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Statutory Address:

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

Uttlesford (District Authority)
Saffron Walden
National Grid Reference:
TL 53736 38626



TL5338 SAINT MARY'S CHURCHYARD 669-1/1/401 Church of St Mary the Virgin 28/11/51


Parish church. Aligned NE-SW. Chancel and crypt late C13, rebuilding of nave and tower 1485-early C16 by Simon Clerk and John Wastell. Upper stage of tower rebuilt and spire added in 1831 by Rickman and Hutchinson. Restoration and new E window by Butterfield in 1876. Major repairs in the mid 1970's. Walling variable, of ashlar, flint, field stones and ashlar offcuts, lead roofs. PLAN: 7 bay nave; 8 bay N and S aisles with 2 bay E chapels, N and S porches, 3 bay chancel and W tower. W end elevation: central tower with low pitched gabled ends of aisles each side. Plinth with upper moulded string across elevation and continued round all sides of church. Tower 4 stages with set back buttresses. Stage 1 and 2, ashlar, W doorway, 2-centred arched head in moulded rectangular surround, spandrels have quatrefoiled roundels with central lozenge leaf motif and trefoiled daggers (this motif is repeated for doors and windows with slight variations throughout the building as a standard building style) C19 boarded door and ironwork. Above, 3-light, 2-centred arched foiled window with upper panelled tracery, head stopped label. Stage 3 has field stone walling, 2-light 2-centred arched window, head stopped label, clock above. Stage 4, 3-light, 2-centred arched louvred belfry aperture with upper panelled tracery, rectangular framing and head stopped label. Parapet, embattled, gridded with quatrefoiled roundels below crenels, corner buttresses surmounted by crocketed ogee topped turrets from which paired fliers support the stone octagonal spire. Spire has crocketed arris ribs and gabled louvred lucarnes alternating at 2 levels. Apex weather cock. Aisles - W ends - walls of flint and field stones, N aisle has plinth of panelled flint flushwork, angle buttresses with crocketed finials, embattled low pitch gabled parapets, each with a 2-centred arched 5-light window, upper panelled and foiled tracery, splayed sills. S side elevation: W to E, tower, similar to W elevation but putlog holes seen on lower 3 stages. Ground floor walling blank, of split flints. Stages 2 and 3 of field stones and off-cuts, stage 2 also blank. Clerestory and side aisle walling of field stones, both embattled, buttresses with crocketed finials at bay intervals. Windows all similar, in aisle, rectangular framed, 2-centred arched heads, 4 foiled lights with upper transom and panelled tracery with Y bars intersecting. Clerestory windows framed in pairs as one, depressed arched heads. Each of 3 lights, lower transom, foiled upper panelled tracery. 2-storeyed porch 2 bays deep, flat embattled parapet angle-buttresses, surmounted by octagonal embattled turrets. Outer and inner doorways in standard style, stone fan vault with 2 large foliate bosses, outer door inserted to create a vestry, inner door early Cl6, vertical boards with upper moulded rail, wicket door in W leaf, some original ironwork including half of the internal locking bar, now converted for padlock, also stud nails and internal lozenge shaped roves clamping horizontal boards. Muniment room in upper part of porch, S window of 4 lights, panelled tracery with 7 bars. Porch sides, ground floor, 2 2-light lancet windows, above, similar in square framing. Plinth, E side has fragment of Anglo-Saxon cross. Aisle bays to E split flint walling below windows and in buttresses. Nave clerestory E end, early C16 turret, octagonal, ogee crocketed, scale ornamented top. Below, at nave-chapel buttress, cusped, nodding, ogee headed niche with image of bishop within. S chapel, 3-centred arch headed door with rectangular label, C19 boarded door. Windows similar to aisles but less deep, flushwork spandrels in standard style. To E, C19/C20 ground floor extension in internal angle with chancel of flint walling, plain parapet with cornice ogee moulded, doorway with 4-centred arched head and label. Chancel set back with diagonal buttress, 2 clerestory windows and side window of 3 lights, upper panelled tracery. N side elevation W to E, similar to S side but nave aisle windows have gridded spandrels and 3 western bays of nave aisle are of chequered knapped flint, buttresses similar. N porch, single storeyed, single bay deep, diagonal buttresses with crocketed finials, doorway with 4-centred arched head in embattled rectangular frame, jamb-shafts with capitals and bases. 2-light window to each side, tierceron stone vault with central boss of angel with shield. Inner doorway in the standard style with early C16 door, similar to S porch door. Also outer C20 door to make a vestry as with S. porch. Vault arch cuts across corners of inner doorway spandrels suggesting that the porch was an afterthought. Nave clerestory E end has similar turret to one on S side. N chapel window as on S side with flushwork spandrels. Cornice under parapet has deep cavetto moulding with animals and human figures. Bay 9 (chapel) doorway with hollow moulded 2-centred arched head with label, C19 boarded door. Chancel similar to S side. E elevation: low-pitched gabled chancel. N and S chapels similar, set back, all with embattled parapets. Chancel, diagonal buttresses. C19 E window with 2-centred head, 5 foiled lights, lower transom and upper panaelled tracery with quatrefoils. Plaque below recording sealing of Howard vault in 1860. Through plinth, 2 venting loops (one also on N side), with pierced iron plates and grilles. S chapel, angle buttresses and finial, 4-light window with upper transom, panelled tracery below, Y tracery above. In front, C19 ground floor addition with 2 rectangular casement windows. N chapel similar to S chapel but with 7-light window in standard style, 2 principal mullions, lights 2,3,2, broken embattled transom lifted in centre, panelled tracery with upper quatrefoiled roundels, mullions continued down below window as blind panels. INTERIOR: tower high arch to nave with similar interior arches. Vault springers remain at each corner. Timber floor above. Nave, refined, tall, built of clunch. 2-centred arched arcade. Paired clerestory windows with mullions carried down as blind panelling to fleuron-decorated cornice. Arcades decorated in the standard style with piers of enriched lozenge section, attached shafts and intermediate great casement moulding that is carried round the arches, octagonal capitals to shafts, enriched with lozenge shaped fleurons. Inner (nave) shafts continued through the high capitals supporting timber roof trusses. Roof arch-braced cambered tie-beams with longitudinal central and single side joists, common joists span the pitches with board infill. All joists moulded and each bay has central decorative boss and angel each side on the cornice. Tie-beam brace spandrels have pierced roundels. Side aisles, rear of arcades decorated in standard style as nave. N aisle 3 western bays have 4 early C14, canopied, foiled, ogee niches in each bay, decorated with figure subjects. Also above, piers with spire form vaulted canopies. Similar vaulted canopies on piers of S aisle. Aisle roofs have braced cambered tie-beams with queen-posts to principal rafters, braced to apex. Pierced foiled panel tracery links tie-beams and rafters, purlins as nave roof, joists all moulded, boarded between. Chancel arch similar to nave arcade, spandrels enriched with all-over quatrefoiled roundels and central lozenge leaf patterns. Rood loft stairs each side. Choir. C13 arcade of 2 bays, 2-centred double hollow moulded arches, round undercut capitals, roll moulded bases. Roof similar to nave but of short single bays (clerestory window width). Supporting wall shafts have niches with figures. Crypt, now of 2 bays, considerably bricked in below S porch and aisle. 2 bays of quadripartite vaulting, chamfered ribs, semi-octagonal shafts and chamfered plinths, vault webs in thin bricks (suggesting date in C14, rather than late C13 as stated in RCHM). Muniment room over S porch has doorway, adjacent to S porch door with 4-centred arched head, leaf decorated spandrels. C16 door of triangular sectioned boards with central arrises. Muniment room has original C16 roof of 2 bays, cambered tie-beams and 3 longitudinal joists all decorated with rolls and hollow chamfers. FITTINGS: C19 altar retable of 5 gabled niches with paintings of Christ and Apostles, each side, 2 smaller arched recesses with angels and archangels. Font c1500, octagonal, sunk cusped panels with flowers and shields, shaft has sunk foiled panels. Brass indents in N and S chapels. Several brasses reset into C14 canopies recesses in N aisle. N chapel, altar tomb in Purbeck marble with moulded edge amd brass marginal inscription to John Leche, vicar, 1521. S chapel, E end altar tomb of touch to Thomas, Lord Audley, 1544, Renaissance work with panelled sides and enriched pilasters, wreathed shields, at head a panel with achievement of Audley arms. Floor slabs at W end of nave and aisles range fron late C17 to early Cl9 with achievements and shields of arms. Inscriptions show a wide range of fashionable calligraphy. Most of the church windows now have clear, diamond-paned glass. C19 stained glass occurs in N aisle, 3 western bays, S aisle, 4 western bays, N chapel E window, choir E window, tower lower W window. A fragment of early C16 glass,a head, probably of a female saint is in the S aisle W window. HISTORICAL NOTE: the rebuilding of the church by royal master masons is linked with the events of 1485, when work temporarily ceased at King's College, Cambridge and the masons were obliged to undertake lesser projects. The work was unfinished at Wastell's death in 1515. The arcade style, clerestory turrets, and S porch fan-vault are part of Wastell's repertory and can be compared with his work at King's College Chapel and Great St Mary's Church also in Cambridge. (The Buildings of England: Pevsner N & Ratcliffe E: Essex: London: 1965-: 331; Chelmsford Archaeological Trust Report: CBA Research Report 45: Bassett SR: Saffron Walden to 1300: London: 1982-: 20; Harvey J: English Medieval Architects: London: 1984-: 319).

Listing NGR: TL5373638626


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

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Books and journals
Harvey, J , English Medieval Architects, (1984), 319
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Essex, (1965), 331
Bassett, S R, 'Council for British Archaeology Research Report Chelmsford Archaelogical Trust' in Saffron Walden to 1300, (1982), 20


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 09 Jan 2003
Reference: IOE01/07628/25
Rights: Copyright IoE Dr Tony Phillips. Source Historic England Archive
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