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Church of All Saints

A Grade II* Listed Building in Writtle, Essex

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Latitude: 51.7289 / 51°43'44"N

Longitude: 0.4276 / 0°25'39"E

OS Eastings: 567750

OS Northings: 206145

OS Grid: TL677061

Mapcode National: GBR NJ5.DYH

Mapcode Global: VHJK1.CSDZ

Plus Code: 9F32PCHH+H2

Entry Name: Church of All Saints

Listing Date: 10 April 1967

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1237229

English Heritage Legacy ID: 428450

Location: Writtle, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Writtle

Built-Up Area: Writtle

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Writtle All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

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719/27/534 ROMANS PLACE


C12-13 and later; tower rebuilt 1802-3; restorations of 1878-9 and 1885-6.

Mainly ragstone rubble with some flint and ironstone, and some Roman brick in the chancel; dressings of clunch, limestone, Barnack stone, a hard limestone resembling Purbeck, and some brick. S nave chapel is C16 brick. Roofs are leaded except for the chancel, which is tiled.

Aisled nave with W tower, N and S porches, N and S chapels to the aisles, and SE rood stair turret. Chancel has N and S chapels and N vestry

The large W tower was rebuilt in 1802 following the collapse of the earlier tower of unknown medieval date in 1800. It reuses stone from the old tower, and has heavy brick buttresses and a brick parapet. The windows originally had rounded heads, with brick dressings and churchwardens' gothic-style Y tracery, but they were altered to a Decorated style in 1924. At the same time, pinnacles were added to the tower parapet, and the W door was changed from a Georgian panelled door with a glazed fanlight to a Decorated-style opening. Brick string courses dividing the tower into four stages were also removed, and the buttresses were altered with the addition of small gables on the offsets.

The chancel has late C12 or C13 E quoins and so had reached its present extent by that date. The remains of round-headed windows, presumably of the late C12, were discovered, and removed, when the E wall was rebuilt during the later C19 restorations. The chancel was given new windows, now heavily restored, in the C15. The chancel chapels and the two-story NE vestry are C14 in origin, and also have C15 windows. There is a C16 window in the upper story of the vestry, which is probably an addition of that date, and has a plain parapet and low pitched roof.

The exterior of the N and S nave aisles may also be C13 in origin, as the S door and parts of the N door are of that date, and the lack of buttresses also points to a C13 origin, contemporary with the C13 arcades internally. The aisles were given new windows in C14. The small rood stair turret at the E end of the S aisle was added in the late C14 or early C15. The N and S porches were added C.1400. They have restored, cusped barge boarding, and the N porch was given a glazed outer door 2005. Small, projecting chapels were added to the E end of both aisles in the early C16. That on the N is very shallow, while that on the S is larger and was built of brick as a chantry for William Carpenter, vicar until 1526. Also in the C16, the clerestory was rebuilt and embattled parapets were added to the nave, aisles and chapels and vestry.

The chancel arch was entirely rebuilt in 1879 and is C15 in style with many tiny mouldings on polygonal shafts with moulded capitals, and a hood mould with foliate stops. The arches from the aisles to the N and S chancel chapels were also rebuilt in the C19 in a C15 style. The 2-bay arcades to the N and S chancel chapels are C14 in origin, but were reworked in the C15 and heavily restored in the C19. The door to the N vestry has a C14 door. The chancel has a restored boarded and panelled ceiling with carved bosses, C15 in origin.

The 5 bay nave arcades are C13 in origin and have chamfered orders on round piers with moulded capitals. The western bays were shortened in 1802 when the tower was rebuilt, and the rest of the arcades were largely rebuilt along their original lines in the later C19. A blocked window in the nave S wall above the first pier of the S arcade may be the remains of a C13 clerestory. There is a wide C16 arch into the shallow N nave chapel and a narrower arch into the S nave chapel. The nave roof is low pitched with cared bosses and stands on demi-figures of angles. Of C15 origins, it was restored in the C18 (E beam inscribed by Reginald Branwood, carpenter of Writtle, 1740) and C19, and again in the C20. The aisles have restored C15 roofs.

The tower arch in an Early English style was inserted in 1893 and replaces a door of 1802. The arch is closed by timber and glazed doors of 1955. A kitchen and toilets were installed in the base of the tower in 2000-02, when the bells were also rehung. A blocked door above the tower arch formerly provided access to a gallery.

C12 font, square with attached shafts at the angles. An early C13 piscina was reset in a new niche in the chancel in the C19. A few surviving C15 benches with poppyheads. The largely C19 choir stalls have some early C16 poppy heads and late C17 or C18 openwork panels to the fronts. Plain C19 nave benches have shouldered ends. Mosaic reredos, integrated into the bottom of the E window by A W Blomfield of 1885-6. Pulpit of 1885, eagle lectern of 1895. Arts and Crafts Gothic screens to N and S chancel chapels by F W Chancellor of 1929. The screen from the chancel to the S chapel is the former chancel screen of 1909, also by Chancellor. The cresting was added in 1929.

Brasses: the church has a large number of surviving C16 and C17 brasses, including Thomasin Thomas, her father and grandparents, 1513; Constance Berners, 1524; Edward Bell and wife, 1576, and Rose Pinchon, 1592, all made in London, and all restored in 1993 following the fire in the N chapel. Also Edward Hunt, d. 1606, and Edward Bowland and wife, d. 1609 and 1616, and a number of others.

Monuments: there are several excellent monuments inside the church, the most notable being a mural monument to Edward Pinchon and Dorethea (Weston), in 1629 by Nicholas Stone. A version of another monument by Stone in Southwark cathedral, it is an allegory on man's resurrection as a crop sown, reaped, and renewed by God. A female figure within a broken pediment stands on sheaves of wheat and reaches up towards the Sun of Righteousness in the centre, with two seated angels wearing reapers hats at the sides. The pilasters supporting the pediment have decoration of agricultural implements.

Other important monuments include a Purbeck marble altar tomb in the chancel to Richard Weston, d. 1572; a wall tablet to Edward, d. 1595, and Jane Elliot, with kneeling figures facing each other across a desk; an alabaster wall cartouche with scrolls and arms to Elizabeth Knightbridge, d. 1658; and a fine sarcophagus tomb surmounted by life-sized bust to Sir John Comyns, d. 1740. Erected in 1759, it is signed by Sir Henry Cheere; it stood against a tall obelisk backdrop now in S porch. Ledger slabs.

Except for the arms of William of Wykeham, dated 1619 in the N vestry, the glass is largely C19 and C20. S aisle chapel of 1870 by Clayton and Bell. S aisle Ion Pace, 1899 and C C Powell of 1902 as a memorial to Queen Victoria. Chancel E window 1914 by H W Bryans. S window of 1950 by A K Nicholson, and S chapel E window by Jane Gray of 1992.

Fragment of wall painting of St George uncovered above N nave door. The N vestry door is C14.

The parish of Writtle is one of the largest in Essex. Writtle was a royal manor in the Anglo-Saxon period, and lands belonging to the church and to a priest are mentioned in Domesday book of 1086. The church was given to Bermondsey abbey in 1143, and then in 1204 to the Hospital of the Holy Ghost in Rome, a papal foundation for English pilgrims to Rome. By the mid C13 a cell of the hospital chaplains was established in Writtle, which probably helps to explain the size and grandeur of the C13 work on the church. There was also a chantry for the king in the church. The earliest fabric is late C12, but the very irregular setting out of the building suggests that it was built around an older church. It was greatly extended in the C13, when the aisles were added. The chancel had also reached its present extent by the early C13. The tower was added at an unknown date but may have been C13 or C14 in origin. The aisles were remodelled and given new windows in the C14, when the chancel chapels were added and the N vestry built. More new windows were installed in the C15, when the rood stair turret was built and the chancel arch rebuilt. In the late C14 all alien priories (English cells of foreign monasteries) were dissolved and Writtle was bought in 1399 by William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, as part of his foundation of New College, Oxford.

Some of the early C15 work on the chancel may be attributable to the college, but the nave was the responsibility of the parishioners. Writtle was a prosperous market town, and the parishioners did much work on the church. There were four chantries by the late middle ages, including a Guild of St John and a Lady Chapel, the latter possibly a detached building in the churchyard. In the early C16, small chantry chapels were added to both aisles, the clerestory raised and rebuilt, the parapets added and the upper part of the vestry built. C17 refurnishing is recorded, and work was also done on the roofs in this period. The nave and aisle roofs were repaired in the C18, and new furnishing are also recorded.

Considerable refurnishing was undertaken in the post-Reformation period, but little of it survives. The collapse of the tower in 1800 was attributed to its having been, `at different times very injudiciously repaired┬┐, and the rest of the church was also seems to have been in poor condition by the C19. The medieval tower collapsed in 1800 and was rebuilt in 1802-3, a project paid for and directed by a parishioner, Henry Lambirth. The church was heavily restored in the later C19, including the removal of most of the C17 and C18 furnishings and the rebuilding of much of the fabric, including work on the nave by Frederic Chancellor in 1878-9 and on the chancel by A W Blomfield in 1885-6. The tower was remodelled in 1924, including the refashioning of all of the windows and the W door to make them more medieval in appearance. There was further minor reordering in the C20, and restoration after fires at the east end in 1974 and 1991. In 2000-2, service facilities were installed in the base of the tower. The chancel arch, for instance, was `in a crippled state and supported by a modern contrivance' in 1856. The harsh restoration of the C19, which saw the replacement of much medieval fabric, was not untypical of the period, but the medievalising of the early C19 W tower in 1924 is unusually late for such a drastic change. The church was more sympathetically restored in the late C20 following two fires at the east end.
Buildings of England: Essex (2007), 858-9
RCHME: Essex (II) 271-5
George D C, The Church of All Saints, Writtle, Essex: Its History, Architecture and Ornaments (1963)
Lack, W, The repair of brasses in All Saints, Writtle, Essex (1993)

The church of All Saints, Writtle, Essex is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* A large and handsome C13 parish church, with additions and remodelling of the C14-C16 and an early C19 tower, heavily restored in the C19 and C20.
* An intricate history and development, reflected in its fabric, connecting the parish with significant orders and patrons in the middle ages.
* Some good fittings including C15 benches and restored C15 roofs.
* For its monuments, including a series of fine C16 London brasses, an especially fine allegorical monument by Nicholas Stone, and another (albeit altered) by Sir Henry Cheere.

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