Remains of the medieval parish church and cemetery, 70m north east of the junction of Hall Close and Frinton Road


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Tendring (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TM 20906 16656

Reasons for Designation

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little fabric of the first church being still easily visible. Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of 1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are identified to be nationally important.

The surviving fabric of the medieval church at Little Holland Hall, and the archaeological levels preserved within the church and its surrounding cemetery, will contain important information illustrating the church's history and use. The small scale excavations that have already taken place have shown that the history of the site is complex and that its origins may lie within the Anglo-Saxon period. The cemetery may prove to be one of only a handful of churchyards with pre-Conquest origins. With its simple two-celled design, the church itself may prove to be very early, parts of its fabric perhaps dating from the original late Saxon manor.


The monument includes the remains of the medieval parish church and cemetery, which lies within the grounds of Little Holland Hall some 130m inland from the coastline at Holland-on-Sea, two miles north east of Clacton. The church and cemetery form part of a manorial complex which, until recently, was isolated from other settlement. Other surviving components of the manor include the hall itself and two large ponds; these are not included in the scheduling.

Documentary evidence shows that the name Holande dates back to the beginning of the 11th century, and there may have been a church dating from that time. The Domesday Book records that the population was already in decline from 16 households at the time of the Conquest to 11 households by 1086. Little Holland Church was a curacy of St Osyth's Priory until its dissolution in 1539. Documents record that the value of the manor was depreciating because of inundation by the sea. Although still standing in 1650, the Parochial Inquisition recommended that the parish should be annexed to Great Clacton, and the church had been demolished by 1660. By 1650 rapid encroachment by the sea had made the parish almost uninhabitable due to frequent flooding and only eight families were present by 1650.

The outline of the church is visible as a raised earthwork following the buried remains of the walls, except for the east wall which survives above ground. The east wall of uncoursed brick and rubble survives to a maximum height of 1.2m. The external outline of the church as shown by the buried and above ground walling measures some 22m long by 10m wide.

Excavations have indicated that the origins of the cemetery may predate the existing medieval church. Several burials on a different alignment to the church (both within the structure and to its east) were recorded during excavation and did not appear to be contemporary with it. These burials may belong to an earlier Anglo-Saxon period: there is a long standing local belief that the cemetery marks the site of a tenth century skirmish between the Saxons and a band of Viking raiders.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Reaney, PH, Place names of Essex, (1935), 340
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, (1922), 169
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, (1922), 169
Threadgall, R, The Cross Shines through the Lowland Mists, (1971)
Rodwell, WJ, 'CBA Research Report No.19' in Historic Churches a wasting asset, (1977), 22, 110
Walker, K, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Little Holland Church, , Vol. Vol.5, (1973), 234-5
Letter to J. Hedges, ECC, Sellers, E, List of documentary references, (1972)
Ordnance Survey Card, Ordnance Survey TM 21 NW 01, (1951)
Ordnance Survey, OS TM21 NW01, (1951)
Pat Ryan, Details from Church Visitations,
Pat Ryan, Details from Church Visitations,
Title: Tithe Award Source Date: 1838 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: ERO D/CT 183
Tyler, S, MPP Film , (2000)
Tyler, S, MPP Film , (2000)
Walker, K, Little Holland Parish Church, 1984, Typewritten notes including plan
Walker, K, Little Holland Parish Church, 1984, Typewritten notes including plan


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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