The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin (Old
Church), Great Warley, stood at the end of Church Lane, immediately
south of Great Warley Hall (and now the Southend Arterial Road). The
church existed by 1247, when the first rector was appointed in what was
then Warley Abbess, probably by Barking Abbey, which owned the parish.
It consisted of a brick chancel, nave, and west tower, and a wooden south
porch. During the Reformation, items from the church were sold off.
Shortly before 1730 the tower was destroyed by lightening.
It was replaced by a wooden structure, and contained three bells. Repairs
were carried out in 1803, and in 1833 a west gallery was constructed, but
the village centre was shifting northwards. A wooden mission church was used
in the grounds of the rector's home in 1892-1904 and the old church was closed.
It was pulled down not long before 1923. The tower survived on its own until
sometime prior to 1973.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin Great Warley
(New Church) sits in a secluded spot on the western side of Great
Warley Street, midway between Bird Lane and Warley Road. The church was
built on land donated to the parish by Evelyn Heseltine, who also provided
the capital to carry out the construction work. This church was the successor
to the old St Mary's, to the south (above), which had fallen out of use in
1892, and to a mission church at 'Fairsteads'.
The new church was built in 1902-1904, making St
James Mission Church redundant. In 1905 it was re-erected in the
parish of Baildon in Yorkshire. St Mary's was dedicated in 1904 and is
thought by many to be the foremost example of the Art Nouveau style. It
is one of only three in existence today. It suffered bomb damage in the
Second World War, when all the most important windows were blown out,
and suffered serious vandalism in the 1970s.