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).
Widford, a small parish in the hundred of Chelmsford, derives its name from the width of the ford, which the river here presented - a circumstance sufficiently important to procure it that appellation, in times when travelling was rendered difficult and often dangerous by the necessity of fording the numerous rivers which everywhere intersected the country. The modern traveller, whirling in his easy conveyance over the smooth roads of the present day, may be inclined to smile at the apparent simplicity of such a derivation, but let him for a moment picture to himself the state of the kingdom during the Saxon era. Let him imagine himself journeying (even towards London if he will) without a hedge-row to direct him in his course; the face of the country obscured by thick woods; the half-tracked way interrupted by watercourses, which undrained bogs and morasses swelled to thrice their present importance, without any bridge to facilitate his progress or relieve him from the uncomfortable and probably dangerous expedient of wading through the stream, and he will, I think, readily acknowledge that a name implying the little opposition here offered to his progress, is not derived from a circumstance trifling or unimportant*.
The manor of Widford has passed in succession from Edward of Woodstock, who held it in the year 1329, to Roger de Mortimer, and to the families of Cloville, Altham, and Judge.
The church [since entirely rebuilt] comprises a nave and chancel, a north transept of red brick, and a small loft at the western end containing two bells. The whole is neatly and reputably fitted up, but not distinguished by any peculiar architectural feature. The transept appears of the age of Henry the Eighth, though its foundation has been ascribed to a period as late as the year 1604, probably on the authority of a piece of broken glass in the window. The remaining words of this legend are as follows:
Jacobus Altham Serviens ad legem
Dus Maner de Widford ac patronus
Istius ecciesiae, hanc capellam restituit
Ano Nmi 1604 cuius aia ppiciet Deus.
Now, a piscina finished with tabernacle work, certainly a century earlier than this period, together with the style of the architecture, justify the conclusion that Altham was not the founder of this chapel. I therefore supply the word restituit, in preference to fundavit.
The concluding part of the inscription, so much at variance with the religious ideas entertained in 1604, I cannot pretend to account for. The difficulty would be removed if we could possibly read 1504, instead of 1604.
In the interior of the nave is a board enumerating the benefactions to the parishioners.
BENEFACTIONS TO TUE POOR.
Sarah, Viscountess Falkland, in the year 1776, bequeathed two hundred pounds. And the Revd John Saunders, A.M., late Rector, in 1811, one hundred pounds; the interest of which two sums is to be distributed in bread to the poor of this parish who attend divine service, by the minister and churchwardens.
Benjamin Serjeant, formerly of Writtle, Gent., in the year 1787, bequeathed one hundred pounds stock, the interest of which is to be annually laid out at Christmas in the purchase of two coats and waistcoats, and two gowns and petticoats, to he given to two poor widowers, and two poor widows, parishioners of, and residing in the parish of Widford.
On a heavy pyramid tomb, on the outside of the church, and at the north-east angle, is this inscription:-
Sarah, Viscountess Falkland,
Lucius Charles Viscount Falkland,
Henry Howard, late Earl of Suffolk,
and daughter and only child of
Thomas Inwen, Esqr., deceased,
died the 27th May, 1776,
IN THE INTERIOR.
In a vault by the side of his relation and benefactress, Sarah, Viscountess Falkland, are deposited the remains of
William Hucks, Esqr., of Dulwich, in the county of Surrey, who died the 26th of October, 1804, aetat 72. To his domestic virtues, deeply engraven on her heart, his afflicted but resigned widow erects this last sad tribute of affection, in the pleasing hope of again meeting in a blessed Eternity.
In the same vault are deposited the remains of Sarah Hucks, relict of the above William Hucks, Esqr., who died the 13th of August, 1810, aetat. 77.
In memory of Eliz. the wife of Richard Judge, of Widford Hall, who died 25th Novr, 1780, aged 39 years.
Also, of the said Richard Judge, who died 9 Novr, 1787 aged 48 years.
Here Iyeth the body of Elizabeth, the wife of William Judge, of Widford Hall, who died Aug. 23rd, 1764, aged 62 years.
Also, William Judge, who died Jany, 14th, 1778, aged 80 years.
In a south window of the nave are these arms: Cloville [illustrated].
* The number of towns and villages in every part of the kingdom, whose names may be derived from this adjunct in union with some adjective, is at once an unanswerable argument in favour of the position that our forefathers knew of few local circumstances more fitting to distinguish the different villages than the one now referred to for instance, Widford (wide-ford), Deptford (deep-ford), Stratford, of frequent occurrence, (street-ford), Mutford (muddy-ford), Holford (hole—ford), Shalford (shallow-ford), Stamford and Stanford (stony-ford), Rochford (rocky-ford), Rushford, Sedgford, Woodford, Oldford, Brockford, Horseford, &c., &c., whose derivation is sufficiently obvious. Sometimes towns obtain their distinguishing appellative from the rivers themselves: as Chelmsford, from the river Chelmer, Orford, from the Ore, and many others.