Earls Colne: Church

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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'Earls Colne: Church', A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe, (London, 2001), pp. 99-102. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol10/pp99-102 [accessed 19 June 2024].

. "Earls Colne: Church", in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe, (London, 2001) 99-102. British History Online, accessed June 19, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol10/pp99-102.

. "Earls Colne: Church", A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe, (London, 2001). 99-102. British History Online. Web. 19 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol10/pp99-102.


The minster church at Colne, served by two priests and a deacon c. 1040, (fn. 1) was presumably at Earls Colne. Aubrey de Vere granted the church to Colne priory at its foun- dation, and the priory appropriated the rectory before 1254, retaining the advowson of the vicar- age until the Dissolution, when it was granted to the earl of Oxford. (fn. 2) The advowson descended with Colne priory manor until c. 1886. The lords presented regularly until 1786, except in 1610 when James I presented by lapse. (fn. 3) Thomas Carwardine in 1786 and his son John Bryan in 1824, son-in-law and son of the lord of the manor, were presented by men who were pre- sumably acting as trustees. Samuel Blackall pre- sented himself in 1867, as did David Methven in 1889. By 1890 Methven had acquired the advowson, which was exercised by his executors in 1924 and 1926. (fn. 4) In 1936 the advowson passed to the Diocesan Board of Patronage. The living was held in plurality with White Colne from 1967 and with Colne Engaine from 1988; it was united with Colne Engaine and White Colne in 1995. (fn. 5)

The vicarage was valued at 3 marks (£2) in 1254, the 'church' at £8 in 1291. (fn. 6) In 1355 the vicarage was endowed with the small tithes of the tenants' lands, and it was worth £8 10s. 8d. in 1535. (fn. 7) In 1640 parishioners agreed to more than double the vicar, Ralph Josselin's, income to £80; in 1650 the glebe was worth £4 and the tithe £24. (fn. 8) In 1674 Richard Harlakenden gave to the vicarage the great tithes of about two thirds of the parish. In 1835 the average net income was £494. (fn. 9) The tithe was commuted in 1838 for a rent charge of £616 15s., but in 1850 the net income was only c. £400. By 1887 the tithe rent charge had been reduced to £611 3s. and fees averaged £17 12s. (fn. 10)

The glebe comprised 1 a. of grass c. 1 mile from the vicarage house until 1841 when it was exchanged for 4 a. of arable adjoining the vicar- age garden. (fn. 11) The vicar was assigned a house in the marketplace in 1355. (fn. 12) In 1637 it comprised an open hall, a parlour, presumably with a chamber above it, a kitchen, and other rooms or outbuildings. (fn. 13) Vicars occupied the house for most of the 18th century, and rebuilt or remod- elled it before 1810 as a brick house with a tiled roof. (fn. 14) During the incumbencies of Thomas Carwardine (1786-1824), who lived at Colne Priory, and Robert Watkinson (1830-67), who lived at Colne Place, the house was occupied by curates, and it was rebuilt by Samuel Blackall, vicar 1867-89. (fn. 15) The house was sold in 1956 and demolished in 1980; no. 95 High Street was bought to replace it. (fn. 16)

Names of priests of Colne are known from c. 1040, and the church seems to have been regu- larly served in the Middle Ages, many vicars staying 10 or more years, and one, William Noble (1436-87), for over 50. (fn. 17) In 1306 the vicar was imprisoned for a robbery committed in Rivenhall; he was still in gaol and the parish in the care of the rural dean in 1309. (fn. 18) Before 1317 he apparently sold the living to finance a pil- grimage to the Holy Land. (fn. 19)

Maud, countess of Oxford, in 1366 beque- athed 100s. to the town fraternity, perhaps a guild like that recorded in 1543. (fn. 20) St. Mary's altar was recorded in 1491 and a statue of St. Michael in 1530. Geoffrey Buckwell in 1490 left an alabaster reredos and carved wooden canopy to the high altar, and devised the reversion of his estate to found a chantry in the church. In 1530 a parishioner provided for a temporary chantry. (fn. 21) Neither chantry was recorded again. An obit endowed by Geoffrey Audley in 1503 seems to have been lost by 1548, but two other obits, one for the vicar William Chappett (d. 1528), were suppressed that year. Before 1548 land had been given to pay for a bell to be rung to announce the celebration of obits. (fn. 22)

The living was sequestered c. 1555 for the previous incumbent's non-payment of first fruits and tenths, but was restored to John Petfield who held it until his death in 1572. (fn. 23) William Adams (vicar 1575-c. 1609) was master of the grammar school although he was alleged to be unfit for learning or manners, and also incumbent of White Colne. (fn. 24) His incumbency was marked by discord, probably due partly to the growth of puritanism in the parish. (fn. 25) In 1584 he was suspended; in 1587 and 1588 his unlicensed curate was alleged to be a layman, and there were doubts about the validity of Adams's own ordination. Both Adams and the curate were excommunicate in 1589. (fn. 26) In 1605 Adams was in dispute with Richard Har- lakenden over his salary and other ecclesiastical rights. That year the church lacked a proper cup, a paten, a surplice, a bible, and a book of homilies. (fn. 27) In 1607 Adams was accused of failing to hold a service on Ascension day and on one Sunday, and was forbidden to preach. In 1609, 1610, and 1611 parishioners disagreed with his and his successor's doctrine. (fn. 28)

A Puritan lectureship was established in 1629 for Thomas Shepherd, who enjoyed the support of most parishioners, including the Har- lakendens; it ended on his expulsion by Bishop (later Archbishop) Laud in 1631. (fn. 29) Another Puritan, Samuel Stone curate of Stisted, lec- tured in the church in 1630. (fn. 30)

John Hawksby, vicar by 1630, was accused in 1636 and 1637 of the Puritan practices of omit- ting the sign of the cross in baptism and admin- istering communion to those not kneeling, but by 1637 the altar had been railed in in accord- ance with Archbishop Laud's instructions. Although old and weak, Hawksby retained the living until his death in 1641. (fn. 31) That year a weaver threw the church prayerbook into a pond, then fished it out, cut it up, and burnt it. (fn. 32) Hawksby's successor, Ralph Josselin (1641-83), signed the Essex Testimony in 1648. (fn. 33) He conformed, reluctantly, at the Restoration but in 1663 the church had no surplice or service book, and in 1664 the churchwardens com- plained that there had been no communion ser- vice for a year. (fn. 34) In 1684 Josselin's successor was accused of administering communion only once in six months and failing to read prayers on holy days; the church needed, among other things, a new communion table and furnishings for it. (fn. 35)

The church was fairly well equipped in 1707 but needed a new prayer book, a carpet for the communion table, a flagon, and an offertory basin. (fn. 36) Thomas Barnard, the pluralist but resi- dent vicar 1711-55, provided two services on Sundays and communion four times a year with the help of a curate. (fn. 37) That pattern of services continued throughout the 18th century, al- though in 1778 the vicar was not always able to hold the second service despite the assistance of a resident curate. The number of communi- cants rose slightly from c. 30 in 1778 to 30-40 in 1810. Thomas Carwardine, vicar 1786-1824 and lord of the manor, served the church himself. (fn. 38)

Robert Watkinson (1830-67), an active and popular vicar, was responsible for the foun- dation of church schools in 1843 and the enlargement and restoration of the church in 1838 and 1862-4. He employed assistant cur- ates. (fn. 39) In 1841 more than three quarters of the population of the parish were reported to belong to the church, and the number of communicants had risen to 80-90. (fn. 40) Attendance on census Sunday 1850 was 196 adults and 188 Sunday school children in the morning and 332 adults and 188 Sunday school children in the after- noon, out of a population of 1,518. (fn. 41)

In 1937 it was alleged that the vicar, O. L. Martin, the patron's son-in-law, who was also rural dean, had neglected the parish and emptied the church. A street was named after his popular successor, H. Monks (1939-56). (fn. 42)

The church of ST ANDREW (fn. 43) comprises chancel with north and south chapels, nave with north and south aisles and south porch, and a west tower. An earlier church was remodelled or rebuilt in the 14th century when the surviving chancel, south aisle and arcade, and the south porch were built. The tower was added c. 1460; in 1534 John de Vere, earl of Oxford, partly rebuilt it, refacing the eastern side in brick. (fn. 44) /emph>

St. Mary's altar, recorded in 1490, may have been in the south aisle. (fn. 45) In 1504 a parishioner devised the reversion of his lands to build a lady chapel, (fn. 46) but there is no evidence that the work was carried out. The vestry recorded in 1596 was presumably on the north side of the chan- cel. (fn. 47) Minor repairs were ordered or carried out fairly regularly in the 16th century and the early 17th; (fn. 48) stained glass was removed in 1641. (fn. 49) Carpenters and masons worked on the 'north aisle' (presumably the north side of the nave) in 1724, and the nave was repewed and the steeple re-leaded in 1726. (fn. 50) The nave was ceiled between 1729 and 1747. The west gallery, built by Maria Anna, widow of George Cressener, in 1725, was extended across the south aisle in 1835. (fn. 51)

In 1838 the church was enlarged by extending the south aisle eastwards. It was restored between 1862 and 1864 to plans by H. W. Hay- ward of Colchester. A north aisle and chapel were added to match those on the south, the chancel was 'renewed', almost all the window tracery was replaced, and the nave ceiling removed. (fn. 52) The tower was repaired in 1882. (fn. 53) A new belfry arch and screen were provided in 1890 from the proceeds of Cressener's charity. (fn. 54) The tower was repaired in 1908 and 1970, and the church was re-roofed in 1966. (fn. 55)

The church contains monuments to members of the Harlakenden, Eldred, Wale, Carwardine, and Cressener families, including an alabaster wall monument with kneeling figures of Roger Harlakenden (d. 1603) and his three wives. (fn. 56) A pulpit bought c. 1609, had been replaced by 1746, and was replaced again in 1864. (fn. 57) The plate includes an early 16th-century paten and a late 16th-century chalice. (fn. 58) The six bells were all cast by John Warner & Sons of London in 1869 to replace six of 1704 and 1705 by Henry Pleasant. (fn. 59)

Lich gates at the entrances to the churchyard were erected in 1912. (fn. 60)


  • 1. A.-S. Wills, ed. Whitelock, p. 76.
  • 2. Colne Cart. p. 1; E.A.T. n.s. xviii. 120; L. & P. Hen. VIII, xi, p. 89.
  • 3. Feet of F. Essex, vi. 95; P.R.O., C 142/482, no. 42; E.R.O., D/DPr 172; ibid. D/CZ 33/2; Guildhall MS. 9628, box 3; White's Dir. Essex (1848), 142; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1866 and later edns.).
  • 4. E.R.O., D/CZ 33/2; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1890 and later edns.).
  • 5. Chelm. Dioc. Yr. Bk. (1915 and later edns.).
  • 6. E.A.T. n.s. xviii. 120; Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 23.
  • 7. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 444; E.R.O., D/DPr 165.
  • 8. Diary of Ralph Josselin, 10; Smith, Eccl. Hist. Essex, 309.
  • 9. E.R.O., D/P 209/3/5; Diary of Ralph Josselin, 573; Rep. Com. on Eccl. Revenues [67], H.C., pp. 642-3 (1835), xxii.
  • 10. E.R.O., D/CT 101A; ibid. T/A 645; P.R.O., HO 129/8/207.
  • 11. Guildhall MSS. 9628, box 3; 19226/44.
  • 12. E.R.O., D/DPr 165.
  • 13. Guildhall MS. 9628, box 3.
  • 14. Ibid. MSS. 9628, box 3; 25750/1, 25751, 25753/1; Lamb. Pal. Libr., Lowth Papers 4, f. 407.
  • 15. P.R.O., HO 107/335/5; HO 107/1784; ibid. RG 9/1111; E.R.O., T/A 645.
  • 16. Earls Colne 1700-1974, 57-8; Wherein I Dwell, 58.
  • 17. A.-S. Wills, ed. Whitelock, p. 76; Colne Cart., p. 1;- E.R.O., D/CZ 33/2.
  • 18. Reg. Baldock, 6-7, 15, 110-11.
  • 19. Cal. Papal Reg. 1305-42, 137.
  • 20. E.A.T.n.s. xxi. 263; P.R.O., E 179/108/253.
  • 21. P.R.O., PROB 11/8, f. 344; E.R.O., D/ACR 2, f. 231v.
  • 22. E.R.O., D/ACR 1, f. 70v.; P.R.O., E 301/19, no. 195; E 301/30, no. 215.
  • 23. P.R.O., C 1/1460/56-7; E.R. xlvi. 155; E.R.O., D/CZ 33/2.
  • 24. V.C.H. Essex, ii. 526; below, White Colne, Church.
  • 25. See e.g. P.R.O., PROB 11/58, f. 114; E.R.O., D/ACR 7, f. 6v.; ibid. D/ACA 7, f. 29v.
  • 26. E.R.O., D/ACA 12, f. 137v.; D/ACA 16, ff. 20v., 25, 26v., 75v., 112, 134v., 167v.
  • 27. Ibid. D/ACA 27, ff. 178, 182.
  • 28. Guildhall MS. 9537/10, f. 44; E.R.O., D/ACA 30, ff. 188v., 197; D/ACA 32, ff. 108, 333v.-334; Cal. Assize Rec. Essex, Jas. I, pp. 88-9.
  • 29. Smith, Eccl. Hist. Essex, 28-30, 41, 46; E.R.O., D/ACA 47, f. 11v.
  • 30. E.R.O., D/ACA 47, f. 105; Alum. Cantab. to 1751, iv. 168.
  • 31. E.A.T. 3rd ser. xxviii. 167; E.R.O., D/ACW 11/96; ibid. D/CZ 33/2; Smith, Eccl. Hist. Essex, 49, 51-2.
  • 32. E.R. lvi. 92.
  • 33. Smith, Eccl. Hist. Essex, 109.
  • 34. Diary of Ralph Josselin, 490-3, 498; E.R.O., D/ACA 55, ff. 22v., 59, 118v.
  • 35. E.R.O., D/ACV 8, p. 240; D/ACV 9B, p. 46.
  • 36. Ibid. D/ACV 9A, f. 71.
  • 37. B.L. Add. MS. 5811, f. 13; Guildhall MSS. 25750/1, 25751, 25753/1, 25754/1, 25755/1.
  • 38. Lamb. Pal. Libr., Terrick papers 15, Lowth papers 4, Randolph papers 9; above, this par., Manors.
  • 39. Earls Colne 1700-1974, 19; Alum. Cantab. 1752-1900; Guildhall MS. 19226/44; P.R.O., HO 107/1784; ibid. RG 10/1698.
  • 40. E.R.O., D/ACM 12.
  • 41. P.R.O., HO 129/8207.
  • 42. Keble Coll. Oxf. Mun., White Colne box; Earls Colne 1700-1974, 58.
  • 43. Dedication recorded c. 1110: Colne Cart. p. 1.
  • 44. R.C.H.M. Essex, iii. 87; below, plate 8.
  • 45. P.R.O., PROB 11/8, f. 344; E.A.T. 3rd ser. xxviii. 172.
  • 46. E.R.O., D/ACR 1, f. 102.
  • 47. Ibid. D/ACA 22, f. 225v.; Local Historian, xxvii. 97.
  • 48. e.g. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1547-53, p. 78; E.R.O., D/ACA 7, f. 151; D/ACA 27, f. 74v.; D/ACA 30, ff. 188v., 197.
  • 49. E.A.T. 3rd ser. xxviii. 170.
  • 50. E.R.O., D/P 209/8; B.L. Add. MS. 36362, f. 31.
  • 51. E.R.O., D/ACV 15, court of 8 July 1641; B.L. Add. MS. 5811, f. 22; Local Historian, xxvii. 97-8.
  • 52. E.A.T. 3rd ser. xxviii. 165-72; Local Historian, xxvii. 100-1.
  • 53. Inscription on tower; cf. E.R.O., D/AZ 7/1, pp. 146-7.
  • 54. E.R.O., D/P 209/25/6.
  • 55. Earls Colne 1700-1974, 58.
  • 56. The recut inscription has Richard instead of Roger Harlakenden: B.L. Add. MS. 5811, f. 15; the date of death is given as 1602, for Jan. 1602/3: see P.R.O., WARD 7/38, no. 163.
  • 57. E.R.O., D/ACA 32, ff. 58, 90; B.L. Add. MS. 5811, f. 22; Local Historian, xxvii. 98.
  • 58. Ch. Plate Essex, 220-1; Wherein I Dwell, p. 43.
  • 59. Ch. Bells Essex, 223-4.
  • 60. Plaque on gates.