(information on the page is mostly taken from the leaflet found in the church.  I have taken the photos.)

The History
and its

by Mrs. Edith E. Mason

The village of Aldham was recorded in the Doomsday Survey, ordered by William the conqueror in 1087.  the name Aldham incorporates two Saxon words meaning old village.   In 1167 it was know as Aldenham, in 1259, as Aud(e)ham, and in 1553, as Ealda's ham.  The survey states:

"Aldeham was held by Levena in the time of Edward the Confessor, but now (1087) it is held by Beatrix, a sister of William the Conqueror, and wife of Alberic de Vere, Earl of Oxford.  There are four serfs, (outdoor slaves) and two ox teams in the demense, wood for twelve swine, three acres of meadow, on horse and six beasts."

Many centuries later, the Rev. Philip Morant, noted historian, and one time rector of Aldham, records in his History of Essex,

"There are two manors.  1.  Aldham Hall with Hoggekyns (a small adjoining property).  2.  Bourchiers Hall with Hou or Hoo Place, church House, otherwise Churchaman's and Claydon Hall, a large house facing the church, all of which was the property of Thomas White Esq. who hath also some lesser parcels of land and valuable woods so that he is owner of almost the whole parish."

In the early 19th century, the village, which included the hamlet of For Street, consisted of 1,280 acres of arable land, twenty-two acres of common or waste land, one hundred and twenty three acres of meadow, eighty three acres of woodland and a population of three hundred and seventy.

Although mainly an agricultural community, during the late 18th century and in the 19th century, in Ford Street there lived a saddler, a butcher, a corn miller, a hoop maker, a coach builder, a master, a baker, a toll collector, a blacksmith, a dressmaker, a tailor, a seed grower, and four shopkeepers.  I have been in touch with a family claiming descent from masters living in Ford Street in the 18th century.

The moving of the church:

The old parish church of St. Margaret and St. Catherine was built in the early 13th century and stood about three-quarters of a mile W.S.W. of the present church.  During the 19th century, it was stated to be "incommodiously situate, in a most slovenly and wretched state and has insufficient accommodation for the parishioners."  As early as the eighteen twenties a new church was in contemplation.  It was stated

"the inhabitants of the parish have suffered not so much from the want of church accommodation as from its distance and consequent difficulty of access, the church being at one extremity of the parish and the hamlet of Ford Street, which comprises the chief part of the population, almost at the other."

A picture of the old church, the original church

The church consisted of "a body and south aisle, but the chancel was only of one pace, the whole tiled."  At the west end of the church there was a small erection of timber, rough cast and tiled, containing two bells.  There was anciently a chapel at the north side, but being ruinous was pulled down many year ago.

There are some interesting records about the old church.  July 1684:

There is a chalice and paten of silver, a flagon and plate of pewter and all other things convenient for the communion table.  the boards about the Tower of the steeple being very much decayed.  There is a cover to ye font.  There wants another lock to the chest in which the Register book is kept.  Some part of the wall about the yard wants to be coped."

It was founded by the Tey family and dedicated to St. Ann.  The Teys were for a long time of considerable importance in Essex.  The manor of Marks Tey was owned by a family named Dianart, which took the surname Tey, and resided at Marks Tey Hall.  The arms of the Tey family can be seen on a piece of old glass in the head of the west window in Copford church.  The Teys owned land in Aldham, Copford and Layer-de-la-Haye.

The need for action

By 1850 it had become obvious that the fabric of the church had become so dilapidated that a heavy outlay for its reparation had become inevitable, and as this would only have perpetuated the inconvenience of access referred to, a proposal was made by the Rector, the Re. Charles Bannatyne, "for the erection of the church in a situation better adapted to the wants of the parish."  So a meeting was called "to consider the propriety of re-seating and repairing the church."  However the meeting was adjourned "in consideration of the present times."  The aftermath of the 'hungry forties' and the consequent scarcity of money no doubt influenced this decision.  There was a further delay caused by the Rector's illness and his absence abroad.

At a meeting of the parishioners of February 16th 1853,

"it was resolved and agreed that the parishioners and occupiers of land should realise among themselves the sum of 200 for the building of a new church the rest of the amount being promised from other sources as proposed by the Rector."

There were only five people at this meeting, all men.  The poor attendance may have been due to apathy or, among the working class, the fear of speaking out of place an offending their masters.  Again, many may have thought it was hardly the time to build a church when money was so scarce.  A farm-worker was earning six or seven shillings a week to support a large family; ten to fourteen children in a family was not uncommon.  As to there being no women present, many land-owners employed women for cheap labour in the fields where they toiled from dawn to dusk, and had little or no energy left for interest in parochial affairs.

The next meeting was held at the church on March 9th 1854, to make a rate for the repair of the church.  this was Mr. James Mayhew's proposal.  The Rector and Mr. Mayhew alone attended this meeting.  Naturally, Mr. Mayhew was against the demolition of the little church.  He was a descendant of the Mayhews who came from Suffolk in the 16th century and had resided at Church House Farm, adjacent to the church, for more than 275 years.  many of his ancestors were baptised and married in the church, and their burials took place in the churchyard a few steps from the house.   It was agreed to adjourn the meeting to the next day at eleven o'clock.   Eleven people were present at this meeting.  The resolution of February 16th 1853 was referred to and read.  the Rector promised the rest of the funds requisite to removing and reconstructing the church on a new and central site which was given by Sir T.B. Western.  Bart., together with a handsome subscription.  He now called upon the parishioners to fulfil their part of the agreement as entered into by resolution of February 16th 1853.  Mr. Green, churchwarden, proposed that a rate of 2/- in the pound be granted for repairing the church.  The amendment was not seconded; one can well imagine Mr. Mayhew's disappointment.  The churchwardens were authorised to collect the rate for building a new church.  It was further proposed that the Rector should take immediate steps for obtaining a faculty for the proposed removal of the old church and the reconstruction on the new site.

A move is agreed

Aldham was then in the diocese of Rochester and the application for the faculty was sent to Dr. Robertson, the Vicar General of the diocese.  Correspondence exists which shows there were some objections but evidently these were overcome as the faculty was granted on June 1st 1854.  It was expressly stated in the deed, that the monument in the chancel to the Rev. Philip Morant, who died in 1770, and the monument of Susannah and Robert Lay who died in 1795 and 1814 respectively, were to be carefully preserved and set up in the new church.

A contract in writing was entered into by the Rector and others with Mr. Henry Luff, a builder and contractor in Ipswich, whereby the said Mr. Luff agreed and contracted to take down and rebuild the said parish church on the new site according to certain plans, drawings and specifications approved by the Rector, churchwardens and other parties authorised by the parishioners."

Mr. Luff was to 'apply' the materials of the ancient church "for the sum of "1,352 if the tower were roofed without spire or the sum of 1,477 if a spire were erected on the tower."

By means of the said rate, grants of "190, contributions from the Rector and his family, from family and friends and others amounting to 1.100, 150 from the Incorporated Building Society and 40 from the Essex Church Building Society, a sum sufficient for the expense of the removal of the old church and the construction of the new church was received or secured.  The accounts show the Rector's generous contribution of 500.

The specification

"Take down the whole of the present church, clean, cart and stack the materials on the new site.  such materials only as are good, fit and sound for the purpose are to be used.  All else to be the property of the Rector and churchwardens to be left of the ground.  It is understood that the new church is to be built in exact accordance with the old church with some alterations only as are specially set forth in the drawings and referred to in the specification.  It is therefore required that before the old church is pulled down the drawings are to be carefully compared therewith and all the dimensions tested."

A London architect, Mr. Edward Hakewell, was engaged to make the drawing of both the old church and the new.  Materials from the old church and new materials for the present church are here listed.

Materials from the old church

New Materials

Minor arches in the East window Nave windows
Jambs in the East window Chancel windows
Altar rails Chancel Arch
Pulpit East window
Reading desk Flooring and paving
Font (lower part) Ridge tiles
Roofing tiles (in sound condition) Font bowl
Roof timber Lead guttering
Bells Drain pipes
Porch Tower and Spire

The pulpit and reading desk have since been replaced.

It can be seen from the lists how much of the present church was built from the materials take from the old church.  The Chancel, Nave, South Aisle, and South Porch are all part of the old church.  The windows, except those in the Nave and the East window are the old windows restored.  The specification states that "the timber of the roofs may be used again in the same manner as at present but the ceiling will be formed between the rafters on their upper instead of their lower surface."  The contractor had to provide all carting, scaffolding, tools and removal of the materials

"as well as for the state in which they may be found so that no improper materials of any sort of kind may be used in the new church.  The Contractor is to be responsible for setting out the new building aright.  The Tower and spire will be new, both built of stone."

The tithe barn which stood in the Rectory grounds was offered by the Rector as a meeting place for worship while the church was being rebuilt "the Parish chests shall be deposited there while the church is being re-constructed."

there is now no trace of the old barn.  In the Middle ages every village had a tithe barn, many now having been converted into houses.  Records show that Hexekiah Evans was christened in the tithe barn while the church was in the process of being moved.   When he grew up he became a thatcher and kept the off-licence on Gallows Green.

The Rev. Charles Bannatyne preached the last time in the old church on Sunday, July 23rd 1854.  His text was, "we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."  (2 Corinthians 5:1)  He told his congregation that "this earthly tabernacle like all earthly buildings has suffered from the ravages of time, the marks of decay are on it and in conformity with all but unanimous decision of the parishioners it was shortly to be taken down."

Fund raising for the rebuilding of the church

"A Bazaar of useful and ornamental work will be held (DV) in the field adjoining Aldham Rectory of TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, June 13th and 14th, in aid of the fund for REBUILDING THE PARISH CHURCH ON A NEW SITE, to Momence each day at 1 o'clock and continue until 7 o'clock.  A musical band will attend.  Accommodation for horses close by.  Conveyances provided at the Mark Tey Station to meet trains at one, half past one, three, four-ten, five-nine and six-ten.  Return tickets to and from Marks Tey at Chelmsford, Ipswich, Sudbury and all intermediate stations of SINGLE FARES."

So ran a notice in the County Standard, of June 1855. The report also stated, "notwithstanding the Rector's exertions and the large pecuniary sacrifices he himself made, the balance is still on the wrong side."  Hence the organising of a bazaar to raise the sum needed.

It was a subject of regret with the Rector, that another fete with the same object (removing and re-constructing Myland church_ was to be held on the same days.  He was sure however, "that with the good work each committee had in hand, nothing like rivalry or jealousy would exist on that score."

The County standard published the following account which may be of interest to modern fund raisers.

"A sale of ornamental work and other articles kindly contributed by ladies of the parish in aid or re-building Aldham church on a new site took place at the Rectory on Tuesday and Wednesday last.  The weather on the first day was very unpropitious and the bazaar consequently was held in the Rectory House.  The attendance, although by no means numerous was perhaps as good as could be expected under the circumstances, there being a tolerable number of clergy and gentry of the neighbourhood present.  The articles sold realised about 70.

On Wednesday, the goods, some of which were of an elegant description and upon the whole valued at upwards of 200, were arranged in a marquee, kindly lent for the occasion by Sutton Western Esq., which was pitched in a pasture adjoining the Rectory.

A second marquee, obtained from Colchester, was set apart for refreshments furnished by other parishioners.  The services of a few instrumental performers from neighbouring towns had also been secured for the occasion.  Obviously no effort or expense was spared.  Unfortunately, the ladies presiding at the stalls found but little demand for the articles which they would gladly have disposed of - little more than 20 including the sum taken for admission being realised.  The gross proceeds of the Bazaar amounted to 90 out of which various expenses are to be paid."

The consecration of Aldham church, Friday, July 13th 1855

The church was re-built on upper chalk field which belonged to Sir Thomas Burch Western, Bart., the largest landowner in the parish.

"The consent of the owner's lessees and occupiers of all dwelling houses nearer than one hundred yards to the intended burial ground had to be secured in writing"

before the said burial ground could be consecrated.  In fact, there would have been very few dwelling houses in the area which was occupied mainly by allotments, the produce of which kept the poor alive.

"George, Bishop of Rochester, did separate the said piece of land from the former and profane uses whatsoever and did assign the same for that purpose."

The new church

"was more commodious and substantial, more centrally and conveniently situate with regard to the inhabitants and has been fitted up and furnished with things needful and decent for divine service, contains 274 sitting, 233 of which are free."

A petition for consecration was sent to George, Bishop of Rochester.  It was signed by Charles A. Bannatyne, Rector, Robert Stebbings and James Green, churchwardens, James Mayhew, James Partridge, Peter Hawks and Thomas Richardson, principal inhabitants.

Friday, July 13th 1855 was fixed by the bishop of the diocese for the consecration of the church and the churchyard.  His lordship. Bishop Murray, accompanied by the Worshipful John Elliot Pasley Robertson, Doctor of Laws, and by his Lordship's chaplain, arrived shortly before eleven o'clock and was received by the Rector and churchwardens.   The Notary Public Deputy Registrar of the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Rochester, the Rev. Frederick Maul, vicar of Stanford in Norfolk, the Rev. Charles Wood, vicar of Alresford, other clergy and many inhabitants, attended the ceremony.

The Bishop declared from the Communion Table his readiness to consecrate the church.   He then proceeded down the middle aisle and returned to the Communion Table attended by his chaplain and many of the clergy.  The Bishop being seated in his chair on the north side of the Communion Table received from the surrogate the deed of conveyance of the site of the new church and burial ground and laid it on the Communion Table.  Then, standing up facing the congregation said as follows,

"Dear beloved in the Lord, forasmuch as holy and devout men as well under the law and under the gospel, moved either by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or by the express command of God or by their own reasons and sense of order and decency, have erected houses for the public worship of god and separated them from the profane and common uses, which Godly practice hath a manifest tendency to advance the honour of God's Holy Name and to enliven the devotion of those who are engaged in His service, let us humbly hope that our heavenly Father will favourable approve our present purpose of setting apart this place in solemn manner for the performance of the several offices of religious worship and let us faithfully and devoutly pray for His blessing on this our undertaking."

There followed prayers by the Bishop, the reading of the deed of dedication and consecration of the new church.  The morning service was then begun with Psalms 84, 122 and 132, and lessons proper for the occasion: 1 Kings 8 and Hebrews 10.  The epistle was read by the Rev. Wildridge and the gospel was read by the rev. Charles Bannatyne.  The Bishop read the Nicene Creed and the 100th psalm was sung.  The Rev. Frederick Maul preached the sermon on a text taken from Exodus 20:24, "In all places where I record my name I will come unto thee and I will bless thee."

The sermon ended, the Bishop read the prayer for the church militant.  Then the Bishop, accompanied by his chaplain, the Surrogate,  Notary and Clergy, churchwardens, and inhabitants of the parish, went into and upon the piece of ground outside the church which the Bishop then consecrated as an additional burial ground or cemetery for the internment of people dying in the parish.  The old burial ground was used for several years after the removal of the church.

The ceremony concluded with a singing of Psalm 39: 5-7.  The Bishop dismissed the congregation with his blessing.  The church was completely filled and the collection at the end of the service amounted to 57.  A number of the principal visitors were invited to luncheon at the Rectory and there was evening service at six o'clock.

So the old church left "Poplar Town" as this part of the village was called, and many an aching back must have been lifted as the laden carts, raising clouds of summer dust, lumbered along the narrow roads through the fields.  Many may have regretted its going, but many too, would have welcomed the "commodious new church" with its beautiful spire, particularly the inhabitants of Ford street.  They would still have a fair way to walk to church as new Road was not yet in existence.  When the church was on the old site, Ford street churchgoers walked through the fields by Bourchiers Hall to Wick Farm, by the Hoe wood (called Bad or Baddy wood) to reach the Tey road and so down the road past Aldham Hoe and on to the church.

In the reign of Elizabeth I churchgoing was compulsory for everybody over fourteen years of age, on all Sundays and Holy Days.  The Act was repealed about 1816.   Absence was punished by the censures of the church, and "every person for each offence must pay 12 pence to the churchwardens."  Presentment of absentees was thoroughgoing and incessant.  Pleas of illness were rarely successful if of a temporary nature, nor was distance from the church accepted despite the difficulties of travel along field tracks or muddy paths in all weathers.  Throughout Elizabeth's reign, and still more in later years, thousands of people were fined for not attending their parish church.  times have indeed changed.

An old parishioner told me recently that for farm workers, Good Friday was a holiday, but wages for the day were paid only if they attended church.  this was the rule when he was a boy, working long hours, six days a week, for three shillings.  He also remarked that Good Friday was always the day for planting potatoes!

This Church was rebuilt on this new site Ad 1854, which means 135 additional sitting was obtained.  A grant of 40, in aid, was made by the Essex Church Building Society upon condition that the additional sittings be set apart for the use of the poor for ever.   The Banneyne, H.A. Minister  ?? Stebbing & In Green Churchwardens.

The architecture of the new church

The church contains much re-used material in limestone and Barnack, the later is stone quarried at Barnack in Lincolnshire.
Pevsner, in his description, writes,
"St. Margaret's church, Aldham, was built with materials of the old church but is very Victorian in the picturesque grouping specially from the outside and the wild overdoing of flint as the surfacing material.  Even the walls of the porch look all cobbled.  The south porch is the only medieval piece."
It is probably the "wild overdoing of flint" as a surfacing material together with the spire which make the church look so strikingly different from the old church.

The porch is built of timber of the 14th century and set on modern walls.  It is a beautiful specimen of the work of the period.  The marks of age are upon it but by a judicious restoration of the parts decayed or missing its strength has been renewed.   There are ogee-traceries side panels and a heavily barge boarded gable.  One imagines that dedicated craftsmen built it to last forever.

From the porch, one enters the south aisle, corresponding to the oldest part of the original church, built in the early part of the 13th century.  It is divided from the nave by an arcade of three stone arches and columns.  In the old church, a row of wooden posts occupied this position and carried the junction of the nave and aisle roofs.   The foundations of older columns were discovered there and a portion of one of the base moulding was not only re-used as the first stone of the present church, but gave the key by which the arcade was designed.

The south aisle has an east window, modern except for part of the splays.  Further north in the east wall is a 14th century doorway to a turret stair which is much worn.

In the south wall are three lancet windows mostly modern externally but with 13th century splays and rear arches.  The 13th century south doorway has roll-moulded jambs and a two-centred arch, much restored.  In the west wall are two lancet windows and a round window, all of the 13th century internally.

A lofty arch at the west end of the nave opens into the tower.  Here in the old church was the singers' gallery under which the working class churchgoers sat on backless benches.  It was customary "to have trades people seated on the left, the quality in the centre and labourers at the back of the church."  In the new building a space for bell ringers and the sexton took the place of the seating and the singers' gallery.  There are two bells, in 1684 there were said to be three bells in good order.  the larger bell is of the early 16th century, and bears the inscription "Santa Margareta Ora pro Nobis."  (Saint Margaret pray for us.)  The smaller bell, dating from the 14th century, is inscribed "Sum Rosa Pulsata Mundi Katerina Vocata."  (I am called Catherine the stricken rose of the world.)   In the south wall of the tower is a very ancient, much repaired Norman door with ornate iron work.

A restored window in the north wall bears the arms of the sees of Rochester and London.

In memoriam Johannis and  Janet Bannatyne     

The chancel, like the main building, is an exact restoration of that in the old church.   The chancel arch is carried on corbels exquisitely carved and containing respectively, the figures of St. Peter and St. Paul.  The 15th century window is filled with stained glass.  The centre light contains a very striking figure of the Saviour, the side lights those of the Dove and the Sacrificial Lamb, while the Alpha and Omega appear in the centre compartment of the tracery.  The whole window is a beautiful composition and maintains the high character of the artist, Messrs. Ward of London, who also supplied one of the windows on the north side representing in on light the Crucifixion and in the other light the Ascension.  This window is a memorial to the parents of the Rev. Charles Bannatyne, while the east window is a memorial to the Re. Philip Morant.


An arched recess was discovered bricked up in the old church, most probably the founder's tomb.  It is of the Early English period and is here rebuilt in its old position in the north wall and forms the entrance to the vestry.  Note the hand on each side of the entrance.

The Nave has two window in the north wall, all modern except part of the splays.

There are two piscine, one in the south wall of the chance, part modern and part 14th century, and the other in the south aisle dating from the 14 the century.

The roofs of the cancel, nave and south aisle are all of the trussed rafter type with moulded plates and are probably of the 15th century.  No attempt has been made to hide their old stains and scars.  The venerable timbers look remarkably well and picturesque.  The roofs of the vestry and tower have old rafter.

The seats are of deal, stained and varnished.  The modern stall seats retain carved emblems of the four Evangelists: the eagle for St. John, the man for St. Matthew, the ox for St. Luke, and the lion for St. Mark.

The parish chest is plain, with iron bound angels, and dates from the 17th century.  The stand was badly damaged by vandalism some years ago, but was skilffy repaired.

The total length of the church internally is 82'6" and the width including the aisle is 35'9".  The internal height to the upper part of the roof is 35' and that of the spire including the weathercock is little short of 100'.

In lieu of the little dovecote bell turret which could scarily be seen above the trees surrounding the old church, a Bath stone spire of very beautiful proportions has been added and from its commanding position is a landmark among the trees, fields and woods.  In 1991, during repairs to the upper courses of the spire, the weathercock was re-gilded.

The churchyard is very attractive and has a fine avenue of yews lining the path from the porch to the gate.  Along the front wall are tombstones from the old churchyard, several of which commemorate members of the Mayhew family.

A new memorial to the rev. Philip Morant, A.M.

The old churchyard ceased to be used for burials soon after the church had been demolished.  However, it was not officially closed.  I remember it up to 1965 as being overgrown and neglected, with the lichen covered gravestones leaning at crazy angels.  The Rector at he time, the Re. Philip Gilman, obtained a closing order, and at the same time, a faculty was granted to remove the gravestones and set them up in the churchyard of the present church.  Philip Morant's stone was placed inside the church on the south wall of the chancel, opposite the tablet commemorating him and his wife.   On March 15th 1966 a dedication service was held in the church.  The Bishop of Colchester, Dr. R. Coote unveiled the gravestone.  The Lord Lieutenant of the Country, and a  representative of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where Philip Morant took his Master's degree in 1729, were among the congregation.   Representatives of the Essex Archaeological Society, which paid for the moving of the stone, were present.

The old churchyard was sold in 1981 fro the sum of 500 and whilst it is now part of Church House Farm, use of the old site is restricted to grazing.

So there remains nothing of the old church except the ruins of the stone wall which once enclosed it.  Turning away from the old churchyard, one sees across the cornfields the graceful grey spire with gilded weather cock of our present church.


"Vicar and rector, as designations of a parish priest, do not reflect any difference in function; he is a rector if his parish is one where the incumbent used to retain tithes, a vicar if they had been appropriated to a monastery or other religious corporation.  Since the passing of the Tithe Act 1936, tithes have no longer been payable to any parish priest, but the designation rector is preserved where it previously existed; in all other parishes the incumbent is vicar." [Folwer's Modern English Usage, O.U.P.]

According to the list of Rectors and Vicars there were Rectors holding the living from 1242.  Then in 1316 Aldham became a Vicarage appropriated to the college of Thele.   The first vicar is named simply as William.  The vicarage was dissolved in 1474 and from then on the incumbents have been Rectors.  It appears that the college of Chantey priests at Thele, by gift of William de Goldington, became as a body corporate, the Rector of Aldham and in consequence received from the parish the "Great Tithes" of corn, hay and wool.  The college then appointed the Vicar and made him an allowance.  He received the "Lesser Tithes" of poultry, fruit, honey, vegetables etc.

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII much transference of tithes took place but that was fifty years later than the change at Aldham.  In 1474 it is evident that the Bishop of London, as the Bishop of the Diocese in which Aldham was then situated, acted to restore the "Great Tithes" to the benefice.  He probably secured through legal procedure, which may have involved Parliament, an annulment of the appropriation.  The reason for the change would be to provide an adequate income for the incumbent of Aldham.  The Bishop may have compensated the Chantey at Thele with some other endowment, or it may have been an exchange of the parish of Aldham for another parish nearer to Thele.  Parliament did sometimes intervene to reinstate benefices as rectories without compensation to the corporate body concerned.

Some early rectors

Peter de Chaceporc was rector of Aldham in 1242.  He was a Poitevin and a favourite of Henry III.  He was granted the living of Aldham by the Abbot and Convent of Westminster at the instance of the king, and rose to a position of dignity and importance.  He was Keeper of the Wardrobe, rector of Ivanhoe, Bucks., archdeacon of Wells, treasurer of Lincoln Cathedral and envoy to the King of Aragon.  There could have been little or no time for pastoral duties at Aldham. He was a good example of the plurality of the times, the holding of several livings or positions.  Men in the King's service often received the presentation of a benefice as a reward.  They were not always ordained priests.  A mandate proclaimed, !The King's clerks in his service ought not be compelled to take Holy Orders or to make residence in person in their benefices and the King and his Progenitors have heretofore always used such privilege and prerogative from time out of mind."  The Pluralities Act of 1838 ended this custom.

The Rector of Aldham in 1584 was indicted for "omitting the cross in Baptism and for not wearing the surplice once every month and at every Communion."  He lost his benefice.

In 1624 Daniel Faulkner became rector of Aldham.  He appears to have lived a far from exemplary life, as six witnesses testified to the court at Halstead in 1644.  He was accused of being "a common sweater, a frequenter of alehouses and also of having dug up young apple trees from other men's gardens and planted then in his own orchard."  Further indictments against him were that he had denied the Sacrament to three women "except they would kneel at the rayles."  He had also refused to baptise a young child.  He was accused of supporting the cause of Charles I and in 1646 was ejected from the living but continued to live in the village until he died in 1653, and was buried in the old churchyard.

Rev. Philip Morant, M.A.
The Rev. Philip Morant, the motable Essex historian, was rector from 1745 until his death in 1770.  He began his literary and historical career in 1724.  While curate of Great Waltham he helped his vicar to prepare a new edition of Rapin's 'History of England."  For eleven years he was chaplain of the English Episcopal Church in Amsterdam.  On his return he became rector of St. Mary-at-the-Walls in Colchester, and could often be seen strolling about Colchester wearing his full-buttomed wig.  He wrote the "History and Antiquities of Essex".  His son in law was Keeper of the Records in the Tower of London, and partly through his influence, but also because of Morant' antiquarian knowledge and his acquaintance with the Norman French language, he was asked to prepare for publication "The Ancient Records of Parliament".   Anne, the Rev. Morant's wife, died 1767 and it is recorded, "her remains were interred in a brick grave under the Rector's pew in the ancient nave and room was left for him at her side."  A marble slab marked the grave.  He was the most famous of Aldham's ministers and his memory is preserved in the chancel where his tombstone rests.


Rev. Thomas Barstow
In 1800 the Rev. Thomas Barstow had the chancel thoroughly repaired and the Lord's Prayer and Commandments put above the Altar Table at the expense of nearly 100.  At the same time parishioners repaired parts of the church.  In 1810 mention is made of the fence being repaired by the parishioners.

Rev. Charles Bannatne, M.A.
The Rev. Charles Bannatyne, was rector of Aldham for forty-two years and saw great changes in the village during his time.  He is chiefly remembered for being instrumental in the demolishing of the old church and the building of the new church on the present site.   For eleven year he was Rural Dean of Dedham.  He had a great interest in education, giving part of the glebe land in 1841 as the site of a National school in Rectory Road and contributing generously when the school was enlarged in 1872.  
"Every year literacy grew more pervasively necessary for all children.   Railway connections were being extended and shops were stocking more varied products, some of them in packets with printed labels."
Hence the necessity of being able to read.  The Parochial Lending Library was started by the Rector, and his sister Dorothea gave money for the purchase of books.
In 1880 he built almshouses opposite the church, on the land given by Sir Thomas Wester of Bourchiers Hall.  The parishioners must have sorely missed their Rector when he died in 1882.  It has been said that he was domineering and dictatorial but he was certainly generous and farseeing and worked hard for the well-being of his parishioners.   The almshouses have recently been modernised and for an attractive corner of the village opposite the church.
A few notes about the Rectory may be of interest. In 1810 it is recorded,
"The Parsonage House is situated nearly in the centre of the parish. It is built of lath and plaster and covered with tiles, is very small and unfit for the residence of a clergyman.  A fund is provided for the erecting of a suitable dwelling at the death of the present incumbent who is a good deal advanced in years."
Apparently nothing was done about erecting a suitable dwelling as the following entry, dated August 22nd 1823, states, "There is no house of residence for the Rector, Charles Almeric Belli."  He was given leave of absence from his benefice until December 31st 1823.  A later record reads, "The Rev. Charles Bannatyne has a neat residence in the Elizabethan style with pleasant ground."  He later enlarged and improved the rectory at his own expense.  It is thought that it was built near or on the site of the Parsonage House which became uninhabitable and was demolished.  The building which  the Rev. Bannatyne enlarged and improved is now called the Old Rectory, but it no longer serves that purpose.


Like the church, the lives of those who lived and toiled and worshipped here, provide a link with the past.  That the lives of many were very different from those of the present parishioners of Aldham is shown clearly by reading the various records.

The Poor
The book of Disbursements, a weekly record of money, food and clothing given to the poor, reveals the dreadful poverty caused by unemployment, almost starvation wages and a great deal of sickness.  At a yearly meeting of the rector and churchwardens, overseers were appointed and they applied for a rate for the relief of the poor.  Churchwardens and overseers administered the Poor law and came to the help of those in need.  Under the Poor Law of 1601, the overseers were to erect Poor Houses for "the incapacitated poor."  During the early 19th century Aldham Poor House is thought to have been sited along the lane which now leads to the railway level crossing.  That there was such a building is verified by records as "half year's rent for the Poor House 1.10s."  and "Paid Joss Buck for doing up the Poor House 4s.3d."   Frequently a Poor House consisted of two or three cottages made into one tenement, and it provided shelter and food for poor homeless parishioners until their circumstances improved.  Orphaned children were cared for and later apprenticed to a trade.   Under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, parishes were expected to work and to behave "soberly".  The poor of Aldham were conveyed to St. Albright's workhouse at Stanway.

A Mrs. Pepper was one time mistress of Aldham Poor House, and the Disbursements Book contains records of payments made to her for the supplies she bought.   A surprising amount of meat was supplied.  Not infrequently the following record of payments occurs.  "Bottle of gin for William Smith 2s.1d."   Perhaps this was supplied for medicinal purposes!  Weekly payments of money to families are recorded too.  Shoes, hose and material for dresses for girls going into service were provided, and funeral expenses were paid.  "Beer for funeral, 3s6d" is recorded.  Poor people were conveyed to Hospital, "lunatics to the lunatic asylum" and criminals to gaol.

Prices recorded are interesting, "2s8d., for a pair of shoes, 5lbs of mutton, 2s.11d., half a ton of coal, 3s.0d., bushel of "flower".  3s.2d., making a dress and apron, 1s.6d.

some of the recipients of weekly relief are named as, Goodman, Crouch, the Widow Nan, Old Evands, Old Pepper, and sadly, Dum Dyer, apparently a dumb boy whose name appears week after week as receiving 2s.6d.

An advertisement in a local paper reads, "Required at the workhouse for the use of the poor, coffins, to be made of good 3/4 inch elm for adults, persons under 12 and children under 5."

The parish also provided medical help for the poor.  On October 18th 1774, the following notice appeared.
"An agreement has been made between the parish of Aldham and Thomas Rainbird of Earls Colne, surgeon.  The said Thomas Rainbird do agree to attend and furnish with proper medicine when wanted, all such persons as are relived (receiving relief) and are residing in the parish of Aldham, for the sum of three pounds three shillings a year, except persons with fractures or ill with smallpox.  It is also agreed by the said parishioners of Aldham to allow the said Thomas Rainbird ten shillings and sixpence for delivering every Poor Woman in labour.  The said Thomas Rainbird do agree to do it for the sum."

People also helped themselves.  The Aldham United Parishes Society was established in 1827 and about seven hundred people in the parishes paid small monthly sums for mutual relief in cases of sickness and death.  Residents of Aldham and parishes within about ten miles of Aldham belonged to this society.

The Disorderly
Peace and order in the village were promoted by the Manor Courts or Court leets, which met, in theory, twice a year.  There were two manors in Aldham, Bourchiers and Aldham Hall.  The courts dealt with petty offences, highway or ditch disrepair, hedge breaking and common nuisances.  In one instance of hedge breaking the miscreant was to be punished severely, it is stated that he "was to be whipped until the blood ran freely."  Disputes between tenants were reviewed and miscreants punished.   All the tenants had to be in attendance at the court, and the chair, the only chair, was taken by the lord (landlord) or his steward or his agent.  All dishonest actions except minor ones had to go to a larger court, the hundred or district court.

Constable were appointed at the court leet.  It is thought the office is older than that of churchwardens.  Generally the position of constable was not welcomed by parishioners whose turn it was to be appointed.  There was a widespread practice of paying someone else to do the job.  The constable was unpaid, but an Act of 1662 empowered him to levy a local rate to meet his expenses.  He was sometimes called a head borough.  Perhaps a head borough lived in the house of that name (once a small cottage) along the Tey Road.  On October 13th 1842, the following parishioners of Aldham were nominated as persons "qualified and liable and willing to serve the office of constable."  James Blackwell (pig jobber).  Their duties included supervising the provision of Watch and Ward, ensuring the upkeep of stocks and cage, inspecting ale houses and suppressing gaming houses, apprenticing pauper children, supervising the settlement or removal of itinerant strangers and beggars, seeing to the welfare of the poor, assisting the churchwardens in presenting those parishioners who did not attend church regularly, and caring for the parish bull!

There was little serious crime in Aldham during the hard times from 1820 to the end of the 19th century.  Low wages, lack of employment and the introduction of machinery on farms drove away many men to acts of incendiaries and machine breaking.   There are records of these misdoings in nearby Essex villages, Lawford, Mile End, the Hedinghams, and at West Bergholt, where there were many fires and the Heath was said to be a meeting place for "plotters."  I could find no evidence of such crimes in Aldham.  That times were hard and semi-starvation rife is evident from the following notice in the Essex County Standard 1852.
"A proclamation to our worthy labourers.
We, the neighbouring farmers, deeply deplore our inability to continue the present state or wages to our worthy labourers.  Much as we deplore it we are obliged manfully to tell you that if we are to give you continual employment, we cannot pay the present wages.   Essex must come to what other counties have come, 6s. or 7s. a week.  We will give as much as we can but it must be in proportion to the price or corn, the money lost by farmers this year is dreadful."

In 1584, Aldham Hall Court admonished the tenant of Bourchier Hall "because he had dug and carried away much clay from the common called Gallows Green."  It decreed a penalty of 12d. on any future offender.  The digging out of clay on Gallows Green may account for the large pond there.  Clay was puddled, mixed with thin branches and cow dung, and used to make "mud" walls between the uprights of timber framed buildings.

Henry Payne, gentleman of Aldham, assaulted a man at Henha, near Dunmow, taking 5 and was acquitted - one wonders why.

The following items are extracts form the calendar of records, September 8th 1586.

"Willima Hilles of Aldham, victualler, and Joshua Newton of the same, husbandman, for assaulting at Aldham with a pitchfork and brownebill John Wayland and John Seale and other lawful subjects of Our Lady the queen, keeping watch in the said parish and oder of the constables of the same, and for beating and wounding the said Wayland and Seale and uttering divers threatening, opprobrious and malicious words against them to the great terror and danger as well to the said Wayland and Seale as to other divers subjects of Our Lady the queen.  Joshua Newton puts himself on the country (not guilty).  The said Hilles accused John Wayland to have eavesdropped his house and sulking about ye backside of the house to steale poultry.  Joshua threatened the said Wayland that if he ever came again to watch in that place he would lay him by his heels."

In 1586 Thomas radley of ford Street, butcher, agreed "to serve John Sparlings of the sae, butcher, taking therefore 40s. his yearly wages and 6s.8d. for livery."

John Chamberlain agreed to serve Thomas Byrde (Bird) of Alddham, bow maker, taking for his wages 46s.8d. yearly.

In 1577 four men were arrested at Aldham for suspicion of rebellion.  In 1575 George Sayer, Knight,
"To poor maidens marriages 5, i.e. 6s.8d. to every one at the discretion of my executors within three years after my decease.  To the poor of the same parish (Aldham) 5 - that is every Friday 2d. apiece to such twelve poor people coming to the church to pray and hear divine service."

A record states that in 1848 a Mr. and Mrs. Evans kept the off-licence on Galley (Gallows) Green.

"They applied for the sanction of the meeting (Rector and churchwardens) to an indoor licence for their house and that was not given but strongly recommended them to continue themselves and house as an outside seller of bee only."

In 1859
"Messrs. Beard and bright as the landlords of the Beer House on Gallows Green applied for an indoor licence for the sale of bee.  The meeting could come to no decision but advised the parties to call a special meeting at some future time."

October 1855
"The Rector and churchwardens met in the vestry and concurred the following sentence.   Whereas James Mole, church clerk, has by his own confession been guilty of intoxication during the last three weeks, he is hereby suspended from his office for three months from the 11th of October last and for such further period as his conduct in the meantime may seem desirable."

February 7th 1856
"The James Mole be allowed to resume his office on Monday next he having spontaneously offered to provide for the payments of his debts by means of the profits of it in so far as they will enable him to do so and that any repetition of misconduct will be visited by immediate dismissal."

In the 18th and 19th centuries the parish was a closely knit community mainly through the church, but cared only for its own.  Poor strangers and beggars were quickly "passed on" by the constable lest they became a burden on the rates.  The following record also illustrates responsibility only for the people of each parish.

"In 1795 a murdered woman was found in a clay pit which was just in the parish of Great Tey.  But the body being removed into the parish of Aldham and the inquest there taken, it was buried in Aldham churchyard and the parish put in a great deal on unnecessary expense."

It is interesting to not names recorded in the 17th century which still occur in the village today.  Names such as Bailey, Hull, Clark, Webb, Bird, Chaplin and Honeyball.

The church registers

The church registers of birth, marriages, and deaths date from 1559.  The early entries are beautifully written in a neat hand.  Then a record states:
"Unfortunately, there is a sad falling off and that part written by the Reverend --- is a disgraceful but a typical example of the contempt which so many clergymen had for this important part of their duty."

The Baptism register begins:
"The Register of all such have been baptised in the Parish of Aldham since the beginning of the most happy reign and godly government of out sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth, whom the Lord grant long to live over us."

Burial Registers

In the burial registers the records of children's deaths are sadly numerous.  Many infants were baptized very soon after the births which seems to indicate that early mortality was far from unusual.  "Joseph, the sonne of Joseph Powell, Rector of Aldham, and Frances his wife, was baptized January 15th, 1675, being born ye night before about nine of the clock."  Anna, daughter of Samuel and Grace Patrick, born May 22nd, 1756, was privately baptised the same day.

In the 19th century six of the nine children born to Jeremiah and Jemima Emmeney, died in their infancy, Isaac and Jacob (twins), William.  Elizabeth, Abraham and John.   Nor were the children of the wealthy spared.  Robert and Elizabeth Stebbing of Bourchier Hall buried Frances at two months, William at five years and Elizabeth at seven years.  They had all been "received into the church" in early infancy, that is, baptized.  A child not baptized is recorded as unbaptized and no name is given - but known to god, one hopes.

There are numerous entries in the register recording the deaths of children, "an infant, an infant, an infant" is written down the pages.

In 1666 and following years many people died of "ye pestilence" or plague.   Mary and Ruth Grant died of the pestilence at Rye House and were buried on July 20th, 1666.  Another entry of 1666 states, "Thomas Carter and his 3 daughters Sarah, Mary and Elizabeth were buried in the great orchard on Gallows Green."   In 1754 Philip Morant records in his neat writing, "There have been but four people buried at Aldham since Easter and they were all buried in Woollen."  An Act of 1678, in an effort to encourage the wool trade, enforced the burying of corpses in woollen and not linen shrouds.  "No corpse of any person (except those who shall die of the plague) shall be buried in any shift, sheet or shroud or anything whatsoever mingled with hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver, or any stuff or thing other than what is made of sheep's wool only, or to be put into any coffin lined or faced with other material but sheep's wool only."  Within eight days of the funeral an affidavit had to be made that the law had been complied with.  Penalties of 5, half of which went to the Poor Box and half to the informer, led to the following anomaly.  When persons decided to defy the Act, it was usual for a member of the family to act as informer, so receiving 2.10s. of the 5 fine.

Wealthy people paid tax so as to be buried in linen.  The Act was repealed in 1814.  May poor people were buried in their shrouds, and not placed in coffins.

In 1856 a portion of the churchyard was specially assigned for the burials of paupers at the expense of the parish, the crowning indignity, pauperism and poverty enduring even to the grave.  It has been said that "the life of a nineteenth century labourer from his birth in a thatched hovel, through long years of ceaseless toll to the inevitable workhouse and pauper's grave, was only too frequent."

                "Rattle his bones over the stones
                He's only a pauper whom nobody owns."

As a child in an Essex village, I remember seeing a pauper's coffin being pushed through the village on an old hand cart.  Poor old Giles, who had lived in a windowless shed and finally died in the workhouse, so came to his pauper's grave.

Here are a few more entries from the burials register.

1610 "Alice Webb was buried October 1st.  This woman was by her own account and the report of ancient people, one hundred years of age."

1610 "William Bridge, a poor child put out by ye parish and apprenticed to Sam Hickford, Killed by a fall into ye mill pond, buried."

Many people were born, lived their lives, died, and were buried in the same parish.   "Lettice Carter, an old maid, born in this parish and living here all her life long in good fame, dyed March 12th and was buried March 13th 1675."

"Susanna Theobald an ancient widow, buried March 5th 1762.  She had that ancient complaint called Plica Polonica about a yard long."  I have been told that this "complaint" was a mass of matted hair in the stomach.

Here are a few records nearer our time.

1896 "Walter Fincham, drowned in the brook near Bourchiers Hall found Sunday morning December 27th."

1896 "Many children died of whooping cough, now prevalent."

1898 "Eleanor Aldgate, aged thirty, assistant mistress in the school and much loved."

1899 "Elizabeth may Theobald, this child was burnt to death on Tuesday afternoon."

Lastly a burial in the old church.  The register records "In the church there is nothing, but in the chancel is a large gravestone of black marble with the inscription.

                Here lyeth the body of
                Sir George Sayer (Knight) who
                Dyed 11th of June in ye
                Y ear of our Lord 1650
                In ye 36 years of his age."

Marriage Registers

In the register of marriages, the bride, bridegroom and witnesses made their marks, being one surmises unable to write their names.  There were marks made up to 1890, marks of infinite variety, some of the most intricate design, and made by rich and poor alike.  It is interesting to note the occupations of the bride, bridegroom and their male parents which are recorded in the register.  The bride was nearly always a servant or a field worker, except, of course, among the upper class.  Many male occupations were concerned with farming, but as time went on, there were more varied kinds of work, such as, porter, railway company's servant, fisherman, lighterman, rail labourer, journey man, miller, steam engine driver, and porter at the Bank of England.  Many brides were minors, and often marriages in the landowning class were by licence.

An entry in the marriage registers gives room for thought.

"William - and Martha - of this parish were married October 22nd 1674 having lived together in for some time in open fornication and by much ado were persuaded to marriage!"

The register of church services

The services, number of people present, the types of service and the amount of the collection were recorded from 1911 as they are nowadays.  In the past, there were many more services each Sunday than today, and until March 1951, Aldham had its own incumbent.  A typical Sunday's worship in the 19th century was Holy Communion at 8.00am
                Matins and Sermon              at 11.00am
                Catechism                           at 3.00pm
                Evensong and Sermon         at 6.30pm

Church expenses for April and May 1911 were 1.8s.11 1/2d.  A half-penny frequently appeared in the collection.  Most interesting in the Register of Services are the comments in the column for ministers' remarks.  For Example: "Wet and stormy, pouring with rain all day", "Tourrent of rain and hurricane all day", "Deep snow and blizzard, November 1916".  The great frost of 1564 is also recorded.

An account of the famine in 1599 is recorded with the series for December 5th 1599.
"It pleased God at the last to hear the cry of his people and take away the end of famine which he had four years or more scourged the land and now blessed with plentiful increase of all manner of things as corn, fruit, butter, cheese, honey and all manner of victuals at reasonable prices.  There went therefore in us an heart to fear the Lord and keep his commandments.  These four years of fear the Lord and keep his commandments.  These four years of famine 1595, '96, '97, '98 of the Queen's reign, corn was sold at 6s8d. the bushel and all other victuals were at excessive prices."

The following entries from the Register of Church services are much nearer our own time, recorded during the First World War.  There may still be Aldham people who remember hearing about them from grandparents.

"On Tuesday, September 19th, 1916, a Pilgrimage of Prayer took place throughout the Parish and continued until Thursday. It was conducted by Nellie and Dorothy, members of the Pilgrimage of Prayer.  All the houses and cottages were visited, and in addition to services in the church, meetings were held by the pilgrims in ford Street, accompanied by a procession in the Street.  The pilgrims slept in the cottages and had all their meals with the people."

Also recorded is an effort relevant to the war time, "At the service, children brought 140 eggs to be taken to the sick and wounded soldiers in Colchester."

And lastly, during Lent, Evensong, with an address, was held each Friday at 7 pm in the school instead of the church.

Copyright 1980, 1993 Mrs. Edith E. Mason
Colour Photographs Copyright Mrs Margaret C. Manning 2003


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The Right Rev. Philip Morant