Loughton: Churches

Pages 121-123

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 the rectory of Loughton has always descended along with the manor. The present patron is Cmdr. J. W. Maitland, M.P. (fn. 1)

The rectory was never appropriated. It was valued at £5 in about 1254, at £2 in 1291, and £5 6s. 8d. in 1428. (fn. 2) In 1535 the value was returned as £18 4s. (fn. 3) Tithe was commuted in 1851 for £518. (fn. 4) It would have produced much more than this if a partial commutation had not taken place long before, by which 1,052 acres belonging to the lord of the manor had been freed from tithes in kind in return for an annual 'modus' of £3 7s. On another 326 acres the tithe rent was assessed at a much lower rate than in the main body of the parish. There were 45 acres of glebe in 1851. (fn. 5) It had increased from 36 acres in 1610 and 41 acres in 1714. (fn. 6) The old rectory house in Rectory Lane has been demolished.

The original parish church of ST. NICHOLAS stood beside Loughton Hall. (fn. 7) After the building of the new parish church of St. John in 1846 most of the old church was demolished, but the chancel was preserved as a mortuary chapel until 1877 when it also was removed. The old church consisted of nave, chancel, north aisle, south porch, and weather-boarded tower with shingled spire. Nave and chancel were of the same width (about 18 ft.) and together measured about 60 ft. in length. A sketch of 1821 shows a large 15th-century window at the east end of the chancel. This is said to have been replaced before the final demolition of the church by an iron window. (fn. 8) In the south wall of the chancel there was a two-light window, and also a low-side window. The aisle of the church measured about 18 ft. by 54 ft. At its east end there was a chapel divided from the rest of the aisle by a wooden screen with a central doorway. The tower was of two stages, the lower of which projected to allow space for a vestry.

Julia Stokesby, by her will proved 1384, left 20s. to the work of the church. (fn. 9) The form of the bequest suggests that building operations were then in progress. The will of John Stoner (proved 1540) directed that he should be buried in the chapel of Our Lady in the parish church of Loughton. (fn. 10) George Stoner, son of John, similarly directed (1558) that he should be buried in the 'new chapel' in the church. (fn. 11) This chapel was probably that at the east end of the aisle which was later regarded as the private chapel of the lord of the manor. William Harryson of Loughton by his will proved 1540 left 40s. towards the building of the steeple. (fn. 12) The tower and spire were repaired in 1737. General repairs to the church were carried out in 1825-7 and 1829.

In about 1768 the church had three bells. (fn. 13) One of them is said to have been sold at the end of the 18th century. The other two, dated 1621 and 1655, were later recast to form the fifth bell of St. John's church (see below). There was a 16th-century painted cupboard, some 16th-century glass and four sepulchral brasses; all of these are in the present church of St. Nicholas. Several floor slabs, left in situ when the old church was demolished, were examined by Waller in about 1917. They included slabs to Jeffery Lee, 1670, and Thomas Tuson, 1702. A brass to Robert Rampston, 1585, founder of a parish charity, existed in 1835 but has now disappeared. (fn. 14) In 1790 there were several hatchments of arms of the Wroths, former lords of the manor, in the north aisle chapel. (fn. 15)

Wright commented in 1835 that the parish church was inconveniently distant from the village. (fn. 16) The destruction of Loughton Hall in 1836 left the church even more isolated than before. The new church of St. John was therefore built in 1846 to provide more effectively for the religious needs of the growing parish. It was decided that the old church should be demolished to defray part of the cost of building St. John's and a faculty was issued for this purpose in 1847. It had been hoped that St. Nicholas' would fetch £250 but it was sold by auction for only £89. The chancel was for some reason left standing and with the addition of new north and west walls (costing £36) became a mortuary chapel. This chapel was demolished in 1877 and the present church of St. Nicholas was built slightly to the west of it. This rebuilding was clearly connected with that of Loughton Hall, and St. Nicholas' was used for many years after 1877 as the private chapel of the hall. In 1947 it was repaired and refitted for use as a chapel of ease to St. John's for the Debden estate. (fn. 17) It is a small flint building consisting of nave, chancel, north porch, and bellcote with one bell. On the gable of the porch are carved bargeboards which are said to have come from the original church of St. Nicholas. In the chancel are brasses from the old church to John Stonnard (Stoner, 1540) and Joan and Katherine his wives, William Nodes (1594) and Elizabeth (Wollsey) his wife. Others are probably to George Stoner (1558) and Abel Guilliams (1637). (fn. 18) On the north wall of the chancel is a cupboard with elaborately carved double doors flanked by columns and strapwork and surmounted by an entablature. On the panel below the doors is a late-16th-century painting of the Annunciation. The north and south windows have early-16th-century glass showing two kneeling figures with coloured nimbi. (fn. 19)

The parish church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST was consecrated in November 1846. (fn. 20) It was built in Blind (now Church) Lane near the junction with the main road, on land most of which had previously been held by Samuel Brawn, the Baptist minister, copyhold of the manor of Loughton. (fn. 21) The new church was much nearer the village than St. Nicholas', but the people of south Loughton had still to travel ½ mile or more to the church, mostly up hill. The total cost of St. John's, including furnishings, was slightly less than £6,500. The rector gave £1,134, Mrs. Pearse £700 Mrs. Powell £650, and there were many other substantial voluntary contributions. By 1848 a total of £5,850 had been raised, of which £1,000 came from a church rate. The balance required was met by an Exchequer Loan, which was finally paid off in 1866.

The church is a yellow brick building in 'Norman' style, consisting of nave, chancel, transepts, north porch, and central tower. The architect was Sydney Smirke (1798-1877), brother of Sir Robert Smirke (1781-1867). (fn. 22) He originally submitted three alternative designs, one 'Norman' and two 'Early English'. Between 1875 and 1878 the chancel was enlarged at a total cost of about £1,600. The church was slightly damaged by bombing during the Second World War.

There are eight bells, all of which were installed between 1866 and 1874. The fifth bell was recast from two of the bells of St. Nicholas' church, which had been dated 1621 and 1655. The old church plate was destroyed when Loughton Hall was burnt down. It consisted of a silver cup, silver paten, plated flagon, and plated dish. A silver almsdish of 1848 formerly in the church was stolen in 1930. The present plate includes many vessels, of which the oldest are of 1836. (fn. 23) The parish chest, now kept in the south transept, probably dates from about 1607. (fn. 24) It is remarkable for the geometrical patterns incised on the three front panels.

St. John's parish hall was built in 1914-15 at a cost of £808. It adjoins the church to the west. In 1947 the mission church of ST. FRANCIS was built at Oakwood Hill on the Debden estate. It is a small timber building. (fn. 25) In 1950 a church hall was opened opposite St. Nicholas' church, and in 1953 the mission church of ST. GABRIEL was opened in Grosvenor Drive, Debden; (fn. 26) this is a permanent brick church. St. Francis' and St. Gabriel's are chapels of ease to St. John's.

The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN, High Road, Loughton, was built in 1871 and consecrated in the following year as a chapel of ease to St. John's. (fn. 27) The site was given by the rector, J. W. Maitland. (fn. 28) In 1887 the parish of St. Mary was formed out of that of St. John. (fn. 29) Its endowment included £50 from the mother parish. The patron of the vicarage is the Rector of Loughton. The church is a stone building in Gothic style, consisting of nave, chancel, aisles, south porch, and bellcote containing one bell. The north aisle was added in 1883. The architect was T. H. Watson. (fn. 30)

The church of ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS, Roding Road, was built and dedicated in or about September 1937, as a chapel of ease to St. Mary's. It received its present name about 1942. (fn. 31)

Among parochial charities which include provision for the churches are Parish Clerk's Piece and W. C. Waller's Charity. (fn. 32) The following charities are also for the use of the churches. (fn. 33)

Emily Jane Hanson, by will proved 1933, left three cottages (now nos. 20, 22, and 24 Pump Hill) for the additional endowment of St. Mary's Loughton, and for charitable purposes not connected with the parish.

Frederick Joseph Brand, by will proved 1940, left £100 duty-free in trust for distribution each Christmas among the choirboys of St. John's. There is no further record of this charity at the Charity Commission.


  • 1. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 395-6; Morant, Essex, i, 164; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1862 f.); Chel. Dioc. Year Bk. 1952.
  • 2. E.A.T. N.S. xviii, 17; Tax Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 24; Feud. Aids, ii, 204.
  • 3. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 435.
  • 4. E.R.O., D/CT 225.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. E.R.O., T/P 19. For the history of the glebe see Waller, Loughton, i, 55, 119-22.
  • 7. The following account is based on W. C. Waller, 'Some account of the vanished church of St. Nicholas, Loughton', E.A.T. N.S. xiv, 275 f. (illustrated).
  • 8. This alteration was said to have been made by Archdeacon Hamilton, rector 1805-51.
  • 9. Waller, Loughton, ii, 1.
  • 10. Ibid. 5.
  • 11. Ibid. 8.
  • 12. Ibid. 74.
  • 13. Morant, Essex, i, 164.
  • 14. T. Wright, Hist. Essex, ii, 385.
  • 15. E.A.T. N.S. ix, 11.
  • 16. T. Wright, Hist. Essex, ii, 384.
  • 17. Inf. from Canon M. N. Lake, Rector of Loughton.
  • 18. Cf. E.A.T. N.S. xiv, 278, 287-8; T. Wright, Hist. Essex, ii, 384-5.
  • 19. Cf. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 166.
  • 20. For the following acct. see Percy Thompson, Story of the Parish Church of Loughton (illustrated), also E.R.O., T/P 13 (cuttings from parish magazines).
  • 21. E.R.O., T/P 18. For other sites considered see E.R.O., T/P 13.
  • 22. See D.N.B. Sydney Smirke later designed (1850) St. Mary's, Theydon Bois (q.v.).
  • 23. Cf. Ch. Plate Essex, 103.
  • 24. Ch. Chests Essex, 154 (illus.).
  • 25. Inf. from Canon M. N. Lake, Rector of Loughton.
  • 26. Ibid.
  • 27. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1926).
  • 28. Waller, Loughton, i, 142. The site was formerly known as Thistley Field.
  • 29. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1926).
  • 30. Ibid.; N. Pevsner, Buildings of Eng., Essex, 260.
  • 31. Inf. from the Revd. D. V. Wright of Loughton.
  • 32. See below, Charities.
  • 33. Char. Com. Files.