Pages 121-124

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

73. RAYLEIGH. (E.c.)

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

Rayleigh is a parish and small town 6 m. N.W. of Southend-on-Sea. The church and the castle are the principal monuments.


(1). Parish Church of the Holy Trinity stands in the village. The walls are mainly of ragstone-rubble, with much flint in the chancel and south chapel and some brick; the S. porch is entirely of brick; the dressings are of limestone and Roman brick; the roofs are covered with tiles and lead. The Chancel was built probably early in the 12th century. During the 15th century the West Tower was built and the Nave re-built and probably lengthened up to the tower; the North Chapel, and North and South Aisles were built, with the North Vestry, probably late in the same century. C. 1517 the South Chapel was built by William Alleyn, and about the same time the South Porch was added. The church has been restored in modern times, when the N. vestry was enlarged.

The Church, Plan

Architectural Description—The Chancel: (20½ ft. by 16¾ ft.) has 12th-century E. quoins of Roman brick and stone. The almost completely restored 15th-century E. window is of four cinque-foiled lights in a square head with a moulded label; below it, towards the S., is a 15th-century doorway, now blocked, and with a four-centred head and square moulded label; in the gable is a window of one trefoiled light. In the N. wall is a late 15th-century four-centred arch of two hollow-chamfered orders, the outer continuous and the inner resting on attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. In the S. wall is a similar arch, probably of early 16th-century date, but the responds are completely covered with modern cement. The 15th-century four-centred chancel-arch is of two continuous moulded orders.

The North Chapel (21½ ft. by 12 ft.) has a 15th-century E. window of four cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head. In In the N. wall is a much-restored 15th-century window of three cinque-foiled lights in a three-centred head; further E. is a 15th-century doorway with moulded jambs and two-centred arch. In the W. wall is a 15th-century arch, two-centred and of two hollow-chamfered orders dying on to the walls.

The North Vestry is of the 15th-century; the northern half is a modern extension. In the E. wall is a window of two plain lights in a square head. The attic above has a small rectangular window in the W. wall.

The South Chapel (20¼ ft. by 15 ft.) is of early 16th-century date, and has an E. window of four cinque-foiled lights in a square head. In the S. wall are two windows, each of three cinque-foiled lights in a square head; the eastern window is blocked externally. In the W. wall is a four-centred arch of two hollow-chamfered orders dying on to the side walls; on the N. side the wall is splayed back and the arch rests on moulded corbelling.

The Nave (57 ft. by 20½ ft.) has 15th-century N. and S. arcades, each of four bays with two-centred arches of two moulded orders; the columns have each four attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases; the S.E. respond has a round attached shaft, but the others have attached semi-octagonal shafts with concave faces and moulded capitals and bases.

The North Aisle (10 ft. wide) is of the 15th century, and has in the N. wall four three-light windows, all completely covered in cement and plaster; below the westernmost is a blocked doorway with hollow-chamfered jambs and two-centred head; at the E. end of the wall is the rood-loft staircase; the lower doorway has rebated jambs and four-centred head; the upper doorway has a cusped and sub-cusped head of re-used early 15th-century work. In the W. wall is a 15th-century window of two cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head.

The South Aisle (9½ ft. wide) is of the 15th century, and has in the S. wall four windows, all of three cinque-foiled lights and covered with cement externally; the two eastern have four-centred heads with labels and stops carved with a head and angels holding shields with crosses; the third is probably a 17th-century restoration, and has a three-centred head with a moulded label; the westernmost has a square head and a moulded label; below this window is the re-set 13th-century S. doorway with a two-centred arch of two orders, the inner chamfered and continuous and the outer moulded and resting on shafts with defaced capitals and bases; the 15th-century label is moulded. In the W. wall is an early 16th-century window of three pointed lights in a square head.

The West Tower (14 ft. square) is of the 15th century and of three stages, with an embattled parapet and an embattled turret rising above it (Plate, pp. xxxii-iii). The two-centred tower-arch is of two continuous chamfered orders. The W. window is of three cinque-foiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head with a restored label; below it is a row of shields, one with the arms of Vere and the rest now defaced; the W. doorway has moulded jambs and two-centred arch in a square head with a moulded label and cusped spandrels. The N., S. and W. walls of the second stage have each a window of one trefoiled light; above the W. window is another window of two cinque-foiled lights in a square head with a restored label. The bell-chamber has in each wall a window similar to that last described.

The South Porch (Plate,p. xxxviii) is of early 16th-century date and of red brick with a crow-stepped embattled parapet with a trefoiled corbel-table. The outer archway has chamfered jambs, four-centred arch and label; above it is a niche with a four-centred head and set in a square outer order. The side walls have each a window of two four-centred lights in a square head with a moulded label. The porch is covered by a brick vault with chamfered diagonal and wall-ribs springing from moulded corbels in the angles.

The Roof of the chancel has been much restored, but incorporates some old timbers. The early 16th-century roof of the N. chapel is of two bays, with moulded principals forming two-centred arches and trussed-rafters. The 15th-century roof of the nave is of six bays, partly restored, and with five king-post trusses. The S. chapel and N. and S. aisles have old rafters, including some early 16th-century moulded beams and joists in the N. aisle.

Fittings—Bells: eight; 5th by Thomas Bullisdon, early 16th-century and inscribed "Ihus" and "Sancta Margareta Ora Pro Nos"; 6th by Robert Burford, probably early 15th-century, and inscribed "Sit Nomen Domini Benedictum"; 7th by John Hodson, 1657. Brass and Indents— Brass: In N. aisle—of John Barrington, 1416, and Thomasin, his wife, 1420, figures of civilian and wife, head of male figure and inscription lost. Indents: In N. aisle—(1) of priest in doctor's cap, and inscription-plate. In S. porch—(2) defaced. In W. tower—(3) of figure and inscription-plate. Chest: In S. aisle—dug-out with two hinges, lock and three hasps, mediaeval. Consecration Crosses: In nave—flanking tower-arch, black painted formy crosses in circles, 15th-century, that on S. repainted. Door: In tower—in staircase doorway, of overlapping battens with strap-hinges and sex-foiled handle-plate, 15th-century. Font: In S. aisle half of square Purbeck marble bowl with round-headed panels in sides, late 12th-century. Gallery: In tower—cross-beam, wall-posts and braces of former ringing-gallery; front of beam with Jacobean ornament and spandrels of braces with cusped ornament, early 17th century, floor removed. Glass: In N. chapel —in E. window, small rose and other fragments, early 16th-century. In N. aisle—in W. window, fragments in tracery. Monuments: In S. chapel— against S. wall, (1) recessed wall-monument (Plate, p. 105) of freestone, consisting of base with three cusped and traceried panels, two enclosing shields; slab with moulded edge; recess in wall above with square-headed canopy with cusped and panelled soffit and side-shafts with moulded capitals and bases; at back five shallow niches with ogee traceried heads and moulded pedestals, remains of foliated cornice with cresting and two shields, early 16th-century. In churchyard—S. of church (2) to Richard Ransford, 1677, head-stone; E. of church—(3) to Avis Croft, 1712, head-stone. Niches: On tower—in S.W. buttress, with triangular head and square moulded label, 15th-century, half-restored. See also S. porch. Piscina: In N. chapel—in S. wall, with three-centred head and round drain, c. 1500. Plate: includes large cup of 1681 dated 1683 and stand-paten of 1681, Royal Arms: In tower—on N. wall, of Queen Anne before the Union. Screen (Plate, pp. 4-5): In W. arch of N. chapel—with entrance and four side bays, entrance with four-centred head and vertical tracery above, side-bays with cinque-foiled heads and tracery, moulded head-beam, c. 1500, cresting and lower panels modern. Scratching: On jamb of S. doorway—date 1638. Miscellanea: In S. aisle—capital of 15th-century column. In S. porch—sections of columns of grouped shafts, supporting benches.

Condition—Good, but stonework of windows much decayed.


(2). The Castle, mount and bailey (Plate, p. xxxvii), appears to be identical with that built about the end of the 11th century by Suene, son of Robert Fitz-Wimarc. It appears to have fallen into disuse in the 13th century or even earlier, and was ruinous in the 14th century (V.C.H., 1, p. 300, Essex Arch. Soc. Trans., N.S., XII; Morant, 1, p. 273). No masonry now stands above ground, but recent excavations have disclosed considerable quantities of stone and rubble in the inner bailey and on the N.E. slope of the mound.

Rayleigh Castle

The work is of special interest as a strong and well-preserved example of its type.

The castle is situated in a commanding position on a spur overlooking the valley of the Crouch, and depends for its defence to a great extent on the natural contours of the ground. The plan consists of a strong keep-mound with a bailey to the E. and an outer bailey on the same side. Both the mound and the inner bailey are surrounded by a deep dry ditch having on the N. and W. a strong outer bank with traces of an external ditch. The defences of the outer bailey are now represented by a scarp dropping into the gardens of the modern houses to the E., and by slight traces of ditches at the S.E. corner. From the foundations disclosed it appears that the inner bailey was enclosed within a stone wall, which probably continued up the causeway to the mound, and the rubble on the slope of the mound may be part of the keep which had been thrown down from the summit. The approach to the mound is by a causeway on the S. side, and the entrance to the inner bailey appears to have been through the rampart on the N. and along the eastern ditch of the mound. The mound is 50 ft. high above the ditch on the N.W. side and is 260 ft. long by 150 ft. wide, surrounded by a ditch which is 24 ft. below the scarp on the E. side. The dimensions of the outer bailey are not recoverable.


Monuments (3–8).

The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century, and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered or weather-boarded; the roofs are tiled. Some of the buildings have exposed ceiling-beams and original chimneystacks.

Condition—Good, or fairly good.

(3). Rectory, house, N. of the church, was built in the 16th century or possibly earlier, with a central block and N. and S. cross-wings, but has been much altered and added to. The upper storey of the S. wing originally projected on the E. but has been under-built. Inside the building the curved braces supporting the bressummer of the projecting storey are visible.

(4). Mount Pleasant Cottages, range of tenements, 100 yards W. of the church, has modern additions at the back. Inside the building some of the timber-framing is exposed, and one of the tenements has a wide open-fireplace.

(5). House, now three tenements, on N.W. side of road, 120 yards S.W. of the church, was built in the 16th century, and has modern additions at the back. The upper storey projects on the S.W. front. Inside the building some of the rooms have moulded ceiling-beams.

(6). Cottage, now offices, opposite (5).

(7). Three Horseshoes Inn, now tenements, 150 yards N.E. of the church.

(8). Rayleigh Lodge, 1,200 yards E.S.E. of the church, was built probably in the 16th century, but has been much altered and added to. Inside the building one of the ground-floor rooms is lined with early 17th-century panelling and has an encased ceiling-beam with curved braces. The timber-framing is partly exposed in the upper storey, together with a braced tie-beam.