St Martin

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The parish church of Saint Martin stands a short distance from the main centre of population of the village of Little Waltham, which lies along the old main road from Chelmsford to Braintree where it crosses the River Chelmer at Winkford bridge.  As in so many as six villages, its immediate neighbours are the hall, on the south side, and the rectory, on the west, although the 17th century rectory has now been superseded.

The church is built mainly of flint and pebble rubble.  The present appearance of the building owes much to the restoration by Frederick Chancellor, a Chelmsford Architect, in 1883-1884, but the earliest parts of the building are  Norman – see the South Doorway, with its round arch, and simple mouldings, and one small window just east of the porch, very small on the outside but  splayed on the inside to admit as much light as possible.  The Door itself is late 15th or early 16th century.  The Porch was added by Chancellor, but incorporates some early 16th century woodwork.  In the porch is an old font, probably the original Norman Font removed in 1883 and returned here after being found in a garden.  The Chancel was rebuilt in the 14th or 15th century, and the West Tower was added or rebuilt in the first half of the 15th century, but one appears to have collapsed and to have been rebuilt in brick.  The oldest of the church’s Bells, dated 1632 and 1634, by Miles Graye  of Colchester were probably made soon after these repairs were carried out.  Behind the battlements of the tower is a small Cupola, its weather vane dated 1679.

On the north side of the church can be seen the North Aisle, Vestry and Organ Chamber added by Chancellor in 1883-84.

Like the outside of the church, the interior has not been substantially altered since Chancellor’s restoration.  Fittings which date from this time include, the Seating, the Font, and the Roof.  The Font has recently been sighted in front of the Lady Chapel Altar to give space for a reception area by the south door. The stone Pulpit was also designed by Chancellor, but was given in 1892 by J.J. Tufnell of Langleys, Great Waltham.  A dug out Chest over 6 foot long and made of sycamore dates from the 13th or 14th century and is heavily bound with iron.

There are few monuments in the church, and those of note are in the Chancel.  In the floor in front of the altar is a Brass to John Maltoun, Lord of the Manor, who died in 1447.  He is shown in armour, with a dog at his feet.                                                                                                                            

Another Brass, just an inscription, commemorates Richard Waltham, died 1426.  On the north wall is a monument to John Aleyne, who died in 1663, of Grays Inn, and his parents, Giles Aleyne, Rector of Little Waltham and his wife Elizabeth.  The inscription is on black marble set in an alabaster frame decorated with swags of fruit and two little cherubs’ heads.  A Brass put up in 1898 commemorates Roger Poole, who died in 1560.  Both Poole and John Aleyne founded charities for the benefit of the parish.

The stone  Reredos was erected in 1905.  Painted figures of  Moses and Aaron from the old reredos, 1726, are now in Saint Giles Church, Mountnessing.  The four main stone or bas-relief figures of the Evangelists were added in 1953.  These were carved and by Joseph Cribb, who was Eric Gill’s first apprentice.

There are a number of Stained – Glass Windows.  The east window is by Lawrence Lee, 1951.  As a background to the Crucifiction, the artist has depicted  some of Little Waltham’s buildings: the church, old rectory, school, and Winkford bridge.  The window incorporates some fragments of older glass in the tracery and borders.  The heraldic glass in the north aisle is also by Lee, 1952.  The three-light window on the south side of the nave (Ascension) and the tower window are both by Alfred. O. Hemming & Co., and they were probably  also responsible for the two-light window on the south side of the chancel  

(St Martin and St Alban) and the Nativity window at the west end of the north aisle.  The engraved glass screen which was installed in 1982 in memory of members of the Bird Family, is by Jennifer Conway, who lived in  Little Waltham as a child.

In the churchyard, on the north side of the church, is St. Martin’s Barn, a meeting room with kitchen and toilets, completed in 1994.  It was designed by Nicholas J Cooper, of Purcell Miller Tritton.

Written by James Bettley for the Friends of Essex Churches, May 2004.






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