Theydon Garnon: Church

Pages 269-271

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 Theydon Garnon was appurtenant to the manor and descended along with it until 1858. Presentations pro hac vice were sometimes granted by the lords of the manor to others. (fn. 1) When Sir Thomas Abdy, Bt., sold the manor in 1858 he retained the advowson and this descended with the baronetcy until 1945, when it was vested in the Bishop of Chelmsford. (fn. 2) In 1834 the advowson, with other properties, was mortgaged by John R. H. Abdy to Charles G. Parker of Springfield Place. On his death in 1840 Abdy allowed his trustees to sell the next presentation and to apply the proceeds towards the redemption of the mortgage, or if this had already been redeemed, on the purchase of freeholds. (fn. 3)

In about 1254 the rectory of Theydon Garnon was valued at 15 marks, and the same valuation was given in 1291. (fn. 4) In 1507 the rector leased the church and parsonage with the tithes to William Hyll, chaplain, and Francis Hampden for three years at an annual rent of £8, reserving the lodging by the gate (see below). (fn. 5) In 1535 the rectory was valued at £17. (fn. 6) In 1650 the 'improved' value was £174, of which £124 represented composition in lieu of tithes. (fn. 7) The tithes were finally commuted in 1840 for £650. There were then 71 acres of glebe. (fn. 8)

A terrier of 1610 mentions the parsonage house with glebe and outbuildings including a cottage called the Gatehouse. (fn. 9) The former rectory house, now known as Theydon Priory, was sold to the Revd. C. G. B. Hotham after his retirement in 1893. The present owner (1954) is Mr. W. J. Keswick. (fn. 10) The house is about 300 yds. south of the church. The rectory was certainly on this site in 1648 (fn. 11) and the core of Theydon Priory, consisting of the south range and west wing, may represent the house of 1610. The building was largely reconstructed in the 18th century, when the south side was given a symmetrical front of red brick with sash windows and a pedimented doorcase. Until recently the main entrance was at this side. Additions made later in the 18th century include a large room with a splayed bay on the north side, now the entrance hall. Interior fittings date from about 1700 and later. In the present century additions were made to the east and west. The entrance porch is also modern.

The present red-brick gabled rectory, which is immediately south of the church, was built in 1895-6 at a cost of £3,300. (fn. 12)

John Molyns (d. 1591), who was Rector of Theydon Garnon from 1561 until his death, had been among the Puritan clergy who emigrated to Frankfurt-amMain under Mary I. He became Canon of St. Paul's and Archdeacon of London in 1559. (fn. 13) Samuel Searle, who became rector in 1609, was a turbulent man whose offences appear to have included manslaughter and brawling in church. (fn. 14) In 1622-3 he was suspected of being an accessory to murder, and in 1624 he was deprived of his benefice. (fn. 15)

At the Dissolution of the Chantries in 1548 there were found to be obits in the church of Theydon Garnon supported by annual rents of 8s. 4d., 6s. 8d., and 6s. 8d., charged on the lands of John Rogers, Richard Archer, and John Archer respectively. (fn. 16) The rents were granted in 1549 to Robert Woode of the Inner Temple. (fn. 17)

The church of ALL SAINTS consists of nave and chancel, north aisle, north porch, south porch, north vestry, and west tower. The walls of nave and chancel are of flint rubble and those of the tower, aisle, and north porch are of brick. The chancel probably dates from the 13th century. The nave appears to have been rebuilt in the 15th century. The tower was built about 1520. In 1644 the north aisle and north porch were added and a north arcade of timber built. The south porch was built in the 18th century, and in the 19th century there were numerous alterations including the addition of a north vestry and organ chamber. The church is of special interest from its dated tower of 1520 and dated north aisle of 1644.

The chancel, which was probably built in the 13th century, has in its south wall a 13th century lancet window, and on the north side a niche of uncertain date. There is no structural division between chancel and nave.

In the 15th century the nave was probably rebuilt. In the south wall there is a 15th-century window of three cinquefoiled lights in a segmental-pointed head, with moulded label and the arms of Gernon. (fn. 18) Also in the south wall is a 15th-century doorway with moulded jambs and a two-centred arch under a square moulded label with traceried spandrels. The east window in the chancel is also of the 15th century. It has four cinquefoiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head.

About 1520 the west tower was added. It is of red brick, with some blue brick, of three stages with an embattled parapet. The date is recorded on a stone panel on the outside of the south wall, where it is stated that Sir John Crosbe, late alderman and grocer of London, and his wives Anne and Annes gave £50 towards the building of the tower. (fn. 19)

The north aisle and porch were built in 1644. They are of red brick which it is interesting to compare with the earlier brick of the tower. The date is picked out in dark brick on a panel on the outside of the east wall of the aisle. A corresponding panel on the outside of the west wall has the letters i. h. The timber arcade which divides the nave from the aisle also dates from 1644. It consists of five bays with octagonal oak columns and semi-octagonal oak responds. The oak arches are roughly three-centred to the east bays and semicircular to the west bays and have a horizontal moulded fascia above them mitred down in the middle of each arch to form a key block. The nave roof was probably reconstructed at this time but retains several rebated king-posts of the 15th century. Along the south side of the nave are two gabled dormer windows. These were largely remodelled in the 19th century but the frames probably date from 1644.

During the 17th century several other new windows were added. In the chancel are two windows, one on the north wall and one on the south, both having two pointed lights, and the west window of the tower is also probably of the same century.

In 1762 repairs were carried out on the church costing over £100. The largest part of this sum, £67, was for carpenter's work, including roof repairs. (fn. 20) In 1770 there is said to have been a gallery in the north aisle. (fn. 21) It is not clear what form this then took. In 1774 the parish vestry released to John Deakins and the future occupiers of his dwelling the seat where the psalm singers used to sit on the north side of the church, in return for 15 guineas towards the building of a singers' gallery. (fn. 22) The balance of the carpenter's bill towards the building of the gallery was paid in December 1774. (fn. 23). The restoration of the north porch and the insertion of the west doorway in the tower also took place in the 18th century.

The Revd. Sir Cavendish Foster, Bt., rector from 1843 to 1887, substantially altered the church. In 1863 the gallery was removed (fn. 24) and five new windows inserted in the aisle, three in the north, one in the east, and one in the west wall. (fn. 25) The previous north wall windows are said to have been wide and square with wooden frames and the previous east window small and square. (fn. 26) The east window has now been blocked. Further restorations appear to have been carried out during Foster's incumbency. (fn. 27) The vestry and organ chamber were added in 1892 at the expense of the Revd. C. G. B. Hotham, Foster's successor as rector, and W. S. Chisenhale-Marsh of Gaynes Park. (fn. 28) A new heating apparatus was installed in 1899 at the expense of the Kemsley family. (fn. 29)

A glazed screen between the west end of the nave and the tower was erected by the Chisenhale-Marsh family as a memorial to those who fell in the First World War. In 1934 general repairs to the church were carried out and the lancet window in the south wall of the chancel, which had been blocked for several centuries, was opened at the expense of Mr. Hugh Kemsley. (fn. 30) Further repairs have been done during the past ten years.

The communion rails were set up in 1683-4 at a cost of £4, in obedience to the orders of the archdeacon at his visitation of 1683. (fn. 31) The pulpit is a 'two-decker' and has a large sounding-board of the early 18th century. There are three chairs of the same period in the chancel. Some 16th-century seats formerly in the nave were removed about 1920. (fn. 32) There is 16thcentury panelling on the south wall of the nave and some of about 1700 in the tower. In the vestry is a large oak chest with iron bands given in 1668 by Sir John Archer. (fn. 33) In it are some manorial records. (fn. 34) At the west end of the nave is an oak door-frame taken from the Priest's House (see below).

There are five bells. The first four were cast by Miles Graye in 1628 and the fifth by Robert Phelps in 1732. In 1733 the parish vestry agreed to borrow £22 at 5 per cent. interest to pay for the casting and hanging of this last bell. (fn. 35) The church plate consists of a cup and paten cover of 1562; two flagons of 1650, given in 1671 by the rector James Meggs; a paten of 1702 given by John Baker and an undated almsdish also bearing Baker's name and probably of 1702; and an almsdish of 1895. All the pieces are silver. In 1816 all the then existing plate was repaired at a cost of £3. (fn. 36)

On the north wall of the chancel is a brass to William Kirkeby, rector, 1458 with a figure of a priest in cope with shield of arms. This was formerly in the nave and was set up in its present position with a modern inscription between 1812 and 1835. (fn. 37) Also in the chancel are a brass to Ellen (Hampden), wife of John Branch, 1567, and monuments to Lady Anne (Sidney), wife of Sir William Fitzwilliam, 1602; Sir Daniel Dun, 1617 and his wife Joan, 1640; James Meggs, rector, 1672; Sir John Archer, 1681; and Sir William Eyre Archer, 1739. The last is a large standing wall monument with grey sarcophagus and obelisk and medallion of the deceased flanked by three cherubs. Set into the north wall of the chancel is a grey marble altar-tomb with a flat-arched canopy resting on small side-shafts and having a frieze of quatrefoil panels. At the back of the recess is a brass of a kneeling man in armour, his wife, two sons, and three daughters, with indents of two inscription plates, two shields, a Trinity and another group, of about 1520. Opposite is another similar altar-tomb of slightly later date with the canopy set on twisted shafts, also with indents for brasses at the back of the recess. There are floor slabs in the chancel to Henry and Thomas Meggs, 1670, Margaret wife of James Meggs, 1681, and Richard Butler, 1688.

In the nave is a wall monument to Denton Nicholas, M.D., 1714, moved there from the chancel in 1934. There is a floor slab in the nave to Jane, widow of John Wormlayton, 1725, and their daughters Jane, 1705, and Anne, 1712. Other later monuments include plaques to Charles B. Abdy, 1843, Joseph Kemsley, churchwarden, 1897, and William S. ChisenhaleMarsh, 1929. There is a stained-glass window in memory of the Revd. Sir Cavendish Foster, Bt. (see above).

A few yards west of the church there stood until recently a cottage called the Priests' House. It was of two stories, the upper projecting on the east front with exposed joists and curved brackets. It was apparently built in the late 15th century. (fn. 38) It may have been identical with the Gatehouse (see above) of 1507 and 1610. If so it consisted in 1507 of a parlour, with a chimney and larder at one end and two chambers; above were a study and 'wyddraughte', i.e. a sink or drain. (fn. 39) In 1624 there was an alehouse in the churchyard; (fn. 40) this may well have been the same house since a map of 1648 shows no other buildings in the churchyard. (fn. 41) The Priests' House has now been destroyed except for a door-frame (see above). An engraving of the church published in 1810 shows in the distance a small part of the house. (fn. 42) Another of 1818 by the same hand shows the whole house. (fn. 43)

The small brick building outside the churchyard has been used as a Sunday school. (fn. 44) It probably dates from the late 19th or early 20th century. An avenue of limes and chestnuts leading from the south side of the churchyard to the former rectory is now known as the Monks' Walk.

The church of ST. ALBAN, Coopersale, was built at the expense of Miss Archer-Houblon in 1852. (fn. 45) It was consecrated in the same year and a particular district assigned to it. (fn. 46) The advowson was vested in Miss Archer-Houblon and it remained in her family until 1914 when it was transferred to the Bishop of Chelmsford. (fn. 47) The building is of flint and consists of chancel, nave, south porch, and north vestry with bellcote at the west end of the nave. The vicarage was also built at Miss Archer-Houblon's expense. It stands to the north of the church and is a gabled house of variegated brickwork. Opposite the church is the Parish Room, a single-story building dating from about 1865, of brown brick with dressings of red and black.

For charities relating to the church see Charities, below.


  • 1. Lunt, Val. of Norwich, 336; Newcourt, Repert. ii, 583-4.
  • 2. London Gaz. 28 Dec. 1945, p. 6286.
  • 3. E.R.O., D/DDa T13; P.C.C. 223 Arden.
  • 4. Lunt, Val. of Norwich, 336; Tax Eccl. (Rec. Com.) 21b.
  • 5. E.A.T. n.s. vi, 109-11.
  • 6. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 437.
  • 7. H. Smith, Eccl. Hist. Essex, 273.
  • 8. E.R.O., D/CT 350.
  • 9. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 583. A terrier of 1621 gives similar, though not identical details: ibid. Cf. the Gatehouse with the Priest's House, below.
  • 10. Essex in the 20th century (Pike's New Century Ser. No. 27), 49; inf. from Mrs. W. J. Keswick. Hotham was Rector of Theydon Garnon 1887-93.
  • 11. E.R.O., D/DC 27/1123.
  • 12. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1898). A new rectory is now (1955) being built.
  • 13. D.N.B.
  • 14. E.R.O., D/AEA 30 fo. 107v; St. Ch. 8/275/4.
  • 15. Acts of P.C. 1621-3, 442; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1623-5, 285; ibid. 1625-6, 482.
  • 16. E301/30/74; E. Ogborne, Hist. Essex, 261.
  • 17. Cal. Pat. 1549-51, 96.
  • 18. Thomas Gernon, last of his name to hold the manor of Theydon Garnon, was dead by 1428-9: see Manors, above.
  • 19. Crosbe's connexion with Theydon Garnon has not been discovered. The mention of his two wives suggests that the building of the tower took a considerable time, but was completed about 1520.
  • 20. E.R.O., D/P 152/5/3.
  • 21. Hist. Essex by Gent. iii, 405.
  • 22. E.R.O., D/P 152/8/1.
  • 23. E.R.O., D/P 152/12/5.
  • 24. E.R. xxxv, 196.
  • 25. Ibid. 200.
  • 26. Ibid.
  • 27. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1870 f.).
  • 28. Ibid. (1906).
  • 29. Ibid. Joseph Kemsley, churchwarden, had died in 1897: see below.
  • 30. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1937).
  • 31. E.R.O., D/P 152/5/1; E.A.T. n.s. xix, 273.
  • 32. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 233.
  • 33. H. W. Lewer and J. C. Wall, Church Chests of Essex, 206-8.
  • 34. W. C. Waller, 'An old church chest', E.A.T. n.s. v, 1-32, 200.
  • 35. E.R.O., D/P 152/12/2.
  • 36. E.R.O., D/P 152/5/3. The repairs were done by Thomas and Storrs, 16 Mincing Lane, London.
  • 37. Ogborne, Hist. Essex, 266; T. Wright, Hist. Essex, ii, 380.
  • 38. H. H. Collett, 'The churchyard cottage at Theydon Garnon', E.R. xvii, 18-21; Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 233.
  • 39. E.A.T. n.s. vi, 110.
  • 40. E.R.O., D/AED 10 f. 25v.
  • 41. E.R.O., D/DC 23/1123.
  • 42. Gents. Mag. lxxx (ii), 601; E.R. xxxi, 186.
  • 43. See plate facing p. 271.
  • 44. O.S. 6 in. Map (3rd edn.), sheet lxi.
  • 45. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1933).
  • 46. London Gaz. 22 Oct. 1852, pp. 2758-9.
  • 47. Ibid. 13 Nov. 1914, p. 9259.