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Gallery: Churches of Essex
by Peter Kessler, 12 June 2011
Epping Forest Part 9: Churches of Stapleford
Abbotts to Theydon Mount
St Mary's Church Stapleford Abbotts stands
atop a steep hill on the eastern side of Church Lane in Stapleford
Abbotts (or 'Abbots'). The church of this rural parish is now relatively
isolated. The parish name originated in the manor being held by the Abbey
of Bury St Edmunds from before 1066 to the Dissolution. The original church
may have been twelfth century Norman, and certainly existed by the fourteenth
century. The chapel was added in 1638, and survived the rebuild.
The west tower is of brown brick and was rebuilt in 1815.
The door and window openings were probably altered later when the nave and
chancel were rebuilt. The parapet used to be embattled, but is now finished
with a tiled coping. The nave and chancel were entirely rebuilt in 1861-1862.
Nearby, Tysea Hill Chapel (or Pyrgo Chapel) was probably built
in the mid-1800s as a rectangular brick structure with a porch and a bellcote.
Services were discontinued about 1937.
St Mary's Stapleford Tawney lies on the western
side of Tawney Lane, not far north of the M25 and Stapleford Abbotts, and
situated high above the River Roding. The parish contains no built-up
settlement, only individual farms and houses. The church consists of chancel,
nave with west bell turret, south chapel, and vestry. The walls are of
flint-rubble with limestone dressings. The roof is tiled. The bell-turret is
timber-framed and weather-boarded with a shingled spire.
The chancel was built about 1220, with the nave being added
shortly after. Signs of a blocked north doorway can still be seen. The south
chapel (seen on the right of the previous photo) was built about the middle of
the thirteenth century. The bell turret at the west end of the nave was probably
added in the fifteenth century. In 1862 the church was largely rebuilt and the
north vestry, organ chamber, and south porch were added. There are two bells,
of 1611 and 1630.
St Michael's Theydon Mount stands a little
way north of Bush Grove Farm and the M25, on the western side of Mount
Row, a ridge high above the Roding Valley. The original church appears to
have existed by 1236, at which time it was known as the Church of
St Michael & St Stephen. In 1611 it was struck by lightning and
burnt down. The present red brick church was built between 1611-1614 by
Sir William Smith, and stood at the time within the grounds of Hill Hall.
The church was consecrated by John King, bishop of
London. In 1834 there was a 'thorough restoration' during which a west
gallery was built specifically for the church band, the singers and the
servants at Hill Hall, the residence of the lord of the manor. The gallery
was removed in 1926 when there were fears that it might collapse. By 2011
the church seemed to be serving as a chapel of ease to St Mary's Stapleford
Tawney (above), while Hill Hall is now a women's open prison.