Chigwell: Churches

Pages 32-35

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

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Chigwell church (see below) has existed at least since the 12th century. The advowson was originally appurtenant to the manor of Chigwell Hall (see above). (fn. 1) By about 1254 a vicarage existed as well as a rectory. (fn. 2) The names of the vicars have been recorded from the early 14th century. They were presented by the rectors and at first held only permissive office. In 1374, however, a vicarage was formally ordained by the Bishop of London on the application of Henry Marmion then rector and Richard de Benlace, then vicar. (fn. 3) Shortly before this, in 1362, Sir John de Goldingham, lord of Chigwell Hall, conveyed the advowson of the rectory to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, (fn. 4) but there is no evidence that the grant became effective. In the same year as the grant Alexander de Goldingham, son of Sir John, presented to the rectory, and he did so on several later occasions up to 1386. (fn. 5) In 1388 Sir Alexander conveyed the advowson to John, Lord Bourchier. (fn. 6) Bourchier presented in 1392 and his son Bartholomew, 3rd Lord Bourchier, in 1400. (fn. 7) In 1404 Bartholomew conveyed the advowson to John son of William Doreward of Bocking. (fn. 8) This grant was confirmed in 1425 by Sir Walter de Goldingham. (fn. 9) In 1439 John son of John Doreward gave the advowson to the priory of St. Botolph, Colchester, and in 1440 the rectory was appropriated to the priory, which presented to the vicarage of Chigwell in 1442 and 1443. (fn. 10) The appropriation was short-lived. In 1447 a new rector was presented by the Archbishop of Canterbury and in 1451 a new vicar was presented not by the priory but, as previously, by the rector. (fn. 11)

In 1460 the priory presented Ralph Bird to the rectory. (fn. 12) In 1465 the king granted the rectory to Kemp's Chantry in St. Paul's cathedral, newly founded by Thomas Kemp, Bishop of London. (fn. 13) The office of priest in this chantry was united with that of penitentiary in the cathedral. In 1470 Ralph Bird became Prebendary of St. Pancras in the cathedral. (fn. 14) Soon after this the prebend was formally united with the offices of penitentiary and priest of Kemp's chantry, and subsequent prebendaries of St. Pancras were sinecure rectors of Chigwell and presented to the vicarage until 1848, when the rectory was vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the advowson of the vicarage in the Bishop of London. (fn. 15) The patronage has subsequently been exercised by the bishops of the diocese in which Chigwell has been, and the present patron is thus the Bishop of Chelmsford. (fn. 16)

In about 1254 the value of the rectory was stated to be 15 marks and that of the vicarage 10 marks. (fn. 17) In 1291 the church was valued at 25 marks. (fn. 18) When the church was appropriated in 1440 its annual value was said not to exceed £24 and the vicarage was then valued at 18 marks. (fn. 19) In 1535 the vicarage was valued at £18. (fn. 20) In 1839 the rectorial tithes were commuted for £900, and the vicarial tithes for £500. There were then 54 acres of rectorial glebe and 10 acres of vicarial glebe. (fn. 21)

In and after the 16th century the impropriators usually farmed out the rectorial glebe and tithes. Thus in 1540 the rectory was leased for 31 years to Hugh Fen of Stepney. (fn. 22) In 1564 William Colshill and Barbara his wife, who had succeeded to Fen's interest in the lease, conveyed it to Nicholas Fulham of Chigwell. (fn. 23) In 1569 Fulham sold the lease to Robert Spakman. (fn. 24) From 1635 to 1660 Thomas Andrews, a relative of Roger Andrews, vicar in 1605-6, was lessee of the rectory. (fn. 25) William Andrews was lessee in 1697- 1729. (fn. 26) In 1753 the rectory was being leased by James Crokatt of Luxborough. (fn. 27) On his death it passed (1776) to his daughter Jane, wife of Sir Alexander Crauford, 1st Bt. (fn. 28) In 1791 a new lease was granted to Sir Alexander for the term of the lives of his children James, John, and Cecilia. (fn. 29) The reversion of the lease was offered for sale in 1800 for £13,000. It was bought by George Clark of West Hatch (fn. 30) on whose death it was sold to William le Gros, also of West Hatch. (fn. 31) Le Gros died in 1820 and John Boote bought the lease. (fn. 32) Boote held it until 1848 when the rectory came into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. They evidently bought out the unexpired portion of Boote's lease about the same time. (fn. 33)

The Guild of the Holy Trinity had an altar in the parish church. (fn. 34) At the time of its dissolution in 1548 the guild owned a house and some 9 acres of land, and also had 60 sheep and 10 cows. The net annual value of these endowments was £1 10s. 6d. (fn. 35) The land consisted of Fishes, Little Berdes, and Brockesfeld (Brookhouse field). It had been given by Thomas Ilderton, stockfishmonger of London (d. 1527-8), for the purpose of endowing a priest to sing at Trinity altar. Ilderton also left the 10 cows to the guild. (fn. 36) The sheep were the gift of William Butler. When the property of the guild was valued by the royal officials in 1548 the net income was assessed at 41s. 6d., the value of the stock at £8 and the total value for purchase at £53 13s. In the same year the property was sold to John Whytehorne and John Bayly of Chard (Som.). (fn. 37) It is not clear when the guild had been founded. The earliest reference to it is in 1517, in the will of one John Fullham. (fn. 38)

The parish church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN consists of nave, chancel, south aisle, and chapel. The timber bell-turret at the west end of the aisle is surmounted by a small copper spire. There is a south porch and a vestry on the north side of the chancel. The walls are of flint rubble covered with cement and have dressings of limestone. The roofs are tiled. In the churchyard, between the south porch and the main road, is a double row of ancient yew trees.

In its original form the church dates from the late 12th century, when it would have covered the ground now occupied by the south aisle, which was then the nave, with a chancel somewhat smaller than the present chapel. Of this early church only the south wall now remains. In this wall is a fine Norman doorway with semicircular arch ornamented with double chevrons, panelled tympanum, segmental soffit, and free-shafted jambs. The window immediately to the east of this door also probably dates from the 12th century but has an inserted mullion and is modern externally. On the inside of the south wall on the east of the door is a holy-water stoup from which the basin has long disappeared.

In the 15th century a north aisle was added, the original north wall being opened to insert the existing arcade of four bays, of which the two centre arches are moulded, with moulded piers, capitals, and bases. The Scott family of Woolston Hall (see above) claimed the chapel of this aisle as their private property. (fn. 39) As they first obtained possession of the manor about 1475 it is not unlikely that they were responsible for this addition to the church. About the same time the chancel was probably lengthened and the western bell-turret added to the end of the former nave. The turret is made of eight stout vertical timber posts with curved braces and the whole frame stands independently of the fabric, being walled round at the time of its erection, with a window of three pointed lights in the west wall. Soon after this the aisle was extended from the old north door (opposite the present south door) to bring its west wall level with the bell-turret. This extension was carried out by Thomas Ilderton, the benefactor of the Trinity Guild (see above), who gave instructions in his will (1527) that he should be buried in the aisle and that an inscription on his grave should record the extension for which he had been responsible and also his gifts to the guild. (fn. 40) This brass inscription existed as late as 1810 but has since disappeared. (fn. 41) At about the same time as these works were carried out the nave was probably re-roofed. Many of the existing roof timbers in the present south aisle date from this period.

Early in the 16th century the church must have been in good repair, but a century later the chancel was said to be ruinous. (fn. 42) About 1600 a gallery was built at the west end of the old nave, on the order of Samuel Harsnett (vicar 1597-1605, later Archbishop of York). (fn. 43) At the Archdeacon's Visitation in 1638 it was ordered that the chancel floor should be raised by three steps and properly paved, that a new rail should be made round the communion table, the belfry boarded with deal and the spire shingled. (fn. 44)

In 1704 the church was undergoing repair. (fn. 45) In 1722 a second gallery, for the charity girls (see below, Schools), was built at the west end of the north aisle. In 1745 a subscription was raised for 'ornamenting the steeple', when presumably the weather-vane was added. (fn. 46) The roof of the old nave was repaired in 1800: this involved repair of some of the old roof timbers and the replacement of the lead covering with tiles. (fn. 47) Meanwhile, in 1793, another gallery had been added, and in 1805 a fourth was built. (fn. 48) One of the new galleries was probably that at the east end of the north aisle which was the private pew of the Hatch family, lords of Chigwell Hall (see above). (fn. 49)

The spire was re-shingled in 1835. (fn. 50) By this time the accommodation of the church was becoming insufficient for the needs of a growing population. In 1853 there was a proposal to extend the church by the addition of a south aisle. (fn. 51) This plan, which would have destroyed the south door and all the remaining Norman fabric, was abandoned, but in 1854 there was considerable restoration. This included alterations to the windows in the south wall. It was carried out under the direction of F. T. Dollman. (fn. 52) The church was not actually enlarged until 1886, when Sir Arthur Blomfield prepared plans upon which the present nave and chancel are based. (fn. 53) The old nave became the present south aisle and the old north aisle was demolished to make way for the present nave, which is considerably larger. In 1896 the nave and chancel were redecorated and the alabaster reredos and pulpit, both designed by G. F. Bodley, were installed. (fn. 54) The oak screen in the south aisle is a War memorial, unveiled in 1920. (fn. 55)

In 1552 there were three bells, to which three more were added in 1693. The three original bells were replaced in 1737, 1743, and 1771. All five bells were recast in 1910, and at the same time a sixth was added. (fn. 56)

The church plate is among the finest in Essex. There are two silver cups, one given in 1607 by John Penington of Chigwell Hall, the other inscribed 'a widow's gift A. A. 1633' (she was Alice Andrews, a relative of Roger Andrews, vicar 1605-6, and Thomas Andrews, lessee of the rectory 1635-60). There are four silver patens of 1609, 1632, 1633 and 1832, and a silver flagon inscribed with the arms of William Scott of Woolston Hall and dated 1713. The 1632 paten was also given by Alice Andrews. (fn. 57)

In the chancel is the well-known brass to Samuel Harsnett (d. 1631), Vicar of Chigwell and later successively Bishop of Chichester, Bishop of Norwich, and Archbishop of York. (fn. 58) There is a brass in the nave to Robert Rampston (1585), a benefactor to the poor of this and other neighbouring parishes. (fn. 59) In the south chapel is a wall monument to Thomas Colshill (1595), Surveyor of the Customs under Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth, and Mary (Crayford) his wife. On the south wall of the nave is a monument to George Scott (1683) and Elizabeth (Cheyne) his wife (1705). Along the roof of the south aisle is a series of painted hatchments of arms relating to families that have been prominent in the parish, including those of Scott of Woolston, and Hatch-Abdy of Chigwell Hall. The brasses of Thomas Ilderton (1527-8) and an unknown man (c. 1510), which were formerly in the church, have now disappeared. (fn. 60)

Numerous small bequests to the church of Chigwell in the 15th and 16th centuries were recorded in the series of articles on 'Old Chigwell Wills' by W. C. Waller. (fn. 61)

The ancient parish of Chigwell was divided in the 19th century by the creation of new parishes at Buckhurst Hill and Chigwell Row (see below). In 1935 the small church of ST. WINIFRED was built at Grange Hill as a chapel of ease to St. Mary's, Chigwell. It is a small brick building faced with cement. Adjoining it is an iron mission room, erected about 1886. (fn. 62)

The parish church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, Buckhurst Hill, was built in 1837 as a chapel of ease. In the following year Buckhurst Hill was constituted a separate ecclesiastical district. (fn. 63) In 1848 the minister there had an income of £60 a year, of which £40 came from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the remainder from pew rents. (fn. 64) Buckhurst Hill became a separate parish in 1867. The living was endowed with £200 tithes by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (as owners of the rectorial tithes of Chigwell) and was declared a rectory under the District Church Tithes Act, 1865. (fn. 65) The patron of the new rectory was the Vicar of Chigwell until about 1931, when the advowson passed to the Bishop of Chelmsford. (fn. 66)

The church consists of nave, chancel, aisles, north porch, and tower with pinnacles and spire. It originally consisted of nave, chancel, and tower, (fn. 67) and has been several times enlarged. (fn. 68) It is a stone building in the Early English style.

The mission church of ST. STEPHEN, Albert Road, Buckhurst Hill was built as a chapel of ease to St. John's in 1876. (fn. 69) The mission church of ST. ELISABETH, Chestnut Avenue, Buckhurst Hill, which is also in this parish, was opened in 1938. (fn. 70) They are both small brick buildings.

In 1848 a room in the old workhouse at Chigwell Row was being used for services. It had accommodation for 100 but was then overcrowded. (fn. 71) Chigwell Row became a separate ecclesiastical district in 1860. (fn. 72) The parish church was built in 1867, and in the same year Chigwell Row became a separate parish. (fn. 73) The living, like that of Buckhurst Hill, was declared a rectory, having been endowed with tithes which in 1886 were estimated to produce £343 a year, and 6 acres of glebe. (fn. 74) The advowson was at first vested in the bishop of the diocese, but from about 1874 has been exercised alternately by the bishop and the Crown. (fn. 75)

Bartholomew Hartley Foulger of Chigwell Row, by will proved 1930, left £1,000 for the upkeep of the churchyard, provided that certain graves and his family memorial tablet were kept in repair. In 1950 the whole income was spent on the churchyard. (fn. 76)

The Revd. Alfred W. Gross of Woodford Wells, by will proved 1931, left £100 duty-free to maintain Chigwell Row church and churchyard. In 1950 the whole income was spent on the churchyard. (fn. 77)

The church of ALL SAINTS is a stone building in Gothic style. It originally contained nave, chancel, aisles, and west porch. A tower was added in 1903. (fn. 78)

The church of ST. PAUL, Hainault, was built in 1951, and in 1953 became the centre of a new Conventional District which includes parts of the parishes of Chigwell Row, Chigwell, and the Ascension, Collier Row, together with part of the Conventional District of St. Francis of Assisi, Barkingside. (fn. 79)

A private chapel at Turnours Hall, Gravel Lane, was used for public worship for some years about 1912. (fn. 80)


  • 1. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 140-2.
  • 2. E.A.T. N.S. xviii, 18.
  • 3. Reg. Sudbury (Cant. & York Soc.), i, 176-9; Marmion died in 1375. For his will see E.A.T. N.S. xi, 11.
  • 4. Challenor Smith, Additions to Newcourt, 29.
  • 5. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 142.
  • 6. Feet of F. Essex, iii, 209.
  • 7. Newcourt, ibid.
  • 8. Cal. Close, 1402-5, 297-8.
  • 9. Feet of F. Essex, iv, 5.
  • 10. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 140-2.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Ibid. 141.
  • 14. Ibid. i, 195.
  • 15. E.R.O., D/P 166/11/12. Several prebendaries between 1470 and 1848 presented themselves to the vicarage.
  • 16. Crockford's Cler. Dirs. passim; Chel. Dioc. Year Bk. (1952).
  • 17. E.A.T. n.s. xviii, 18.
  • 18. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 21b.
  • 19. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 140.
  • 20. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 437.
  • 21. E.R.O., D/CT 78. At that time the Revd. A. R. Chauvel, Prebendary of St. Pancras, was also vicar.
  • 22. Cat. Anct. D. iii, A. 5524; Newcourt, Repert. ii, 141.
  • 23. Ibid.
  • 24. C3/62/52.
  • 25. E.R.O., D/AEV/5, 7.
  • 26. E.R.O., D/AEV/16-21.
  • 27. E.R.O., D/DB T337.
  • 28. Lysons, Environs of London (1810), i, 648.
  • 29. Ibid.; E.R.O., D/DB T337.
  • 30. Lysons, op. cit. i, 648. For a survey of the glebe of the rectory and of all tithe payers c. 1800 see E.R.O., D/P 166/3/3.
  • 31. Ibid.
  • 32. White's Dir. Essex (1848), 415; E.R.O., D/P 166/11/2-11; E.R.O., D/CT 78.
  • 33. E.R.O., D/P 166/11/12; ibid. 166/ 3/3.
  • 34. E.A.T. N.S. x, 236-8.
  • 35. Ibid. The gross income was 43s. 4d. Reserved rents of 7s. 10d. and an annual payment of 5s. to the poor were chargeable against this.
  • 36. Ibid. 238. For Ilderton's will see ibid. 316. He also extended the north aisle (see below).
  • 37. E.A.T. n.s. x, 238; Cal. Pat. 1547-8, 287.
  • 38. Archd. Essex 3 Sell.
  • 39. E.R.O., D/DEs M82, L3. Many members of the family were buried in this chapel.
  • 40. E.A.T. n.s. x, 316.
  • 41. Lysons, Environs of London (1810), i, 647.
  • 42. E.R.O., D/AEA/14.
  • 43. Chigwell Register (1907), 14.
  • 44. E.R.O., D/AEV/7.
  • 45. Ibid. 17.
  • 46. E.R.O., D/P 166/8/11. The copper covering was not paid for by this subscription. This came much later.
  • 47. E.R.O., D/P 166/8/10.
  • 48. Ibid. 166/5/6.
  • 49. E.A.T. n.s. xii, 137 f. Probably the 1805 gallery, since James Hatch acquired Chigwell Hall in 1800.
  • 50. E.R.O., 166/5/6.
  • 51. Ibid. 166/8/11.
  • 52. E.A.T. n.s. xii, 138.
  • 53. E.R.O., D/P 166/8/11.
  • 54. E.R. v, 65.
  • 55. E.R. xxx, 46.
  • 56. Ch. Bells Essex, 209; E.R. xix, 204.
  • 57. Ch. Plate Essex, 98. The 1607 plate illustrated, p. 122.
  • 58. For Harsnett see E.R. xxi, 21 and li, 9. For his brass see V.C.H. Essex, ii, 544. It was originally set over his grave in the old chancel, now the south chapel.
  • 59. Rampston was buried in Chingford church: E.A.T. n.s. x, 186.
  • 60. For Ilderton's brass see above. For the unknown man see E.A.T. N.S. x, 185.
  • 61. E.A.T. n.s. x, 237, 312; xi, 10, 150, 335.
  • 62. St. Winifred's was the gift of Mr. J. Sanders; for the iron room see Kelly's Dir. Essex (1886, 1890).
  • 63. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1859, 1933).
  • 64. E.R.O., D/P 166/3/3.
  • 65. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1895); E.R.O., D/P 166/3/3. The Act was 28 & 29 Vict. c.42.
  • 66. Kelly's Dir. Essex, passim.
  • 67. White's Dir. Essex (1848).
  • 68. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1933); Buckhurst Hill, pub. J. W. Phelp (c. 1897: a local handbk.).
  • 69. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1933).
  • 70. Inf. from Canon I. Whitehouse, Rector of Buckhurst Hill.
  • 71. E.R.O., D/P 166/3/3.
  • 72. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1870).
  • 73. Ibid.
  • 74. Ibid. (1886).
  • 75. Ibid. (1870 f.).
  • 76. Char. Com. Recs.
  • 77. Ibid.
  • 78. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1933).
  • 79. Inf. from the Revd. P. H. Wingham.
  • 80. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1912); inf. from Mrs. Beattie of Turnours Hall. The chapel is still used for private services.