(information on the
page is mostly taken from the leaflet found in the church. I have taken the photos.)
by Mrs. Edith E.
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:
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."
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
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
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,
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
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.
"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
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
from the old church
in the East window
Jambs in the
(in sound condition)
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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 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
"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
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
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
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
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
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,
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,
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.
Philip Morant, M.A.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
"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.
gentleman of Aldham, assaulted a man at Henha, near
Dunmow, taking £5 and was acquitted - one wonders why.
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."
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
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."
"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."
"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
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.
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 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."
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.
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."
bones over the stones
He's only a pauper whom nobody
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
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."
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."
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.
Fincham, drowned in the brook near Bourchiers Hall found
Sunday morning December 27th."
children died of whooping cough, now prevalent."
Aldgate, aged thirty, assistant mistress in the school
and much loved."
may Theobald, this child was burnt to death on Tuesday
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
Sir George Sayer (Knight) who
Dyed 11th of June in ye
Y ear of our Lord 1650
In ye 36 years of his age."
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
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
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
"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."
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.
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
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