A Guide to

The Parish Church

of

Little Easton

Essex

Based on the guidebook written in 1978 by Mrs Felice Spurrier,

revised in 1995, which addition from other sources.

(Photos taken on my visit to the church, 22 November 2003)

The village of Little Easton is recorded in the Doomsday Book as 'Estaines Parva'.  It was also known as 'Estaines ad Turrim' (Easton by the Tower) to distinguish it from Great Easton, which was known as 'Estaines ad Montem' (Easton by the Hill).

The present church is on Norman origin, built on the site of a former Saxon church, which probably occupied the site of a Roman fort or look-out tower.  There are signs of re-used Roman bricks and tiles in the external walls of the present building.   The Rev R L Gwynne, in his history of Little Easton ("Estaines Parva", 1923) tell of the probability of a Celtic church existing on this site, before the Saxon one was built.  The church has been extensively altered and enlarged over the centuries to meet changing needs.  No evidence remains of the dedication of the church.


The East End of the Church


The Altar area, taken from the West Door

The Tower

The west tower was constructed in the 15th century, together with the west doorway, now the main entrance to the church, the traced west window and the high archway leading into the nave.  The lower stage of the tower forms a vestibule to the nave, from which a view of the entire length of the church can be seen.  There are now two bells in place, although there is space for a peal of three.

The stained glass in the west window was installed in 1883 as a memorial to Mr and Mrs Henry Cheffins of the adjacent Manor House.  Mr Cheffins was 'Steward of the Household' to the last Viscount Maynard of Easton Lodge for over 40 years.

The War Memorial was placed on the north wall to record those from Little Easton who sacrificed their lives in the First World War, 1914-1918.  Following the Second World War, the names of those who died in the 1939-1945 conflict were added.

There are two wall tablets to the memory of Harry Baker, chorister, grave-digger and estate worker (1928) and Alfred George Sanders, carpenter and Clerk to the Works of Easton Lodge Estate (1932.)

The Nave

The nave was built during the early 12th century and the form of the structure remains unchanged, although larger windows were constructed in the 15th century.  Traces of stone and Roman brick indicate the position of two small, narrow Norman windows, now blocked, on the exterior of the north wall.  The original main doorway to the church, now blocked, can be seen in the external south wall.  The Norman stonework was renewed in the 15th century and the remains of a holy water stoop can be seen.  A large gallery was constructed about the west end of the nave, probably in the 18th century.  This was taken down around 1881, when the organ chapel was built, as this provided space for replacement seating.  On the north wall inside the church is a superb fresco painting of a seated figure with a halo around his head, dated from circa 1130.  This is thought to depict an apostle, and may be a surviving section of a larger nave scheme of all twelve apostles, seated, as at the last supper.  The position, pose and context of the surviving figure leads to conjecture that it might depict Christ himself.  On the south wall, opposite, another fresco painting depicts, in eight panels, scenes form our Lord's Passion.  The architectural canopies, costume and especially the armour depicted indicate 14th century work.   The blackening of the flesh tones is due to chemical changes in the pigments used by the mediaeval artist.   In 1934 Professor Tristram uncovered and stabilised these frescos, and made the framed paintings fixed underneath.  His original suggestions as to subject matter and dates have been revised by later experts.


The 'Apostle' Fresco


the 'Lord's Passion' Fresco

The stained glass in the window in the south wall was the gift of the fourth Earl of Rosslyn, in memory of his wife's brother, Henry Fitzroy (1882).

On the north wall, over the font, is a Roll of Rectors, set there in 1936.  Worthy of note is Thomas ken (1663), known as one of the fathers of modern hymnology.  His famous hymns of morning ("Awake, my soul, and with the sun") and evening ("Glory to Thee, my God, this night") were probably originally written as anthems, since congregational hymn-singing was discouraged in those days.  He was much in favour with King Charles II and was no doubt introduced to the king by his patron at Little Easton, Baron Maynard of Easton Lodge.  There followed a distinguished career.  In 1672 he returned to Winchester College, where he had been educated, and became Prebendary of the cathedral.  In 1674 he wrote his "Manual of Prayers for the use of Scholars of Winchester College".  he travelled on the continent, visiting Rome in 1674 with his brother-in-law, Isaac Walton.  Ken never flinched from being true to his principles.  King Charles visited him at Winchester in 1683 and decided that Thomas Kennnn's house was suitable at accommodate his mistress, Nell Gwyn.   Ken resisted this strongly, and with success.  The following year, when considering Church appointments, the king is said to have exclaimed, "Where is the good little man that refuse his lodging to poor Nell?"  and insisted that Thomas Ken be appointed Bishop of Bath and Wells.  When Ken refused to sigh the Declaration of Indulgence, he became one of the seven bishops committed to the Tower of London by James II in 1688.  In 1691 he was removed from office by William of Orange for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance.  In his last years he was cared for by his friend Lord Weymouth, at Longleat in Wiltshire, where he died in 1711.

In 1682 Thomas Ken, then one of the king's chaplins, returned to Little Easton to give the address at the funeral of Margaret, Lady Maynard.  He valued this lady's friendship and devoutness most highly, which was made obvious in his hour-long sermon in this church on that occasion - a sermon which became famous and was printed and reprinted for several generations.

A memorial to the fifth Earl of Warwick (1853-1924), of Easton Lodge and Warwick Castle, is at the east end of the north wall.

Above this tablet is a wall-painting of the Royal Coat of Arms of King Charles II, bearing the date 1660, the year of the restoration of the monarchy.

Memorial tablets on the west wall are to Miss Emma Cheffins, one-time Sunday School teacher and daughter of Henry and Mary Cheffins of the Manor.  Also commemorated here are Mrs Waller and her daughter and Richard Lloyd Gwynne, Rector of the parish from 1815 to 1937.  In 1923 R L Gwynne wrote his history of Little Easton, and its preface was written by H G Wells, who lived in the parish between 1912 and 1927.

The Chancel

The church has no chancel arch, an unusual feature found in several churches in this part of Essex.  The chancel was enlarged and substantially rebuilt in the 13th century and further extended and altered in the 15th, 17th and 19th centuries.

In the sanctuary, to the left of the altar, is the 14th century chest-tomb with canopy of Lady Bourchier, born Lady Alianore (or Eleanor) de Louvain.  Her de Louvain (or de Louvayne) forebears, kinsmen to the Dukes of Brabant, were Lords of the Manor of Estaines for several generations, until 1347, when Lady Eleanor became the sole heir to the manor and its considerable lands entitlements.  The effigy of a 13th century knight, two feet long, no doubt one of her forebears, occupies the top of the tomb.  Lady Eleanor married Sir William Bourchier, of the Manor of Stanstead Hall, Halstead, in 1365.  On the wall at the back of the tomb, a shield carries the arms of de Louvain combined with those of Bourchier, a theme repeated on some of the shields on the spandrels of the arch of the canopy.  the water-bottles (or 'bougets') are the arms of Bourchier and show the origin of the family's name, which has varied in spelling down the centuries.   The marriage of Alianore de Louvain and William Bourchier united two great estates and marked the beginning of several generations of distinguished Bourchiers, many of whom left their mark on English history.

On the floor, in front of the altar, is a small brass of a priest of Little Easton, Robert Flynn (1395-1865).

The stained glass in the east window above the altar was placed as a memorial to the last Viscount Maynard (1786-1865).

The sanctuary rail and the gradine on the altar, with their fine carving, were made in the late 19th century by the head carpenter at Easton Lodge, George \Henry Pryer (1863-1954).  The estate carpenters were responsible for most of the wooden 19th and early 20th century furnishing in the church and the roof timbers and ceiling.

The north aisle and organ

The north aisle of the chancel, which incorporates the vestry at the east end, was built in 1881 to house the fine organ, which was the gift of Frances Evelyn, Lady Brooke (later Countess of Warwick) of Easton Lodge, in memory of her stepfather, the fourth Earl of Rosslyn.  The instrument was chosen by Sir Arthur Sullivan at the behest of Queen Victoria, who discussed the plans during a visit to Easton Lodge.

On a panel of the organ is a brass memorial plate to Miss Dorothy Scarfe, who was church organist for forth years (1970).

The American chapel

The western section of the north aisle comprises the American Chapel, a memorial to honour all the member of the United States Army Airforce's 186th Bombardment Group (M), known as 'The Crusaders' (1942-1945).  They attained the most outstanding record of all B-26 groups in the European Campaign of World War II, flying 409 missions with the loss of 193 airmen.  For rather more than a year, from September 1943, their base was USAF Station 164, known as Great Dunmow Airfield, in the grounds of Easton Lodge.

Three years of planning by Colonel Lester Maitland, their first commander, and the Rector, the Rev Jack Filby, culminated on 5th October 1990 in the dedication of the chapel and memorial windows, to serve as an inspiring reminder of those men who, supported by their families at home in the United States of America and their friends in this parish, "mounted up with wings as eagles" and did what had to be done.

The Bourchier chapel


The Bourchier Chapel from the outside.


The Tomb of Henry Bourchier, and part of the Bourchier Chapel

The south aisle of the chancel was built in the 15th century for the Bourchiers of the Manor of Estaines and altered and enlarged in the 17th century for the Maynard family of Easton Lodge.

The panelled and traced chest-tomb, with vaulted canopy, to the left of the chapel gate, bears on the chest top the magnificent and famous brasses of Henry, Viscount Bourchier, KG (1404-1483), grandson of Alianore and William Bourchier, and his wife, Isabel Plantaganet, Aunt to King Edward IV.  There are still traces of coloured enamelling to be seen on their garments.  Henry Bourchier's Order of the Garter on his cloak and below his left knee, and his Yorkist collar, are clearly visible.  He was a warrior, like his forebears, and became Earl of Eu in Normandy and Viscount Bourchier (1447); K G (1452); Lord Treasurer of England (1454) and Earl of Essex (1461).   Lord and Lady Essex were originally buried at Beeleigh Abbey near Maldon, Essex, and their remains were moved to Little Easton shortly after the Dissolution.


Brass of Henry Bourchier

 


Monument of Henry Bourgchier the first Earl of Essex of that family & of
Isabel Plantagenet his wife, in Little Easton Church Essex

Inside the chapel, in the centre of the south wall, is the magnificent alabaster tomb of Henry Maynard and his wife (1610). He was MP of St Albans and Private Secretary to William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, Queen Elizabeth I's Lord Chancellor and Treasurer.  The last of the Bourchiers left Little Easton during the reign of Henry VIII, and in 1590 the queen granted the Manor of Estaines and its entitlements of Henry Maynard (knighted in 1603), who built himself a fine mansion a mile to the west of the church on the site of a hunting lodge, named 'Easton Lodge'.  The estate remains in the hands of the family, but all but one wing of the great house was demolished in 1948.   Henry Maynard had eight sons and two daughters and their effigies, knelling, are to be seen on the front panel at the bass of the tomb.  The skulls in the hands of six of the boys show that their deaths occurred before the monument was built. The Latin inscription at the east end of the tomb reads:

'At my death I left with their sorrowing mother, six sons and two daughters, whom I lately loved most tenderly: soon after my decease, so short, so vain, so empty is the lamp of life, three of them follow me.  That I might not go to heave quite a widower, and alone, behold my companions.  The rest will follow me.'


The Alabaster Tomb of Henry Maynard

The monument above the tomb is also of alabaster, with marble columns.   The Arms of Maynard, a chevron between three sinister hands, and the Maynard crest, a stag statant, can be seen in the achievement at the top of the monument.

The monument at the west wall is to William, eldest son to Henry Maynard and the first Baron of Estaines Parva.  The life-size effigies of Lord Maynard and his second wife stand on top of the monument, both in Roman costume.  The Latin inscription of the base reads:

'Sacred to the memory of the Right Honourable William, Lord Maynard, Baron of Estaines in the County of Essex and of Wicklow in Ireland, who for many years executed the office of Lord Lieutenant of the Counties of Essex and Cambridge under King Charles I, with great approbation, both of the King and the people, and with a conscience beyond the blame of either.'

In every respect indeed he was a man well calculated to supply the place of a prince, the defender of the peace, the laws and the Anglo-Catholic faith.  But when the madness of fanatics daily increased, when even religion itself was banished, then he bid adieu to a restless, rebellious, and ungrateful country, which was so unworthy of such a pattern of true Christian love, both towards God and his neighbour, that he at length happily changed it for a better, namely a heavenly, on 18th December 1640, in the 55th year of his age.

'Near him lies Anne, his right honourable wife, descended from the ancient family of the Everards of Langleys in this county of Essex, who. after she had seen an only son and five excellent daughters adorned with their parents' virtues, which they so excelled in as to excite the envy of mankind, followed her husband to heaven, there to enjoy again his amiable and most happy company among the saints, on the 5th of August, in the year of our Lord 1647.'

To the left of this monument, in the south-west corner, is the tomb, with semi-reclining effigy, of Lord Maynard's first wife, Frances Cavendish, daughter of the fifty Earl of Devonshire, who died in her 20th year after giving birth to a daughter, Anne (1613).

The large monument blocking the east window is to William, second Baron Maynard (1622-1696), son of the first.  Under his standing effigy are busts and relief medallions of his family.  A large marble relief below has figures representing justice, charity, fortitude, etc.  His first wife was Lady Dorothy Banastre, a considerable heiress and Lady of the Manor of Passingham, Morthamptonshire, and his second was Lady Margaret Murray, daughter of the Earl of Dysart.  His loyalty to the monarchy led to impeachment under Cromwell's Commonwealth regime.  His work for the restoration of the monarchy and the gratitude of the future King Charles II is indicated in the following letter to Lord Maynard, sent one month before the king's return to England:

                                                                                                                                                'Brussels. March 16, 1660.

'Yours of the 13 of January came not to me till within these 3 or 4 dayes, otherwise you should have known sooner that it was very welcome to me, and I do assure you there is no man upon whose affection and unbiassed resolutions to serve me, I do looke with more confidence than upon yours, and therefore you may reasonably presume, that my kindness to you is proportionable: I hope it will not be long before I shall have good occasion to maifest it, without prejudice to you in the meane time, that will use all your interest all way, to make preparations accordinly: and you beleeve that I do enough long for the good hower that I may let you know how much I am.

                                                                                                                                              'Your very affectionate frinde,

Charles R'

After the restoration. Lord Maynard was made a Privy Councillor, and, like his father, Lord Lieutenant of Essex.  He was comptroller of the household to both Charles II and James II. He was Patron to Thomas Ken, who came to this parish as a young Winchester scholar a year after his ordination.

On the south wall, to the left of Henry Maynard's tomb, is a contemporary portrait bust of Frances Evelyn, Countess of Warwick (1861-1938), who inherited Easton Lodge and its entitlements from her grandfather, the last Viscount Maynard.  She married the Earl of Warwick (then Lord Brooke), in 1881 and she and her husband are buried in the Warwick family crypt in St Mary's Church, Warwick.  The Sculptor was Sir Edward Boehm, Bart, ARA (1834-1890), Sculptor-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria.  The bust was placed in the chapel towards the end of the Second World War, as a memorial to Lady Warwick.  She was a noted beauty and accomplished hostess, and entertained the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and other members of the royal family at Easton Lodge.   Later she took up socialism and fought with vigour for higher standards in health and education.  There remain many in the area who remember her with affection for her ceaseless work for the well-being of the local community.

The windows set into the sought wall contain six panels of painted glass depicting secens from the life of Christ: the Adoration of the Shepherds, the Betrayal, Christ before Pilate, the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension.  These were originally made for the first Baron Naynard and placed in his newly-built private chapel at Easton Lodge in 1621.  After a severe fire at Easton Lodge in 1847, the panels were safely stored by the last Viscount Maynard.  The chapel windows were reconstructed in a Romanesque style to receive the panels, which were placed there as a memorial to his wife in 1857.  For many years these panels were mis-attributed as either Flemish or south German.  Research carried out in 1975-6 by Mr Michael Archer, Assistant Keeper at the Department of Ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum, has made it clear that the panels were the work of London glaizer Baptista Sutton, who became an assistant of the Glaziers' Company in 1638.  These panels bear close similarities to other known works by Sutton, in St Leonard's, Shoreditch; the Abbot's Hospital, Guildford (dated 1634); and St Leonard's Apethorpe, Northamptonshire (circa 1621).

Many more inscriptions record members of the Maynard family whose remains now rest in the vault beneath the chapel.

The wroght-iron railing and gate, which divide the chapel from the chancel, were formerly at Easton Lodge and were put in place by the last Viscount Maynard after the fire of 1847.

Photographs of Lady Warwick's Theatre, next to the church

On the chancel side of these railings, to the west of the gate, is a bronze memorial to Dame Ellen Terry, actess (1848-1928).  Miss Terry was a frequent visitor to Little Easton and had a great affection for the church.  She endeared herself to many in this area in all walks of life, because of her keen interest in village theatriclas.  She assisted and performed in may memorable production in Lady Warwick's theatre, a converted tithe barn in the maor grounds, adjacent to the church, which continues to be used for dramatic productions.  The memorial was made by Alfred Gilbert, RA, MVO (1854-1934, knighted in 1932), in the 'art nouveau' style.  It contrasts in style to Sir Alfred's best know work, the Shaftesbury Memorial ('Eros') in Piccadilly Circusl

The church today

Little Easton Church is now part of the United Parish of Broxted with Chickney and Tilty and Great Easton and Little Easton, also know as 'The Five Parishes'.   In this new role, the church is an important, living centre within a thriving Christian community and continues to be used for both worship and many other appropriate community purposes.  The Rector of the Five Parishes is based in the rectory opposite this church.

Copyright Mrs Felice Spurrier
Photographs Copyright Mrs Margaret C. Manning 2003