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HISTORY OF SAINT MARY'S CHURCH, BUTTSBURY

Wall Painting

Part of a 15th Century timber found in the roof and which John Betjeman in his "Best British Churches" considered to be the upper portion of a "Doom" painting. "Doom" was the term used for Medieval paintings of the Last Judgement.|

East Window West End The Tower

Looking towards the East window| The west end under the tower| The Tower|

Although there are Roman tiles in the walls of the Nave and Chancel of the church, Buttsbury is believed to have been a Saxon village established after the departure of the Romans. London was left undefended from Pirates (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Huns, etc.) and its leaders therefore invited a group of Saxons to man Lookout Stations strategically placed to observe approaches to the Essex coast, signal their approach and to intercept them. After a while, the Saxons invited their families and friends to join them and gradually others realised it must be good living with good farming country and more and more came. The area now known as Buttsbury lay on a plain stretching behind a row of Lookout Stations looking across to the North Sea and Wash, so giving an excellent view of any approaching shipping. It therefore had very early settlers in view of its position.

The Kingdom of Essex was established in AD 527 and King Ashwin was it's first King. Under Bishop Mellitus in the reign of King Saeberht, The Kingdom of Essex converted to Christianity in AD 604. Under subsequent Kings and Bishops, it then slipped back in and out of paganism. It finally and permanently became Christian in AD 671.

St Botulph is said to have preached under a pear tree at the present church site in the 7th century in the village then known as "Cingham", meaning "dwellers in the district." This is a lovely story and supported to this day by the recent planting of a pear tree in the churchyard. (See "Events" page above).

Buttsbury is mentioned in the Domesday Book under its then name of "Cinga", ("Inga" is Saxon for "Group of early Saxon settlers", and "C" is the Initial of the name of the leader of the first group as was customary at that time). It then had 19 households consisting of 4 villagers, 12 smallholders and 3 slaves. There were 6 plough teams and pasture for 100 sheep and 500 pigs but only 7 cattle, 40 pigs and 100 sheep. Annual Value to the Lord, Henry de Ferrers of 7 pounds.

It may also be of interest that Ingatestone's name is derived from "Inga" (Group of Early Saxons) and "Stones" referring to the stone circle which then stood in what is now Fairfields, Ingatestone and of which some stones can still be seen by doorways in the High Street and at the junction with Fryerning Lane.

The Nave and Chancel were constructed in the 14th century and the North and South Aisles were reconstructed in the 15th century and like the Nave are short probably reflecting that they were built on the footprint of an earlier Anglo-Saxon church.

Some herringbone work around the base of the church in two places supports this. These indications support the concept of an original chuch built with the coming of Christianity to Essex in the 7th Century.

The original stone built Tower dates to the 15th century but was reconstructed in brick in the 18th century in typical Essex style.

As with most churches there were other Victorian changes which included the East Window in 1876 into Perpendicular style. This has suffered with age and was recently removed for restoration but now back in pristine condition.

Church Plan

A plan of the church showing the Tower to the west, the Chancel to the East and the short Anglo-Saxon style Nave between. The north and south aisles were added later.|



A church is first recorded in 1190 when it was given to the Nunnery of St, Leonards-atte-Bow, London. The North Door has been carbon dated to the 12th century, with almost certainly contemporary ironwork in Viking style.

Buttsbury was called "Botoifvspirie" meaning "Botolph's Pear Tree" in the 13th century and one can see that "Buttsbury" has almost certainly emerged over time from that 13th century name.

It seems highly probable that the Village of Cinga was beset by the plague and/or many villagers died in the Peasants Revolt and so the village buildings close to the church fell into decay and were lost. As numbers of settlers built up again the main concentration of occupation appears to have been to the south of the Parish on the outskirts of Billericay (see Exract of map of Buttsbury Parish before and during World War 1 below). It is believed that a local husbandman named Botolph had a Pear Orchard there and Perry Street survives to this day. This is perhaps an alternative and more likely explanation for the source of the village's new name of "Botoifvspirie" around that time.

North Door War Memorial

The very old North Door| The First World War Memorial|

The War Memorial is exceptional in that the centre panel shows those who died in the First World War and the two side panels show all those that went to war. It was presented by a parishioner in 1920. At that time the Parish of Buttsbury extended to Stock and the outskirts of Billericay and many of those shown actually lived in Stock.

Old pre-1922 Boundary map

This Extract from the Ordnance Survey Map of the Parish Boundaries as they were up to and during the 1st World War, shows the Parish extended from the River Wid in the West to northern Billericay as far as Norsey Wood in the south-east and the area of Stock around and beyond Greenwoods in the north-east|

Floor Slabs

The tombs of Edward Francklin of Burchbury who died in 1680 and his daughter Ann Lockey who died in 1688|


Cremations

The area now set aside for cremations|

Chalice Alms Dish Chalice & Paten

The 1563 Chalice and 1567 Cover| One of two Alms Dishes| The Chalice and Paten now in use|

The Parish Silver which is of course not kept in the church for securty reasons

The Bell returns from the restorers

The Buttsbury bell returns to the Church for restoration. To read about its history go to:The Buttsbury Bell

The Area around the Church as per Chapman & Andree in 1777

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From this Map showing the Buttsbury area in 1777, it can be seen that then too there was no sign of a village near the church, although there was at one time a water mill by the bridge crossing the river Wid around which an earlier village could have been centered. However, Essex is a somewhat unique County in that it had few concentrations of villages but rather one or two large land holdings usually close to the Church and many small holdings scattered around the area known as the village. This could well have contributed to Buttsbury being as it is now. The plague and /or Peasants Revolt could also be responsible.

It can also be seen that the road layout since then is unchanged between Ingatestone and Buttsbury and has been crossing the same very old bridge over the river Wid for centuries.

Ingatestone Hall, the home of the Petre family for some 400 years, can be clearly seen and also The Workhouse ringed in red. This was in fact the original Almshouses founded and funded by the Petre family in 1556 at a cost of 253 plus endowments of leased land for long term funding.These Almshouses have since been replaced by those in the village.

Whilst the Petre family are Roman Catholic and have their family Mausoleum at a former home in the grounds of Thorndon Hall, three recent members of the family are buried at Buttsbury "so that they can keep an eye on what goes on at Ingatestone Hall seen here on the horizon just across the Wid valley":- 17th Baron Petre (1914-1989), his widow, Lady Margaret Petre (1916-2003) and the present Lord Petre's son, the Honourable Mark Petre (1969-2004).

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If you would like to learn more about our ancient church and parish The Mysteries of Buttsbury by a longstanding parishioner, Keith Brown, is available in the church priced at 5.