Little Horkesley: Church

Pages 239-241

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2001.

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The church, which was granted to Little Horkesley priory at its foundation c. 1127, was both conventual and parochial until the Dissolution. (fn. 1) It was presumably the former priory ownership which led Edward Husbands, patron and impropriator, to claim in 1705-6 and in 1727 that the church was free from episcopal and archidiaconal visitations. (fn. 2)

The lord of Little Horkesley Hall was in 1332 said to hold the advowson of the priory, (fn. 3) and the cure may have been served by the monks. After the dissolution of the priory in 1525 the advowson of a perpetual curacy apparently descended with Little Horkesley Hall. (fn. 4) In 1917 the manor and advowson were purchased by W. F. Dick who held it until 1927. By 1928 it had passed to A. E. Macandrew and two other trustees of a private trust who held it until 1960. The surviving trustee W. W. Otter-Barry (d. 1973) was succeeded by his daughter, Elizabeth de Havilland (d. 1976). On the death of her husband Maj. Gen. P. H. de Havilland in 1990, the advowson passed to Mrs Felicity Reynolds (d. 1996). (fn. 5)

The priory's chaplain received £6 13s. 4d. in 1525, and the later impropriators apparently provided funds from the tithes for the maintenance of a curate or vicar. A parish priest was recorded in 1550. (fn. 6)

The curacy was said in 1650 to be worth £20, probably paid out of the rectory by the impropriator. (fn. 7) In 1717 the curate received £34 a year from the rectory. (fn. 8) An estate in South Hanningfield was purchased in 1720 with £200 from Edward Husbands and £200 from Queen Anne's Bounty. James Husbands's attempt to endow the living with the small tithes failed. (fn. 9) The curacy was valued at £69 in 1831, rising to £80 by 1874. (fn. 10) In 1883 the benefice was endowed with £13 6s. 8d. out of the Common Fund. (fn. 11)

There was no ancient vicarage house. From 1874 to 1897 the curate or vicar lived at The Grove, Tog Lane, Great Horkesley. In the period 1897-1934 the vicars were also rectors of Great Horkesley and lived in the rectory house there. Fishponds, London Road, Great Horkesley, served as the vicarage from c. 1934 until 1986. (fn. 12)

In 1517 Sir William Findern left all the books and vestments in the vestry to the church and made bequests to the high altar and the altars of St. Mary, St. Catherine, and the Trinity. (fn. 13) The priest paid 2s. rent to Little Horkesley Hall manor for obit lands c. 1530 and there were church, presumably obit, cows in the 1540s. (fn. 14) In 1546 the Crown confiscated lands left for other obits and that left for the maintenance of a rood light by John Falcon (fl. late 15th century), founder of a chantry chapel in Great Horkesley. (fn. 15) In 1552 the churchwardens had 20s. from the stock of an otherwise unrecorded parish guild, and two sales of church goods raised over £8, most of which was spent on church repairs. (fn. 16)

Thomas Newcomen, unpopular Laudian rector of Holy Trinity, Colchester, was curate in the 1620s. (fn. 17) In 1634 the royalist William Lynne of Westwood Park complained of sectarian preaching and accused William Ball of the Priory of intending to enlarge his grounds with part of Little Horkesley churchyard. (fn. 18) In 1636 the curate appeared before the Court of High Commission, presumably for his puritan beliefs. (fn. 19) Although no minister was reported in 1650, and the patron Sir John Denham was described as a delinquent, it was later said that Denham's bailiff appointed a curate c. 1645-53. (fn. 20)

Azariah Husbands, and his widow Elizabeth, provided a curate until c. 1676. Their son Edward refused to appoint one and in 1679-80 the bishop granted a sequestration of the tithes to the leading inhabitants, who appointed a curate. In 1683 six inhabitants refused to pay tithes to Husbands unless he provided a minister, but they lost their case probably because Husbands appointed one. (fn. 21) In 1697 the curate sued the lessee of the Priory for non-payment of tithe. (fn. 22)

In 1684 the church needed a new bible and books of homilies and canons. They had been provided by 1687 when a total of £108 2s. 8d. was spent on church fittings and substantial repairs. (fn. 23) The parish vestry only agreed as late as 1713 to rail in the communion table. (fn. 24) In 1723 a neighbouring clergyman served as curate, holding one service on Sundays and communion six times a year. (fn. 25)

James Husbands, impropriator and patron from 1736, served the church in 1738. He was also rector of Ashdon (1729-30) and Fordham (1743-9) and he probably set up the parish library recorded in 1718. (fn. 26) In 1738 he usually held services twice on Sundays, and communion at least five times a year. (fn. 27) Between 1778 and 1818 William Barry, vicar of Wiston (Suff.), served the church for the absentee curate, holding one service on Sundays and communion four times a year. (fn. 28) Church attendance on census Sunday 1851 was 52 in the morning and 100 in the afternoon. (fn. 29) In 1866 there were two services on Sundays and communion once every six weeks. (fn. 30) The living was held in plurality with Great Horkesley 1893-1934, but the parish had its own incumbent from 1934 until 1986. From that date it has been served by the incumbent of Wormingford. (fn. 31)

The medieval church, dedicated to ST. PETER c. 1127, and to SS. PETER and PAUL c. 1190, was struck by a landmine in 1940 and completely destroyed. (fn. 32) It comprised an undifferentiated nave and chancel with north and south chapels, a south aisle that extended alongside a west tower, and a south porch. That church was probably the nave of the medieval priory church whose monastic chancel lay to the east. The north wall of the nave was probably 12th-century, the tower mid 14th-century, and the south aisle and chapel 15th-century. The porch, which was largely rebuilt in the 18th century, and the north chapel, which was rebuilt when the church was restored in the 19th century, were added in the 16th century. The north chapel may have been the Trinity chapel built by Sir William Findern before 1515. After the priory's dissolution the chancel of the priory church was demolished, the chancel arch blocked, and a new chancel formed from the eastern two bays of the nave. (fn. 33) Among the furnishings destroyed in 1940 was a 15th-century screen between the south chapel and the south aisle, a 17th-century ironwork screen in the north chapel, a lectern made from 15th-century tracery, and a table of c. 1600. (fn. 34) A 16th-century oak chest survived the bomb damage, as did the 15th-century font. (fn. 35)

The new church was built in 1958 from designs by Duncan Clark and Marshall Sisson. It has a chancel, a nave with north transept, south aisle and south porch, and a west tower. Apart from the porch, which is of exposed brick, the walls are rendered. (fn. 36)

In 1552 there were four bells. (fn. 37) At least one was 15th-century, two were replaced in the 17th-century, and only three were recorded in the 18th century possibly because one was already cracked and useless. Another bell was added in 1878. All five remained in 1909. (fn. 38) All the bells were broken in 1940. (fn. 39) One 16th- century and four 17th-century bells were transferred to the new church from All Saints' church, Colchester, in 1958. (fn. 40)

There was a silver chalice in 1552, (fn. 41) and a silver chalice and paten in 1684 and 1687. (fn. 42) The chalice was replaced, probably by Edward Husbands, for in 1997 there was a silver chalice, paten, and flagon, all inscribed 'Little Horkesley in Essex 1705' and a second paten of 1685. (fn. 43)

Three wooden effigies survive, probably commemorating Robert Horkesley (d. 1295) and William Horkesley and his wife Emma (both d. 1332). (fn. 44) The surviving brass of Bridget Marney (d. 1549) and her two husbands was originally from a tomb in the chancel. The inscription correctly identifies her second husband as John Marney, Lord Marney, but her first husband was William, not Thomas, Findern. On the reverse is a shrouded effigy of a lady c. 1490. (fn. 45) Another female shroud brass is probably of Catherine Leventhorp (d. 1502). (fn. 46) Brasses of the brothers John (d. 1430) and Andrew Swinbourne (d. 1418), from a tomb in the south chapel, were complete in 1796 but largely destroyed in the earlier 19th century and only fragments remain. (fn. 47) Another damaged monu- ment, probably originally with a brass and perhaps of William Swinbourne (d. 1422), was destroyed in 1940. (fn. 48)

Figure 37:



  • 1. Knowles and Hadcock, Med. Religious Houses, 97, 100; Bodl. MS. Ch. Essex 29A.
  • 2. E.R.O., D/DU 388/2; ibid. D/ACV 9A, f. 67v.
  • 3. P.R.O., C 135/32, no. 12.
  • 4. Feet of F. Essex, vi. 180; above, this par. Manors; cf. Guildhall MS. 25750/1.
  • 5. Chelm. Dioc. Yr. Bk. (1915-96); inf. from J. Appleby; above, this par., Manors.
  • 6. J. E. Oxley, Reformation in Essex, 47, 74; P.R.O., E 36/163, p. 65; E.R.O., D/DU 388/2; P. H. Reaney, Early Essex Clergy, 100.
  • 7. Smith, Eccl. Hist. Essex, 311.
  • 8. E.R.O., Q/RRp 1/45.
  • 9. Morant, Essex, ii. 236; E.R.O., T/P 195/11; E.R.O., D/CT 184.
  • 10. White's Dir. Essex (1863), 139; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1874).
  • 11. Lond. Gaz. 22 June 1883, 3220.
  • 12. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1874, and later edns.); Chelm. Dioc. Yr. Bk. (1985-6, 1986-7).
  • 13. P.R.O., PROB 11/18, ff. 281-2.
  • 14. E.R.O., D/DZe 12; Oxley, Reformation in Essex, 146; W. Hale, Precedents, 122.
  • 15. E.R.O., T/P 195/11; P.R.O., E 301/30/214; E 301/19/193-4.
  • 16. E.R. li. 17-19.
  • 17. E.A.T. n.s. xvii. 27; P.R.O., E 134/34 Chas. 11/Trin. 2; V.C.H. Essex, ix. 71-2.
  • 18. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1634-5, 252-5; E.R.O., D/P 307/8/1.
  • 19. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1635-6, 520.
  • 20. Smith, Eccl. Hist. Essex, 311; P.R.O., E 134/34 Chas. II/Trin. 2.
  • 21. E.R.O., D/DOt L2; D/DOt T2; ibid. D/ACV 9A, f. 18v.; P.R.O., E 134/34 Chas. II/Trin. 2.
  • 22. P.R.O., E 134/9 Wm. III/Mich. 7.
  • 23. E.R.O., D/ACV 9A, f. 18v.; D/ACV 9B, p. 55; ibid. D/P 307/6; ibid. D/DOt O4-5.
  • 24. Ibid. D/P 307/8/1; ibid. T/P 195/11.
  • 25. Guildhall MS. 25750/1.
  • 26. Above, this par., Intro.
  • 27. Guildhall MSS. 25753/2; 25755/2.
  • 28. Lamb. Pal. Libr., Lowth Papers 5, Porteus Papers 26.
  • 29. P.R.O., HO 129/8/205.
  • 30. E.R.O., D/AZ 7/2, p. 26.
  • 31. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1898, 1933, 1937); Chelm. Dioc. Yr. Bk. (1986-97); inf. from J. Appleby.
  • 32. Bodl. MSS. Ch. Essex 29A, 33; E.A.T. n.s. xxiii. 116-17, plate II; above, plate 14.
  • 33. R.C.H.M. Essex, iii. 170; E.R.O., D/P 307/28/4; E.A.T. n.s. vii. 98-109; Archaeologia, xlvi. 274; above, this par., Intro; May, More of the Horkesleys, photo. 87; P.R.O., PROB 11/18, f. 281.
  • 34. R.C.H.M. Essex, iii. 170-1; E.R. xliii. 77; E.R.O., D/P 307/28/4; May, More of the Horkesleys, photo. 86.
  • 35. H. W. Lewer and J. C. Wall, Ch. Chests Essex, 140; R.C.H.M. Essex, iii. 170.
  • 36. Harley, Hist. Little Horkesley, 4; Dept. of Env., Buildings List.
  • 37. E.R. li. 17.
  • 38. Morant, Essex, ii. 237; Ch. Bells Essex, 299-300; E.R.O., D/DOt L3.
  • 39. E.A.T. n.s. xxiii. 119.
  • 40. Inf. from J. Appleby.
  • 41. E.R. li. 17.
  • 42. E.R.O., D/ACV 9A, f. 18v.; D/ACV 9B, p. 55; ibid. D/P 307/6.
  • 43. Ch. Plate Essex, 208-9; R.C.H.M. Essex, iii. 171; E.A.T. n.s. xv. 298-9; inf. from J. Appleby.
  • 44. E.A.T. N.S. xv. 159-60; Harley, Hist. Little Horkesley, 7; R.C.H.M. Essex, iii. 171; cf. Ch. Monuments, viii. 3-11; ix. 33-43; inf. from Claude Blair; this section, fig. 37.
  • 45. R.C.H.M. Essex, iii. 170-1; E.A.T. N.S. xii. 235-7; E.R. lvi. 211; E.A.T. N.S. xxiii. 121-4; Complete Peerage, viii. 524.
  • 46. E.A.T. N.S. vii. 20-1; E.R. lvi. 211.
  • 47. R.C.H.M. Essex, iii. 171; E.A.T. n.s. xiii. 209-10.
  • 48. Harley, Hist. Little Horkesley, 8.