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Church of St Thomas, Waltham Abbey

Description: Church of St Thomas

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 22 March 1974
English Heritage Building ID: 117651

OS Grid Reference: TL4157101001
OS Grid Coordinates: 541571, 201001
Latitude/Longitude: 51.6899, 0.0467

Location: 4 Horseshoe Hill, Waltham Abbey, Essex EN9 3SW

Locality: Waltham Abbey
Local Authority: Epping Forest District Council
County: Essex
Country: England
Postcode: EN9 3SW

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Listing Text


DATES OF MAIN PHASES, NAME OF ARCHITECT: 1901-2 by Percy B Freeman and Gilbert Ogilvy.

MATERIALS: Roughcast with freestone dressings. Stone chimney stack with chequered flint decoration on N. Red, clay-tiled roofs. Timber-boarded bell turret with a shingled spire.

PLAN: Nave and chancel in one with a N aisle and continuous vestry under a catslide roof.

EXTERIOR: The two side elevations present very different appearances. The N is dominated by a large catslide roof spanning the nave/chancel and aisle/vestry. It is only punctuated by a chimneystack breaking through at the junction between the aisle and vestry. The bays are marked out by stubby buttresses and have square headed windows of two and three lights apart from the W bay of the aisle which has a pointed one of two lights. The south side, having no aisle has a taller wall and larger windows. As on the N side there is variety. The buttresses are spaced very irregularly and the windows are both square-headed (the three in the nave) and pointed (chancel). The latter have a pair of two-light openings with distinctive, spiky tracery in the heads derived from Decorated models. The east window, however, is a conventional, three-light Perpendicular design. Over the W end of the nave a timber bellcote straddles the roof. It is boarded, has two layers of louvre openings and has a shingled chamfer spire as capping. An attractive feature of the exterior is the suite of well-preserved plank-and-cover strip doors with fine original ferramenta by W. Bainbridge Reynolds.

INTERIOR: Despite the continuity of the external roof there is a structural division internally between the nave and chancel. There is a chancel arch in which the chamfers of the head die into the responds. On the N side there is a timber four-bay arcade with moulded posts and a brattished plate. The posts carry the nave roof which is of tie-beam and crown-post design, the crown post having four-way bracing. The roof is plastered in front of the rafters. In the chancel there is a canted plaster ceiling divided into panels by moulded ribs with bosses, the panels being enriched with sprays and vases flowers in relief, executed by L A Turner who also carried out the wood and stone carving in the church. The bellcote is supported on a stout open timber frame with arched braces and two scissor-braced bays above. The floor is laid with cream and red paving.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: There is a good collection of items in the Arts and Crafts tradition. The timber pulpit is original to the church, is of the wine-glass type and has delicate carved detail and small piercings on each face. The lectern is of 1907. The communion table was designed by Lawrence Turner. The communion rails date from 1912. There is good, attractive ferramenta to the doors. The font is a First World War memorial of 1922 and, unusually, is of wood, is six-sided and stands on three posts. The chancel includes an attractive timber wall tablet to Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton Bart (d 1915) and his wife, Lady Victoria, with a delicate coat of arms and gilded lettering with painted foliage decoration. Other attractive original features include a painted text of Psalm 100 over the chancel arch and hanging and wall lamps by Bainbridge Reynolds.

HISTORY: Upshire was a hamlet of Waltham Abbey with no church until 1902, although c.1855 Sir William Buxton had built a combined school and chapel. The present building was paid for by Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton Bart., of the brewing family; the architects were P B F Freeman and his partner G F M Ogilvy. Freeman (b, 1859) had briefly been an assistant to several excellent late Gothic Revival architects, G G Scott junior, Bodley and Garner, and Temple Moore, and began independent practice c.1885. Ogilvy (b. 1868) served his articles under the successful Edinburgh architect Hippolyte Blanc. What Freeman and Ogilvy and their patron created was an excellent example of a small country church in the Arts and Crafts tradition, one which looked to the local styles of building and which relied on high-quality craftsmanship. The latter is very evident in, say, the plaster decoration in the chancel and the ironwork of the doors. Such churches are rare and are a complete contrast to the work of the mid-Victorian period when architects were less concerned to root their buildings in local traditions.

James Bettley and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Essex, 2007, p 801.
Richard Padfield, A History of St Thomas' Church, Upshire, c.2002.
Antonia Brodie et al., Directory of British Architects 1834-1914, vol 1, 2001, p 689, vol 2, 2001, pp 282-3.

The church of St Thomas, Waltham Abbey, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It is an excellent example of a small country church built under the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
* It has many fine fixtures and architectural details.

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.