District of Nevendon. John Simpson
The old centre of Nevendon is some two miles south of Wickford on the border of Basildon, being about four miles from the town centre. The main residential area is virtually surrounded by industrial and retail units and is almost isolated from Basildon, retaining its rural atmosphere to a certain degree. At a time before the present development, Nevendon had its own local and state schools, a public house, shops and a much missed Tithe Barn.
The church of St. Peter's is a small one of the 13th Century, and may have been erected as a mere Chantry Chapel, built to serve some Hunting Lodge of the Fitz Lewis De Bromford family. The building is of the Early English Period, consisting of a chancel and a nave. There is a small bell turret at the west end of the church, containing one bell. The church stands across Church Lane from Nevendon Hall just off Nevendon Road. (Ordnance Survey Ref: TQ734908)
The walls are built of hard chalk covered with Kentish rag stone which must have been brought across from Kent. The walls are pierced with lancet windows on the north and south walls, from the 13th and 14th Centuries. The east window having been damaged by a mine during WWII was of the Decorated Period and is now of a wondrous stained glass. The roof is supported upon crown posts seated on tie beams and dates from the 15th Century.
One of the unique items within St. Peter's one that is not noticed by many, is the stone Easter Sepulchre in the Chancel. This is built within the north wall and is probably one of only seven churches in England to contain such a permanent stone recess, others had wooden containments, and these were probably being used until the time of the Reformation in the 16th Century. Not all Parish churches had a right to possess such a Sepulchre.
Within the south wall of the Nave is a Piscina, this was presumably for an altar which may have stood just outside the Chancel screen. The purpose may have been to serve an altar by a priest for the parishioners whilst the older altar in the Chancel may have been used by the chaplain of the Fitz Lewis De Bromford family. Many churches in the Middle Ages had more than one altar, needless to say, only one altar exists today and the screen has long disappeared.
In the north wall near the door is a small recess for holy water, once called a "Benitier", it being the custom in the Middle Ages for people to dip their fingers into to make the sign of the cross. The ancient font has been "lost", probably thrown out by the Puritans after a "visitation" by Parliamentary forces in the 17th Century. It is believed by many locals to be still buried somewhere in the churchyard. The church bell previously mentioned dates from 1750 and is dedicated to Cole Sawell, a churchwarden of that period. The Royal Coat of Arms is displayed above the south doorway and demonstrates a sign of loyalty to the reigning royal family about 1715. The armorial design is of the Royal English Hanoverian arms and is intriguing and complex in its format, although now very fragile; it still displays its rich colours in all its glory. The organ was presented to St. Peter's about 1900, made by Joseph Walker of Tottenham Court Road in London. It is still maintained and is played regularly, still sounding with a sweet tone.
St. Peter's has become a central point for the "village" of Nevendon, serving a population of around two thousand. It reached out to the community in 2000 and plans for a community resource were started, the congregation donated funds to set in motion a dream for a community meeting place. It had lost its "village" pub, its Tithe Barn, its Rectory and its school, the nearest facility was some driving distance away. In the 2005, with the help of the "Big Lotto", funding was made available for the construction of the Nevendon Community Hall and this was opened in February 2006 by the Bishop of Bradwell.