Chipping Ongar: Protestant nonconformity

Pages 164-165

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

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Ralph Jackson, a 'serving man' of Chipping Ongar, was burnt at the stake at Stratford in June 1556. (fn. 1)

John Larkin, or Lorkin, who became minister of Chipping Ongar in 1659 or 1660, was ejected for refusal to conform in 1662. (fn. 2) No nonconformist conventicle was registered under the second Declaration of Indulgence (1672) as being held in this parish, but in 1690-2 there was a congregation at Chipping Ongar that was said to consist of 200 hearers, 'but poor'. (fn. 3) Their minister was a Mr. Tyro, 'a worthy man, but poor', who was supported by subscriptions of £20 a year.

In 1706 application was made to Quarter Sessions to license the house of Walter Buchanan in Chipping Ongar for worship by Presbyterians. (fn. 4) In 1707 a similar application was made in respect of the house of Samuel Clarke. (fn. 5) The minister at that time was Nathaniel Lacy. (fn. 6) In 1716 the congregation was said to number 200 persons, of whom 8 had votes for the county and 4 were described as 'gentlemen'. (fn. 7) Before 1718 John Nettleton, brother-in-law of Philip Doddridge, had moved from Epping to Ongar as minister. (fn. 8)

The first Independent church was built about 1720 on the site behind High Street where the present church stands. (fn. 9) The first trust deed dates from 1722, when Simeon Weaver was pastor. (fn. 10) The property was held of the manor of Chipping Ongar by copy of court roll. (fn. 11) In addition to the church it included several cottages fronting on the High Street. Access to the church was provided by removing the ground floor of one of the houses, thus forming an archway.

In 1784 the church needed considerable repairs and the cottages south of the gateway were sold to a Mr. Bingham to raise money for this purpose. (fn. 12) They were subsequently repurchased. (fn. 13) In 1841 the church trustees held three cottages and a garden in addition to the church itself. (fn. 14)

In 1811 Isaac Taylor (1759-1829) came to Ongar from Colchester as minister. He remained there until his death. From Ongar he and other members of his family issued many books for the young. For this reason, and in order to distinguish them from the contemporary literary family, the Taylors of Norwich, Isaac Taylor's family became known as the Taylors of Ongar. (fn. 15) According to Burls 'during the last years of his ministry at Ongar Mr. Taylor saw, not merely a gradual increase of his congregation but a manifest decline of that strong immemorial prejudice in the town which had seemed quite to preclude the hope of winning souls to the gospel'. (fn. 16) John Fordham (1774- 1835) was a zealous deacon at the church during the later years of Taylor's ministry. (fn. 17)

In 1833 the original meeting-house was demolished and the present church built in its place. (fn. 18) A drawing of the meeting-house was executed very shortly before its demolition. (fn. 19) It shows a small building with a classical facade of three bays, having attached pilasters and a pediment. The foundation stone of the new church was laid on 24 April 1833, and the church was opened on 24 September. (fn. 20) The total cost was about £900. (fn. 21) Before 24 April £500 had been raised and a further £73 was contributed in the collections on the opening day. (fn. 22) The church is in classical style with pilastered windows and a string-course at eaves level which accentuates the effect of the pediment. It is much bigger than its predecessor, and the graves of Isaac Taylor and his wife and their daughter Jane, previously in the churchyard, are now inside the church. The minister at the time of the rebuilding was Isaac Tozer. (fn. 23) John Fordham was active in helping to raise money for the new church. (fn. 24)

Richard Cecil was pastor from about 1838 to 1847. While at Ongar he directed a small training school for intending missionaries. Among his students, in 1838-9, was David Livingstone (1813-73), the missionary and explorer. (fn. 25)

In 1865 the Sunday school was built behind the church by Noble of Ongar to the design of J. C. Gilbert of Nottingham. (fn. 26) The building was of grey brick with red brick bands and dressings. There was a belfry on the entrance porch on the south side. The Sunday school was damaged by fire during the First World War and partially rebuilt in 1920. (fn. 27)

During the 19th century the church at Ongar had sent out two offshoots: to Stanford Rivers (q.v.) in 1819 and Moreton (q.v.) in 1862. In 1906 the total membership of the three churches was 112, and there were also 139 Sunday school pupils and 4 lay preachers. (fn. 28) In 1926 there were 135 members, 155 Sunday school pupils, 5 lay preachers, and an evangelist who assisted the minister. (fn. 29) In 1951 the church at Ongar alone had 99 members and 105 Sunday school pupils, and the pastor was the Revd. W. H. Walker. (fn. 30)

The oldest church book starts in 1796. The church book for 1811-67 contains some materials for the early history of the church. (fn. 31)


  • 1. T. W. Davids, Evang. Nonconf. in Essex, 44-46.
  • 2. A. L. Gordon, Freedom After Ejection, 322.
  • 3. Ibid. 39.
  • 4. E.R.O., Q/SBb 35.
  • 5. Ibid. 38.
  • 6. T. W. Davids, Evang. Nonconf. in Essex, 435. This Lacy cannot, however, have been a former Rector of Greenstead. The rector of that name died in occupation of the living in 1700: Newcourt, Repert. ii, 289.
  • 7. Davids, op. cit. 435.
  • 8. Ibid.; D.N.B. under Doddridge.
  • 9. R. I. Porter, Notes on Chipping Ongar, 19.
  • 10. Ibid.; T. W. Davids, Evang. Nonconf. in Essex, 435.
  • 11. Porter, ibid.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. E.R.O., D/CT 262.
  • 15. D.N.B.
  • 16. R. Burls, Essex Congr. Union, 94. For an amusing description of an old man who used to sit at the top of the pulpit steps during services in Isaac Taylor's time see D. M. Armitage, The Taylors of Ongar, 16.
  • 17. Burls, op. cit. 150-3.
  • 18. E.R.O., T/P 96.
  • 19. D. M. Armitage, The Taylors of Ongar, 161. From the inclusion of Isaac Taylor's and his wife's tombstone the drawing would appear to have been made in or after 1830.
  • 20. E.R.O., T/P 96.
  • 21. Ibid.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. R. I. Porter, Notes on Chipping Ongar, 20.
  • 24. R. Burls, Essex Congr. Union, 153.
  • 25. D.N.B. Livingstone.
  • 26. E.R.O., T/P 96. J. C. Gilbert was probably a relative of Ann Gilbert, daughter of Isaac Taylor. The architect made no charge for his services.
  • 27. Ibid.
  • 28. Congr. Year Bk. 1906. The pastor then was the Revd. A. Goodall.
  • 29. Ibid. 1926.
  • 30. Ibid. 1951.
  • 31. Inf. from Revd. W. H. Walker. A full list of records has been prepared for the National Register of Archives.