THE PARISH CHURCH
THE PARISH CHURCH
OF ST MARY AND ALL SAINTS
IF YOU WHO READ THIS are a native of Stambridge you may find something here which adds to your knowledge of a church with which you are familiar. You will learn something of the love and devotion bestowed on the church during a period of over 900 years and you may realise your inhereitance from those who, during that long time, have beautified this church and worshiped in it.
If you are a visitor, you may, on reading this, be able to look at our church with the eye of understanding, and realise that we who now worship here are trying our best to maintain the ancient tradition of caringfor God's House.
If you who read this are far away, a former parishioner or a friend of Stambridge and its people, there should be something here to bring to mind a picture of how we here combine a long past and an active present in the service of God and His family.
STAMBRIDGE PARISH formerly consisted of two parishes, Great Much, or Magna and Little or Parva. The Centre of population in Great Stambridge has now moved from around the church to the Cagefield- Royal Oak Inn area. Little Stambridge consists of a few houses grouped round the Hall, and a long narrow strip of land down to the river Roach, including Mill Lane. The church of All Saints, Little Stambridge was demolished in 1891; a number of gravestones may still be found among the trees and the former Rectory is in Apton Hall Road.
The combined parish is about three square miles in extent. The boundaries are, in the east, Biggins Farm; in the west Little Stambridge Hall; the south the River Roach ; and in a line crossing Stambridge Road at "Richmonds" and number 159 Stambridge Road.
The name "Stambridge" means "Stone bridge". The only bridge in the parish is now brick-built over the small stream that rises in Canewdon, flows under the road just south of the Royal Oak, and into the Roach near "Waldens". The original Stone bridge may well have been over the Roach near the mill.
Both Great and Little Stambridge are mentioned in the Domesday Book. Each consisted of two inhabited areas or "manors" in the surrounding forest.
Great Stambridge was by the riverside and included the mill. After the Norman Conquest Earl Sweyn, who lived at Rayleigh, was tenant under Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, who held it from the King. There were ten families of farm workers, two 'beasts', 25 swine and 58 sheep. The manor we know as Barton Hall was held under Sweyn by a man named Wiard; he had two families of farm workers, one slave family, and pasture for 100 sheep.
Little Stambridge, like all feudal lands, was the property of the King, but a Norman named Thierri Pointel had taken possession and had been allowed to remain. He had in his manor two small farmers and five families of farm workers. The smaller manor, probably that known as Coombs, was the property of Canterbury Cathedral, and their tenant was Ralf Baignard. There were seven farm workers' families and pasture for 200 sheep.
The Domesday Survey was made to ascertain the taxable value of the country. It omits most of the things we would like to know, but the pictur of Stambridge it leaves in our minds is of four small settlements in the Essex forest, each grouped round its manor house, very largely cut off from the rest of the world.
How long a CHURCH has stood on this site it is difficult to say. Parts of the church are over 900 years old, and were standing when william of Normandy landed in 1066. There may have been wooden church before that. The River Roach can be seen from the church yard, but as the church stands on rising ground it is safe from floods or high tides.
The original stone church, biult about 1020-40 was shaped like two boxes, the larger being the nave and the smaller the chancel.
Sometime about 1250 the south wall was taken down, a row of arches built in its place (you can see the remains of a south door, probably for the priest, now filled in) and the church extended by the south aisle being added on.
About 1350 the east wall of the chancel was taken down and the chancel enlarged by extending it eastwards. About 1450 the tower was built without the brick parapet, and the north porch built. Note the ancient main timber frame. The brick parapet was added to the tower in about 1800 when there were fears of a French invasion and the north side was added about the turn of the century.
The only parts of the original church still standing are the north wall, from the tower to the clergy vestry, and a small piece on the south side of the tower.
Monuments, glass and rood screens were removed from many churches at the time for the Reformation and so there are no ancient monuments or glass in our church.