Stanway: Churches

Pages 270-273

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.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section


In the early Middle Ages there were two churches in Stanway: All Saints' beside Stanway Hall in Great Stanway, and St. Albright's or St. Ethelbert's on the London road in Little Stanway. St. Cross hospital or chapel, in the detached part of the parish in the suburbs of Colchester, served an area which was effec- tively part of the borough. (fn. 1) All Saints' was recorded, although not by name, c. 1260, and was presumably the church valued in 1254, since the parish church stood at Great Stanway in 1291. (fn. 2) St. Albright's, in existence by the later 11th century, was a parish church in the early 12th century, although it was presumably the chapel assessed for subsidy in 1254 and 1291, and was consistently called a chapel from 1366. (fn. 3) The survival of an early 13th-century coffin lid from the churchyard indicates that St. Albright's had burial rights at that date. (fn. 4) Early 16th-century parishioners made bequests to and requested burial at both churches, (fn. 5) but All Saints' seems to have fallen out of use soon afterwards, being repaired in the early 17th century as the chapel of Stanway Hall. (fn. 6) By 1778 the rector was unsure which building was the church and which St. Albright's chapel. (fn. 7)

Thomas Belhus claimed the advowson in 1285, and it followed the descent of Stanway manor until 1733 when John Hopwood's trus- tees sold it to Richard Bacon. In 1734 Bacon and George Wegg sold it to Joseph Abbott who sold it in 1736 to Magdalen College, Oxford. (fn. 8) The college were patrons in 1995. The lords of the manor presented regularly in the Middle Ages, except in 1467 when the Colchester aldermen William Ford and John Wright had been granted a turn. The bishop of London presented by lapse in 1555, and turns were granted or sold in 1570 and 1626. (fn. 9) Magdalen College has pre- sented regularly since 1746.

The living, a rectory, was valued at 10 marks (£6 13s. 4d.) in 1254, when the abbots of Coggeshall and St. John's, Colchester, were reported to have two thirds of John de Burgh's demesne tithes; (fn. 10) the reference to the abbot of Coggeshall seems to be an error, as there is no later record of his interest in Stanway. In 1291 the living was valued at £10 13s. 4d. (fn. 11) An agree- ment reached in 1364 divided the tithes between the rector and St. John's abbey and granted the abbey a pension of 2 marks (£1 6s. 8d.) a year. (fn. 12) In the 16th century the income of the living, £10 17s. 4d. net in 1535, was derived from glebe, tithe, mortuaries, and perquisites of court. (fn. 13) In 1650 the glebe was worth £40, the tithe £80 a year. (fn. 14) Although by 1723 the tithe on Gosbecks had been commuted for a modus of £6 a year, by 1747-8 the value of the tithe had risen to £156 16s., and in 1763 the living was worth £270. (fn. 15) The gross income of the living in 1835 was £738, and it was further increased by the commutation of the tithe for a rent-charge of £795 a year in 1839. (fn. 16) In 1845, however, £40 a year was assigned to the new church of All Saints', Shrub End, (fn. 17) and in 1891 the gross income was only £720, the net income £623. (fn. 18)

In 1407 there was at least 1 a. of glebe by All Saints' church, and the fields at Olivers called Great and Little Church Lay in 1658 may once have been glebe, (fn. 19) but by 1610, and probably by 1515, all the glebe land and the rectory house lay near St. Albright's church, as they did in 1733. (fn. 20) There was c. 80 a. of glebe in 1610, including the site of the rectory house; c. 77 a. in 1810, and c. 81 a., including the churchyard, in 1817. (fn. 21) A total of 1½ a. was given for the school and mistress's house in 1856, and for additions to the churchyard in 1858 and 1897. (fn. 22) Between 1880 and 1915 rectors tried unsuccessfully to recover the site of All Saints' church and churchyard from the owners of Stanway Hall. (fn. 23) In 1887 the glebe was variously reported as 66 a. in Stanway and Fordham and as 61 a., excluding the rectory house in its 12-a. close. (fn. 24) A total of 64½ a. of glebe was offered for sale in 1918; c. 8 a. was sold in 1926, c. 11 a. in 1927, and c. 24 a. in 1928. (fn. 25)

The parsonage house recorded in 1610 probably stood south-west of the churchyard, as it did in 1733. (fn. 26) It was partly rebuilt in 1778 and 1779, and in 1817 contained 3 parlours, a kitchen, and 5 chambers. (fn. 27) It was further ex- tended in 1828. (fn. 28) By 1874 it was unsuitable for the rector, and in 1875-6 was demolished and replaced by a large, new, brick house, in Gothic style, on the London road beside the church. (fn. 29) That house was itself replaced by a new one in Church Lane in 1939. (fn. 30)

There was a parson of Stanway c. 1215. (fn. 31) Most known medieval incumbents resigned or exchanged the living, but John Newton (1467- 83) and Thomas Wilkinson (1515-31) both died in office. (fn. 32) The rector in 1406 was accused of assaulting a woman on St. John's Green, Col- chester. (fn. 33) Almost all the rectors from 1492 onwards were graduates, mainly of Cambridge. Many were pluralists, like Robert Simpson (1505-15) who probably also held Layer Marney, and who in 1506 helped found a fellow- ship at Catherine Hall, Cambridge. (fn. 34) In the late 14th century the inhabitants of Little Stanway claimed that the rector was bound to find a chaplain to celebrate mass daily in St. Albright's, and the rector counter-claimed that the inhabitants should contribute to the repair of the parish church. (fn. 35) In 1514 St. Albright's contained statues of St. Ethelbert, the Virgin Mary, St. Anthony, and St. Erasmus, and All Saints' contained a statue of the Virgin. (fn. 36)

In 1407 John Doreward obtained licence to found a chantry for himself, his parents, John Oliver, Thomas Belhus, and Robert Knevett. By will dated 1420 he endowed the chantry, in a building south of All Saints' church, with £7 a year, but it was not recorded again. The chapel was perhaps that dedicated to St. Mary which was called Olivers chapel in 1477. (fn. 37) Before 1548 the churchwardens held a house and a total of 20 a. of land, presumably as endowments of obits or chantries. (fn. 38) Links continued with St. Cross chapel in Colchester, occupied from c. 1496 by the Crutched friars. In the early 16th century one parishioner requested burial there, three others asked for prayers, and a fourth left money to one of the friars. (fn. 39)

Edmund Beane, presented in 1542, was deprived in 1554, presumably for marriage; he had been restored by 1560 when he was learned but was absent in Durham diocese. (fn. 40) John Goodwin, rector 1570-88, was accused in 1586 of being an alehouse haunter. (fn. 41) Robert Willan (d. 1630) was probably the Cambridge theo- logian and pluralist who was rector of two other Essex parishes, prebendary of Lincoln, and chaplain to Charles I. He lived at least part of the time at Stanway where he improved the rect- ory house and glebe. In 1626 he bought the next presentation, and in 1630 his executors pre- sented his son-in-law Samuel Baldock, another pluralist who lived in Stanway. (fn. 42) The church was relatively well equipped in 1633. (fn. 43) Baldock was deprived in 1644, and the church was served by a succession of ministers until he was restored in 1660. (fn. 44) In 1684 the church needed several books, and a flagon and napkins for the com- munion table, but it had most of the necessary books and plate in 1707. (fn. 45) In the earlier 18th century incumbents were generally resident, holding two services on Sundays and com- munion three or four times a year. (fn. 46)

From 1746 until 1891 all the incumbents were former fellows of Magdalen College. They lived in the rectory house, providing two services and one sermon each Sunday in the later 18th cent- ury and the early 19th. The number of com- municants rose from c. 20 at the four services a year in 1766 to c. 40 at the six services in 1810, although by then there were many absentees from church services. (fn. 47)

Henry Jenkins, rector 1830-74, was an anti- quary who may have started the tradition that St. Albright's was originally a wayside chapel for pilgrims. (fn. 48) He was instrumental in founding in 1845 the church of All Saints, Shrub End, for a district taken from Stanway and Lexden, (fn. 49) and he built parish schools in 1856. (fn. 50) He was assisted by curates, in 1851 by Goodeve Harrison, later of Olivers. (fn. 51) Jenkins's successor, R. H. Hill (1874-91), was responsible for the restoration of the church between 1878 and 1880, and organized mission services in cottages at Beacon End and Heckford bridge. (fn. 52) His successor, W. G. G. Austin (1891-7), opened a mission room at Beacon End in 1895. It became St. Albright's Institute c. 1918, and was remodelled and dedicated as a dual purpose building, St. Andrew's church hall, in 1963. (fn. 53)

The ruined church of ALL SAINTS (fn. 54) com- prises a nave with a north porch and a west tower. Nothing survives of the 13th- or early 14th-century church comprising chancel, nave, and bell tower, the nave of which collapsed in the 1380s or 1390s. (fn. 55) The nave was rebuilt c. 1400, and the north aisle, whose arcade sur- vives, and the west tower may have been built at the same time. There was an alabaster reredos behind the high altar in 1477, and the 'light beam' was painted in 1521. (fn. 56) The church was repaired by John Swinnerton (d. 1616) as a pri- vate chapel; the chancel arch and north arcade were blocked with brick, and a brick north porch bearing the Swinnerton arms was added. (fn. 57) By the early 18th century the church was 'utterly decayed', and has remained so. (fn. 58)

The church of ST. ALBRIGHT (ETHEL- BERT), (fn. 59) of flint and rubble with limestone and Roman brick dressings, comprises chancel with south chapel, and nave with south aisle, west bell turret, and north porch. The late 11th- century church comprised undivided nave and chancel, possibly entered by a west door. The nave walls and probably some of the rafters sur- vive. (fn. 60) The chancel was rebuilt and the north porch added in the 15th century, perhaps by the Tey family, whose arms survived in the east window in the 1630s. (fn. 61) The bell turret was built about the same time. (fn. 62) The church was repaired in the 1620s and 1630s, (fn. 63) and regularly main- tained thereafter. In 1707 there were north and south porches, but the south porch was later replaced by a small vestry which was demolished c. 1800. (fn. 64) There was a west gallery by 1856. (fn. 65) The church was extended eastwards in 1826, the medieval chancel being incorporated into the nave. (fn. 66) The south vestry was rebuilt c. 1860. (fn. 67) The church was enlarged and restored in 1879 when a new chancel with south vestry was built, a south aisle added to the nave, the gallery removed, and the north porch rebuilt, to plans by Sir G. G. Scott. The 15th-century piscina from the medieval chancel was rebuilt in the new one, and the 15th-century arcade from the demolished St. Runwald's church, Colchester, was rebuilt between the chancel and vestry. (fn. 68) The bell turret and roofs were repaired in 1936. (fn. 69)

The octagonal 15th-century font has alternating chalices and blank shields on its faces. The church plate is modern, the 3 chalices recorded in 1552 having been sold or lost; there are 2 pewter plates of c. 1750. (fn. 70)

There were at least two bells in 1541, and three in 1684. (fn. 71) In 1856 they were: (i) 1574, (ii) John Thornton 1710, (iii) Miles Gray 1610, but the first two were taken down in 1890 and sold in 1892. (fn. 72) The remaining bell was repaired in 1936. (fn. 73)

The graveyard was extended in 1858, 1897, and 1935. A lich gate was built as a war mem- orial in 1920. (fn. 74)


A house was licensed for Quaker meetings in 1705. (fn. 75) By 1766 the only Quakers were a poor woman and her two daughters, perhaps the Quaker Ann Seach buried in 1781, and Sarah and Mary Frost who were baptised as adults in 1783. (fn. 76)

Rectors reported no nonconformists in 1778 or 1810, and only one family of dissenters in 1790. (fn. 77) A Wesleyan Methodist society was founded with 11 members in 1850. It was prob- ably the congregation averaging 20-30 which met in a cottage in Stanway in 1851 although it was entered in the census under Copford. The church, then with a membership of four, seems to have moved to Copford in 1870. (fn. 78)

The Peculiar People started meeting in a cottage in Warren Lane in 1878 and a chapel was opened nearby, in the later Chapel Road, in 1886. The congregation was among those which broke away from the main body in 1900 to form the Liberty church whose members accepted medical help for their children, but it rejoined the main church in 1921. In the 1920s contacts were made with neighbouring Methodist and Baptist churches. In 1955 the chapel became Stanway Evangelical Church. The rectangular red-brick chapel was extended in 1977 and was rebuilt on its old plan in 1991. (fn. 79)


  • 1. V.C.H. Essex, ix. 307-8.
  • 2. Colch. Cart. ii. 403-4; B.L. Arundel MS. 145, f. 32; E.A.T. n.s. xviii. 121; Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 23.
  • 3. Colch. Cart. ii. 531; E.A.T. n.s. xviii. 121; Newcourt, Repertorium, ii. 553.
  • 4. E.C.S. 10 Apr. 1880.
  • 5. E.R.O., D/ACR 1, f. 42v.; D/ACR 2, ff. 3, 77, 89, 93, 233v.; D/ACR 3, ff. 48, 131.
  • 6. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., MS. 498, p. 1.
  • 7. Lamb. Pal. Libr., Lowth Papers 6; E.R.O., D/DU 23/139/1.
  • 8. Feet of F. Essex, ii. 49, 148; iii. 234; iv. 124, 164, 258; v. 234; vi. 32; E.R.O., D/DE1 T275; ibid. D/ACR 20, f. 465; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., EMD 2/1/11.
  • 9. Newcourt, Repertorium, ii. 553; Guildhall MSS. 9531/7, ff. 109, 194v.; 9531/12, pt. 2, f. 463; P.R.O., C 3/395/32; V.C.H. Essex, ix. 377.
  • 10. E.A.T. n.s. xviii. 121.
  • 11. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 23.
  • 12. E.R.O., D/DSy 21.
  • 13. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 444; E.R.O., D/DSy 1; Newcourt, Repertorium, ii. 553.
  • 14. Smith, Eccl. Hist. Essex, 311.
  • 15. Guildhall MS. 25750/2; E.R.O., D/P 43/3/24-6.
  • 16. Rep. Com. on Eccl. Revenues [67], pp. 672-3, H.C. (1835), xxii; E.R.O., D/CT 329A.
  • 17. V.C.H. Essex, ix. 335.
  • 18. E.R.O., T/A 645; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., MS. 744A, f. 151.
  • 19. Cal. Pat. 1405-8, 330; E.R.O., T/M 214.
  • 20. Guildhall MS. 9628/3; E.R.O., D/DSy 1; D/DE1 P48.
  • 21. Guildhall MS. 9628/3; E.R.O., D/P 43/3/27-8.
  • 22. E.R.O., D/P 43/3/32; ibid. D/CC 9/2, 48/6.
  • 23. Ibid. D/P 43/6/4; D/P 43/3/32; ibid. T/A 645.
  • 24. Return of Glebe Lands, H.C. 307, p. 150 (1887), lxiv; E.R.O., T/A 645.
  • 25. E.R.O., sale cat. A83; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun. CMM 1/9.
  • 26. Guildhall MS. 9628/3; E.R.O., D/DE1 P48.
  • 27. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., MS. 498, p. 6; E.R.O., D/P 43/3/27-8.
  • 28. E.R.O., D/P 43/3/32; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., CP 1/12, p. 162.
  • 29. E.R.O., D/P 43/3/32; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun. CMM 1/6, meetings of 1 Feb. 1875, 1 Feb. 1876; ibid. MS. 744A, ff. 47, 149.
  • 30. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., CMM 3, p. 361; J. Hamilton, 'St. Albright's Church Stanway', 5 (reproduced from TS.): copy in E.R.O.
  • 31. Colch. Cart. i. 201.
  • 32. Newcourt, Repertorium, ii. 553-4; E.R.O., T/A 547/1.
  • 33. E.R.O., D/B 5 Cr35, rot. 14d.
  • 34. A. B. Emden, Biog. Reg. Camb. Univ. to 1500, 574.
  • 35. Cal. Papal Reg. viii. 322-3.
  • 36. E.R.O., D/ACR 2, f. 3.
  • 37. Cal. Pat. 1405-8, 330; P.R.O., PROB 11/2B, f. 172; PROB 11/7, f. 186.
  • 38. P.R.O., E 318/29/1640; Cal. Pat. 1547-8, 341.
  • 39. E.R.O., D/ABW 23/12; ibid. D/ACR 2, ff. 77, 126v., 233v., 241v.
  • 40. Ibid. Acc. A9415 (uncat.), box 29.
  • 41. Seconde Parte of a Register, ed. A. Peel, ii. 159.
  • 42. Alum. Cantab. to 1751; P.R.O., C 3/395/32.
  • 43. E.R.O., D/ACV 5, f. 33.
  • 44. Walker Revised, ed. A. G. Matthews, 145; E.R.O., T/A 547/1; Smith, Eccl. Hist. Essex, 162, 386; Calamy Revised, ed. A. G. Matthews, 225. John Westley, rector from 1645 until his death in 1654, was not the John Westley (d. 1678), grandfather of John Wesley the founder of Methodism: P.R.O., PROB 11/240, f. 132v.; Alum. Oxon. to 1715; D.N.B.
  • 45. E.R.O., D/ACV 9A, ff. 21, 78v.
  • 46. Guildhall MSS. 25750/2, 25751, 25752, 25753/3, 25754/4, 25755/3.
  • 47. Lamb. Pal. Libr., Osbaldeston Papers 7, Terrick Papers 14, Lowth Papers 6, Porteus Papers 30, Randolph Papers 12.
  • 48. V.C.H. Essex, Bibl. 184; E.R.O., T/P 196/6, p. 229; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun. MS. 444, passim.
  • 49. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun. MS. 444, letter of 21 Oct. 1860; ibid. CP 1/15, p. 93; V.C.H. Essex, ix. 335.
  • 50. E.R.O., D/P 43/3/32.
  • 51. P.R.O., HO 107/1782.
  • 52. E.C.S. 10 Apr. 1880; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., MS. 744A, ff. 148-9.
  • 53. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., MS. 744A, ff. 148, 183; O. D. Harvey, St. Albright's Church, 15-16; J. Hamilton, 'St. Albright's Church', 9; inf. from Revd. A. F. Bell, rector 1961-94.
  • 54. Invocation recorded in 1518: E.R.O., D/ACR 2, f. 78v.
  • 55. Cal. Papal Reg. viii. 322.
  • 56. P.R.O., PROB 11/7, f. 186; E.R.O., D/ACR 2, f. 233v.
  • 57. R.C.H.M. Essex, iii. 208-9; E.R.O., D/DU 23/139/1; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., MS. 498, p. 1; Morant, Essex, ii. 191 n.
  • 58. Newcourt, Repertorium, ii. 553. A detailed survey of the church was undertaken by Essex County Council Historic Buildings section in 1998: copy in E.R.O.
  • 59. Invocation recorded in the early 13th century: Colch. Cart. ii. 531.
  • 60. C. Hewett, Ch. Carpentry (1974 edn.), 166-7.
  • 61. R.C.H.M. Essex, 207-8; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., MS. 498, p. 1.
  • 62. There is no evidence for the tower shown on a map of 1733: E.R.O., D/DE1 P48; the 15th-century timbers of the surviving bell turret appear to be in their original position.
  • 63. P.R.O., C 3/395/32.
  • 64. E.R.O., D/ACV 9A, f. 78v.; ibid. T/P 196/6, p. 230; Lamb. Pal. Libr., Randolph Papers 12.
  • 65. G. Buckler, Twenty-two Essex Chs. 246.
  • 66. E.R.O., D/DSy 20.
  • 67. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. Mun., MS. 500, ff. 90-91v.; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Essex XXVII. 10 (1881 edn.).
  • 68. E.R.O., D/CF 17/6; ibid. Acc. C767 (uncat.); E.C.S. 10 Apr. 1880.
  • 69. E.R.O., T/P 181/10/20.
  • 70. W. N. Paul, Essex Fonts, 177; Ch. Plate Essex, 185-6, 308.
  • 71. E.R.O., D/ACR 4, f. 149; D/ACV 9A, f. 21.
  • 72. Buckler, Essex Chs. 247; E.R. ii. 182; E.R.O., D/AZ 7/2, f. 73v.; Harvey, St. Albright's, 8.
  • 73. E.R.O., T/P 181/10/20.
  • 74. Ibid. D/CC 9/2; D/CC 48/6; ibid. T/P 181/10/20; E.R. xxx. 47.
  • 75. E.R.O., Q/SBb 33/1.
  • 76. Lamb. Pal. Libr., Terrick Papers 14; E.R.O., D/P 43/1/1.
  • 77. Lamb. Pal. Libr., Lowth Papers 6, Randolph Papers 12.
  • 78. E.R.O., D/NM 2/1/3-4; P.R.O., HO 129/8/205.
  • 79. F. Spurgeon, Stanway Evangelical Ch. (priv. print. c. 1980): copy in E.C.L. Colch.; M. Sorrell, Peculiar People, 43, 55-6, 58, 154; plaque on building.