Magdalen Laver: Church

Pages 107-108

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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The advowson of Magdalen Laver was held by the lords of the manor until shortly after 1468 when John Bataille sold the manor to Sir Thomas Cooke. (fn. 1) At the sale Bataille apparently retained the advowson, for his son John presented to the church in 1497. (fn. 2) In 1502 Sir Philip Cooke, then lord of the manor, held the advowson and he retained it when he leased the manor to John King in that year. (fn. 3) John Bataille, probably the patron of 1497, presented in 1513. (fn. 4) After this the advowson was held by the lords of the manor until 1781 when it was conveyed by John Cozens and his wife Elizabeth to Thomas Altham. (fn. 5) In 1783 Thomas Burford presented. (fn. 5) In 1790 Peter Thomas Burford and Ann, probably his wife, conveyed the advowson to James Watts. (fn. 6) James William Burford presented in 1794. (fn. 7) After this the living remained in the gift of the Burford family until about 1857. (fn. 8) The Revd. S. C. Mason held it from 1857 until about 1870 (fn. 9) after which C. G. Jones, rector 1872-93, held it until 1895. (fn. 10) The advowson appears to have been acquired in 1895 by Mrs. E. Bellamy who held it until her death in 1912- 13. (fn. 11) After this it remained with her trustees until about 1928 when it passed to the Reformation Church Trust, (fn. 12) who still owned it in 1941. (fn. 13) Since 1942 the living has been in the gift of the Bishop of Chelmsford (fn. 14) and since 1945 it has been united with that of High Laver. (fn. 15)

In about 1254 and in 1291 the rectory was valued at 10 marks. (fn. 16) In 1428 the church was still taxed on this valuation. (fn. 17) In 1535 the rectory was valued at £16 12s. (fn. 18) In 1661 its 'improved' value was £90. (fn. 19) In 1621 there were 22 acres of glebe. (fn. 20) In 1848 the tithes were commuted for £310; there were then 30 acres of glebe. (fn. 21)

Until 1950 the rectory house was situated on the east side of the road leading from Mollmans to Tilegate Green. (fn. 22) A terrier of 1621 described it as 'a dwelling-house all tiled, saving one end, which is thatched' with 'an old kitchen standing by itself'. (fn. 23) The detached kitchen, a feature which the rectories at all three Lavers retained until the 17th century, (fn. 24) must have been of medieval origin. A new house was built in about 1850. (fn. 25) This is of red brick with stone dressings. It was occupied by the rector until a new rectory was built in 1950. (fn. 26) This new building stands on the south-west side of the road between Humphreys and the 'Green Man'. (fn. 27) It is a white-plastered twostory house with red brick dressings.

The parish church (fn. 28) of ST. MARY MAGDALEN consists of nave, chancel, west tower, and south porch. The walls are of flint rubble, those in the nave including also some Roman brick. The tower is of timber.

The nave was built early in the 12th century. The flints are set in herring-bone courses in the lower part of the walls, while above there are indications that the Roman brick was arranged in decorative bands. The north wall retains a blocked single-light window of the original date. A window has been filled in on the south side and it is possible that this was also of the 12th century. Two blocked bull's-eye windows in the west wall were noted in 1919 (fn. 29) but are not now visible. It is possible that the west doorway, which has brick jambs, chamfered imposts and a segmental-headed tympanum is also original. The door itself, of heavy oak battens with zigzag ornament to the strap hinges, is evidently of great antiquity.

The chancel, which is slightly narrower than the nave but has no chancel arch, was built or rebuilt in the 13th century. The north wall and the upper part of the other walls may have been reconstructed later.

Most of the windows in the church as well as the two south doorways appear to have been inserted at different times during the 14th century. On the south side of the chancel the single-light window and the pointed door-way are of late-13th-or early-14th-century date. Two two-light windows in the chancel and three in the nave were probably added later in the 14th century. These have square heads and segmental rear arches. The tracery has been restored or replaced but the design is probably near to the original. In the two easternmost windows of the nave there is some 14thor 15th-century glass which appears to be in situ. Similar glass in one of the chancel windows has been reset. The east window of the chancel, which has a pointed head and tracery in the 14th-century style, is largely modern but retains original carved head-stops. The south doorway to the nave has a pointed head and moulded jambs. The door itself may be of late-14thcentury date.

There is a 14th-century oak rood-screen consisting of a central doorway with six bays flanking it on each side. Each bay has an ogee-headed arch supported on slender banded shafts with moulded capitals and bases. Above each arch the tracery consists of two quatrefoiled circles. The screen was evidently reconstructed in the 17th century and part of the base panelling is of this date. The doors and several of the shafts are replacements. Above the screen the tie-beam of the roof has mortice-holes for studs, suggesting that at one time the opening was filled with timber-work.

The westernmost window on the north side of the nave evidently replaces a north doorway and may have been inserted in the 15th century. The stonework has been replaced. The roof of the nave is also of the 15th century. It is of the trussed rafter type with moulded wall plates and two tie-beams. The framing of the westernmost bay suggests that at one time there was a bell turret in this position.

The chancel roof, which has been restored, has two original tie-beams. On one of the ties is a nearly illegible inscription 'IT ANNO DOM. 1615 H. L.' (fn. 30)

The addition of the timber bell tower beyond the west wall of the nave may have been made in 1567, a date which occurs on one of the bells. (fn. 31) The lower stage is surrounded on three sides by an aisle, while the upper stage forms the belfry. The heavy timber frame consists of four angle posts resting on a massive plate. The westernmost posts have supporting struts. On the east and west sides the posts carry queen-post trusses with arched braces below the tie-beams and crossbracing between the queen posts. Externally the tower is crowned with a boarded pyramidal roof which was formerly leaded. (fn. 32) Halfway down there is a penthouse roof to the aisle. In the lower stage there is a window with two pointed lights and there are louvred openings to the belfry. The exterior is weather-boarded. At a vestry held in April 1709 it was agreed that 'the north side of the belfry shall be new boarded with oak boards'. (fn. 33) The old boards were to be used for patching the other sides, (fn. 34) suggesting that some form of weatherboarding was already of long standing by 1709. The presence of holes and grooves for fitting laths between the studs proves, however, that a plastered finish was originally intended.

In 1856 the church was repewed; the cost of this and other repairs was £138. (fn. 35) In 1875 there was a further restoration. (fn. 36) In 1883 the timberwork of the tower was strengthened (fn. 37) and the boarded vestry inside the tower may have been inserted at the same date. In 1887 the south porch was rebuilt; (fn. 38) it is of timber framing above a stone base and replaced a plastered porch of uncertain date. (fn. 39) In 1912 a second-hand pipe organ was bought from Christ Church, Albany Street (Lond.). (fn. 40)

There are two bells. (fn. 41) One is inscribed to the honour of St. John, and is probably of the early 14th century. (fn. 42) The other is dated 1567. (fn. 43) In 1868 another bell was added (fn. 44) but this must have been subsequently removed. In 1919 there were cages for three bells. (fn. 45)

A damaged 15th-century font, which stood for a time in the rectory garden, was restored to the church early in the 20th century. (fn. 46) It has an octagonal bowl with quatrefoil panels and carved bosses. The stem also has carved panels.

Painted boards on the north wall of the nave have round-headed panels inscribed with the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. These are surrounded by decoration of 18th-century design.

The plate includes a cup of 1665 with crest and shield of arms, given by George Throckmorton, lord of the manor, in 1666; a large flagon and a small paten, similarly dated and engraved, a salver of 1683, similarly inscribed; an almsdish presented in 1925 to commemorate the safe return from a tour abroad of (Sir) Godfrey J. V. Thomas, then private secretary to Edward, Prince of Wales. A large silver communion cup which is mentioned in an inventory of church property in 1678 as 'in hands of John King of Ashlins' is not now among the church plate. (fn. 47)

On the south wall of the nave is a marble tablet in the form of a cartouche shield to the William Cole, lord of the manor, who died on 24 February 1730. (fn. 48) A funeral helm with vizor hangs on the west wall of the nave. Three brackets for other trophies are now empty. The helm is probably of the 16th century: its crest, possibly not in situ, appears to be that of Cole. (fn. 49) On the south wall of the nave is a tablet to John Cozens (fn. 50) (1766) and members of his family. On the east wall of the chancel is a marble tablet surmounted by a segmental pediment. An oval panel enclosed by a wreath carries a Latin inscription to George Kindleton (1667), rector of the parish, who was dispossessed during the Commonwealth.

Outside the church immediately west of the south porch is the marble altar tomb of the William Cole, lord of the manor, who died on 1 February 1730. (fn. 51) Cole had the tomb built before his death. (fn. 52) The inscription is on a central panel, flanked by the figures of cherubs. The tomb is enclosed by a heavy iron railing, also ordered by Cole, (fn. 53) and there is an achievement of arms on the wall above.


  • 1. E.A.T. N.S. xviii, 19; Feet of F. Essex, i, 271; ibid. ii, 197; ibid. iii, 33, 241; Cal. Close, 1364-8, 405; Newcourt, Repert. ii, 370-1.
  • 2. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 371.
  • 3. E.R.O., D/DA T199.
  • 4. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 371.
  • 5. CP25(2)/1309 Trin. 21 Geo. III; Newcourt, Repert. ii, 371. In the period between 1513 and 1781 the only known occasions on which a presentation was made by someone other than the lord of the manor were in 1700 when Josias Harvey presented (Newcourt, Repert. ii, 371) and in 1702 when Thomas Harvey presented (J. Bacon, Thesaurus, 616).
  • 6. P.R.O. Inst. Bks. Ser. C. i (1).
  • 7. CP25(2)/1310 Mich. 30 Geo. III.
  • 8. P.R.O. Inst. Bks. Ser. C. i (1).
  • 9. Eccl. Reg. 1808; Cler. Guide, 1817 f.; Clergy List, 1845 f.
  • 10. Clergy List, 1857 f.; Crockford's Cler. Dir. (1857 f.).
  • 11. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1870, 1874); Crockford's Cler. Dir. (1880 f.).
  • 12. Crockford's Cler. Dir. (1895 f.).
  • 13. Crockford's Cler. Dir. (1913 f.); Kelly's Dir. Essex (1914 f.).
  • 14. Chel. Dioc. Year Bk. 1941.
  • 15. Chel. Dioc. Year Bk. 1942 f.
  • 16. Crockford's Cler. Dir. (1951-2); inf. from the Revd. W. D. Topping.
  • 17. Lunt, Val. of Norwich, 337; Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 21.
  • 18. Feud. Aids, ii, 205.
  • 19. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 437.
  • 20. E.A.T. N.S. xxi, 78.
  • 21. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 371.
  • 22. E.R.O., D/CT 211.
  • 23. See above, p. 104.
  • 24. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 371.
  • 25. See parishes of High Laver and Little Laver.
  • 26. In 1848 it was stated that a new parsonage house was about to be built: White's Dir. Essex (1848).
  • 27. Inf. from the Revd. W. D. Topping.
  • 28. See above, p. 103.
  • 29. See plate facing p. 202. There was a tradition in the 18th cent. that the church once stood in the field known as Redmill Shot, to the south-east of the present site. See above, p. 104.
  • 30. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 168.
  • 31. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 168.
  • 32. See below.
  • 33. T. Wright, Hist. Essex, ii, 349.
  • 34. E.R.O., D/P 62/5.
  • 35. Ibid.
  • 36. Ibid.
  • 37. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1886).
  • 38. Ibid.
  • 39. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1890).
  • 40. Shown in sketch of 1820: E.R.O., Prints, Magdalen Laver.
  • 41. Inf. from the Revd. W. D. Topping.
  • 42. Ch. Bells Essex, 317.
  • 43. Ibid.
  • 44. Ibid.
  • 45. E.R.O., D/P 62/5.
  • 46. Hist. Mon. Com. Records.
  • 47. Ibid.
  • 48. E.R.O., D/P 62/5.
  • 49. See above, Manor.
  • 50. See below.
  • 51. See above, Manor.
  • 52. Ibid.
  • 53. E.R.O., D/DA T199.
  • 54. Ibid.