Stanford Rivers: Church

Pages 216-218

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 Stanford Rivers was acquired soon after the Norman Conquest by the priory of Rumilly-le-Comte, which probably had it from Eustace, Count of Boulogne. (fn. 1) The history of the advowson down to the 14th century is treated under High Ongar (q.v.) where reasons are given for supposing that about 1280 the parish of Stanford Rivers was doubled by the transfer to it of part of High Ongar. In and after the 14th century the advowson of Stanford Rivers, like that of High Ongar, was held by the king until 1538. In that year, when the advowson of High Ongar was granted to Sir Richard Rich, that of Stanford Rivers was retained by the king. The advowson of Stanford Rivers was no doubt annexed to the Duchy of Lancaster at the same time as the manor and since the reign of Elizabeth I presentations have been made by the Chancellor of the Duchy. (fn. 2)

In about 1254 the rectory of Stanford Rivers was valued at 20 marks. (fn. 3) In 1291, 1428, and 1535 the value was returned as £26 13s. 4d. (fn. 4) At the tithecommutation in 1842 the total income of the rector from tithe rents was fixed at £1,038. (fn. 5) There were 54 acres of glebe. Land tax chargeable upon the rectory, rectorial tithes, and glebe had been redeemed in 1803 by a payment of £1,173. (fn. 6)

In 1534 Thomas Grene devised a rent of £6 13s. 4d. out of the manor of Bellhouse (see above) for the support of a chantry priest who was to serve annually in the church of Stanford Rivers for 20 years after Grene's death. Grene's will was proved three years later. The stipendiary was being employed in 1548 when the chantries were dissolved. (fn. 7)

Another endowment, for an 'anniversary' in the church, consisted of 10s. rent from land in Stanford Rivers called Knyghtes. In 1549 this rent was granted by the king to Henry Codenham, and William Pendred, citizen and founder, both of London. (fn. 8) William Shelton, by his will proved 1552-3, left money to the parish for the payment of forgotten tithes. (fn. 9)

As a valuable Crown living Stanford Rivers has been held by a number of rectors of distinction. Thomas Cole (d. 1571), one of the Puritans who emigrated to Frankfort-on-the-Main under Mary I, was rector after the accession of Elizabeth I. (fn. 10) Richard Vaughan (1550?-1607), who became rector in 1594, was later Bishop successively of Bangor, Chester, and London. (fn. 11) Richard Montagu (1577-1641), controversialist, Bishop of Chichester (1628) and of Norwich (1638), was rector from 1613 to 1628. (fn. 12) Although he was a pluralist his favourite residence is said to have been at Stanford Rivers. After he resigned the living an attempt was made to secure it for Peter Delauney, preacher to the French congregation in Norwich: it was stated that this had been promised by James I to reward Delauney for translating the English liturgy into French. (fn. 13) The rectory was, however, given to Roger Mainwaring, one of the chaplains of Charles I. (fn. 14) Mainwaring became Bishop of St. Davids in 1635. (fn. 15) Henry Tattam (1789-1868), who became rector in 1850, was a distinguished Coptic scholar and chaplain to the queen. (fn. 16)

The parish church of ST. MARGARET consists of nave, chancel, north porch (blocked), west porch, south vestry, and a west bell-turret with spire. There is a gallery beneath the turret. The walls are mostly of flint rubble with dressings of clunch and other stone. The upper part of the chancel is of brick. The church is faced externally with Roman cement. The roof is tiled.

The nave was built in the middle of the 12th century. The original semicircular arch of the south doorway can still be seen internally. Both north and south walls have two single-light round-headed windows of the 12th century, but in each case those nearest the west end have been blocked and are only visible from the outside. There is a similar blocked window in the west gable with exposed flintwork surrounding it. During the first half of the 14th century two threelight windows were inserted near the east end of the nave, one on the north and one on the south side. These probably replaced small 12th-century lights, which suggests an original arrangement of three windows to each wall. On the east splays of the two 14th-century windows wall-paintings, probably con- temporary, were visible until recently. These consisted of figures under gabled and crocketed canopies with shields of arms above. (fn. 17)

The present chancel also dates from the first half of the 14th century. On its north side there is a contemporary window consisting of two trefoil and ogeeheaded traceried lights. The south wall has two similar windows with a blocked doorway, probably of the same date, between them.

Richard Salyng, by his will proved in 1404, made a bequest for the remaking of the rood loft, and provided that if he died at Stanford Rivers he should be buried in the church beside the monument to his late wife Alice. (fn. 18) Late in the 15th century the north porch was built. It is of timber and is of a type common in Essex. Many of the original timbers remain. The external arch, now blocked, is four-centred with trefoil carved spandrels, and the panels flanking it have traceried heads. It is now used as a store. The south porch, now the vestry, was probably similar. The timber-framed bell-turret was probably built in the 15th century. It was inserted in the westernmost bay of the nave. The massive angle-posts are stop-chamfered near floor level. The turret is weather-boarded and is surmounted by a small lead-covered spire. The roof of the nave also dates from the 15th century. It has three trusses with rebated king-posts and four-way struts. The timbers between the trusses were exposed during the restorations in 1951.

In the 15th century, or early in the 16th, a wide three-light window with a segmental pointed head was inserted in the south wall of the chancel. This was later plastered over, but during the restorations of 1948-52 it was opened up and glazed and the stonework was renewed. Early in the 16th century the roof level of the chancel was raised, the walls were built up in brickwork and three segmental-headed clerestory windows were inserted in both north and south walls. This curious arrangement may have been the preliminary to a general raising of the wall height, never carried out. The chancel arch was probably destroyed at this time, giving the present awkward junction between chancel and nave roofs. The chancel roof has curved and moulded principals and is of the early 16th century. The timbers between the trusses were exposed in 1951.

At the archdeacon's visitation of 1606 the churchwardens stated that the chancel was out of repair, both glass and stonework of the windows being broken, and the walls dirty. (fn. 19) At another visitation in 1683 the churchwardens were ordered to mend both the church porches, the crack on the north side of the steeple, and the tiling towards the lower end of the church. (fn. 20) A small scratched sundial on the external jamb of the 14th-century window in the south wall of the nave probably dates from the 17th century.

In 1817 important repairs and alterations were carried out at a total cost of about £350. (fn. 21) These included the opening of the present west entrance and probably also the conversion of the south porch into a vestry, the building of the gallery, and the insertion of the present east window in the chancel. The west porch is open and of oak. It has a segmental pointed arch and pierced spandrels. The window above it is three-light with a segmental head and a wide architrave of wood. The gallery incorporates panels from a 15thcentury chancel screen. All this work was carried out by Richard Noble of Ongar under the direction of a surveyor named Foottit.

In 1944 a flying bomb damaged the south side of the church. Restoration was carried out between 1948 and 1952. (fn. 22) During that period the gallery was converted into a small parish room by the fixing of a temporary partition to the front.

In 1552 there were three bells in the steeple 'of which the great bell contains 1 yard deep lacking 3 inches, the second bell 2 ft. 3 ins., the breadth 1 yd. 1 in., the third bell 2 ft. 3 in., and the breadth 1 yd. lacking 2 ins.' (fn. 23) There were also a handbell, a sanctus bell, and two sacring bells. (fn. 24) There are at present two bells in the steeple, one cast by Joseph Carter in 1609, the other by Anthony Bartlet in 1662; one of these was damaged in 1944 and is no longer in use. (fn. 25) The third bell appears to have been sold in 1806 and the money applied towards repairs to the steeple. (fn. 26)

The early-13th-century font is of Barnack stone, the octagonal bowl having sunk panels with pointed heads and the stem having eight detached shafts. There are sixteen 15th-century oak benches near the west end of the nave, the ends being carved with small buttresses. The communion rails have turned balusters of the late 17th century. They were no doubt erected as a result of the archdeacon's visitation of 1683, when it was ordered that the communion table should be railed in. (fn. 27) The wrought-iron-work supporting the altar lamp is apparently of early-18th-century date and came from Suttons in Stapleford Tawney. (fn. 28) The stained glass in the east window was inserted in 1952 in memory of H. W. Millbank (d. 1950). The electric heating was installed in 1952. The church plate consists of a silver flagon, paten, and chalice of 1812, presented by the Revd. E. C. Dowdeswell. (fn. 29) In 1552 there were three chalices of silver, one being partly gilt. There was delivered for service use one silver chalice. (fn. 30)

There are a few details of the church furnishings in past centuries. Richard Ballard, by his will proved in 1526, left money for the 'gilding of oon of the tabernacles'. (fn. 31) The image of the Assumption of Our Lady, in the chancel of the church, is mentioned in a will of 1537. (fn. 32) In 1636 £1 10s. was paid for painting the royal arms and whitewashing the church. (fn. 33) In 1651 the arms of the Commonwealth were substituted for those of the king; this and the setting up of the Ten Commandments cost £1 8s. (fn. 34) In 1660 the royal arms were again set up, at a cost of £1 5s. (fn. 35)

On the north wall of the chancel is an inscribed brass to Thomas Grene (1535) and his two wives. In his will (proved 1537) Grene gave instructions that he was to be buried in the chancel before the image of the Assumption of Our Lady, or in the chancel of the church of Cottered (Herts.). (fn. 36) Also on the north wall of the chancel are white marble tablets to Charlotte Edwards (1823) and Isaac Taylor (1865). (fn. 37) On the east wall of the chancel is a white marble tablet to Dr. Charles Gibbs (1681), and on the south wall a brass inscription to Katherine (1609) wife of Richard Mulcaster, rector of the parish. In the nave is a stone tablet to Anne, wife of William Napper (1584), bearing a brass of a kneeling woman and her six sons. On the floor of the chancel, some of them concealed below the altar, are four floor-slabs with brasses: (1) fragment of late-16th-century slab with shield of arms; (2) Thomas, infant son of Giles Greville (1492) with a figure of a Chrisom child and shield of arms; (3) Robert Borrow (1503) and Alys his wife: figures of man in plate armour and woman in pedimented head-dress with dog at their feet and shield of arms; (4) Lucy, daughter of William Petre (1637): inscription only. Also in the chancel are many floor slabs to the Petre family, ranging in date from 1677 (William son of Lord Petre) to 1797 (Hon. George William Petre).

The Berkeley Charity, for the upkeep of the graveyard of the church, is described below, under Charities.

The old rectory is a fine late-18th-century red-brick house of two stories and attics, with a one-story wing to the south-west. The entrance front has a pedimented doorcase and on the garden side there are two slightly projecting bays with pediments. The detail here and elsewhere is of c. 1780. Parts of the moat remain to the north of the house. The glebe terrier of 1610 describes extensive buildings which were probably on the same site. (fn. 38) There appear to be no traces of these earlier buildings.

For the present rectory see below, Protestant Nonconformity.


  • 1. V.C.H. Essex, i, 344. The priory probably obtained it early in the 12th cent.: E.A.T. n.s. viii, 227.
  • 2. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 546-7; Morant, Essex, i, 155; Crockford's Cler. Dir. passim.
  • 3. Lunt, Val. of Norwich, 336.
  • 4. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 21b; Feud. Aids, ii, 205; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 437b.
  • 5. E.R.O., D/CT 327.
  • 6. E.R.O., D/DSd T17. The tax had amounted to £32 a year.
  • 7. E 301/19/43; ibid. 30/59.
  • 8. Cal. Pat. 1549-51, 146. Cf. Thomas Petit's legacy, Charities, below.
  • 9. E.A.T. n.s. vii, 167.
  • 10. D.N.B. He was rector 1564-71. Previously Rector of High Ongar.
  • 11. D.N.B.
  • 12. Ibid.; V.C.H. Essex, ii, 49.
  • 13. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1628-9, 188.
  • 14. Ibid. 217.
  • 15. D.N.B. (Manwaring). He was rector until 1641.
  • 16. D.N.B. Rector until his death.
  • 17. Cf. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 221. This account mentions only the traces of painting on the south window; there are still traces on the north.
  • 18. E.A.T. n.s. vii, 167. For Salyng see Littlebury, above.
  • 19. V.C.H. Essex, ii, 46.
  • 20. E.A.T. n.s. xix, 272.
  • 21. E.R.O., D/P 140/5.
  • 22. Inf. from the present rector, Revd. J. H. Ward.
  • 23. E.A.T. n.s. ii, 228.
  • 24. Ibid.
  • 25. Ch. Bells Essex, 395; inf. from Revd. J. H. Ward.
  • 26. E.R.O., D/P 140/8/3. The bell was cracked and out of order.
  • 27. E.A.T. n.s. xix, 272.
  • 28. Inf. from Revd. J. H. Ward.
  • 29. Ibid.
  • 30. Ch. Plate Essex, 310.
  • 31. E.A.T. n.s. vii, 167.
  • 32. Ibid.
  • 33. E.R.O., D/P 140/1/1, f. 47.
  • 34. Ibid., f. 51b.
  • 35. Ibid., f. 55b.
  • 36. E.A.T. n.s. vii, 167.
  • 37. For Taylor see above, p. 210.
  • 38. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 546.