Shelley: Church

Pages 206-208

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

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Until the end of the 19th century the advowson of Shelley was usually appurtenant to the manor but in and after the 16th century there were several occasions when it appears to have been granted for single turns to persons who did not hold the manor. In about 1250 the patron was reported to be the heir of Peter, probably Peter Fitz Oger. (fn. 1) The advowson probably descended with the manor through Peter's heirs to the Legh family. In 1329 John de Legh presented to the living. (fn. 2) His heirs continued to present until the 16th century. (fn. 3) In 1509 Thomas Legh died in possession of the advow- son leaving as his heir his grandson Giles. (fn. 4) In 1530 Richard Samford and others presented to the living. (fn. 5) Giles Legh, however, was holding the advowson in 1538 and in that year conveyed it with the manor to Sir Richard Rich, later 1st Baron Rich, who presented several times between 1542 and 1558. (fn. 6) Robert, 2nd Baron Rich, presented in 1568 and 1574. (fn. 7) In 1582 Robert, 3rd Baron Rich, conveyed the advowson with the manor to John and Thomas Green and William Stane. (fn. 8) In 1589 John Jollye presented to the living but Robert Green died in possession of the advowson in 1624. (fn. 9) In 1628 John son of Robert Green conveyed the advowson with the manor to Robert Holenden and Thomas Emevere. (fn. 10) Jollye Stone, a farmer and copyholder of Shelley manor, presented in 1662 and 1664. In 1686 Hadsley Green presented, (fn. 11) and in 1732 his daughters Sarah Baker and Mary Trebeck with their husbands John Baker and Andrew Trebeck. (fn. 12) In 1752 the Archbishop of Canterbury, patron by lapse, presented James Trebeck, son of Mary and Andrew Trebeck. (fn. 13) James Trebeck probably acquired his aunt Sarah's rights in the advowson when he acquired her half of the manor in about 1764 although he seems not to have mortgaged the advowson when he mortgaged the manor at the end of that year. (fn. 14) In 1769, shortly after his appointment as Rector of St. Michael's, Queenhithe, James Trebeck and his mother presented to Shelley. (fn. 15) In 1771 and 1773 James mortgaged the advowson with the manor to Samuel Evans. (fn. 16) The descent of the advowson during the next 40 years is not clear. It is probable, however, that it followed the descent of the manor. Nathaniel Soames presented Henry Soames in 1812. (fn. 17) According to Wright (1835) James Tomlinson purchased the advowson with the manor in 1819 or 1820. (fn. 18)

The Tomlinson family held the advowson for most of the remainder of the 19th century. (fn. 19) In 1895-6 J. H. Tomlinson conveyed it to H. Garnett and others who held it until 1898-9. (fn. 20) In the latter year William Philp, Rector of Shelley from 1895, acquired the advowson and held it with the living until his death in 1926-7. (fn. 21) Afterwards the advowson was held by his executors until 1930-1 when it was acquired by the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield (Yorks.). (fn. 22) Since 1932 it has been held by Keble College, Oxford. (fn. 23) At present the rectory is held with that of Chipping Ongar. (fn. 24)

In 1254 the value of the rectory was assessed at 5 marks. (fn. 25) A pension of 3s. was paid to the church of High Ongar. (fn. 26) In 1291 the rectory was valued at £1 10s. (fn. 27) In 1428 it was assessed at 11 marks. (fn. 28) Later valuations were £9 15s. in 1535 and £80 in 1661. (fn. 29) The tithes were commuted in 1839 for £192 13s.; (fn. 30) there were then 37 acres of glebe. (fn. 31)

The rectory was burnt down about 1937. (fn. 32) It was unoccupied at the time, the rector then living in Fyfield. The lane leading to it is now a foot-path, still viable, and the foundations doubtless exist on the overgrown site. It was a timber-framed building dating from the 16th century, if not earlier. (fn. 33) For a short time from about 1754 Thomas Newton, brother-in-law of the then Rector of Shelley, James Trebeck, and later Bishop of Bristol, used the rectory as a retreat and apparently wrote his 'Dissertation on the Prophecies' there. (fn. 34) Later the house was altered and enlarged. Henry Soames, (fn. 35) Rector of Shelley from 1812 until 1860, was said to have spent considerable sums on it by about 1835. (fn. 36) In 1861 the house was restored. (fn. 37) A photograph (fn. 38) shows a long four-gabled front with a central two-story porch.

The medieval parish church of ST. PETER became ruinous towards the end of the 18th century and was considered unsafe for use after June 1800. (fn. 39) In about 1768 it was described as 'of one pace with the chancel, and tyled. In the spire, which is shingled, are 2 Bells.' (fn. 40) In 1811 a new church was built on the same foundations, (fn. 41) the cost being met largely by subscription. (fn. 42) This was a rectangular brick structure with a steep roof and a castellated gable at the west end. The windows were gothic but there was a Georgian bell cupola. Between the windows were massive buttresses, probably added later when the building showed signs of instability. (fn. 43) In 1888 a faculty was obtained for building yet another church. (fn. 44) The architect's report on the existing structure stated that repair was impossible and that in any case 'not one single feature was worth preservation'. (fn. 45) The new church was designed by Habershon and Fawckner, (fn. 46) and £3,000 towards the cost was contributed anonymously by the Revd. W. M. Oliver, Rector of Bobbingworth. (fn. 47)

The church is larger than those preceding it and consists of chancel, nave, north aisle, vestry, organ chamber, and combined north porch and bell tower. The external walls are of flint with Bath stone dressings. The tower has a shingled spire. The style is a 19th-century version of Early English and most of the windows are grouped lancets. The internal walls are faced with red brick, having dark brick bands and stone dressings. The capitals of the nave arcade are carved with stiff-leaved foliage. The east window has plate tracery, the stained glass being the gift of Mrs. Allen in 1888. (fn. 48) Formerly there were two bells dated 1810; (fn. 49) only one is now in use.

On the walls of the porch are tablets from the original church. Over the door is an inscribed brass commemorating John Green (1595) and Katherine his wife. (fn. 50) On the east wall of the porch is a carved and painted stone tablet to Agnes wife of John Green (1626); it shows the kneeling figures of husband and wife with two sons and four daughters. Also mounted on the porch walls are two floor slabs from the chancel of the original church discovered when the present foundations were dug. (fn. 51) They commemorate Margaret, daughter of John Neale (1625), and Hadsley Green (1699); this last slab has an achievement of arms.

The plate includes an undated Jacobean cup, a silver paten of 1724 given by Harvey Kimpton, (fn. 52) patron, and another of 1726 given by John Pearson, rector. There is also a beaker of 1799 given by Harvey Kimpton and two almsdishes probably of the 19th century.


  • 1. E.A.T. n.s. xviii, 19. The patron is described here as the heir of Peter son of Roger but this is almost certainly a transcriber's error for Peter son of Oger.
  • 2. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 520.
  • 3. Ibid. Thomas Arblaster who presented from 1441 to 1468 was an executor of Thomas Legh (d. 1439) and married his widow Alice. Thomas Legh's heir was only 6 months old at the time of his father's death: Cal. Pat. 1446-52, 392.
  • 4. C142/24/12.
  • 5. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 520.
  • 6. CP40/1096 rot. 100; CP25(2)/12/65 Hil. 29 Hen. VIII; CP25(2)/12/66. East. 30 Hen. VIII; Newcourt, Repert. ii, 521.
  • 7. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 521.
  • 8. CP25(2)/131/1686.
  • 9. C142/747/158; Newcourt, Repert. ii, 521.
  • 10. CP43/183.
  • 11. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 521.
  • 12. P.R.O. Inst. Bks. Ser. C. i (1).
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. E.R.O., D/DFa T17.
  • 15. P.R.O. Inst. Bks. Ser. C. i (1); G. Hennessy, Novum Repert. Eccl. Par. Lond. 249. In c. 1770 it was reported that 'now the Bishop of London and the lord of the manor present to the living alternately': Hist. Essex by Gent. iii, 366. There seems to be no other evidence that this was the case.
  • 16. E.R.O., D/DFa T17.
  • 17. P.R.O. Inst. Bks. Ser. C. i (1).
  • 18. See above, Manor.
  • 19. Cler. Guide, 1829 f.; Clergy List, 1842 f.; Crockford's Cler. Dir. (1860 f.); Kelly's Dir. Essex (1870 f.).
  • 20. Clergy List, 1896 f.; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1899).
  • 21. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1899); Clergy List, 1900 f.; Crockford's Cler. Dir. (1921 f.)
  • 22. Crockford's Cler. Dir. (1927 f.)
  • 23. Ibid. (1932 f.); Chel. Dioc. Year Bk. 1952.
  • 24. Chel. Dioc. Year Bk. 1952.
  • 25. Lunt, Val. of Norwich, 336.
  • 26. Ibid.
  • 27. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 23.
  • 28. Feud. Aids, ii, 205.
  • 29. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 437; E.A.T. n.s. xxi, 78.
  • 30. E.R.O., D/CT 314.
  • 31. Ibid.
  • 32. Inf. from Mrs. Storkey.
  • 33. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 212.
  • 34. D.N.B. xiv, 403-4; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1886); White's Dir. Essex (1848).
  • 35. See Stapleford Tawney, Church. He was also rector of that parish from 1839.
  • 36. T. Wright, Hist. Essex, ii, 356. He lived at the parsonage from about the time he became rector until at least 1839: E.R.O., Q/RP1 721-37; ibid. D/CT 314. By 1848 he was living in Stapleford Tawney: White's Dir. Essex (1848).
  • 37. White's Dir. Essex (1863).
  • 38. In possession of Mrs. Storkey.
  • 39. Note in the Register of Baptisms 1687-1812 in possession of rector.
  • 40. Morant, Essex, i, 147.
  • 41. E.A.T. n.s. xi, 174; White's Dir. Essex (1848).
  • 42. T. Wright, Hist. Essex, ii, 356.
  • 43. These details are from an architects' drawing of 1886, a copy of which is in the possession of the rector.
  • 44. Faculty in possession of rector.
  • 45. Ibid.
  • 46. Foundation stone in west wall of church.
  • 47. E.R. xiv, 186.
  • 48. Inscription in situ.
  • 49. Ch. Bells of Essex, 386.
  • 50. It is recorded that they had 13 children and that the number of their descendants was 111 in their lifetime.
  • 51. E.A.T. n.s. xi, 174.
  • 52. See above, Manor.