St Mary's Church, Great Baddow - A Short History
When was the Church built? This is a common opening question yet the most difficult to answer with any accuracy. We could say 1100 to allow a little time before we reach its first appearance on record in 1172. If so we are talking about the Norman times, during which a major change took place in the area of religion. We may reasonably assume that during this period a wood and plaster church with a thatched roof was erected on the present site, and over the following centuries various wealthy locals were able to effect enlargements.
A helpful guide book is available at the church priced at £1, or by post via the Church office. This endeavours to draw your attention to the layout and provide information to some of the contents and fixed monuments.
From a Norman church consisting of a nave and chancel, the church expanded over the next three hundred years by the addition of both North and South aisles to the nave and a tower and spire. This was probably financed principally by the De Badewe family, who owned most of the land in the parish. At first glance it could be taken that the family gave their name to the village of Great Baddow, but preceding that in the Doomsday book of 1106 it appears as Baduven, and one hundred years later it was known as Badewe with Magna added in 1238. One Richard de Badewe was born in the parish and achieved eminence by becoming Chancellor of the University of Cambridge (1326) and founded University Hall, which became Clare College.
The first record of the Church in 1172 arose when Maud, daughter of Robert Earl of Gloucester, and married to the Earl of Chester founded the Priory of Repton in Derbyshire and endowed that Priory with the advowson of St. Mary's Church as a foundation gift. The holder of an advowson has the right to recommend a member of the clergy for a vacant benefice. This association held until 1537 when Henry Vlll effected the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Within ten years the advowson was given to Sir Walter Henley who in turn passed the Church, together with the Rectory and the advowson of the Vicarage to one John Pascall. There is local reference to the Pascall family in the neighbourhood to this day and a wall brass located in the chancel is dedicated to one Jane Paschall following her death in 1614. The Pascall family held the advowson from 1547 to 1732 but it appears that the family did not give up its allegiance to Rome at the Reformation and in consequence suffered persecution for Popery.
During the Fourteenth Century, the church underwent considerable alteration to arrive at its present profile. The South, North and West walls were removed to make way for the current arcades and aisles and the construction of the tower. In addition, the existing Norman arch was removed and a wider arch replaced it. So, in that respect, one may say that the existing layout of the church dates from approximately 1350, at the end of the Middle Ages possibly during the long reign of Edward lll and when England suffered the loss of one third of its population due to the plague.
If you should compare the North and South arcades, you would notice that the supporting columns and walls do not match. You would also observe a Piscina set in the South wall which is a basin to wash the communion vessels after use.
During the 16th Century the church was literally able to let the light in when the existing roof decayed and was replaced by a new roof, with two windows on each side. Due to a belief at the time that when a witch or bedevilled person was exorcised that the escaping devil exited by the North door, this entrance was bricked up. When the church was re-ordered in 1999 the old doorway was reopened to make way for a toilet block and the previous flint work was replicated on the outside of the extension. At the same time a kitchen was added and the floor re-laid to permit an updated heating system to be installed. The old pews were removed to allow for new flexible seating to increase the seating capacity of the church.
Hence if a visitor enquires as to the when the church was built one can point to various areas and say that they date from the 1950's onward. With the support of various local funds and the congregation, maintenance and general improvements continue to keep the church in line with the needs of the community.
Compiled from various sources and in particular a pamphlet by David Papworth.