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Church of St John the Evangelist, Great and Little Leighs

Description: Church of St John the Evangelist

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 10 April 1967
English Heritage Building ID: 112626

OS Grid Reference: TL7189916750
OS Grid Coordinates: 571899, 216750
Latitude/Longitude: 51.8229, 0.4929

Location: Church Lane, Great and Little Leighs, Essex CM3 1PQ

Locality: Great and Little Leighs
Local Authority: Chelmsford City Council
County: Essex
Country: England
Postcode: CM3 1PQ

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Listing Text


719/2/147 CHURCH LANE

The nave was built in the early C12, and the chancel was added or rebuilt in the C13. It was restored in 1895 by A Y Nutt, who rebuilt the E wall and the S porch and added the N vestry.

Flint rubble, coursed in the C12 work, uncoursed in the C13 work. Limestone and clunch dressings. Tiled roofs and shingled spirelet. Weather boarded W belfry.

Unaisled nave and chancel in one. S porch, N vestry and small W spirelet.

The chancel E wall was rebuilt in the C19 and has a 3-light Decorated style window. The division between chancel and nave is defined externally on the N and S walls by small, offset buttresses. The N wall of the chancel has a narrow 2-light Decorated window and a small projection with brick quoins for the tomb recess visible on the inside. The chancel S wall has a priest¿s door with a C13 chamfered opening and a hoodmould, flanked by a two-light Decorated window towards the E end and a smaller C13 single light with a hood mould to the W. The N wall of the nave has C14 window towards its E end and small, C12 light with a round head towards the W end. Between is a C13 N door with one chamfered order. The S wall of the nave has a C14 window towards the E end and a small, early C12 light immediately to the W of the S porch. The C13 S door has one heavily moulded order on attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases and an outer hood mould. The W window is a single, tall C13 light with a hood mould, heavily restored in the C19. The C19 S porch is timber and stands on dwarf stone walls. The sides have open arcades and the outer opening has arched braces. The timber bell turret and spire were rebuilt in the C19. The bell turret has weather boarded sides with louvered two-light opening in each face and a splay-footed, shingled spire.

There is no division between nave and chancel, but the nave and chancel have different roofs with an arched truss between them. The nave has a trussed rafter roof, probably of the C14, with a tie beam with queen posts under the belfry. The chancel has a boarded wagon roof with two, old tie beams. The entrance for the former rood loft stair, now blocked except for the lowest steps, is preserved in the western splay of the chancel NW window. To the east in the N chancel wall is a superb C14 tomb recess, with a C13 recess to the east of the tomb. In the S wall the sill of the C13 window is carried down to form a low-side window opening, now blocked, and there is a contemporary chamfered recess in the splay. The splays of the C12 windows in the nave are brick, and the splays of an additional blocked C12 window are also visible in the S nave wall.

C13 font, octagonal, with panelled and traceried sides, the carving added in the C14, standing on eight shafts with alternate shafts standing on carved beasts. There are some early C16 benches with reeded panelling on the ends in the nave. C16 and C17 linenfold panelling was made up into new furnishings 1895, including the polygonal pulpit and panelling in the vestry. The thin, Decorated-style screen is also 1895, as is the stone reredos, which has diaper panelling and a heavy cornice. The S door is C13 and has hinges with foliate ends. There is some good C19 and C20 stained glass, including the E and W windows of 1895, probably by Ion Pierce, and the nave N window by G E R Smith of 1951.

Monuments: In the chancel, a superb early C14 tomb to an unknown cleric in the Court Style that retains traces of the original paint. The arch of the recess has a cusped ogee opening, the spandrels of the cusps heavily carved with foliage and faces. The extrados of the arch has foliage carving and terminates in a foliate pinnacle, and the whole is flanked by tall pinnacles. The tomb chest is plain, and on it rests an oak effigy of a priest in mass vestments with his feet resting on two animals and defaced angles supporting his head. Herman Olmius, d.1726, a wall tablet with a broken pediment, drapery and a cherub's head. George Welstead, d. 1796, a female figure leaning on an urn. There is also a single hatchment.

Great and Little Leighs are mentioned as a single estate in the Domesday book of 1086, but neither church is recorded at that time, although this does not necessarily mean that a church did not exist in either place. Otherwise, the early C12 nave is the earliest evidence for a church in Little Leighs. It is likely that the priest commemorated in the chancel was one of the rectors in the C14, and Herbert Olmius, commemorated in the nave, was a London merchant of Dutch descent who owned several estates in the area and was patron of the living of Little Leighs. The 1895 restoration was paid for by Rev H E Hulton, Vicar of Great Waltham and Rural Dean of Chelmsford. The architect, Alfred Young Nutt (1847-1924), was Surveyor to the Dean and Canons of St George's, Windsor and Clerk of Works at Windsor Castle. He also had a private architectural practice and worked extensively on churches in Essex and elsewhere.

RCHME Essex II 91921) 157-8
Bettley, J and Pevsner, N., Buildings of England Essex (2007), 557-8

The church of St John the Evangelist, Little Leighs, Essex is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Parish church with good medieval fabric of the early C12 and C13, restored in the late C19.
* Restored medieval roofs.
* Outstanding early C14 tomb of a priest with an elaborate niche and wooden effigy.
* Some excellent fittings, including a C13 door, C13/C14 font and early C16 nave benches.
¿ Good C19 and C20 stained glass.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.