of the bell-chamber and capped with crocketed pinnacles (Plate, p. 97). The two-centred tower-arch is of three orders, the two outer chamfered and continuous and the inner resting on attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The W. window is modern except the splays and two-centred rear-arch; the W. doorway has moulded jambs and two-centred arch in a square head with a defaced label and spandrels enclosing two shields, one with a cross of St. George and one defaced; flanking the doorway are two carved head-corbels. The doorway to the turret-staircase, in the splayed S.W. angle, has moulded jambs, two-centred arch and label; above it is a second doorway with rebated and chamfered jambs and two-centred arch; it is now blocked, but formerly opened on to a ringing-gallery, of which four corbels remain. Flanking the W. window externally are two much-weathered niches with two-centred heads and square moulded labels. On the S. wall of the ground-stage, externally, is a row of corbels, of doubtful purpose, but resembling those of a pent roof. The N., S. and W. walls of the second stage have each a window of two cinque-foiled lights in a square head with a moulded label; except for the N. window all have been completely restored externally below the N. and S. windows are much-weathered niches with cinque-foiled heads and square labels. The third stage has in both the E. and W. walls a window of two cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label; there are modern clock-faces in the N. and S. walls. The bell-chamber has in each wall a window of three cinque-foiled lights with intersecting tracery in a four-centred head with a moulded label; the S. and W. windows are much restored.

The South Porch is of early 16th-century date, and of two storeys with an embattled parapet of flint chequer-work. The four-centred outer archway is of two moulded orders, the outer continuous and the inner resting on attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases; there is also a moulded label; the archway has been much restored in cement. The upper storey has a window of one four-centred light in a square head, restored in cement. The side walls of the lower storey have each a window of two cinque-foiled lights in a square head with a moulded label, all much decayed; higher up in the W. wall is a plain loop.

The Roof of the ground-stage of the tower has moulded main timbers, plain joists and a square bell-way, all of the 15th century.

Fittings—Coffin-lid: In nave—in N.W. angle, with hollow-chamfered edge and raised cross, 13th-century. Door (Plate, pp. 4-5): In S. doorway—of five upright panels with embattled rails, panels carved with trefoiled ogee arches and crocketed finials, quatrefoils in lowest tier, early 16th-century. Font: octagonal bowl with concave panelled faces, six carved with, a rose (twice), a heart with two crossed spears, a shield with a cheveron between three fleurs-delis, a defaced crucifix and a dimidiated Tudor rose and pomegranate, square stem with attached shafts at angles having moulded bases, early 16th-century. Glass: In S. chapel—in E. window, twelve panels with figure-subjects, (a) Elijah's sacrifice; (b) the Virgin and Child enthroned; (c) Christ and St. John the Baptist; (d) the Building of the Temple; (e) Jesse enthroned with his Tree behind; (f) Christ before Caiaphas; (g) Christ appearing to the disciples after the Resurrection; (h) David and the Anointing of Solomon; (i) Elisha and the Shunammite's son; (j) The Temptation (Plate, pp. xliv–v); (k) the Ecce Homo; (l) the Three Children in the fiery furnace; glass all foreign; (f) and (g) possibly 17th-century, rest 16th-century. Monuments: In nave—on N. wall, (1) to Mary (Cocke) wife of Richard Davies, 1623, alabaster and black marble tablet with side pilasters and achievement-of-arms. In churchyard —E. side, (2) to Dorothy Freeborne, 1641, and Samuel her husband, 1658 (?), table-tomb. Niche: In S. chapel—in E. wall, with head broken away, date uncertain. In nave—in face of W. pier of arcade, small with four-centred head, 15th-century. See also Architectural Description, under Tower. Panelling: In nave—framed on N. wall, two long portions of oak panelling, probably from chest, (a) upper part of winged beast or beasts with intertwined necks; (b) elaborate window-tracery, both probably foreign, c. 1500. Piscina: In S. chapel—in S. wall, with flat cinque-foiled head, drain broken, c. 1500. Plate: includes large cup of 1668. Stoup: In S. porch—with four-centred head, bowl destroyed, c. 1500. Miscellanea: In churchyard—fragments of window-tracery, worked stones, etc., 15th and early 16th-century.

Condition—Good, but much decay in external stonework; porch recently restored.


b(2). Prittlewell Priory, house, walls and foundations, 550 yards N. of the church. The Priory was founded for Cluniac monks as a cell to Lewes, at the end of the 11th or beginning of the 12th century. It was dissolved in 1536. Of the existing remains the N. wall of the Frater was built late in the 12th century. The remaining parts of the W. range are apparently of the 15th century. There is no evidence of the date of the foundations and remaining fragments of the church. The church and E. range were destroyed probably soon after the dissolution. The W. and S. ranges were turned into a house and very much altered. Extensive 18th-century or modern additions were made on the W. side. The building has recently been completely restored, the Frater cleared and extended to its original length, and the site of the church excavated.

The Walls are mainly of rubble repaired and partly refaced with modern brick. The roofs are tiled.

The foundations of the Church are very indeterminate as to the E. end; the nave, however, had a S. aisle, of which the foundations of two rectangular piers have been uncovered. A long stretch of foundation on the N. side may indicate a sleeperwall under the N. arcade or a N. wall.

The Cloister (88 ft. E. to W. by 87 ft. N. to S.) is bounded on the N. by a rubble wall which is mainly a part of the S. wall of the church considerably patched; there are slight indications of the position of the western processional entrance.

The Frater (76 ft. by 26 ft.) has modern walls built on the old foundations, except on part of the N. side. In this wall is a late 12th-century doorway (Plate, p. 121), considerably restored, with a two-centred arch of two moulded orders enriched with cheveron and dog-tooth ornament; the moulded jambs have each a restored free shaft with moulded and foliated bell-capital and square abacus; above is an offset for the cloister roof, and further E. one original corbel of the same roof. Near the middle of the wall externally is a patch of brick-blocking with one stopped jamb of stone on the W. side and possibly representing the lavatory. Higher in the wall is a range of small pointed windows all modern except one, which has a moulded trefoiled head, shafted splays with moulded imposts and a moulded rear-arch with dog-tooth ornament. Re-set on the internal wall further W. is a section of a large moulded arch with nail-head ornament. The roof of the frater is mainly of early 15th-century date, with king-post trusses, moulded tie-beams, rebated king-posts and four-way struts.

Prittlewell Priory

The West Range has on the ground-floor two barrel-vaulted chambers and half of a third probably of 15th-century date; in the S. wall of the southernmost is a 15th-century doorway with a four-centred head. The upper floor of the W. range is timber-framed, with modern windows of the old design and a 15th-century roof (Plate, p. 111) of five bays with two original king-post trusses, double chamfered tie-beams, octagonal king-posts with moulded capitals and bases and four-way struts; the rafters are smoke-blackened. At the N. end is a re-set 16th-century fireplace with moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head.

Preserved in the building are many worked and moulded stones from the 12th to the 15th century, including coupled column-caps, cusped panelling, dog-tooth ornament, etc. There is also a stone coffin.


c(3). Porters, house (Plate, p. 114), 70 yards S. of All Saints' Church, is of two storeys with attics and basement. The walls are of brick with some stone dressings; the roofs are tiled. Parts of the house are of early 16th-century date, but it was completed or extensively re-built towards the end of the same century. The original house was built probably on a half H-shaped plan with the cross-wings extending towards the S., but the space between the cross-wings was apparently filled in at the rebuilding and an entrance porch built on the N. front. In the 17th century a small addition was made on the middle of the W. front, and there are traces of a corresponding addition on the E. side; modern alterations include the building of a porch at the S.W. corner.

Elevations—The N. Front has a moulded plinth, which is continued round the building, and is gabled at either end. The E. gable has an original transomed and mullioned window to both the ground and first floors and a three-light window to the attics; the W. gable is similar, but the two lower windows are of four lights. The porch has a square-headed entrance with a moulded oak frame with moulded base and stops set in a brick opening with splayed jambs and head; in each of the side walls is a two-light window of brick; the inner doorway is chamfered but otherwise similar to the entrance, but set in chamfered brick, and has an original door of three long panels. Lighting the hall are two late 16th-century windows, one of three the other of five transomed lights, but the windows to the upper floors of the central block are modern, as is the gable of the porch. On the E. Front is a rectangular chimney-stack with three diagonal shafts. The S. Front is similar in arrangement to the N. front, but only the windows in the gables and those in the main block are original. The W. Front has three original windows and an original chimney-stack with three diagonal shafts. The chimney-stack in the middle of the main block has three detached diagonal shafts.

Interior—The Hall (Plate, p. 111) has exposed ceiling-beams, and in the S. wall is a late 16th-century stone fireplace (Plate, p. 65) with a straight-sided four-centred head and small shields and carved leaves in the spandrels, above the opening is a frieze carved with masks and acanthus leaves which terminate in half-figures supporting a cartouche of strapwork. The walls are lined with early 16th-century linen-fold panelling with some modern work and incorporating five early 16th-century panels of foreign workmanship (probably French), each carved in bold relief with the figure of a king and retaining traces of colour. In the early 17th-century panelled screen at the W. end of the hall are two doorways with flat heads and arched angles, carved spandrels and fluted pilasters at the sides. At the S. end of the 'screens' is a moulded square-headed doorway with a 17th-century door. The room in the S.E. angle of the house has a fireplace of similar design to that in the hall but with a less elaborately carved frieze. Adjoining the modern E. staircase is a central-newel staircase with a double row of early 17th-century turned balusters at the first-floor landing; the 17th-century door to the cellar stairs has large strap-hinges. The Kitchen has the timber-framing and ceiling-beams exposed; the fireplace has a wide four-centred head, and the door has an old fleur-de-lis hinge and a grating. On the First Floor, the rooms in the E. wing and above the hall have fireplaces of similar design to that in the S.E. room on the ground-floor, but with varying detail. The room above the kitchen has a fireplace with a moulded four-centred arch and in the E. wall a moulded square-headed doorway. The roofs are of collar-beam type with braced purlins; that over the main block has curved braces to the principals.


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. Some of the buildings have original chimney-stacks and exposed ceiling-beams.


b(4). House, now two shops (Plate, p. xl), on W. side of North Street, 50 yards W. of the church, was built early in the 16th century on a half H-shaped plan with the cross-wings extending towards the W. A cart-way through the N. end of the central block was made probably at some later date. The upper storey of the cross-wings originally projected on the E. front and at the W. end of the N. wing, but two of these projections have been under-built. Inside the building some of the constructional timbers are exposed.

Camp at Prittlewell

b(5). Shop, 20 yards S. of (4) is a fragment of a 16th-century house which was added to, on the E. side, in the following century. On the S. side of the earlier building the timber-framing is exposed, and in the party wall is a blocked three-light window with moulded frame and mullions.

b(6). Deeds Cottages, house (Plate, pp. xl–i), now a bank and shop, at corner of North Street and West Street and immediately S. of (5), is of weather-boarded timber-framing. It was built in the 16th century, but has been much altered.

a(7). Great Folly, house, about 1½ m. W. of the church, has been much altered, and added to on the S. and W. Inside the building is an original staircase, now blocked.

a(8). Coleman's Farm, house, nearly 1 m. N.W. the church, has modern additions on the N. and S.

a(9). WhitehouseFarm, house, nearly 1 m. N.N.W. of the church, has modern additions on the E. The upper storey projects on the W. front.

b(10). Temple Farm, house, about 1 m. N.N.E. of the church, has timber-framed walls partly weather-boarded and partly covered with plaster. The main part of the building is of 16th-century date and L-shaped on plan with the wings extending towards the S. and E., but it has been considerably altered and added to. Inside the E. wing of the house is an original doorway with a four-centred head.

b(11). Hamstel, house, nearly 1¼ m. E. of the church, has modern additions on the N.

b(12). Cooper's Farm, house, about 1 m. N.E. of the church, was built probably c. 1600. The upper storey projects at the back. Inside the building two rooms are lined with early 17th-century panelling and there is an original stone fireplace with moulded jambs and four-centred head.


b(13). Camp, S.E. of Fossett's Farm, 1 m. N.E. of the church, is situated on ground which slopes gently towards the N. and is not far from the head of a creek of the River Roach. It is roughly elliptical on plan, and measures about 800 ft. from N. to S. and 650 ft. from E. to W.; at the S.E. corner is an irregularly-shaped mound. The defences consisted of a rampart and dry ditch, but though the outline can be traced as an undulation in the fields for the greater part of its circumference, it is only at the S.W. corner that the rampart and ditch are well defined.

Condition—Fairly good; the ditch on the W. side is gradually being filled in, and the mound, which is said to have been considerably lowered, is enclosed in a small plantation.