Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Ingatestone: Coal Merchants

Now the site of Barrington Close, in the High Street just to the south of The Furlongs, this photograph was taken in August 1983 when the house in front of the coal yard belonging to Charringtons was being demolished. Ingletons were the local estate and land agents. My parents used to buy their coal from here before we had central heating. The other coal merchant in the village was Porter & Hughes whose coal yard was at the railway station.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Blackmore: Revd Walter Layton Petrie

Original post 29 April 2008. Revd Walter Layton Petrie was Vicar of Blackmore from 1888 to 1922, and also of Norton Mandeville. During his incumbency he was instrumental in the restoration of both churches. The photograph comes from a collection given to me which was once exhibited in the (now closed) local library. If you are a descendant, it would be good to hear from you.

Updated 8 June 2008. Keith Doree in Sydney, Australia, E mailed to say that he is related to WLP.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Greensted: First Day Covers

I have ten First Day Covers showing Greensted Church (illustrated) to give away for the price of a stamped addressed envelope and an optional donation to St Andrew’s Church, Greensted (which I will drop in when I pass by). E mail me (go to ‘Complete Profile’ for link) if you would like one.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Greensted: The Truth

Open almost any historical book on Essex published before 1960 and you will see extensive coverage regarding St Andrew’s Church, Greensted, the oldest wooden church in Europe, attributed to be the resting place of the body of St Edmund in 1013. The building is a national treasure, its nave hewn from ancient timber, depicted on a First Class stamp (3p) in a set of Village Churches. P.H. Reaney described the church as “primitive and homely, typical of Saxon England ... upright tree-trunks, untrimmed but for the stripping off of the bark” (Reaney. p49). He includes “Greenstead Church. As it was in 1748” (illustrated here).

In the middle of the twentieth century it was thought that the church was built in 845. However, in 1995 the timber was tree-ring dated. Called dendrochronology, a sample was taken and its tree-rings compared to an existing dated sequence. A date of construction of 1060 – 1063 was established, destroying the previous story.

Simon Jenkins writes, “My prize for the best amateur guide goes to Navenby (Lincs), and for honesty to Greensted (Essex), for an insert confessing that recent tree-ring scholarship has lopped two centuries off its date” (Jenkins. p.xxxv).

“Even so it remains the oldest wooden church, indeed the oldest standing wooden building, in the country”. (Bettley / Pevsner. p436)


Greensted Church Guidebook
Bettley, James & Pevsner. The Buildings of England. Essex. (Yale University Press, 2007)
Jenkins, Simon. England’s Thousand Best Churches (Penguin, 2000)
Reaney, P.H.. Essex (Borzoi County Histories, 1928)

Friday, 25 April 2008

Greensted: Durrant's Handbook For Essex (1887)

The following is taken from ‘Durrant’s Handbook For Essex’ (Durrant & Co., Chelmsford, 1887).

Green’stead-juxta-Ongar. A. 681; p. 88; Rectory, value £280; 1 m. W. from Ongar.

This parish is remarkable for its unique Church (St Andrew), said to be one of the most ancient in the world. The walls of the nave are of well-preserved timber, being composed of the trunks of large oak or chestnut trees, split in two, roughly hewn, and set upright beside one another, their bottoms being let into a sill, and theit ops into a wall-plate. The whole edifice, which consists merely of nave, chancel, and wooden tower with shingled spire and two bells, one of them dated 1618, measures about 30 ft. in length by 14 ft. Although it has been several times restored, it is believed to be the original structure erected as a temporary resting-place for the body of St. Edmund, on its way from London to Bury St. Edmunds in 1013. It is lit by several modern dormer windows, in one which is a fragment of ancient stained glass representing what is supposed to be the crowned head of St. Edmund. The chancel is small, and of brick, with Tudor windows. The S. porch is new. There is a curious stone pillar-piscina. In the church is preserved a 15th cent. panel, probably from a rood screen, showing the martyrdom of the king, and very well executed. There are monuments to the Smyth, Cleeve, and Ord families. The Registers date from 1561. The Hall, adjoining the church, is a large mansion, with tasteful pleasure grounds and an extensive view.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Greensted: Revd. A Suckling. Memorials (1845)

The following is taken from Revd. Alfred Suckling’s book, ‘Memorials of the antiquities and architecture, family history and heraldry of the County of Essex’ (John Weale, London, 1845).

Had we not the concurrent testimony of writers to confirm the fact, it would be natural conclusion, that the public buildings of barbarous nations would be constructed of the same materials as their private dwellings unacquainted with the science which could teach how to shape the rough stone of the quarry, or to raise in air the self-suspended arch, the softer substance of wood at once would offer a more efficient material for the hands it artless workmen. Temples, in honour of their heathen deities, we learn, were so framed previously to the conversion of the Scandinavians, and after that event, their churches were hewn from neighbouring forests; indeed, timber appears to be the material most usually employed by the Northman for this purpose. One very remarkable building thus constructed is yet in existence in Norway – it is the church at Hitterdall, in Lower Tellemark, erected about the twelfth Centurv ; it is reared in balks of fir, now hardened and blackened by time, and decorated with carvings of scales and lozenges. The same fashion prevailed in this kingdom. “There was a time”, says venerable Bede, “when there was not a stone church in all the land, but the custom was to build them all of wood. Finan, the second Bishop of Lindisfarne, of Holy Island, built a church in that island, A.D. 652, for a cathedral, which not yet of stone, but of wood, and covered with reeds”. At York, we learn, the earliest cathedral was constructed of like materials, and a church f stone, erected at Lincoln, by Paulinus, was esteemed not only a prodigy deserving historical mention, but a work of art so wonderful, that healing miracles were wrought by it for the benefit of those whose faith led them to gaze upon it. The Abbey Church of Aethelingey, erected by the great Alfred, and of which the historians of that day speak in rapturous terms, was built only of wood. Edgar the peaceable, who flourished after the middle of the tenth century, observed that, at his accession to the throne, all the monasteries in England were in a ruinous condition, and consisted only of rotten boards and shingles. That this method of constructing sacred buildings was not totally abandoned even at a still later period, is evident from the circumstance that, previously to the foundation of the present cathedral at Salisbury, in the thirteenth century, the first business of the monks was to erect and consecrate a wooden chapel for temporary use.

We are not, however, so much surprised at this method of construction, as astonished at its durability; a very remarkable instance of which presents itself in the little church of Greensted, erected about the year 1013, and whose timber walls remain so strong and sound as to defy conjecture as to their probable duration. It is a mere log-house, built of the trunks of trees, like those described by the Anglo Saxon writers, and was originally erected as a sort of shrine, for the reception of the corpse of St. Edmund, which, on its return from London to Bury St. Edmund’s, in the year 1013, was, as Lydgate, a monk of that monastery, informs us, conveyed in a chest. In a MS. entitled “The Life and Passion of Saint Edmund,” preserved Lambeth Palace, it is recorded, that in the year one thousand and ten, (thirtieth Ethelred,) the body of Saint Edmund was removed to London, on account of the invasion of the Danes, but that at the expiration of three years it was returned to Bedriceworth, (Bury St. Edmund’s, in Suffolk,) and that it was received on its return from London at Stapleford. And in another MS., cited by Dugdale in his Monasticon and entitled “The Register of Saint Edmund’s Burr,” it is further added, “he also sheltered near Aungre, where a wooden chapel remains as a memorial unto day.” The parish of Aungre, or Ongar, herein mentioned, adjoins that of Greensted, where this church is situated, and through which the ancient road from London into Suffolk passed; and no doubt has ever been entertained that this rough and unpolished fabric of oak is the “wooden chapel near Aungre.” A tradition has ever since existed in the village, that the bones of a Saxon monarch once rested in this church; and although tradition does in some cases, as I willingly allow, nourish erroneous opinions, yet when, as in the present case, it is found to be divested of all and conforms itself so exactly to the records of history, and to existing monuments of antiquity, it must be granted to afford very strong additional testimony.

As a view of the church accompanies this notice of Greensted, with a ground plan, and detail of a portion of the edifice, on a large scale, I trust that a few words will suffice to make any one, unacquainted with the building itself, perfectly comprehend its peculiarities and construction. The timber walls, which 1 take to be of oak, though some imagine them to be of chestnut wood, are but six feet in height on the outside including the sill; they are not, as usually described, ‘‘half trees”, but have had a proportion of the centre or heart cut out, probably to furnish beams for the construction of the roof and sills ; the outside or slabs thus left were placed on the sill, but by what kind of tenon they are there retained does not appear; while tile upper ends, being roughly adzed off to a thin edge, are let into a groove, and which, with the piece of timber in which it is Cut, runs the whole length of the building itself; the door posts are of squared timber, and these are secured in the above-mentioned groove by small wooden pins, still firm and strong - a truly wonderful example of the durability of British oak. The wall on the south side, besides leaning a little out wards, inclines somewhat towards the eastward, hut further declension is prevented by the erection of brick buttresses, as these, with a modern porch of wood, in some measure conceal the original face of the south side. I have preferred taking my drawing from the north-west, where nothing intervenes to obstruct a complete view. By a reference to the ground plan it will appear that the east end has been destroyed, to admit access to a more modern chancel, and thus we are unable to determine whether, like most Anglo Saxon churches, this ended in a semicircular sweep. At the west end, a way has been cut to a tower, and here I had an opportunity of examining the very heart of the timber; to the edge of an exceeding good pocket knife it appeared like iron, and has acquired from age a colour approaching to ebony, but of a more beautiful brown; and if any conclusion may be drawn from the appearance of the whole building, I see no reason why it should not endure as long as it has already existed. The outsides of all the trees are furrowed to the depth of about an inch into long stringy ridges, by the decay of the softer parts of the timber, but these ridges seem equally hard as the heart of the wood itself; the north doorway, which measures only four feet five inches in height, by two feet five inches in width, is at present closed with masonry, but the aperture must have been original. It is generally thought that the wood work of the roof is coeval with the walls, and it was most likely formerly covered with thatch, as Bede describes, and as may still be seen on many village churches in the county of Norfolk.

The body of the church is lighted by windows in the roof, but these are decidedly of a recent date; what little light its interior enjoyed in its primitive state was probably admitted from the east end, if any windows existed at all; but if we consider the lawless state of the times, and the sanctity, and consequent value of St. Edmund’s bones, it will not be hazarding a conjecture devoid of reason, to suppose that it was illumined solely by the flame of torches.

How the interior was originally finished, cannot be now determined; at the present moment it is kept in a very neat and reputable state; its walls and ceiling are plastered and whitewashed, and its area affords sufficient accommodation for the population of this parish. Let us hope, that having escaped demolition during the dark ages which have immediately preceded us, no one can be found tasteless enough to meditate its demolition. The chancel is of red brick, and in the style characteristic of the latter days of Henry the Seventh’s reign; at the south-east angle is a piscina of a very unusual fashion, but no other architectural embellishment attracts our attention.

Sacred to the memory of Mary Smith, the deservedly beloved and affectionate wife of Craven Ord, and daughter of John Redman, both of Greensted Hall, Esquires, who, after enduring with Christian fortitude and patience a long and painful illness, calmly resigned her life to Him who gave it, on the 1st day of March, 1804, aged 39 years, leaving a deeply afflicted husband and seven seven children to deplore the irreparable loss of her conjugal affection, her maternal tenderness and her pious example. A tribute of the most tender affection, and an earthly memorial of those virtues which, through her Redeemer’s merits, are recorded in Heaven; this tablet is erected by her ever lamenting husband.

With the arms of Smith:
Here lieth Jone, sister to Sir Thomas Smith of Mont, Knight, second wife of Alune Wood of Snodland in Kent, Gent., who livinge vertuouselie 66 yeeres, died godly the xx of August, 1585.

Prope jacet Richardus Hewyt, A.M., hujus ecclesim quondam rector, in villa Eccles apud Lancastrienses natus, ubi natus etiam fuit celeberrimus ille Theologiae Doctor Johanues Hewyt, qui ob fldcm Carolo 2. exulanto, nefariĆ¢ perduellium sententiĆ¢ securi percussus est. Richardus patruo tam illustri nepos non indignus obiit 26 April. A.D. 1724.

With the arms of Warren, with an inescocheon:
Underneath lie the remains of the Rev. William Hamilton Warren, A.M., late rector of this parish, who, for 31 years, discharged the duties of his ministry in this place. He departed this life the 9th of November, 1825, aged 64. This small tribute to his memory is placed by his affectionate widow, Sarah Sindry Warren.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Blackmore: Jericho Priory

Many visitors to the church are intrigued by the house behind the wall known as Jericho Priory. Whilst some know that this was the birthplace of Henry Fitzroy (1519 – 1536), King Henry VIII’s bastard son, others are then disappointed to learn that the building subsequently was reconstructed.

Revd. Philip Morant, one of Essex’s earliest historians in print (1768) suggested that, “This is reported to have been one of K. Henry the Eighths Houses of Pleasure; and disguised by the name of Jericho. So that when this lascivious Prince had a mind to be lost in the embraces of his courtesans, the cant word among his courtiers, was, that He was gone to Jericho. Here was born his natural son, by Elizabeth Tailbois, daughter of Sir John Blount” [Morant. p57].

It is highly unlikely that Henry Fitzroy was conceived in Blackmore, as some locals would like to claim. What is more probable was that Elizabeth Blount, later married to Gilbert Tailbois, was sent for a period of confinement to Blackmore Priory when clearly seen in Court she was with child. Blackmore Priory in 1518 was a small, quiet, Augustinian Priory which nine years later was suppressed by Wolsey having only four Canons in residence.

The Nave of the former Priory still exists as the Nave of the Church. The remainder was pulled down by the Smyth family around 1540 – 1543 after acquisition of the site. The footprint of the Priory foundations is now in the garden of the private house, referred to as ‘Jerico’ in the will of John Smith, dated 1543. The family built Smyth Hall, to the south of Wenlocks Lane, and were present in Blackmore for five generations until 1721. Smyth Hall was also known as Blackmore Manor.

Morant says that the site of the Priory was sold by Thomas Smyth about 1714 to a ship builder, Jacob Acworth.

William Holman (1719), from whose manuscript work Morant drew material, wrote, “The manor of the priory of Blackmore lyes by the Church and be called Jericho most of it is pulled down & new built under the foundations … they dug up bones & found a coffin of lead about a yard away full of … bones. Jacob Ackworth of London Kgt a Shipwright bought the Estate of Mr Smith about 7 years ago” [ERO T/P 195/9 #20 f10]. Holman adds that Ackworth was “knighted at Portsmouth August 30 1722 by Kg George [IV]”.

Down the years the house has had various names: Manor of the Priory of Blackmore (or Blakemore), Jericho Priory, Jericho and, Blackmore House.

Architectural historian, Nikolaus Pevsner in the first edition of ‘Buildings of England – Essex’ (1954) referred to the building as Blackmore House. In the latest edition, updated by James Bettley (2007), it is referred to as Jericho Priory, giving it a date of c1715-20, perhaps a little later, and adding to Pevsner’s commentary, “On the garden front deep plaster coving fills the recess between the tower arches” [Bettley/Pevsner. p142]. Pevsner though thought the building akin to the mid-sixteenth rather than the early eighteenth century, giving Syon House near London and Ince Castle in Cornwall as examples.

David Coller in ‘The People’s History of Essex’ (1861) adds that the house subsequently underwent “many changes, improvements and enlargements, to adapt it to modern requirements. Sir Jacob Ackworth, who purchased it, at the beginning of the last [eighteenth] century … made many additions to it; and in the course of the works a small lead coffin, about a yard in length, and filled with bones was exhumed. Other memorials of the past have occasionally been turned up on this spot; but, save for the church near, not a stone or other fragment of the Priory now remains. Even the foundations have gone. We recollect some forty years ago [c1821] observing a stone which appeared to have been taken from the old ruins, upon which an inscription was still half legible, used as a door-step for a house in the neighbourhood. The shrubberies and lawns of Blackmore House have long since extended, and flower-beds have been planted, and kitchen gardens flourish in luxuriance over the very spots where the friars feasted and monks prayed” [Coller. p221].

The stream that feeds the moat around Jericho House is nicknamed the Jordan.

The proximity of the garden to the church appears to have been a problem. In 1817, the Archdeacon of Essex made a Visitation to inspect the church building. A catalogue of failure is recorded [ERO. D/AE/V36. Vol I. f95]:

Remove the Earth and Rubbish from the Church and Chancel where necessary as much as may. The Tiling is getting very indifferent and must from time to time be repaired and at such times new Lathed. Weather boarding and shingling wants painting. Shingling wants repair. Underpinning of Tower wants repair. West end Wall of Tower wants a whole colour. Remove the Ivy from the South wall. Grub up the Fig and other Trees on South side and stop the Eaves. Same side window frames so[uth] side want repair and paint. Fruit Trees East End of Chancel must be taken down and the Wall repaired and well secured. NE Buttress wants repair and a Pipe placed to take off the Water. Remove the Gutters from eaves on South side unless the drain is properly attended and kept clean by Mr Preston. Solution of Vitriol. Vestry must be repaired with White Brick.

Owing to the general bad state and conditions of the Church the Archdeacon did not make any Order but deferred doing so until he had considered the same more fully.
The margin note states:

The Chancel pavement of this Church as green as a Pasture Field and the Church the most cold wet and comfortless of any in the Archdeaconry there being only two loop hole windows on south.

Earlier (1766), Revd Thomas Smith described Blackmore as “a small village con[sis]ts about 50 families”, having “about 80 houses” in 1790 and “about 100 families – about 500 souls” by 1810, with “three families of note, Mr Crickett, Mr Waller of Fingrith & Mr Fearths of Jericho House” [Guildhall Manuscripts ms9558. Diocesan Book 1766 – 1811].

White’s Directory (1848) states that W.T Longbourne, gent, occupied the Priory, and Kelly’s Directory (1856) confirms the name as William Thomas Longbourne. Coller says that in 1861, “the manor of Blackmore, and that of Fingrith … belong to James Parker Esq.” [Coller p222].

About this time Jericho came under the ownership of Edgar Disney. It formed part of a more substantial estate covering Copyhold Farm, High House, Hardings Common Farm on Paslow Common and Burgess. This was a total of 255 acres in Blackmore and 207 acres in High Ongar. The assignment of the lease of the Jericho Priory Farm estate in 1872 referred to the vendor’s obligation to leave “all hay, corn, and straw in ricks, bins or on the threshing floors” [ERO D/Dw T73].

In the north aisle of the church are two memorials recalling Edgar Disney:

to the memory of
Edgar Disney
of The Hyde
Ingatestone Essex
and of
Jericho Blackmore Esquire
Born 22nd December 1810
Died 8th December 1881
He that believeth in the Son hath
everlasting life, he that believeth
not the Son shall not see life
St John chap iii, ver. xxxvi


This tablet
is erected by the Rev W Callendar Vicar of Black
more in grateful recognition of
the kindly munificence of Edgar Disney Esq of the Hyde Ingate
stone to whose generosity (independently of various donations from Parishioners
and others) the successful restoration of the Church of
St Lawrence is mainly due 1878

The churchyard was enlarged in 1885, through a gift of land by “Edgar John Disney of Jericho House … Lieutenant Colonel of the 3rd Battalion Essex Regiment” [HALS. DSA 1/15/3 f395]. Presumably this was the son of the above. E J Disney was churchwarden in 1885.

Thomas Reed Hull was certainly living at Jericho in 1885. His family resided there for some while. He gave land for a churchyard extension in 1899 [ERO D/C/C50/2]. Thomas Reed Hull, of The Priory Blackmore, was buried on 4 February 1915. The final record appears in 1927 when James Henry Hull, again, gave land for a churchyard extension but reserving exclusive right of a portion, but it was never used [ERO D/C/C78/2]. He was the Vicar’s Warden in 1926.

The Minutes of the Annual Parochial Church Meeting for 1940 record that, “Lady Reckitt also offered the gardens of Jericho Priory to augment in any way Church funds, either by way of a small charge for admission on Sunday evenings, or to hold a Sale of Work” [ERO A10631]. The house was used during the war for military purposes.

On the social side, in the 1960s the Church held an annual Garden Fete and a Flower Festival. The Rose Garden at Jericho Priory was also used “by kind permission of Mr & Mrs E B Marriage”.

The Marriage family were owners of Jericho Priory until the late 1970s.

Andrew Smith


Bettley & Pevsner. The Buildings of England. Essex (2007)
Coller. The People’s History of Essex (1861)
Morant. The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex. Volume I (1768)

Essex Record Office
Guildhall Library Manuscripts
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Blackmore: Durrant's Handbook For Essex (1887)

The following is taken from ‘Durrant’s Handbook For Essex’ (Durrant & Co., Chelmsford, 1887).

Black’more. A. 2576; P. 571. Vicarage, value £83. 4 m. E. from Ongar, and 4½ N.W. From Ingatestone.

This once-important place is now a quiet village. Jericho House, adjoining the churchyard, though much altered and modernised, was once a secret resort of Henry VIII. Here, in June 1491*, was horn his natural son, Henry Fitzroy, afterwards Earl of Nottingham, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, &c., &c, who died in 1536. On the occasional disappearances of the king from court, it was the common saying among the courtiers that he had “gone to Jericho”, whence that still common phrase. The brook, which runs near the house, is still sometimes called the Jordan. Here, in the reign of Henry II., Sir John de Sandford founded a Priory for Augustine monks. It was always a small establishment, not a vestige of it now remains, except a portion of the Church (St Lawrence), now parochial. The W. end of the original church is still intact. It is of massive Norman work. The W. door is very bold, though plain; over it are two wide and round headed Norman windows, and above them again is a circular window. On to this the present edifice has been built. The curious pagoda-like tower contains 5 bells. It is of timber, like that at Margaretting, and is perhaps by the same skilful architect, as that church belonged to Blackmore Priory. The nave and chancel are of equal height and width; and, with their aisles, have one common roof. The building is of moderate size, but light, and of good proportions. It seems to be of the 14th cent. (Perp.). The first arch on each side next the W. end is a plain heavy Norman one. Over each is a splayed window, perhaps once part of a clerestory, but now looking into the aisles merely. Probably the massive Norman work at the W. end was preserved to serve as the foundation of a stone tower, which funds did not permit of, and a cheaper timber one was afterwards substituted. The aisle-arches on each side are similar, but the columns on the S. are octagonal, and those on the N. clustered, all having plainly moulded capitals. In the S. aisle are no windows**, probably because the cloisters originally abutted thereon. In the N. aisle are some 2-light windows with flat labels. The E. window is small, with Perp. (16th cent.) tracery. The roof is of oak, with painted human portraits, the arms of France and England, quarterly, and other shields. Parts of the aisles are divided off in a very unusual manner by transverse walls, forming chapels. In the chancel is a very ancient and well worn stone: “To the memory of the just Prior, Thomas de Veer.” There are many inscriptions to the Smyth family, including that to Thomas, who died in 1594, and with his wife reposes on a fine altar-tomb. The Register dates from 1602.

* Henry Fitzroy was born in 1519.
** In 1877, three windows were inserted in the south aisle, i.e. ten years before publication of this piece.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Ingatestone: Prefabs

This photo was taken during the school summer holiday in August 1979 off of the path that links Norton Road to The Meads. After the Second World War there was a shortage of housing so pre-fabricated buildings were erected. The last group of these were demolished at the time when this photo was taken. The site was unbuilt to the north of Norton Road. Pemberton Avenue, as it became known, was only a few houses off of the Fryerning Lane. I remember an elderly lady telling me that at that time one could stand at the top of Norton Road and have a clear view across the countryside to Fryerning Church. I recall that this was one of the last prefabs inhabited. I never went inside one of them but understand that they were quite spacious. At the time I took very few photographs because the cost of processing was relatively expensive but thought that it was important to record the changes taking place in what was my home ‘village’. It was to be almost three years until the land, and a Civic Amenity Site the other side of the road, was redeveloped: ‘The Meads Estate’ was 63 council houses built by Brentwood District Council. It was the last large-scale development in Ingatestone and virtually the last Council Houses to be newly constructed in the area.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Epping: Copped Hall

High Country History Group (which covers the parishes of Greensted, Stanford Rivers, Stapleford Tawney and Theydon Mount) has the final meeting of the season this week. Visitors welcome. Admission: £2 (Members £1)

“Copped Hall Updated"

A talk to be given by
Trevor Roberts (Friends of Copped Hall)

Thursday 24 April, commencing at 8.00pm
at Toot Hill Village Hall.

Hear how the restoration of Copped Hall is progressing.
What are the plans for the future?

Area: Churches Open To Visitors

The following churches in our area open their doors to visitors this summer. See the history and heritage of these marvellous buildings. Enjoy the peace and tranquility. Consider the ongoing worship in these communities.

Blackmore (Essex)
(22 April to early October 2008)

Sunday: 2.30 - 4.30pm (from 4 May - with Teas In The Tower on the first Sunday)
Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 2.00 - 4.30pm
Wednesday: 1.00 - 4.00pm
Thursday: 2.00 - 4.30pm
Friday: 1.00 - 4.00pm
Saturday: Closed

All openings are subject to the availability of volunteer stewards and other considerations (e.g. for services). For information or confirmation of church opening time, go to "comments" field below.

Stondon Massey

Sunday: 2.30 - 4.30pm (8 June, 13 July and 10 August only).

All openings are subject to the availability of volunteer stewards. For information E mail me.

Please let me know if other churches in the area are open so that I may pass on details.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Stondon Massey: New Book. 'Stondon Massey. A Short History'

'Stondon Massey. A Short History' has been produced to coincide with the 'Through Changing Scenes' event held at St Peter & St Paul Church, Ongar Road, Stondon Massey, Essex on Saturday 19 April 2008. Edited by Andrew Smith, it draws on the work undertaken by the Victorian Rector of the parish, Revd. Edward Reeve. The book (in 2 parts, total 88 pages) also brings the story of the village up to date.

Available locally in aid of church funds, priced £3 (or £4 including P&P). For a copy send your details to my E mail address (via Profile - left hand side of home page).

Monday, 14 April 2008

Stondon Massey: 'Sacred Music' round up

What others have written about the BBC FOUR series which ended on 11 April 2008:

The Sixteen – the choir contributing to this series.

‘Music for grown ups’ reviews programme two on Palestrina

‘Ikon Arts Management’ provides overview to ‘Sacred Music’ series

The blog spot for the Diocese of Leeds Music Department – ‘Psallite Domino’ - says how wonderful the series is.

Rosie Bell on programme one; ‘The Gothic Revolution’.

The Daily Record (Glasgow) previews programme three: ‘Tallis, Byrd and the Tudors’

BBC Radio 3. Early Music Show. ‘Tallis and Byrd in London’ (broadcast Sunday 6 April 2008).

‘Forest Murmurs’. Father Brown on programme three: ‘Tallis, Byrd and the Tudors’
“What made it particularly interesting from a Catholic point of view was that the programme focused on the Catholic loyalties of the two men under an Anglican government. Most of the analysis of Byrd`s music was of his Catholic output and it was interesting to see the Petre`s family home at Ingatestone which was an important recusant centre in Essex.”
‘Petros’ gleans a review of programmes one to three.

‘Music for grown ups’ previews the final programme in the series (‘Bach for beginners?’).
Gerry Smith (no relation) described the English programme as “dull”. “Not if you live in Stondon Massey, Essex, Gerry! But good on you for mentioning the series”. It was fabulous.

‘A few words from Rob Mansfield’: a review of programme four and an appreciation of the ‘Toccata and Fugue in D minor’.

‘Scribo Ergo Sum’ contributor Ali Gledhill reviews the whole series
“Sacred Music has provided an important gateway for people who know nothing about the music they may be only faintly familiar with. It is a pity that so few people will have watched the series, although it is encouraging that the Radio Times has featured the programme each week as a ‘choice’”.

From Norwich. It’s the blog of the week! Simon-Peter Davies on the series.

A retrospective entry summarising ‘Sacred Music’ (the TV series) on Wikipedia

Although not specifically about the series, Chris Butler has written some notes about Byrd, Tallis and other composers with listening recommendations. ‘Classical music. For an idiot. By an idiot’ – I think not. A well written opus!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Area: Dangerous times in Elizabethan England

Following up the theme of recusancy in the 'Sacred Music' programme 'Tallis, Byrd and the Tudors'.

Following the death of Henry VIII, then his son Edward VI, England reverted to Catholicism under Mary, but returned to Protestantism after the accession of Queen Elizabeth I. This religious upheaval meant that Tallis, then Byrd, had to adapt to changes or face dire consequences. Quite how Byrd managed to keep out of trouble remains a mystery, Outwardly though he supported his Queen: privately he was a Catholic writing music for an underground movement.

Under Elizabeth, Priests had to swear an “oath of supremacy” acknowledging the Queen as “Supreme Governor” of both church and state. Attendance at church was compulsory. Those who refused to attend – called recusants – were taken to the Ecclesiastical Court.

The Queen made a number of orders including the removal of rood screens, defacing stained glass and breaking up of idolatrous images. Today this would be called vandalism, but then it was considered progress. It seems that Blackmore willingly complied with the dictates. Unlike a number of other churches, the 1565 visitation merely records “Oui bon” [ERO D/AE/V1]. (“Omma bene”, clearly written against other entries, Latin for “everything correct”).

Roman Catholic religious services were illegal in England and Wales between 1559 and 1778. The fear of revolution and invasion from Catholic Spain caused the law to be strengthened, in 1581 and 1585, whereupon the saying of Mass, even in a private home, was illegal; priests so doing faced the death penalty.

Locally, John Payne, priest to the Petre family at Ingatestone Hall was found guilty and hung, drawn and quartered at Chelmsford in 1582. “The manuscripts of the Custos Rotulorum preserved at Chelmsford yield up the information that in April, 1582, one John Gaye, of Blackmore, was examined as to his knowledge of ‘Payne the traytour’, recently executed and of his accomplices. He confessed to having said at Writtle that Payne was reported to have ‘belonged to one Master [William] Shelley [of Stondon Massey]’” [Reeve. p184].

If William Byrd had thought that Stondon Massey in 1593 was a quiet Essex backwater to pursue his religion, he surely must have considered this against the backdrop of Shelley’s indictment for treason and Payne’s martyrdom for being a Catholic priest to his patron, the Petre family, at Ingatestone Hall.

Reeve. History of Stondon. Supplementary Notes (1914)

Friday, 4 April 2008

Area: 'Tallis, Byrd and The Tudors'

Programme three in the series 'Sacred Music' has just had its first broadcast on BBC FOUR. Entitled 'Tallis, Byrd and The Tudors', we learned about these two Elizabethan Catholic composers who lived and worked in Essex.

Tallis worked for the Anglican Church following the dissolution of Waltham Abbey where he was organist between 1538 and 1540. He composed such pieces as 'If Ye Love Me', simply because as a musician this was the art professionally required of him at the time. The Church was the only place for his creativity.

Byrd, the younger of the two men, was quite a different character. He was a closet Catholic writing subversive liturgy for families such as the Petres at Ingatestone Hall. The present Lord Petre was interviewed at his home and viewers were shown paintings of William Petre, the first Baron and canny Tudor Secretary to the monarchs, then John, William's son and patron of Byrd. The Petre family were keen musicians and invited Byrd to Ingatestone Hall at Christmas 1585 for merrymaking and the odd secret Catholic mass. Byrd's settings of the Mass for Three, Four and Five Voices (part of the Mass for Four Voices sung by The Sixteen at Ingatestone Hall) are deliberately written for an intimate, domestic area. This is dangerous music.

The choice of Byrd's home at Stondon Massey, after the London Plague of 1592, seems to have been a deliberate hideaway from prying villagers and a walk across country to what was a hotbed of recusancy in the nearby village of Kelvedon Hatch.

Byrd is portrayed as a 'protest singer' in the composition of 'Why do I with paper, ink and pen' - a reaction to Edmund Campion's execution / martyrdom at Tyburn - and in the writing of 'How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land' (in Latin) to that Psalm 'By the Rivers of Babylon' (no don't mention Boney M please!).

These were indeed turbulent times! Repeated fines for recusancy and maybe anonymous burial at night fall in the churchyard at Stondon Massey.

A really great film. Will watch the repeat!

Stondon Massey: New Book. 'William Byrd. Some Notes'

Produced in readiness for the 'Through Changing Scenes' event and to mark the televising of Stondon Massey (Essex) on BBC series, 'Sacred Music', this 20 page booklet gleans a variety of local sources on the life and work of Elizabethan composer, William Byrd, who lived in this area for the last thirty years of his life, until his death in 1623. Contents include a transcription of Byrd's will and Revd. Reeve's writing on the Tercentenary Celebrations held at St Peter & St Paul Church.

Available locally at £1.50 (£2 including P&P to UK addresses) in aid of St Peter & St Paul Church Funds.
For a copy, E mail me (via Profile - on left hand side of home page).

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Stondon Massey: Sacred Music on BBC FOUR and 'Through Changing Scenes' at St Peter & St Paul Church. An update

Stondon Massey (Essex) will be on television tomorrow. The third programme in the series ‘Sacred Music’ (BBC FOUR. Friday 4 April. 8pm) features ‘Tallis, Byrd and the Tudors’. William Byrd lived for the last thirty years of his life at Stondon and was buried in the churchyard. We can expect a re-enactment of his burial in the film. The programme features music by the acclaimed choir, ‘The Sixteen’, recorded at Waltham Abbey. Andy King Dabbs, producer and director, spent five and a half hours with his film crew at Stondon Massey last autumn.

Meanwhile tickets for ‘Through Changing Scenes – a history of Stondon Massey church and village in words and music’ are on sale. There will now be two performances at St Peter & St Paul Church on Saturday 19 April: one at 7.30pm, and an additional performance at short notice at 4.00pm. The church holds only 80 people and demand for tickets has been higher than anticipated. See elsewhere on ‘Blackmore Area Local History’ for details.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008


Stondon Massey
April is a big month for historic Stondon Massey: on TV on 4 April, and ‘Through Changing Scenes’ on 19 April. St Peter and St Paul Church will echo again to the words of their previous Rector and historian, Reverend Edward Henry Lisle Reeve, and will feature music by local Elizabethan composer, William Byrd.

Due to rapid sale of tickets, there will now be two performances: at 7.30pm, as scheduled, and a matinee presentation at 4.00pm.

Comments on ‘Blackmore Area Local History’ are now being received. One response was, “It’s very informative and makes wonderful reading. The Churchwardens references are very helpful and I shall be looking some of them up when next at the Essex Record Office”.
You can now E mail me. Go to 'Profile' on left hand side of this page and click 'E mail'.

Summer is coming
Folks are out and about photographing Blackmore Church (see below for links). Summer opening to visitors begins at the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore from 22 April. Obviously subject to other needs (e.g. funerals) and the availability of stewards, opening times are Tuesdays to Fridays (Tues & Thurs, 2.00 to 4.30pm, Weds & Fris, 1.00 to 4.00pm) and Sundays (from 4 May), 2.30 to 4.30pm. These opening times will change in early October 2008.

The National Trust
With an early Easter, places of historic interest are re-opening for the summer season. This month I want to sing the praises of The National Trust. I visited Lyme Park, Cheshire, over the holidays and was once again really impressed with the activities laid on for families and children. It’s great to see them there! Sponsored by Cadburys – all chocolate gratefully received for the plug!! – Easter Egg hunts were in full swing as well as an informative ‘round the house’ quiz about pests. Children were told about Dave the Death watch Beetle, Wilma the Woolly Bear, Millie the Clothes Moth, Sammy the Silverfish and Bertie the Bookworm. This is teaching children about conservation in a lively and informative way. Adults too learn from this style of presentation and can discover more through reading the leaflet ‘A Future For The Past’.

Over the weekend I visited Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire – another National Trust property - and spoke to one of the informative stewards who was in the Library. In bookcases from floor to ceiling are 10000 books. But this is not a browsing Library. The books are there for show and must not be touched. The reason is that oil from fingers causes deterioration. So these books have become, understandably, museum pieces. I asked how they were checked for woodworm. Periodically volunteers dress up in white overalls with face-masks and place each book in turn under a “lamp” which detects spores.

Wimpole Hall and Home Farm – it’s lambing time now – is a great place for families, and many with children under eight years’ old were enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon out. When I joined The National Trust several years ago it had a slightly old-fashioned image. That cannot be said now.

In Essex the nearest National Trust properties are in Coggeshall – Paycockes and Grange Barn – and make an enjoyable afternoon out for all ages.

Returning to ‘singing the praises’. Top of the list of recommended links this month has to be the BBC / Open University series, ‘Sacred Music’. Go to:

This month’s links to other sites and blogs:
Unusual picture of bell tower, Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore

Another shot of Blackmore Church: comments about “loving Blackmore” and “Essex with its weather boarded spires”.

Can you help? Ancestor search for Susan Warwick, born Blackmore 1807

Francis Frith collection – includes local memories and things about the past

‘Keldon’ is a busy local historian who gleans a number of items for ‘History House’. I have picked up his latest contribution (
that refers researchers to a list of resources:

Other blogs covering the ‘Sacred Music’ series theme are:
‘Music for grown ups’ reviews programme two on Palestrina

‘Ikon Arts Management’ provides overview to ‘Sacred Music’ series

The blog spot for the Diocese of Leeds Music Department – ‘Psallite Domino’ - says how wonderful the series is.

Rosie Bell on programme one; ‘The Gothic Revolution’.

Stondon Massey: Through Changing Scenes - Saturday 19 April 2008 - additional performance arranged for 4.00pm

High interest in history event means additional performance

The congregation of a small village church is now to stage two performances of its village's history on the same day. With just over two weeks to go until 19 April, 'Through Changing Scenes - a history of Stondon Massey in words and music' has sold such a large number of tickets for the 7.30pm performance that it has been decided to hold another presentation at the earlier time of 4.00pm. Andrew Smith, one of the organisers said, "Interest in this event has taken us by surprise. We held an almost sell-out event at Blackmore in February. Stondon's connection with the Elizabethan composer, William Byrd has boosted ticket sales and we are fortunate that his life and work is currently being shown on BBC FOUR as part of the television series 'Sacred Music'. It was at St Peter and St Paul Church that Byrd was buried in 1623". He adds, "The church holds only 80 people so 'Tuneful Accord', at short notice, has kindly agreed to a 4 o'clock show".

'Tuneful Accord', who have clocked up 26 'Through Changing Scenes' performances to date in nearly as many churches, is directed by Christine Gwynn. The music at Stondon will feature short pieces by William Byrd as well as more light hearted pieces. The text, which Andrew has researched and written, draws on the writing of Stondon's Victorian clergyman, Revd Reeve. This one-off event is not to be missed!!.