Monday, 6 August 2012

Langenhoe & Little Birch

Both of these churches, St Andrew & St Mary respectively, are ruins, are on private land and proved too elusive for me to find.

Langenhoe - Morant ( History of Essex , vol. I, p.417) gives the dedication as the Virgin Mary or St. Andrew, and the latter has often been repeated in later writings without clear justification. At the time when former building was extensively damaged by earthquake on 22 April, 1884 the dedication to St. Andrew was in general use. The church was rebuilt on the same site and by 1900 the dedication was clearly to St. Mary and remained so until the church was demolished in 1962.

ST MARY. 1886 of old materials. Of the W tower especially much must have stood the earthquake of 1884. Diagonal buttresses, battlements and higher stair turret. The church has also some of the original C15 windows. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, with panels with flowers in quatrefoils.


ST MARY. 1850 by Teulan, but with none of the offensive features so favoured by this architect. Quite a normal aisled interior, and an exterior, ambitious, but not showy. The W front has a tall NW steeple with spire, 110 ft high. Dec tracery.
OLD ST MARY. By Birch Hall. A small Norman church now in ruins and not much looked after. W tower all in ivy. In the nave one can still recognize the plain C12 S doorway, one S window with Roman brick jambs and one much larger N window with one Roman brick jamb. ·
BIRCH HALL. Large and dignified Italianate villa, chaste and correct in the motifs; nothing debased yet. Ionic colonnade on one side, deep Ionic porch on the other. The architect is Hopper, the date c. 1845. Menaced with demolition.
WINDMILL, 1/2 m. S. Post Mill in a dilapidated condition.

From British History Online:

The ruined church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN, Little Birch, stands just north of the site of Birch Hall. The rubble-built nave, which has Roman brick dressings and pilaster but- tresses at the east angles, may be 11th-century in origin, although the windows are 12th- century and later. In the 14th century the chancel was rebuilt and the west tower added, the walling being of rubble and the tower arch of brick. About 1400 a brick chancel arch was inserted and a rood loft and stair added. In 1518 a parishioner left 3s. 4d. for repairs, and during the 16th century the upper part of the tower was rebuilt in brick and a brick stair turret added. At the Reformation there were two bells.

John Eldred of Stanway, who lived at Little Birch, and Thomasin, widow of Sir John Swinnerton, restored the church about the 1630s. The church became ruinous again and before 1682 Eldred's monument was moved to Earls Colne. Nevertheless the church was reported to be in good repair in 1684, although by 1736 it was 'in a demolished state'. In 1768 there was no roof; only the tower, which was quite high, and the walls remained.

LANGENHOE. An earthquake shook its old church to the ground, an incredible thing to come upon in this secluded place.

The new church of last century has an imposing tower, from which peep out some of the ancient gargoyles which survived. Many of the stones of doorways and windows were also used again, and the 500-year-old doors were rehung. From the old church, too, comes the font, with flowers carved on each of its eight panels; and a quaint chest and a carved chair have seen three centuries.

Very peaceful now is this place so stricken in 1884, the church rising again in the long grass of the churchyard, a group of ducks on a pond outside a farm gate breaking the silence of the fields:

Four ducks on a pond.
A grass bank beyond,
A blue sky of spring,
White clouds on the wing:
What a little thing
To remember for years,
To remember with tears!

BIRCH. Its ancient shrine, shaded by trees near the hall, has been in ruins for three centuries. It is a mere shell and a broken tower, full of years and melancholy. Perhaps the herons know it well, coming over from a score of nests at Chest Wood. The big chancel is 600 years old, and so is the broken tower, though its upper brickwork is Tudor. The nave was built by the Normans, who, here as elsewhere, made good use of the Roman bricks so plentiful round Colchester. Here they are, in the pilasters, at the corners of the walls, and in the doorway.

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