Sunday, 29 January 2012

Tolleshunt Major

Buoyed up by two open churches I progressed to the Tolleshunts and the reason that I covered ten churches in half the time I usually would - five of the next eight churches were locked with no keyholder listed. To my mind the justifiable locked church was at Tolleshunt Knights which, to be fair, is very isolated but the rest seem inexcusable.

Having got that off my chest St Nicholas is magnificent with a four square tower, a beautiful churchyard and a fantastic setting - such a shame it's kept locked.

The adjacent Beckingham Hall gatehouse is pretty spectacular too.

ST NICHOLAS. A humble church of nave and chancel, with a nice S porch added in 1888 to the designs of the Rev. E. Geldart, rector of Little Braxted. In front of this small church, probably about 1540-5, Stephen Beckingham of Beckingham Hall decided to place a brick W tower, much too big for the older building. It is patterned with diapers of blue brick, has diagonal buttresses with four set-offs and very low battlements. The W windows are of three and two lights, the bell-openings of three with a depressed pointed head. Original roofs. - FONT. Placed against the S wall. Half an octagon, Perp, with rosettes and shields. - PAINTING. On the S wall remains of a C15 figure. - PLATE. C17 Cup.

St Nicholas (2)

Beckingham Hall

TOLLESHUNT MAJOR. Whoever loves stone must here love brick, for the 16th century builder has shown us what he could accomplish in decorative moulding in bricks in a country house and a village church. The two-storeyed gatehouse and the boundary wall of the courtyard of Beckingham Hall were set up in the reign of Henry the Eighth, when the tower was added to the neighbouring church. The mouldings of the windows in the upper stages of this tower are as neat as stone could be, while blue bricks make patterns up the tower. There are vaulted brick canopies over niches in the walls of the nave, and by the altar is a 13th century coffin lid carved with a cross. The church stands in open country facing a pond, and from the battlements of its tower is a glorious view of the Blackwater estuary and the trees on Mersey Island across that sparkling band of water.

Simon K -

At last, the road left the great grey river behind and turned north into the Tolleshunts, the first of which was Tolleshunt Major. Despite the name, this is the smallest of the Tolleshunts, and the church sits away from the village on a lonely bluff overlooking the Hall.

Locked, no keyholder. This didn't quite ring true, because this was the opposite of Heybridge, this was a church you'd simply expect to be open. In visits to more than 120 Essex churches, this was only the fourth one I'd come across which was locked without a keyholder notice. The church is tiny, but with a whacking great red brick tower added on at the end of the 16th century, with none of the style and finesse of typical beautiful Essex brick towers of earlier in the century. Somewhat surreally, there was a caravan parked hard against the north side of the chancel. The revised BoE has little to say about the interior, and without a keyholder notice it didn't seem worth pursuing the key on what would be a short late autumn day, although I did note that the Rector was that of the next church we planned to visit, Tolleshunt D'Arcy.


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