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North Stifford Village

The Pulpit

The pulpit bears the date 1611 which infers that it is the only pulpit St. Mary’s ever had because they were only made compulsory in 1603 (not for church purposes, but so that the King’s messenger could read proclamations to the populace). Attached to it is a l7th century hourglass stand (or lantern holder – the debate is undecided) inscribed with the letters A.H.


Brasses

In the sanctuary can be found a memorial brass to Ralph de Perchehay and it is noted for the fylfot crosses (which resemble swastikas) on his vestments. He was rector in 1380. On the floor of the sanctuary is a stone slab bearing five crosses and the name David de Tillebury inscribed with the date 1330.

The brass letters and numbers that would have been set in the recesses are long gone. Could it have been thrown down by Cromwell’s men? It is thought that St. Mary’s could not have escaped the reformers’ attentions.

More brasses of the Lathum and Ardalle families were reset on the east wall of the chantry chapel during the 19th century restorations. This set of brasses is judged amongst the top ten in the country by the diocesan experts. The Lathums lived in Stifford Hall in the 17th century and were connected by marriage to the Ardalles. The Ardalles owned the land on which the Ardale School was built in Clockhouse Lane .The school was one of the Stepney Homes, a charity for homeless children from the East End of London. A housing development now stands on this site.


The Chantry Chapel

Set in the south wall of the Chantry Chapel is a fenestella (wall niche) containing credence but not a piscina. As this is possibly pre-reformation and usually situated very close to the alter, although always on the south side, the conjecture is that it was moved during the 19th century restorations.

Fenestella and Stoup

The well worn stoup (stone basin) is immediately under the fenestella.

Before the Reformation in the 16th century, Catholics would have dipped their fingers into holy water contained in this ancient stoup, before making the sign of the cross.

The Chantry Chapel also contains the organ which was installed in 1875. Made by Maley, Yoiung & Oldknow of London. It was originally blown by hand.

The bellows handle is still operational, and the organ was pumped with this before it was converted to electrical power by Monk & Gunter.

The Chantry Chapel has at various times also been known as the Lady Chapel, The South Chapel, and more recently, the Organ Chapel.

The Church Chest which at present is to be found in the Chantry Chapel is dated 1713 on the hinge. It has three locks and three keys – one held by each of the two Church Wardens and one by the Rector. The chest can therefore only be opened if all three are present.

It holds all the parish records since 1920.

Set in the floor beneath the arch leading from the Chantry Chapel to the south aisle is an ornate black memorial bearing a coat of arms. The College of Arms has said that this is undoubtedly the arms of the Grantham family. Whilst there is no record of Granthams of Stifford or West Thurrock entitled to bear arms, it was common for families to assume arms granted to another family of the same name. Nathaniel Grantham is known to have been buried in the church. He owned Stifford Manor in 1693 and on his death in 1708 it passed to his son Kenrick, whose heirs sold it in 1747. The Granthams are believed to have originated in Yorkshire.

Between the Chantry Chapel and the south aisle is a huge pillar. It has a corbel and head on it and the remains of a medieval painted design (c. 1260). It is possible that this pillar may contain a staircase which formerly led to a clerestory which no longer exists. A similar, undamaged, unpainted head and corbel can be found on the pillar at the south end of the church, opposite the font.

The Font

The font is early English, thirteenth century of the style known as polypod (many legs) with a square bowl. There are remains of old lid fastenings in the rim and it has been much repaired. A church font is usually situated just inside the main door but the position of this one, close to the south door, suggests that the south door was used as the main entrance originally. This is probably the case because in the Middle Ages the left (sinister) or north side of the Church was considered evil and could not be used.

Behind the font stands the burnt out remains of the church brazier which would once have been filled with red hot charcoal.


The Nave

Looking up, you can see the huge Tie-beam and King-post which, as their name suggests, hold up the roof and tie the construction together.



The Tower

The tower arch is late 15th century. The west window and lights in the bell chamber are late 13th century.

The tower contains memorials to the Silverlocke and Lathum families. The latter is our historic link with the Worshipful Company of Broderers of the Guildhall, London, which at one time, owned much of the glebe land surrounding Stifford. In addition, a centuries old wooden staircase made of wedge-shaped steps and enormous hand–made nails reach up to the bell chamber. It is thought that St. Mary's had three bells as early as 1552. The bells were re cast, one in 1663, one in 1635 and one in 1737. They were last restored in the 1950's.


Hassocks

The many beautiful hassocks (kneelers) and pew runners were sewn by the ladies of the church. They were donated by many people for many reasons; weddings, baptisms, in memorium, confirmations, the seasons, Christmas and Easter, in thanks to Rector, Curate and Wardens, and to demonstrate pride and pleasure in organisations such as Scouts, Guides, The Mothers’ Union and the Women’s institute, to name but a few. A Choir-mistress donated and sewed the one with a bar of music denoting the Amen. The donor and seamstress are noted on the back of each.

St. Mary's Church


Interior