Stapleford Tawney: Church

Pages 236-237

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 Stapleford Tawney was held by the lords of the capital manor until 1925. (fn. 1) It has subsequently descended with the advowson of Theydon Mount (q.v.).

In about 1254 the rectory was valued at 9 marks. (fn. 2)

In 1291 it was valued at £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 3) In 1428 the church was still taxed on this valuation. (fn. 4) In 1535 the rectory was valued at £15 8s. 8d. (fn. 5) Its 'improved' value was £80 in 1604 and £200 in 1661. (fn. 6) The tithes were commuted in 1838 for £384; there were then 127 acres of glebe. (fn. 7) Since 1755 the rectory has always been held along with that of Theydon Mount but they have never been formally united.

Henry Soames (1785-1860), who held the united living of Stapleford Tawney and Theydon Mount from 1839 until his death, was a noted ecclesiastical historian and was appointed Chancellor of St. Paul's Cathedral in 1842. (fn. 8)

The former rectory was originally a two-story timber-framed house built probably early in the 17th century. In the mid 18th century two sides were faced with red brick and a new roof with dormer windows was added, and inside there are panelled rooms and fireplaces of the same date. In 1771 it was described as 'an exceeding good house'. (fn. 9) About 1840 a new staircase hall and a bay-windowed drawingroom were built. Since 1951 the rector has lived at Theydon Mount.

The parish church of ST. MARY consists of chancel, nave with west bell-turret, south chapel, and vestry. The walls are of flint-rubble with dressings of limestone. The roof is tiled. The bell-turret is timber-framed and weather-boarded and has a shingled spire.

The chancel was built about 1220. In the north wall is a lancet window which may be original, though the splay stones have been recut.

The nave was built shortly after the chancel. A blocked north doorway with chamfered jambs and two-centred arch, partly restored, can be seen externally.

The south chapel was built about the middle of the 13th century. On the east side are two wall-arches, the smaller of which is partly original 13th-century work. Enclosed under the larger is an original lancet window. Three lancet windows in the south wall and one in the west wall may also be of the 13th century, much restored.

In the 15th century a square-headed two-light window was inserted in the south wall of the chancel; the stonework of this is much decayed. The bell turret at the west end of the nave was probably added in this century. It stands on four chamfered oak posts with tie-beams, curved braces, and diagonal struts.

Some roof timbers of the south chapel are of the 16th century.

In 1862 the church was largely rebuilt and the north vestry, organ chamber, and south porch were added. (fn. 10) The three lancet windows in the east wall of the chancel are of this date as well as the two-light windows of 14th-century design in the nave. The arcade of two bays between the south chapel and the body of the church was built or rebuilt at this time.

In February 1862 the vestry accepted an offer, made by Sir Charles Cunliffe-Smith, Bt., of Suttons (see above), of £300 towards the cost of restoring the church. (fn. 11) It is not clear what the final cost of restoration was. In May 1862 George Carter of Hornsey Road, Holloway (Lond.), offered to do the work required 'at the Church and Chancel' for £526 of which £105 was for repairing the chancel. He also offered to supply new fittings for an additional £123 of which £24 was for seats in the chancel. (fn. 12) A vestry held on 27 May 1862 seems to have accepted Carter's tender for repairs and fittings in the 'Church and Chapelry' at a cost of £520. At the same time it was estimated that the fees of the architect, Mr. Turner, and incidental costs would amount to about £200. (fn. 13) It is not clear that this vestry accepted Carter's tender for restoration of the chancel.

The organ, presented by Reginald Heber Prance, was built in 1869. (fn. 14)

In 1884 a new roof of panelled pine was constructed. (fn. 15) Cusped and pierced boarding was inserted to suggest a chancel arch.

There are two bells, one of 1611 by William Carter, and the other of 1630 by Robert Oldfield. (fn. 16) At a visitation held in 1611 it was reported that the bell was broken and it was not known 'who pulled it down'. (fn. 17) The date on Carter's bell indicates that the broken bell was speedily replaced.

The communion rails date from the 17th century and have unusual flat moulded and pierced balusters. The font in the form of a Norman column dates from the 19th century but the wooden cover is older. The stone pulpit is of the 19th century. The mosaic reredos, representing the Last Supper, was presented by Sir Charles Cunliffe-Smith, Bt., of Suttons (see above). (fn. 18)

The plate consists of two cups, one of which was presented by John Luther in 1698; three patens, one of which was presented by John Nicholson in 1698 and another of which bears the Luther arms; and an alms-dish of 1685, also bearing the Luther arms. (fn. 19)

On the floor of the chancel is a slab to William (Scott) (1491) and Margery his wife (1505). (fn. 20) This has a fine achievement of arms and cross in brass, and also part of a marginal inscription. Near it is a slab to Sir Edward Lowe, LL.D. (1684). Both in the chancel and nave are floor slabs to many members of the Luther family who died in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Also in the nave are slabs to John Nicolson (1710) and Gerrard Goebell (fn. 21) (18th-century date partly worn away). In the nave and in the south chapel there are tablets commemorating Charles Smith (1814) and members of his family.

During the restoration of 1862 two stone coffins and slabs, probably of 13th-century date, were found below the chancel. (fn. 22) One of these is now outside the church on the south side. The slab is said to be amongst the finest in Essex. It is slightly coped, the central shaft forming the ridge. On the shaft are three crosses, those near the head and foot having triangular arms. Between them on the shaft is a small circular 'cross-pate'. North of the church stands the second coffin with a shaped head. The tapered threshold to the blocked north doorway may be the slab belonging to it.

For the Church lands see Charities, below.


  • 1. Cal. Inq. p.m. iv, pp. 12-13; ibid. vi, p. 69; Newcourt, Repert. ii, 555-6; Morant, Essex, i, 181; Crockford's Cler. Dir. passim; E.A.T. n.s. xix, 74; Kelly's Dir. Essex (1926).
  • 2. Lunt, Val. of Norwich, 336.
  • 3. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 21 b.
  • 4. Feud. Aids, ii, 204.
  • 5. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 437.
  • 6. E.A.T. n.s. xxi, 78, 83.
  • 7. E.R.O., D/CT 331.
  • 8. D.N.B. Previously Rector of Shelley and Little Laver.
  • 9. Hist. Essex by Gent. iv, 41.
  • 10. E.R.O., D/P 141/8/2; Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 225.
  • 11. E.R.O., D/P 141/8/2.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. Wall tablet in chancel.
  • 15. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1912).
  • 16. Ch. Bells Essex, 398-9.
  • 17. E.R. xv, 46.
  • 18. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1912).
  • 19. Ch. Plate Essex, 104.
  • 20. See above, Manor of Stapleford Tawney.
  • 21. See above, Manor of Suttons.
  • 22. E.A.T. n.s. vii, 392-3.