North Weald Bassett: Church

Pages 290-292

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

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In the late 12th century the advowson of North Weald was appurtenant to the manor. Before 1161 Henry de Essex had made a grant to the nunnery of St. Mary, Clerkenwell, of a tithe of his food, drink, candles, and game. (fn. 1) After his fall in 1163 certain payments were made to Clerkenwell out of his estate. (fn. 2) Before 19 October 1186 the rectory and advowson of North Weald had been granted to the nunnery by his wife Cecily. This grant was confirmed by her son Henry de Essex, the younger, and in 1194 by Hugh de Essex, another son. (fn. 3) It has been suggested that the grant was made in place of the previous annual payment. (fn. 4)

William, Bishop of London (1199-1221), confirmed the grant on condition that a competent vicar should be assigned. (fn. 5) In 1275 John, Bishop of London, confirmed the appropriation of the rectory but ordained that he and his successors the bishops of London should hold the advowson of the vicarage. (fn. 6) The bishops subsequently presented the vicar at every vacancy until 1495, when the Prioress of Clerkenwell again presented. (fn. 7) At the next vacancy in 1511 the right of presentation was disputed. The bishop presented on this occasion but the issue was taken before the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, who in 1515 decreed that in future the prioress and the bishop should present alternately. The prioress duly presented in 1519 but before her next turn the priory was dissolved. (fn. 8) The Bishop of London continued to present in his turn until 1852, when the alternate patronage was transferred to the Bishop of Rochester. (fn. 9) Later rearrangements of dioceses have resulted in the alternate patronage being transferred successively to the Bishop of St. Albans and to the Bishop of Chelmsford. (fn. 10)

The alternate patronage previously vested in the Prioress of Clerkenwell was exercised in 1553 by one H. Brown. (fn. 11) In 1560 the queen granted it to William Doddington of London. (fn. 12) The next presentation in this turn was made in 1570 by John Searle, probably the man of that name who had recently acquired the manor of Marshalls (see above). (fn. 13) The presentation was not again exercised in this turn until 1660, when John Searle presented. (fn. 14) It would seem probable that the patronage had descended not to John, eldest son of the first John Searle but to a younger son Edward (d. 1625) who was father of the John Searle of 1660. (fn. 15) The latter was probably the John Searle who died in 1665. (fn. 16) He left a son and heir, also named John, who made conveyances of the alternate patronage in 1677 and 1698. (fn. 17) Andrew, son of the last-named John Searle, succeeded his father but is said to have died childless soon after his marriage. (fn. 18) His widow later married Capt. Andrew Searle, a relative of her husband, and had two sons, Andrew and John. (fn. 19) In 1706 presentation was made in this turn by John Searle, and the new vicar was John Searle, formerly Rector of Willingale Doe, son of a John Searle and perhaps brother of the Andrew Searle who had died childless. (fn. 20) According to Morant the alternate patronage was conveyed by John Searle, the patron of 1706, to his sonin-law George Finch, who subsequently sold it to William Plummer of Gilston Park (Herts.). (fn. 21) It descended with Gilston Park and in 1836 was held by Robert Plummer Ward, who had married Jane, widow of William Plummer. (fn. 22) In 1848 John Barnes was patron in this turn and in 1866-74 Pemberton Barnes. (fn. 23) Mrs. Pemberton Barnes was patron from about 1874 to about 1916 when the alternate patronage was vested in the Church Pastoral Aid Society. (fn. 24)

In 1227, when the king released Clerkenwell Priory from the payment of a sixteenth on its Essex churches, the sum remitted included 4s. 2d. from North Weald. (fn. 25) In 1291 the vicarage was valued at £4 13s. 4d. (fn. 26) In 1535 the rectory was valued at £7 5s. 4d. and the vicarage at £13 3s. 4d. (fn. 27) In the following year the Prioress of Clerkenwell granted the rectory on a 21year lease at £6 13s. 4d. a year to John Avere. By 1555 Avere's interest in the property had been acquired by George Broke, and in that year the Crown granted Broke a new lease for 21 years at the same rent as before. (fn. 28) In 1560 the rectory was granted, along with the alternate patronage of the vicarage, to William Doddington. (fn. 29) From that time the rectory descended with the alternate patronage to the Searles and their successors. About 1826 the rectory was acquired from the Plummer family by Daniel Giles, owner of Weald Hall (see Manors). (fn. 30) In 1841 Lady Giles Puller owned 2/3 of the great tithes and 27 acres of glebe as impropriator. The vicar of North Weald owned 1/3 of the great tithes and all the small tithes and 14 acres of glebe. Their tithes were commuted in that year for £426 and £446 respectively. (fn. 31) It is clear from these figures and those of 1535 that the vicarage was better endowed than was usually the case when a rectory had been appropriated. That this was so was no doubt due to the special relationship between the parish and the bishops of London in the Middle Ages.

A vicarage house beside the churchyard was mentioned in a terrier of the early 17th century. (fn. 32) The present vicarage is a red-brick and roughcast building probably dating from the early 19th century.

In 1331 and 1411 there was a manorial chapel attached to Weald Hall, then owned by the earls of Kent. (fn. 33)

The parish church of ST. ANDREW consists of nave, chancel, south aisle and lady chapel, west tower, and north vestry. It is built of flint rubble, brick, and limestone. The red-brick Tudor tower and the chancel screen are of special interest.

There was certainly a church in North Weald in the 12th century, but the oldest parts of the present building date from about 1330. These are the nave, aisle, and chapel. The walls are of flint rubble with dressings of limestone and clunch and the roofs are tiled. Separating the nave and aisle is an arcade of five bays with octagonal columns and semi-octagonal responds. The two-centred arches are of two chamfered orders; the middle arch is narrower and lower than the rest. At its east end the aisle is widened to form the lady chapel.

In the south wall of the aisle is a 14th-century window of two trefoiled ogee lights in a square head, containing fragments of 14th-century glass. Farther east is a 14th-century south doorway; the door is modern. Farther east still, in the south wall of the chapel, are two 14th- century windows in the heads and trefoils of which is 14th-century glass consisting of tabernacle work. The sill of the most easterly window has been carried down to form stepped sedilia. At the side is a piscina, also of the 14th century. The stonework to the windows and the head of the piscina have been partially restored.

The east window of the lady chapel consists of three trefoiled ogee lights with tracery in a two-centred head. This is a 14th-century window which has been largely restored. At the side of it is a stone bracket with a flat top which may have been intended to support an image. The roof of the chapel is gabled, with trussed rafters of uncertain date. The moulded wall-plate on the south wall is of the 14th century. Separating the chapel from the aisle is a two-centred arch.

The north wall of the nave contains a 14th-century doorway with chamfered jambs and a two-centred arch with a moulded label. This is now blocked and a floor slab has been set upright in the recess. The original door, of battens with ornamental hinges, dating from the late 13th or early 14th century, has been left externally.

A carved oak screen, dating mostly from the early 16th century, divides the nave and chancel. It consists of five bays, the centre one containing a pair of doors. The side bays have four-centred traceried heads, subdivided by pendants which are a later addition. Moulded posts support a cusped and ribbed loft. This is said to be the only case in the county where the coved underside of a former rood loft has survived. (fn. 34) The lower panels have fluted panelling of 'linenfold' type and a rail carved with a running vine and conventional ornament. The doors have traceried lower panels. There is a lettered inscription: 'Orate pro bono statu Thome Wyher, diacon.' The cornice is modern.

The west tower was built about 1500. It is entirely of brick and is unusually high, in four stages with an embattled parapet resting on a corbel table of small segmental arches. The two-centred tower arch is of moulded brickwork. It consists of four orders, chamfered, moulded, and plain. The responds have two shafts each, with continuous moulded caps and spreading bases. The west doorway has double chamfered jambs and a two-centred arch of stone with a moulded brick label. The west window is modern except for the splays and rear arch. Across the southwest angle is a chamfered four-centred doorway to a turret staircase. This has a door of about 1500 with studded battens and strap hinges. In the north wall is a brick fireplace with a four-centred head. The windows to the upper stages are of single lights in three-centred, heads and in each wall of the bell chamber there is a window of two four-centred lights under a four-centred head. On the south wall is a sundial dated 1706.

In 1865 the church was reroofed. A church rate of 6d. in £1 was levied for the purpose and permission was given to borrow on the rates. (fn. 35) New pews were installed about the same time. (fn. 36) These, however, incorporate 18th-century panelling in the seats in the nave, chapel, and choir stalls.

In 1867 the chancel was rebuilt. (fn. 37) Presumably it had originally been built in the 14th century along with the nave and aisle, and this style was repeated in the new work. In the north wall of the nave there are three windows which are apparently of the same date as those in the chancel.

In 1889 the north vestry was added and a new ceiling put into the church. A new organ chamber was built and the organ renovated. At the same time the tower was restored and a new west window inserted. (fn. 38) The tower was again repaired in 1936, the brickwork being repointed and the bells rehung. A new wooden screen between the tower and the west end of the nave has been added within the last year. (fn. 39)

There are six bells, dated 1755, 1887 (the recasting of a 1712 bell), 1712, 1755, 1673, and 1803. (fn. 40)

The church plate consists of two cups dated 1563 and 1876 and a third undated; patens of 1567 and 1875, a flagon of 1730, an almsdish of 1682, two undated almsdishes, and another bought recently. (fn. 41)

In the south aisle there is a plain 16th-century chest with strap hinges, and also a partially restored 15thcentury chair. There is a 17th-century chair in the chancel. In the aisle is a modern octagonal font.

On the north wall of the nave, in the recess formed by the blocking up of the 14th-century door, is a floor slab with brass effigies of William Larder and his wife, three sons, and two daughters. It is surmounted by shields with a partially destroyed inscription and is dated 1606. Other floor slabs in the nave are to John Searle (1665) and his wife (1676) and to Thomas Arrowsmith, vicar (1706), and his wife (1702). The only other monuments are wall plaques dating from 1900 onwards. The stained glass in the east window of the chancel is a memorial to Henry Cockerell, vicar for 52 years, who died in 1880. The glass in the east window of the chapel is in memory of his wife.

On the south side of the church is a memorial to those who died in the two world wars.

The lychgate in the churchyard was dedicated in 1912. (fn. 42) On the north side of the churchyard is a burial ground for members of the Royal Air Force and the Essex Regiment. A stone memorial appears to have been recently completed.

The chapel of ease at Hastingwood was built in 1864 and consists of a nave and small chancel. (fn. 43) It is of red brick with diaper ornament and has a small bellcote at the west end. The east window contains memorial glass to John Stallibrass of Paris Hall (1872) and his wife (1868).

The church of ST. JOHN, Thornwood Common, was built in 1923, and was the gift of Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Hart. (fn. 44) It replaced a small corrugated iron church which lies on the opposite side of the main road a little to the south of the turning to Epping Upland. This iron church had been built in 1888; (fn. 45) it is now almost derelict. The new church is of red brick and has pointed doors and windows. It consists of nave, chancel, and small western bell-cote. It is also a chapel of ease to St. Andrew's.


  • 1. W. O. Hassall, 'Essex Properties of the Nunnery of St. Mary, Clerkenwell', E.A.T. n.s. xxiii, 24.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.; E.A.T. n.s. xiv, 112.
  • 5. E.A.T. n.s. xxiii, 24.
  • 6. Ibid. 25. The bishop was patron of the nunnery.
  • 7. Ibid.; Newcourt, Repert. ii, 643.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Lond. Gaz. 4 June 1852, 1585.
  • 10. Crockford's Cler. Dir. 1852 f.
  • 11. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 643.
  • 12. Cal. Pat. 1558-60, 386-8.
  • 13. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 644.
  • 14. Ibid. Simon Lynch, who became vicar in 1592, held the living for 64 years.
  • 15. E.R.O., D/DB T104; D/P 84/1/1; Morant, Essex, i, 150.
  • 16. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 198.
  • 17. CP25(2)/654 Mich. 29 Chas. II; CP25(2)/829 Mich. 10 Wm. III.
  • 18. Morant, Essex, i, 150.
  • 19. Ibid.; E.R.O., D/DW E11/3.
  • 20. Morant, Essex, i, 152; J. and J. Venn, Alumni Cantab. pt. i, vol. iv, p. 38.
  • 21. Morant, Essex, i, 151.
  • 22. Cler. Guide, 1836; Burke's Commoners, i, 71-72.
  • 23. White's Dir. Essex (1848); Kelly's Dir. Essex (1866-74).
  • 24. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1878-1914); Chel. Dioc. Year Bk. 1916 f.
  • 25. Rot. Lit. Claus. (Rec. Com.), ii, 193.
  • 26. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 21b.
  • 27. Val. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 437.
  • 28. Cal. Pat. 1554-5, p. 323.
  • 29. Ibid. 1558-60, pp. 386-8.
  • 30. E.R.O., Q/RP1 730-2.
  • 31. E.R.O., D/CT 387.
  • 32. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 643.
  • 33. E.A.T. n.s. xvi, 120, xx, 289.
  • 34. N. Pevsner, Buildings of Essex, 282.
  • 35. E.R.O., D/P 84/8/2.
  • 36. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1870), but cf. ibid. (1886).
  • 37. Ibid. (1886).
  • 38. Ibid. (1906). The present glass in this window is dated 1927.
  • 39. Inf. from the Rev. B. F. Adeney, 1954.
  • 40. Ch. Bells Essex, p. 440.
  • 41. Ch. Plate Essex, p. 142; inf. from Rev. B. F. Adeney, 1954.
  • 42. E.R. xxi, 168.
  • 43. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1937).
  • 44. Ibid. (1926).
  • 45. Ibid. (1902).