High Laver: Church

Pages 93-95

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



The advowson of High Laver was held by the lords of the capital manor until 1315. (fn. 1) In that year Alcher son of Henry retained the advowson when he granted the manor to his son Henry and Henry's wife Beatrice. (fn. 2) In 1331 and 1334 Alcher presented to the church. (fn. 3) In 1337 he converted his interest in the advowson into a life interest with remainder to Sir John de Shardelowe for life and then to John, son of Sir John, in tail. (fn. 4) In 1366 William de Ferrers, probably Lord Ferrers of Groby (d. 1371), presented. (fn. 5) Later presentations were made by John de Beston and others in 1398, by William, Lord Ferrers of Groby (d. 1445), in 1400, and by John Gwyne and others in 1426. (fn. 6) By 1438 the advowson again belonged to the lord of the capital manor. (fn. 7) It then descended with the manor until soon after 1662 when the manor passed to coheiresses, Sarah, wife of Jacob Foster, and Martha, wife of Richard Matthews. (fn. 8) In 1683 Sarah and Jacob Foster, Martha and Richard Matthews, Samuel and Mary Lewin, and Joseph Reeve conveyed the advowson to George Cole and John Knapp. (fn. 9) In 1710 George Cole presented and in 1727 William Cheval. (fn. 10) In 1729 the advowson was held by the rector, Martin Hall, who in that year sold it to Alexander Cleeve. (fn. 11) After Hall's death in 1734 Alexander Cleeve presented his son John. (fn. 12) Hall had encumbered the living with many debts. (fn. 13) John Cleeve devised the advowson to his nephew Thomas Velley. (fn. 14) In 1778, after Cleeve's death, Thomas Velley presented his brother-in-law Richard Budworth who held the living until his death in 1805. (fn. 15) Afterwards Richard Budworth's trustees held the patronage until his son Philip was old enough to become rector and to hold the advowson. (fn. 16) After Philip Budworth's death in 1861 the advowson was held by Captain Budworth, grandson of Richard Budworth, until his death in 1885. (fn. 17) It was then held by Captain Budworth's trustees until after 1906. (fn. 18) In 1912 and 1914 the living was in the gift of Mrs. Heales. (fn. 19) By 1922 the advowson was held by Canon R. D. Budworth who retained it until his death in about 1938. (fn. 20) In 1940 and 1941 it was held by the Revd. D. P. D. Budworth. (fn. 21) Since 1942 it has been in the gift of the Bishop of Chelmsford, (fn. 22) and since 1945 has been united with that of Magdalen Laver. (fn. 23)

In about 1254 and in 1295 the rectory was valued at 16 marks. (fn. 24) In 1428 the church was still taxed on this valuation. In 1535 the rectory was valued at £14 1s. 6d. (fn. 25) In 1637 there were about 47 acres of glebe. (fn. 26) In 1848 the tithes were commuted for £520; there were then 63 acres of glebe. (fn. 27)

In 1637 a terrier described the rectory as consisting of 'a parsonage-house, a kitchen by itself, a barn, a stable, and a hay-house, also an orchard, a garden-plat, a little court-yard and a great outer yard'. (fn. 28) A separate kitchen was a feature of the parsonages at all three Lavers in the 17th century and was certainly a survival from medieval times. No mention was made of a separate kitchen in a terrier of 1810 although the lathand-plaster house still existed then. (fn. 29) Shortly before he died in 1805 Richard Budworth had plans drawn up for rebuilding the rectory. (fn. 30) On his death, however, the plan was abandoned and it was not until shortly after 1864 that the old parsonage was pulled down and a new one built on nearly the same site. (fn. 31) The present building is a large red brick gabled house, part of it of three stories. It ceased to be used as a parsonage when the living was united with that of Magdalen Laver and it is now a private house called High Laver House.

The parish church of ALL SAINTS consists of nave, chancel, west tower, south porch, and north vestry. The walls are of flint rubble roughly coursed, particularly in the chancel. Roman brick is found among the rubble and forms some of the quoins. Most of the dressings, originally of clunch, have been replaced.

The nave was built late in the 12th century. It retains one small round-headed window in the north wall. West of this is an original doorway, partly restored, which now leads to the vestry. It has a semicircular arch and chamfered imposts.

The chancel, probably built about 1200, has seven lancets with pointed heads. There are two in each of the north and south walls and three graduated lancets at the east end; all are much restored.

Two doorways, one in the north wall of the chancel and one in the south wall of the nave, are probably of the 13th century. The former is now blocked but the arch in clunch is visible externally. The piscina, which has a trefoiled head and a double drain, may be of the 13th century. There are fragments of 13th- or 14thcentury glass in the small nave window.

The tower, of three stages, appears to have been added about 1340. (fn. 32) It was originally of flint rubble, but this is now mostly plastered and much of the tower has been rebuilt in brick. The moulded tower arch is sharply pointed. In the west wall, but not axial with the arch, is a good 14th-century window with a pointed arch and two ogee-headed lights. There is a blocked window in the second stage of the tower on the north side. The chancel arch was probably rebuilt in the 14th century. The responds and head are finely moulded. It has spread considerably at springing level and this may have caused the arch itself to drop, giving the unusual three-centred shape.

Late in the 14th or early in the 15th century four new windows were inserted in the nave and one in the chancel. These are all square-headed externally with label moulds and head stops. Internally the arches are three- or four-centred. The tracery, which has all been replaced, was probably originally of this date and has been copied with fair accuracy. (fn. 33)

In the 15th or 16th century the roofs of the chancel and nave, which are ceiled in except for the plates and tie-beams, were renewed.

In 1737 the vestry agreed that the tower should be repaired and that 'one Tarling should undertake it by the day and put up a brick buttress and restore the plaistering where it is necessary, the parish finding all materials'. (fn. 34) The south-west buttresses may have been rebuilt in brick at this time as a result of this decision. In about 1789 the spire and part of the tower were found to be ruinous and were taken down. (fn. 35) The upper stage of the tower, and probably the south-west buttresses, were rebuilt in red brick for some £200. (fn. 36) The parapet is castellated and there are round-headed windows to the belfry. The octagonal spire is shingled.

A general restoration of the church possibly took place in 1865, when the font and tomb of John Locke were repaired. (fn. 37) The south porch and the vestry appear to date from this period. The porch, which is of flint with a timber superstructure, replaced a plastered porch (fn. 38) of unknown date. The vestry, on the north side of the nave, is of flint with limestone dressings.

In 1873 an organ was built in the chancel. (fn. 39) In 1927 the chancel was altered, the choir stalls and a 19th-century stone pulpit being cleared away and the organ moved to the west end. The alterations cost £127 of which £43 was contributed by the Rhode Island Society of America. (fn. 40)

The font, which stands in the tower, dates from the middle of the 14th century. It has an octagonal bowl on each face of which is a quatrefoil panel enclosing a shield. The prayer desk in the chancel is a memorial to those killed in the First World War (fn. 41) and the oak pulpit is of the same style and date.

There is one bell in use and a small disused sanctus bell. In 1552 there were two bells in the steeple weighing about 18 cwt., two 'rogacione bells' weighing 9 lb., and a sanctus bell of 3 lb. (fn. 42) In about 1768 there were three bells. (fn. 43) In about 1790 the parishioners agreed that 'one large bell and a small bell or Saints Bell only shall be hung in the steeple of the church instead of three bells and that two of the said three bells shall be sold' and the money used to help defray the cost of rebuilding the steeple. (fn. 44) In 1866 the cost of a new bell, evidently a replacement, was raised by a rate of 4d. (fn. 45) The sanctus bell is inscribed 'XPE AUDI NOS'. (fn. 46) It is probably of the 14th century and is one of the few remaining medieval sanctus bells in Essex. (fn. 47)

From 1657-8, or earlier, the church owned Bell Acre (1 a. 3 r.), in the north-east of the parish. (fn. 48) The rent from this land, which was £1 a year until at least 1805, was usually spent on church repairs in the 18th and 19th centuries. (fn. 49) In 1921 the rector informed the Charity Commissioners that the rent had been applied to church expenses since before 1915. (fn. 50) In 1945 dividends of £2 were spent in maintaining the church grounds. (fn. 51) In 1952 the land was sold for £120. (fn. 52)

Nearly all the church plate was given by Sir Francis Masham, Bt., and his son Samuel, Lord Masham (d. 1758). It includes two silver cups, one of 1674 given by Sir Francis and one of 1735 given by Lord Masham; two silver patens, one undated but given by Sir Francis, and one of 1735 given by Lord Masham; and a silver almsdish dated 1724 and given by Lord Masham in 1735. (fn. 53)

In the chancel is a brass to Myrabyll (Mirabel), wife of Edward Sulyard (c. 1495). (fn. 54) There are figures of a man in 15th-century armour and a woman in a fullskirted gown and a pedimented head-dress. Below are figures of four sons and one daughter and a rhymed inscription. There are floor slabs in the chancel to Sir Francis Masham (1723) and his granddaughter Elizabeth Masham (1724). On the north wall is a marble tablet to Damaris, widow of Ralph Cudworth, Master of Christ's College, Cambridge. (fn. 55) The epitaph is thought to have been composed by John Locke. (fn. 56) Also in the chancel are tablets to Samuel Lowe (1709), Richard Budworth (1805), and Philip Budworth (1861), rectors. In about 1835 there was in the chancel a broken brass plate bearing an imperfect inscription in ancient characters in memory of Robert Ramsey (probably died about 1436) and his wife Joan; (fn. 57) this plate has now disappeared.

Outside the south wall of the nave is the brick altar tomb of John Locke (1704). A mural tablet, originally above the tomb, was moved inside the church for preservation in 1932, (fn. 58) the tercentenary of Locke's birth. Outside the church near the east end there are many other altar tombs, of the Budworth, Cleeve, Velley, and Masham families.

There is a chapel of ease at Matching Green dedicated to ST. EDMUND. It was built in 1874 (fn. 59) at the expense of Francis R. Miller, Vicar of Kineton (Warws.). (fn. 60) It is of yellow brick with a small western bell-cote. It consists of a nave and chancel. In 1945 it was transferred to the ecclesiastical parish of Matching. (fn. 61)


  • 1. Cal. Inq. p.m. iv, p. 112; Feet of F. Essex, ii, 156.
  • 2. Feet of F. Essex, ii, 156.
  • 3. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 368.
  • 4. Feet of F. Essex, iii, 41.
  • 5. Newcourt, Repert, ii, 368.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. CP25(2)/655 Mich. 35 Chas. II.
  • 10. J. Bacon, Thesaurus, 615.
  • 11. P. J. Budworth, Memorials of Greensted-Budworth, Chipping Ongar, and High Laver, 35-36. Budworth said that before 1729 there had been 'several changes of patrons rapidly succeeding each other'.
  • 12. Ibid. In J. Bacon, Thesaurus, 615, however, there is a record that a year before Alexander Cleeve presented in 1734, John Turvin presented.
  • 13. P. J. Budworth, Mems. of Greensted- Budworth etc. 35-36.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Ibid. Budworth says that in 1777 Thomas Velley sold the advowson to Richard Budworth who bought it in order to present his son Richard, husband of Thomas Velley's sister. According, however, to the Bishop of London's certificate of institution (E331/41) Thomas Velley presented to the living in 1778. What probably happened was that Thomas Velley presented his brother in law.
  • 16. P. J. Budworth, Mems. of Greensted- Budworth etc. 36; Cler. Guide, 1817 f.; Clergy List, 1845 f.
  • 17. P. J. Budworth, Mems. of Greensted- Budworth etc. 36; Clergy List, 1864. For the Budworths see also Greenstead.
  • 18. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1890, 1902, 1906).
  • 19. Ibid. (1912, 1914).
  • 20. Ibid. (1922, 1926, 1929, 1933) Chel. Dioc. Year Bk. 1938.
  • 21. Chel. Dioc. Year Bk. 1940, 1941.
  • 22. Ibid. 1942 f.
  • 23. Crockford's Cler. Dir. (1951-2); inf. from the Revd. W. D. Topping.
  • 24. Lunt, Val. of Norwich, 337; Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 21.
  • 25. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 437.
  • 26. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 368.
  • 27. E.R.O., D/P 111/27/2. Tithes of the glebe were not included in the £520.
  • 28. Newcourt, Repert. ii, 368.
  • 29. E.R.O., D/P 111/3/2.
  • 30. P. J. Budworth, Mems. of Greensted- Budworth etc. 36.
  • 31. Ibid.
  • 32. Hist. Mon. Com. Essex, ii, 130.
  • 33. Early-19th-cent. engravings (E.R.O., Prints, High Laver) show much the same tracery.
  • 34. E.R.O., D/P 111/8/2.
  • 35. Ibid.
  • 36. Ibid. Of this, £150 was borrowed from Thomas Speed of Harlow, maltster, because the parishioners were unwilling that so large a sum as £200 should be raised by one rate.
  • 37. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1886).
  • 38. Sketch dated 1821: E.R.O. Prints, High Laver.
  • 39. Vestry Minute Book 1863-1943, in possession of the rector.
  • 40. Ibid. The society's contribution was in memory of Roger Williams, founder of the colony, who was married at High Laver in 1629.
  • 41. Inscription in situ.
  • 42. E.A.T. n.s. ii, 228-9.
  • 43. Morant, Essex, i, 141.
  • 44. E.R.O., D/P 111/8/2.
  • 45. Vestry Minute Book 1863-1943; Ch. Bells Essex, 316.
  • 46. Ch. Bells Essex, 316.
  • 47. E.A.T. n.s. xxi, 217.
  • 48. E.R.O., D/P 111/8/1; ibid. D/P 111/27/2.
  • 49. E.R.O., D/P 111/8/2.
  • 50. Char. Com. Files.
  • 51. Ibid.
  • 52. Ibid.
  • 53. Ch. Plate Essex, 136.
  • 54. E.A.T. n.s. vii, 13-17.
  • 55. Dr. Cudworth and his wife were parents of Damaris, second wife of Sir Francis Masham, 3rd Bt.
  • 56. Undated cutting c. 1830: E.R.O. Prints, High Laver.
  • 57. T. Wright, Hist. Essex, ii, 348 note.
  • 58. Inscription in situ.
  • 59. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1874).
  • 60. Ibid. (1886).
  • 61. Inf. from the Revd. W. D. Topping, Rector of High Laver.