Former parish church and churchyard of St Nicholas


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021225

Date first listed: 24-Feb-2004


Ordnance survey map of Former parish church and churchyard of St Nicholas
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This copy shows the entry on 20-Jan-2019 at 11:51:46.


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

County: Essex

District: Brentwood (District Authority)

Parish: Herongate and Ingrave

National Grid Reference: TQ 62417 89654


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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, both above and below ground, of the medieval church of St Nicholas and the archaeological levels preserved both within the church and in the surrounding churchyard will contain important archaeological evidence regarding the monument's history. Study of these remains, along with documentary evidence, will illustrate the church's demise from a medieval church of some importance, enjoying full parochial status, to little more than a ruin by the 18th century when it was demolished by Robert James, the eighth Lord Petre.

The archaeological levels will not only contain information illustrating the fabric and history of the church, but will contain artefactual and environmental evidence for the period in which it was constructed.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the above and below ground remains of St Nicholas's Church, located on high ground within Thorndon Country Park, approximately 450m to the west of Mill Wood. The remains of the church lie 4m to the south of an ancient hedgeline which currently divides parkland from agricultural land. An area immediately to the south of the hedgeline includes the foundations of the church; it is slightly raised and has recently been taken out of cultivation. The site of Thorndon Old Hall, dating from the early 15th century, lies about 150m to the north on the other side of the hedgeline and is protected as a separate scheduling.

The above ground remains of the church take the form of a slightly raised area in the grass, covered by a scatter of building debris including bricks and roof tiles. The foundations of the church walls survive below ground, their course partly traceable as a slight parchmark (pale area of grass caused by underlying masonry restricting the flow of nutrients and moisture from the soil). Although the precise measurements of the church cannot be ascertained from above ground features, the slightly raised area and parchmarks indicate a length of approximately 26m by 8m wide. As with the church, the area occupied by the churchyard is indicated only by minor earthworks; 16th century maps, however, show it to have been approximately 100m long by 30m wide, with the church depicted in a central position. In order to encompass both church and churchyard and allow for a protective margin of 10m around the rather indistinct earthworks and parchmarks, the area of protection is 120m long by 50m wide.

Documentary and cartographic sources show that the medieval church dates from the 15th century at the latest. Archaeological finds of 15th to 16th century Flemish floor tiles from in and around the site appear to confirm this dating; however, the below ground foundations could reveal an earlier date of construction, perhaps even the existence of a previous building on the site.

The Church of St Nicholas served the parish of West Horndon until the 18th century. In 1712 the parishes of West Horndon and Ingrave were united by a parliamentary bill, promoted by Robert, the seventh Lord Petre, owner of Thorndon Hall and holder of the advowsons of both churches. The bill permitted Lord Petre to demolish both the old churches on condition that at his own expense he built a new church on a site more convenient to the worshippers. He died before he could put his plans into effect and it was left to his son, the eighth Lord Petre, when he took possession of the estate in 1732, to demolish the old churches and build a new church for the combined parishioners.

The old parish church of St Nicholas is shown on a Walker map of 1598 with a crenellated west tower, weathercock and south porch. Documentary sources state that at the time of the church's demolition in 1734 it had `grown ruinous'.

All modern fences and fence paths are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 32471

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Archaeological Advisory Group, , Country Parks Archaeological Survey, (1992)
Garwood, A, Thorndon Park, Brentwood, Essex, (1994)
Morant, P, History of Essex, (1768), 215
Morant, P, History of Essex, (1768)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, (1923), 167
Buckley, D G, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Work Undertaken By Essex County Council Archaeology Section, (1976), 180-2
Buckley, D G, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Work Undertaken By Essex County Council Archaeology Section, (1976), 180-2
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Soc. Occ. Paper 2' in Old Thorndon Hall, Essex: A History of its Park and Garden, (1970), 27-39
ESMR, Gilman, P, 1851, (1986)
Essex SMR entry, Gilman, P, 1851, (1986)
II*, English Heritage, Register of Parks and Gardens, (2003)
Title: Country Parks Archaeological Survey, Thorndon Park Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Archaeological Advisory Group
Title: D/DP P5 West and East Horndon Source Date: 1598 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: In Essex Record Office
Title: D/DP P5 West and East Horndon Source Date: 1598 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Essex Record Office

End of official listing