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April 12, 2017

St Nicholas’ Church, Kelvedon Hatch

Our good deed for the day is to support a Bell Tower.

Now there is something to mull over the cornflakes.

If you can imagine historical buildings clutching their bell towers in agony after a dose of shingles, then you would not be far off the facts.

It is a mystery of our language that one title can take many forms, and by way of explanation, a Church in Kelvedon Hatch, Essex, has a very bad attack and is appealing for help.

Shingles on the spire

The shingles in question act as cladding and surround the bell tower of St Nicholas’ Church and are in great need of being replaced before the rot sets in and the bell loses its ‘ding and dong’.

Unthinkable for church first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 with connections to the Wright Brothers and their leap of faith into the air some eight centuries later.

But first the problem: Shingles are small blocks of wood that surround the spire offering protection and support against the elements. A recent survey by a man who is paid to know about these things has come up with a warning that the present cedar shingles have had their day and need replacing with the strength of good old English Oak.

That is going to cost £40,000.

 A massive amount for the coffers to match, so an appeal has gone out from the Rev Mark James and Churchwarden, Christopher Jardine for donations literally, to keep the bells ringing.

Since the bad news survey, the parishioners have managed to raise half that amount but are still short of the final figure.

It is easy to think of this as just another appeal, which of course it is but if left, this could be the last peal.

The Church interior showing the complicated roof structure

The financial climate at the moment has left the collecting tins empty, and time is running out. So the church is asking for help from those heritage minded people who really appreciate the beauty of our countryside and prepared to be generous.

For those familiar with the A128 and travel from Brentwood to Ongar, the Church sits on the corner of the beautiful village of Kelvedon Hatch.

History reveals that there has been a community in the area prior to the Domesday Book, which recorded three manors, one being Kelvedon Hall with a church in various forms in the grounds.

The magnificent Pipe Organ

The Hall is still proudly standing and is the home of the present incumbent of an ancient right called the Advowson. A gift presenting the next incumbent the right to reside in the Hall. Quite a major hand me down pressy by any standard.

The historical connections of the small settlement mentioned in 1086 record  a noble called Alric of Kelvedon Manor, who joined the English fleet in an attempt to see off William and his conquering army. Well that did  not work but from this gesture, the church is named after the patron saint of sailors.

As mentioned, another connection is with the family of two brothers credited with the first powered flight, Wilbur and Orville Wright, being the descendants of a previous owner of the Hall, John Wright who bought the manor in 1583.

There is also connection with the Luther Family of Essex with Jane Luther, the wife of Anthonie, buried in the church yard.

The neighbours also get in on the act as the land on which the present church is built, was gifted by George, the eighth Lord Rodney, one of the great naval heroes of Britain whose family lived in the neighbouring manor at Brizes. 

The 14th century Font

The present church rose from the ashes of a few other buildings that over the centuries suffered from neglect and the weather; it was after a monumental fund raising campaign in 1893 when the humble penny from rustic pockets and cracked kitchen glass jars made short work of the £2,000 re-build target. A small amount by today’s standards, but a mountain for a poor agricultural community that realised the consecration of the new St Nicholas’ Church in 1895.

So much history to be explored and going back over a millennium, worth preserving and visiting with artefacts and plaques from the previous buildings on display.

The font dates back from the 14th century and was in the medieval church and now place by the front door.

A remarkable piece of Essex history and one deserves a wander through and perhaps a few more pennies.

A phone call to 01277 373816 is all you need for a donation form which can be Gift Aided through the tax system and give the Church an extra 25p from every pound donated.

Churchwarden Chris Jardine


















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  1. KEEP THE BELLS RINGING | barrykirksmedia

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