History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 175

Target: 400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.



Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Essex

by Peter Kessler, 22 May 2020

Basildon Part 4: Churches of Great Burstead to Laindon (North)

St Mary Magdalene Church Great Burstead with Ramsden Crays, Basildon, Essex

St Mary Magdalene Church Great Burstead with Ramsden Crays is on the southern side of Church Street - the main road through the village of Great Burstead - and is flanked on the eastern side by Church Hall Cemetery. It is the original parish church for what later became Billericay. St Cedd is reputed to have erected a preaching cross here, making it one of the county's earliest Christian sites (the kingdom of Essex was reluctant to embrace the new religion).

St Mary Magdalene Church Great Burstead with Ramsden Crays, Basildon, Essex

A wooden church was built in the 600s, but that was replaced entirely by a Norman building of random stone rubble in the twelfth century. This in turn was largely rebuilt in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The only remaining part of the Norman structure is the nave which has a narrow Norman window. The north and south porches and the south chapel are early sixteenth century additions. A spiral staircase leads up the bell tower to the ringing chamber.

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Little Burstead, Basildon, Essex

The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Little Burstead, stands on the western side of Rectory Road, halfway between the junctions with New Road and Clock House Road. It is set in a picturesque but isolated rural location overlooking the Thames valley. It is mentioned in Domesday Book of 1086 and was held at that time by the bishop of London, whereas much of the local land appears to have been owned by William of Normandy's half-brother, Bishop Odo of Bayeaux.

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Little Burstead, Basildon, Essex

The church is late Norman in origin, built as a windowed oratory which was much smaller than the present building. The roof of the nave was lower and, until the 1400s,  the entrance was on the north side, not the south. Then the chancel was added in the mid-1300s and extensive alterations no doubt took place at the same time. The walls are built of ragstone rubble and of 'pudding stone', but most walls were plastered in the 1950s and 1960s to mask serious weathering.

Noak Bridge Christian Centre (Central Hall), Basildon, Essex

Noak Bridge Christian Centre (Central Hall), Noak Bridge, is on the south side of Wash Road, about twenty metres east of the junction with Barleylands Road in Laindon. It was opened in 1905 as Central Hall Wash Road, presumably for an independent evangelical congregation. The Basildon Glory Fellowship was established in 1978, possibly by the descendants of the same congregation. An extensive rebuilding project in 1999 saw it renamed as the Revival Centre.

Living Word Community Church, Laindon, Basildon, Essex

Living Word Community Church was, in 2011, meeting in the Steeple View Memorial Hall, at the north-east corner of the Willowfield and Osier Drive junction in Laindon. This congregation was formed of independent evangelical Christians, an increasing trend towards the end of the twentieth century when the established nonconformist churches were gradually losing numbers. By 2020 the LWCC had moved to The Green Centre in Pitsea's Wat Tyler Country Park.

Church of St Nicholas, Laindon North, Basildon, Essex

The Church of St Nicholas, Laindon (North), is on the northern side of Church Hill, a little over two hundred metres north of the St Nicholas Lane junction. The earliest part - the nave - existed by 1254 when the first-known rector was recorded for the church. The chancel and south aisle (the chapel) were added in the 1330s. The chapel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St Thomas Becket. The south porch and bell turret were added in the fifteenth century.

Church of St Nicholas, Laindon North, Basildon, Essex

The bell turret is a highly complex structure which consists of two turrets, one inside the other, which allows the timber frame to support the weight of the five bells. Two of those date from the fifteenth century and are inscribed in Latin. The tenor bell dates from 1588, the year England was threatened by the Spanish Armada. The date of the bell probably explains the popular but apocryphal stories about timber beams in the church coming from ships of the armada.

Church of St Nicholas, Laindon North, Basildon, Essex

At the west end a timber annexe was added, possibly in the seventeenth century or earlier. This became a priest's house, and was also home to the first school in the area - Puckle's School, which opened around 1837. In the early 1970s the church held various fundraising events to counter the cost of retiling the church roof. With the building of the post-war 'new town' of Basildon, St Nicholas lost its position as the main parish church to St Martin of Tours.

Laindon Christadelphians, Laindon, Basildon, Essex

Laindon Christadelphians ('Brethren of Christ') met in the building at the north-east corner of the junction between Basildon Drive and St Nicholas Lane. The meeting was formed out of the amalgamation of Bible students from diverse backgrounds who devoted their lives to a study of the scriptures. Between 2012 and 2016 the building was rebranded as the Open Bible Learning Centre, possibly as a continuation of the Christadelphian meeting.

Six photos on this page by P L Kessler (from 2011), with one kindly contributed by Ken Porter of Basildon Borough Heritage Society, and three by David Robarts (one) and Matthew Slade (two) via the 'History Files: Churches of the British Isles' Flickr group.



Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original feature for the History Files.