Archaeological finds provide evidence that the Great Baddow area was inhabited during the Stone & Bronze Ages as well as the Roman Era. A Roman Temple was built at the top of Baddow Road in Chelmsford – details can be found in the Chelmsford Museum.
Baduven to Great Baddow
The Doomsday Book of 1106 says that Great Baddow was originally called Baduven. Along with Chelmsford, Great Baddow was very small, little more than one street really. The larger settlements in the area were Writtle, Springfield and Moulsham.
By 1172 the village was known as Great Baddow, which is the date of the first baptism in St. Mary’s Church.
Much of the history here is centred on St. Mary’s Church which has traditionally been at the centre of the village.
First recorded details of Great Baddow when Great Baddow belonged to Algar, Earl Of Mercia and then his son, Earl Eadwine until 1071.
Great Baddow was known as Beadwan.
Saxon rebellion in which Earl Eadwine was slain & Great Baddow seized by William the Conqueror. William gave the Lordship of Baddow to the Monastery Of Holy Trinity at Caen, Normandy, which was founded by Matilda his queen. After a short while the Lordship reverted to the Crown
The Doomsday Book records Great Baddow as Baduven.
St. Mary’s Church history: Henry I gave the Lordship of Great Baddow to his son Robert, Earl of Gloucester.
Maud, Robert’s daughter and wife of Robert De Gernon, Earl Of Chester founded the Priory of Reppington (now known as Repton, Derbyshire) and endowed this Priory with the advowson of St. Mary’s Church, Great Baddow as a foundation gift. This association lasted for 350 years until 1537.
The main walls of the St. Mary’s Church are made of flint-rubble with fragments of Roman brick & tile. These are sturdy walls dressed against erosion by wind & rain with limestone, with some parts of the east being dressed in brick. The church was later added to in the 16th century. Parts of the old Norman church can still be seen in the Chancel’s East wall and the piscina between the chancel and the north aisle and the recess east of the organ probably originating from from this period.
The Book Of Fees records the name as Badewe.
During the reign of Henry III, the Lordship of Great Baddow passed successively through the families of the Earl Of Chester and Earl of Huntingdon.
Magna was added to the name of St. Mary’s Church. The Lordship of Great Baddow passed down to Robert’s son William.
William gave the manor & lands to William de Mulesham (Moulsham).
1300 was a busy time for re-ordering St. Mary’s Church: -
The south wall was removed to make way for an archade in the early decorated style formed of three arches with two interesting and very simple circular shafts and capitals with two responds supported by corbels issuing from plain piers. There is also a Piscina in the South wall near to the South aisle to the Chancel.
The South doorway is a fine example of Early English moulding and was removed during the changes and replaced on the new exterior wall.
The North wall was removed to make way for an archade and aisle.
The north archade differs from the south in that it has one circular and one octagonal shaft; the capitals are 30cm higher than on the south and the splays of the ribs are 7.5cm wider.
A strangely carved respond in the form of a head with bands under the chin & nose supports the western arch.
The West wall removed to make way for a tower, decorated in style with a fine sense of strength and power. On the ground floor is the west doorway. The jambs affording a good example of double-wave moulding with a hollow in between – a feature of the decorated period. There are two very worn carvings either side of the door. The north one resembling a sheep’s head perhaps drawing an analogy between the Good Shepherd and the local sheep farming and wool trade, which was England’s most important industry during this period.
At the north-west and south-west corners, the tower is massively buttressed at right-angles carried up three slopes. Above that level the tower is carried up with square quoins and, on the next stage above the door is a very fine two-lighted decorated west window. The next stage is lighted by single-light windows on three sides with the one on the east opening into the church just under the roof.
The next stage is the bell chamber which is lighted by four windows, formerly decorated in style with two lights each, but when the stonework became defective they were removed and converted into single openings with semicircular brick arches.
The tower is finished with an embattled parapet and is surmounted by an octagonal spire constructed of oak timbers. Framing consists of a central post, supported on cross beams with four principal rafters and cross braces from the central post to the rafters. Subsidiary rafters and purlins complete the construction which is covered with battens, boarding and lead.
The Norman Chancel arch was removed to make way for a wider arch. Only fragments, mainly of limestone, remain of the Norman Nave.
Richard De Badewe, born (in Great Baddow) of a Knightly family, became the Chancellor of the University Of Cambridge and founded University Hall that was later to become Clare College.
1381 - The Peasants Revolt
Jack Straw led an ill-fated rabble from St. Mary’s Churchyard off on one of the risings connected with the Peasants Revolt.
In 1381 Jack Straw led the peasants of Essex on the now infamous Peasants Revolt (also know as Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, and the Great Rising). They gathered in St. Mary’s churchyard before heading to London and Parliament to protest. The peasants revolt marks the beginning of the end of serfdom in England.
Although the revolt was unsuccessful it did lead to the upper classes reforming the old ways of feudalism. It was triggered by the implementation of the first Poll Taxes in 1377 and 1379. It is thought that a key cause for the uprisings was the Black Death (1348 – 1350) which killed much of the work force. As a result workers started to demand increased wages and greater freedoms.
In 1390 the Great Baddow Chantry School was founded. Margaret, wife of Thomas Coggeshall, endowed the first “Chantry”, in other words, provided for a Priest to sing (chant) Mass for “the good estate” of her family at St. Mary’s and to assist the Vicar. At the Suppression, the lands and income were granted to William Mildmay.
The Lordship returned to the Crown during the reign of Henry IV.
In 1440 the second Great Baddow Chantry School was founded. Thomas Kille endowed the second Chantry. He was Butler to Thomas Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester and then King Henry V. After Henry’s death he continued to serve Henry’s Queen, Catherine.
Chantry Priests also acted as schoolmasters in an age when little or no education was available to ordinary people and therefore any village possessing a Chantry School was extremely fortunate.
Thomas Kille died and was buried in St. Mary’s Church together with his wife.
The Priests appointed founded a Chantry School and acted as the Schoolmasters, thus providing Baddow with a school such as few villages would have been able to possess at that time.
St Mary’s Church Chancel had north & south aisles added during this period.
The north aisle being lighted by a three-light Tudor window and a fine lancet window in the north wall. The South aisle by two decorated two-light windows that probably replaced windows of an earlier date.
The south aisle to the chancel has a doorway on the south side. This doorway was once wider and higher and from the inside the original shape, especially the brick arch can be discerned. By this doorway there is a small recess, probably a piscina, as it is to small to hold a statue of a saint. The roof is made up of oak beams supported on a large moulded cross beam, with the other beams being of unusual section.
The chapels, (the aisles to the Chancel), clerestory and porch are made of brick and the new roof made of lead, slates & tiles.
During this period, superstition has it that, when a witch or bedeviled person was exorcised in the church, the escaping devil used the North door to escape. As a result it was ordered that most North doors be blocked up. It remained blocked up until 1999, when it was unblocked to form the entrance to the newly added toilets.
The nave’s old decayed roof (probably made of Oak, boarded & thatched) was removed and the opportunity seized to lighten the dark nave by adding a clerestory with two-light windows on either side. Some of the glass in the clerestory windows date back to the fourteenth century, perhaps earlier and follow a theme of a collection of bishops mitres. The roof has four principals and two end principals.
They start at the East wall by a simple corbel, but at the West end the walls are continued along for 2.14m from the tower before the archades begin, thus strengthening the tower. The roof is made of oak beams & boards with the beams being lightly carved with a broken roll design, which although darkly stained can clearly be seen.
In 1509 Catherine Of Aragon was given the Lordship of Great Baddow by Henry VIII.
King Henry VIII suppressed the monasteries and these arrangements came to an end, but the building remained in the possession of the Church.
The links set up by Maud in 1172 were sharply terminated as a result of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Monasteries.
This period is the most important in the Church’s history as it covered the largest part of the building phases of the Church as we see it today.
John Young, Prior of Reppington alienated the advowson of St. Mary’s Church to Francis Bryson.
The register of Burials at St. Mary’s Church commenced with the first entry as follows:- “John Duffield was buryed the xvii day of November” and “Joyce Clarke, Bellfounder, was buryed the 21 day of Marche.”
The register of Marriages commence in June 1543 with the first entry as follows:- “John Fanner was maryed the first day.” The lady’s name is not given.
Alexander Barclay who came as Rector to the parish was both a scholar and a poet, and has been described as one of the refiners of the English language. the best known of his literary works is “The Shyp of Folys of the Worlde” published in 1509 and is partly a translation from the German of a work by Brant of the same name and partly imitation. For many years upto the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Barclay was a monk at Ely. He died in 1552 a few months after leaving Great Baddow.
The great Tithes came to the Crown and the advowson (patronage) was given to Sir Walter Henley who, in the same year alienated the Rectory, St. Mary’s Church and advowson of the Vicarage to John Pascall. This link to the Pascall family was to last until 1732. However between 1577 and 1625 some members of the family, during these Reformation years, did not completely give up their allegiance with the Church Of Rome, and were persecuted for Popery.
The register of baptisms commenced at St. Mary’s Church in April 1583 with the first entry as follows:- “Suzannah Cook, daughter of John.” There are many entries relating to the families of the Paschalls, Argalls, Sir Henry Appleton,Bart and Sir George Alleyn, Bart.
The wife of the grandson of the first John Paschall to hold the Lordship of the Manor and advowson of the vicarage in 1547 is remembered in the brass in the Chancel which shows a lady with a frill & a hood and has the following inscription “Here lyeth buried the body of Jane Paschall wife of John Paschall and daughter of Edward Lewkenor Esquire“.
Above the lady is a shield showing the Paschall & Lewkenor Arms. This brass was evidently put down before the lady died, but we can supply the date of her burial from the register which is as follows:- Mrs Jane Paschall the wife of John Paschall Esquire was buried May 23, 1614. Jane Lewkenor was John Pascall’s first wife; his second was Ann daughter of Thomas Mildmay. John Paschall died in 1624.
The brass was later removed from the floor and placed on the wall of the chancel probably during the alterations of the nineteenth century.
On a slab in the chancel is the following inscription;- “John Everard his father’s name did beare, who from Much Waltham came, His mother sprung of Flemminges race, His mothers mother Gonson was, His body sleepes below this stone, His spirit up to heaven is gone. Deceased the 27 August 1615.”
A canopied Jacobean Pulpit Installed at St. Mary’s Church, which is the best earliest seventeenth century example remaining in the county. Its elaborate canopy has pinnacles and pendants and is beautifully carved. On the backboard it is inscribed ” H..L..1639..H..S”, the initials belonging to the Churchwardens of the time – Humphrey Lowe and Henry Stileman.
Over the Chancel arch at St Mary’s Church is the Royal Coat of Arms which is painted on wood, with the initials C.R. and date 1660 surrounded with a moulded wood frame and surmounted with a pediment. On the backboard, beautifully inscribed are the words of St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Ch. 13 v1-7.
Amongst the many charities and bequests to St. Mary’s Church there is one started by Thomas Whitbread who stated in his will that the land of Old Berries should be charged “with the payment of the yearly sum of 20/- (£1) to the minister of Much Baddow and his successors for ever in consideration of a sermon to be preached yearly and also with payments of £2/12/0 (£2.60) yearly to the churchwardens of the same parish to be laid out in Bread and distributed amongst the poor of the said parish every Sunday for ever.”
Another is mentioned on the monument to the memory of Helen Sydnor, in the south aisle to the chancel where it is stated that she “gave to the poore of this Pish for ever 2/- (10p) to be distributed in bread every Saboth day”.
On a black marble slab at St. Mary’s Church the inscription reads:- “Below (near those of his own mother and his only son is the body of the Reverend and pious Mr. Charles Adams MA who having been a burning and shining light in this church about XX years liv’d beloved and dy’d lamented of all that knew him. Departed hence Sept.1.1683. AE tat 45”
Lord Fermanagh sold the advowson to Mrs Anne Percival of Clatford, Wiltshire.
Bell number II donated to St Mary’s Church by Mr. Waston Gower. Tuned to F with a weight of 3 -2 -18.
Originally erected in the chancel at St. Mary’s Church, but moved to its current location on the south wall during the alterations of the nineteenth century is a fine marble monument in the classical style of Sir Henry Cheere. This monument is in memory of Mrs Amy and Mrs Margaret Gwyn and Mrs Ann Hester Antrim.
At St Mary’s Church Bell number I cast by Mears. Tuned to G flat. Weight 3 -2 -4 & inscribed “I mean to make it understood that tho’ I’m little yet I’m good.”
Bell V cast by W Mears. Fecit 1781.. Tuned to C flat. Weight 6 -0 -11. J No Godsalve Crosse Esq. The Rev. Mr. Longmore – Vicar.
Bell VI cast by Mears. Tuned to B flat. Weight7 -1 -3 & inscribed “Whilst thus we join in cheerful sound may love & loyalty abound”
Bell VII cast by Mears. Tuned to A flat. Weight 9 -1 -21 & inscribed “to honour both of God & King our voices shall in consort ring”
St Mary’s Church Bell VIII cast by Chapman & Mears, London. Fecerunt 1782. Tuned to G flat. Weight 14 -1 -13 & inscribed “The Founder he both played his part that shewes he’s master of his art so hang me well and ring me true and I will sound your praises due”
St Mary’s Church Bell III cast by W & T Mears of London, tuned to E flat, weight 4 -0 -23. the Reverend Alex Longmore – Vicar. Mr. William Polly – Church Warden. Fecit 1787
At St Mary’s Church the lancet window in the north wall of the chapel to the chancel was unblocked. The window here is thirteenth century.
During this century a large number of alterations took place, including the replacement of a number of windows which were replaced by Victorian stained glass, and a number of items were presented, including the font and lectern.
Sometime during this century the Communion plate was stolen by a thief who went on into Chelmsford where he placed it under his bed whilst sleeping. the Bow Street runners tracked him down and the plate was restored to the church.
St Mary’s Church Bell II recast by Thomas Mears & Son, London. Fecit.
John Bramstone (1802 – 1885) was Vicar of Great Baddow from 1831 – 1840 and later found high office in the church on his appointment as Dean of Winchester in 1872. Visitors to Winchester Cathedral can see a plaque to his memory in the Choir.
St Mary’s Church Bell IV cast by Thomas Mears Of London Fecit 1837, tuned to D flat with a weight of 4 -3 -23.
In 1850 Bell Street Hall was built.
St Mary’s Church vestry was built (financed by Miss Crabb) during the late nineteenth century, probably at the same time as the dormer windows in the Chancel.
The pews and choir stalls were installed when the galleries were removed and the choir & organ moved from the tower.
In 1897, a font of simple and pleasing shape was presented in the memory of Elizabeth Finch.
The present organ at St Mary’s Church was built by Messrs Norman and Beard of Norwich and incorporated some older pipework from the previous instrument which was sited in the Bell Gallery.
St. Mary’s Church clock face on the tower’s south side was presented in 1916 to the memory of Henry William Smithers.
At St Mary’s Church The peal of eight bells from the bell chamber within the tower was recast by public subscription and hung in a new iron frame, by John Taylor & Co. Bell Founders, Loughborough. Reverend C. Neill MA, M.B – Vicar; Dr. P.T. Spencer-Phillips & Frank Howard – Churchwardens.
St Mary’s Lich-Gate was built & dedicated to God through the gift of Mary Louise Crabb of Baddow Place as a memorial to her family.
lich-gate // n. (also lych-gate)
a roofed gateway to a churchyard, formerly used at burials for sheltering a coffin until the clergyman’s arrival. [Middle English from Old English lic ‘corpse’ (from Germanic) + gate1] - © Concise Oxford Dictionary (9th Edition)
Bell Street Hall was acquired by St. Mary’s Church. Formerly a Chapel belonging to the Peculiar People, an offshoot of Methodism who had a special interest in reaching ordinary people for Christ and the ministry of healing. The name being based on the King James translation of “God’s own people” (see 1 Peter 2.9 etc)
St Mary’s Church organ was rebuilt by Messrs Brian Bunting of Epping and enlarged and tonally revised. The organ now has two manuals, twenty seven speaking stops, four couplers and nine combination pistons.
Extensive restoration work took place at St. Mary’s Church, renewing the weathered Tudor brickwork, the church roof, repointing the tower and the spire leadwork renewed.
The only visible external alteration was the replacement of the brick mullions of the nineteenth century dormer windows over the chancel, by wooden frames.
At the same time, the Victorian carved reredos was removed so as to open up the lower portion of the east window along with the heavily canopied text panels which tended to overshadow the Communion table.
The beautifully inscribed backboard to the Royal Coat of Arms hanging above the Chancel, with St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Ch. 13 v1-7) was removed during the restoration of the Royal Coat of Arms and hung near to the south door.
Great Baddow Chantry School
For many years the building served as a storeroom and a workshop for the Parish Sextons, the last of whom was Malcolm Robinson who retired in 1987. Since then a great deal of renovation work has been done, planned and largely carried out by Peter Campion and those who have worked almost as unremittingly with him.
Great Baddow Chantry School started to be used as St. Mary’s Church Office.