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Former parish church and churchyard of St Nicholas

A Scheduled Monument in West Horndon, Essex

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Latitude: 51.5823 / 51°34'56"N

Longitude: 0.3428 / 0°20'34"E

OS Eastings: 562416.715279

OS Northings: 189653.158176

OS Grid: TQ624896

Mapcode National: GBR NKS.PH5

Mapcode Global: VHHN9.WHLB

Entry Name: Former parish church and churchyard of St Nicholas

Scheduled Date: 24 February 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021225

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32471

County: Essex

Civil Parish: West Horndon

Built-Up Area: West Horndon

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Ingrave St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes the above and below ground remains of St Nicholas's
Church, located on high ground within Thorndon Country Park, approximately
450m to the west of Mill Wood. The remains of the church lie 4m to the south
of an ancient hedgeline which currently divides parkland from agricultural
land. An area immediately to the south of the hedgeline includes the
foundations of the church; it is slightly raised and has recently been taken
out of cultivation. The site of Thorndon Old Hall, dating from the early 15th
century, lies about 150m to the north on the other side of the hedgeline and
is protected as a separate scheduling.

The above ground remains of the church take the form of a slightly raised
area in the grass, covered by a scatter of building debris including bricks
and roof tiles. The foundations of the church walls survive below ground,
their course partly traceable as a slight parchmark (pale area of grass
caused by underlying masonry restricting the flow of nutrients and moisture
from the soil). Although the precise measurements of the church cannot be
ascertained from above ground features, the slightly raised area and
parchmarks indicate a length of approximately 26m by 8m wide. As with the
church, the area occupied by the churchyard is indicated only by minor
earthworks; 16th century maps, however, show it to have been approximately
100m long by 30m wide, with the church depicted in a central position. In
order to encompass both church and churchyard and allow for a protective
margin of 10m around the rather indistinct earthworks and parchmarks, the
area of protection is 120m long by 50m wide.

Documentary and cartographic sources show that the medieval church dates
from the 15th century at the latest. Archaeological finds of 15th to 16th
century Flemish floor tiles from in and around the site appear to confirm
this dating; however, the below ground foundations could reveal an earlier
date of construction, perhaps even the existence of a previous building on
the site.

The Church of St Nicholas served the parish of West Horndon until the 18th
century. In 1712 the parishes of West Horndon and Ingrave were united by a
parliamentary bill, promoted by Robert, the seventh Lord Petre, owner of
Thorndon Hall and holder of the advowsons of both churches. The bill
permitted Lord Petre to demolish both the old churches on condition that at
his own expense he built a new church on a site more convenient to the
worshippers. He died before he could put his plans into effect and it was left
to his son, the eighth Lord Petre, when he took possession of the estate in
1732, to demolish the old churches and build a new church for the combined

The old parish church of St Nicholas is shown on a Walker map of 1598 with a
crenellated west tower, weathercock and south porch. Documentary sources
state that at the time of the church's demolition in 1734 it had `grown

All modern fences and fence paths are excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and
containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for
Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on
Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated
into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in
its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and
are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides
accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the
priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes
provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional
altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west
end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon
and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish
churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south
or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation
were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were
rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of
the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little
fabric of the first church being still easily visible.
Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the
density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed
settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest
clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of
1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New
churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to
around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches
have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for
their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later
population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour
and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are
identified to be nationally important.

The surviving fabric, both above and below ground, of the medieval church of
St Nicholas and the archaeological levels preserved both within the church
and in the surrounding churchyard will contain important archaeological
evidence regarding the monument's history. Study of these remains, along with
documentary evidence, will illustrate the church's demise from a medieval
church of some importance, enjoying full parochial status, to little more than
a ruin by the 18th century when it was demolished by Robert James, the
eighth Lord Petre.

The archaeological levels will not only contain information illustrating the
fabric and history of the church, but will contain artefactual and
environmental evidence for the period in which it was constructed.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Archaeological Advisory Group, , Country Parks Archaeological Survey, (1992)
Garwood, A, Thorndon Park, Brentwood, Essex, (1994)
Morant, P, History of Essex, (1768), 215
Morant, P, History of Essex, (1768)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, (1923), 167
Buckley, D G, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Work Undertaken By Essex County Council Archaeology Section, (1976), 180-2
Buckley, D G, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Work Undertaken By Essex County Council Archaeology Section, (1976), 180-2
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Soc. Occ. Paper 2' in Old Thorndon Hall, Essex: A History of its Park and Garden, (1970), 27-39
ESMR, Gilman, P, 1851, (1986)
Essex SMR entry, Gilman, P, 1851, (1986)
II*, English Heritage, Register of Parks and Gardens, (2003)
Title: Country Parks Archaeological Survey, Thorndon Park
Source Date:
Archaeological Advisory Group
Title: D/DP P5 West and East Horndon
Source Date: 1598
In Essex Record Office
Title: D/DP P5 West and East Horndon
Source Date: 1598
Essex Record Office

Source: Historic England

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