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.
Part of the church building is of the early 12th century. (fn. 1) Before 1189 Walter of Windsor and his mother Christine gave the church to the nuns of Wix priory, who appropriated the rectory and ordained a vicarage of which they were patrons. (fn. 2) Cardinal Wolsey dissolved the priory in 1525 and granted Wormingford church to his college at Oxford, and his school at Ipswich. (fn. 3) On Wolsey's fall in 1529 the church reverted to the Crown, and in 1532 Henry VIII gave it to the abbot and convent of Waltham Holy Cross. (fn. 4) The abbey was dissolved in 1540 but Henry granted Wormingford church to Robert Fuller, the former abbot, for life. (fn. 5) In 1544 Henry granted the church to Thomas Mannock and his wife Denise. (fn. 6) Thereafter the advowson descended with Church Hall manor. The patron presented regularly, except in 1662 when Peregrine Clarke had been granted a turn, and in 1760 and 1805, when the bishop and the Crown presented by lapse. (fn. 7) From 1967 Wormingford was held with Mount Bures, and by 1990 with Little Horkesley. (fn. 8)
The church was apparently not valued in 1254, but valued at £12 in 1291, and the vicarage at £7 13s. 4d. in 1535. (fn. 9) The glebe and tithes of the vicarage amounted to £56 in 1650. (fn. 10) The average net income in 1835 was £309. (fn. 11) In 1838 the vicarial tithes were commuted for £369 15s. (fn. 12) In 1887 the tithe and glebe rentals together amounted to £875. (fn. 13)
In 1322 Roger Gernon gave the vicar a piece of arable land abutting Blackmandown. (fn. 14) In 1610 the glebe consisted of c. 5 a. around the vicarage house and in a lane to Church Road. (fn. 15) In 1810 and 1887 the glebe lands of c. 4 a. were similar. (fn. 16)
The vicarage house stood c. ¼ mile north-east of the church. It was taxed on five hearths in 1662 and four in 1671, and needed tiling and plastering in 1705. (fn. 17) It was let in the mid 18th century. (fn. 18) Between 1761 and 1768 Robert Ingram (vicar 1760-1803) rebuilt the mi section of the house and thoroughly renovated the rest. (fn. 19) His successor substantially repaired the house c. 1808, (fn. 20) and it was in good condition in 1841. (fn. 21) It has a three-bayed west front of grey brick with a central Tuscan porch, and a service wing to the north. It was sold, and a new one built c. 1967 in Church Road. (fn. 22)
Andrew, parson of Wormingford, who witnessed a deed c. 1200, may have served Wormingford church, (fn. 23) but by the mid 13th century Matthew de Braham was vicar. (fn. 24) Many of the medieval vicars were pluralists. (fn. 25) From 1400 or earlier, probably until the Dissolution and certainly not later than 1587, the churchwardens held the church house near the church, and the church acre, as customary tenants of Chattisham manor (Suff.) which belonged to Wix priory. (fn. 26)
Robert Andrew (vicar 1579-87) was said to be a notorious drunkard. (fn. 27) John White (vicar 1646-62) signed the Essex Testimony, a presbyterian manifesto, in 1648. (fn. 28) The church lacked a communion table and paten in 1633 and a paten in 1684. By 1705 the church fabric and furnishings showed signs of serious neglect, and rubbish was piled against the walls. (fn. 29)
In 1723 there were two Sunday services and communion four times a year. William Tatham (vicar 1710-60) lived in his neighbouring parish of Wissington (Suff.), which he served with Little Horkesley, but he employed a resident curate at Wormingford. (fn. 30) His resident successor, Robert Ingram (vicar 1760-1804, and vicar of Boxted 1768-1804) held two Sunday services in 1766; he read prayers on holy days, on Fridays in Lent, and before the quarterly communion which he administered to 30 to 40 people. Between Easter and harvest he catechized the children and read lectures to adults on the catechism. (fn. 31) A good classical scholar, he published a few small theological tracts; his health deteriorated from 1796, but he officiated until he moved away in 1803. (fn. 32)
William Tufnell, vicar 1805-22, was an Evangelical who later founded an Independent chapel at Ford End, Great Waltham. (fn. 33) In 1841 members of all 106 families in the parish occasionally attended church, and the average number of communicants was c. 34. (fn. 34) No attendance return was made in 1851. (fn. 35) The number of Sunday services declined from three to two in the early 20th century, to only one by 1969, and attendances fell until in 1972 the choir was said sometimes to outnumber the congregation. (fn. 36) In 1996 the average attendance was 30. (fn. 37)
The church of ST. ANDREW, on the west side of Church Road, is built of flint rubble with some brick, and has dressings of limestone and brick. The brick, which is mostly in the 12th- century work, includes re-used Roman roof tiles as well as larger wall bricks. The church comprises chancel with north vestry and organ chamber, nave with north aisle and south porch, and west tower. (fn. 38) The nave and west tower are of the early 12th century and the tower retains several original windows. A north aisle was added to the nave in the 14th century and the south wall was given new windows and a new doorway. At about the same time the chancel was rebuilt and a new chancel arch was put in. The 14th-century piscina and sedilia in the chancel survive. The south porch was added in the 15th century. In 1589 the church was so decayed it let the rain in. (fn. 39) In 1633 the porch needed tiling and the chancel whiting. (fn. 40) The 'steeple' was repaired c. 1652. (fn. 41) By 1684 the porch still needed tiling, and the chancel extensive repairs; the tower needed roughcasting and the spire shingling. The church fabric had deteriorated further by 1705. (fn. 42) In 1709 the spire of the tower was removed and replaced by a turret. (fn. 43) In 1766 the whole roof and walls were thoroughly repaired, and the clerestory may have been added. (fn. 44) A vestry was built on the north side of the chancel c. 1815. There was a west gallery before 1848. (fn. 45)
Restoration of the church in 1869-70 increased the number of seats from 215 to 263. The clerestory was removed and all the roofs except that of the north aisle were renewed. The gallery was removed, a new stone tower arch built, and the tower opening fitted with seats for the children; a new north vestry and organ chamber were built, and the south porch was rebuilt with its early 15th-century archway reset. The chancel south window retains 14th- century stained glass. (fn. 46) The children's seating was replaced in 1899 with a new vestry under the tower. The 16th-century chancel screen was converted into a reredos, presumably in the 17th century or 18th, moved to a position under the tower in 1902, restored to the chancel arch in 1910, and removed in 1970. After an appeal to the diocesan consistory court in 1977 the screen was replaced in the tower arch in 1981. (fn. 47)
Between 1461 and 1468 the old church bells were replaced by new ones, and two were recast by Richard Bowler in 1591. Four bells were recorded in 1705 and 1768. (fn. 48) In 1859 three bells survived, one cracked; one from the 1460s by Joan Sturdy, and Bowler's two. In 1919 they were recast and three new ones added, in memory of Wormingford men killed in the First World War. (fn. 49) The church plate included an Elizabethan silver communion cup, and a silver paten of 1718. (fn. 50) The 19th-century octagonal font is a copy of the medieval one. (fn. 51) Brasses include a civilian of c. 1460 with a livery collar, possibly Thomas Bowden, and a civilian and two wives of c. 1590; both brasses are mounted on the west wall of the tower. (fn. 52)