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Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

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

Maldon (District Authority)
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Parish church. Nave and first stage of the tower late Cll, altered in C14, C15, C16 and C19.

Reasons for Designation

The C11 and later Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Tollesbury, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural Interest: the nave and lower stage of the tower are Saxo-Norman in origin and incorporate reused Roman brick and tile; the four single-splayed nave windows unblocked in the late C19 attest to the antiquity to the church and the enduring workmanship of early medieval craftsmen; * Historic Interest: the architectural development of the church demonstrates its continuing use and liturgical history over the centuries and reflects the pivotal role the church has played in the community it has served; * Interior: there are a number of notable interior features, including the south door, splayed inner arch of reused Roman brick, the brick tower arch and the early-C18 font; * Group Value: there are a number of listed buildings in the vicinity of the church with which it has considerable group value.


Pevsner states that the earliest elements in the Church of St Mary the Virgin are the C11 nave and lower stages of the west tower, suggesting a Saxo-Norman date for its foundation, although there are claims that these elements may be earlier in date. During the medieval period the parish church was the property of Saint Mary's nunnery at Barking; the nunnery was responsible for the appointment of the clergyman to the parish. Following the dissolution of the nunnery in 1539, the manor was given to Thomas, Lord Cromwell a few days before he was made Earl of Essex. The gift of the living has passed through many hands, and now rests with Exeter College, Oxford and the Bishop of Chelmsford.

The Church has been altered and extended over its long history particularly in the C14, C16 and C19. The most significant of the alterations include: the addition of the upper stage of the tower in the C16: the rebuilding of the chancel and the addition of the south porch by Habershon and Brock in 1871-2: the replacement of the nave roof in the late C19 and the addition of the north vestry in 1955.

During Harbershon and Brock's restoration of the church, which had fallen into disrepair, the extent of re-used Roman building material was revealed, probably robbed from a Roman building located close to the site. Several Saxo-Norman features were discovered including the tile-built rear arch of the south doorway, three blocked, single-splayed windows high in the north wall and another such window in the south wall. Antiquarian study of the remains debated the date of the earliest fabric of the church but H.M and J. Taylor (1965, pp.622-3) conclude that the nave and the lower stage of the tower were probably built late in the C11, rather than earlier although they acknowledge that some of the window details and rubble quoins of the nave are indicative of Anglo-Saxon workmanship.


Parish church. Nave and first stage of the tower are late Cll, altered in C14, C15, C16 and C19.

MATERIALS. The nave and first stage of the tower are of septaria with some Roman brick and tile. The buttresses are of flint and pebble rubble and red brick and the dressings are clunch, limestone and dressed flint dressings.

PLAN. Aisleless nave with west tower, chancel to the east, vestry to the north and porch to the south.

EXTERIOR. The nave, considered to be of the C11, has at the north elevation two blocked, narrow round headed windows near to the eaves; a window in the same form to the west was reglazed after its discovery in the 1870s. The heads are of septaria, non-radially laid. There are two other windows in this elevation, the easternmost is C19, and the middle window is mid-C15, of 3 cinque-foiled lights with vertical and transomed tracery in a 2-centred head; the jambs and label are moulded, and the mullions are restored. To the west is the projecting vestry of red brick with stone dressings and a tiled roof. The buttresses at the east end are C16.

At the south elevation of the nave are 4 windows; the easternmost and westernmost are C19; the second is of a similar style to the C15 window in the north elevation except that the transom is crenellated; the third window is set near to the eaves above the porch and is a single round-headed window similar to the earliest windows in the N wall but slightly wider. Below this window is the C15 south doorway (covered by the late-C19 porch), with jambs and a 2-centred arch moulded in 2 hollow chamfers, with a moulded label; the splays are original. Immediately east of the door is a C16 stoup with round arch, the bowl broken.

The first stage of the west tower is built with the same materials as the nave and is probably contemporary with it. The two upper stages of the tower are of red brick, rebuilt in the C16 or C17. The buttresses to the south of the tower are of rubble with limestone dressings of the C14; those to the north of the tower are mostly of C16 red brick with occasional rubble and flint panels. The west doorway with a hood-mould and the window above are C19. The second stage has in the south and west elevations a single C16 window with a brick hood-mould. The surround of the south window has been restored and the west window has reset stone jambs and a brick cinquefoiled arch in a square head with label. The position of the north window is covered by a clock. The third stage (bell-chamber) has in the north, west, south and east elevations a window of 2 cinquefoiled lights with recessed spandrels in a square head with label, partly of reset stone, partly of brick. Between the stages are strings of moulded brick. There is a moulded stone cornice, and the crenellated parapet (apparently repaired in the C18) is cement-rendered.

The late-C19 chancel is constructed with randomly coursed stone; the north and south elevations have two single windows with trefoiled tracery and stone surrounds.The east end window has four slender mullions with cinquefoil and quatrefoil tracery.

INTERIOR. The nave has thick, tall walls and a late-C19 scissor-brace roof. The interior splays of the earliest windows at the north and south walls are wide with rounded heads and cut through to the outer wall. Although the outer south door is of C15, the round-headed, rear-arch of the earlier opening in irregularly laid Roman brick is exposed in addition to the tile-built jambs cut straight through the wall. The arch is splayed upwards. Between the two windows to the east is a C15 doorway to the rood-stair, with hollow-chamfered jambs and 2-centred head; the remainder of the stair is concealed behind the organ. The tower-arch is late C14, of one hollow-chamfered and 3 plain-chamfered orders; the inner order is 2-centred, dying on to the chamfered responds, and the other orders are segmental-pointed. Above the tower-arch is an exposed relieving arch, partly of Roman brick. The ground floor of the tower was refurbished in 2001 to form a narthex. The roof of tower was not inspected, but was reported by the RCHM(E) to be early C17, pyramidal with diagonal ties and a central post.

On the south wall of the nave is a brass (of Thomas Freshwater, 1517, and Margaret his wife), with figures of man in fur-lined gown and woman with pedimental head-dress, group of 9 daughters, and indents for inscription plate and 2 sons. On the north wall of the chancel is a monument to Jane (Kempe), wife of Thomas Gardiner, 1654, oval inscription plate with scrolls, open pediment and 4 shields of arms, of veined marble. On the south wall of the chancel is a white marble tablet to John Harris, vicar of the parish, 1734. The font dates to 1718, with a moulded octagonal bowl inscribed 'Good people all I pray take Care That in ye Church you doe not Sware as this man did', with octagonal shaft and moulded octagonal plinth. There are 10 bells, the third by Thomas Mears, 1796, the fifth by Miles Graye I, 1604, the sixth by Thomas Gardiner, 1728, the seventh by Miles Graye III, 1661, and the eighth by Thomas Nears, 1794. The C19 east window and the 2 Cll windows of the nave have glass by Kempe, 1921.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 10/12/2012


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
An Inventory of Essex North East, (1922)
Bettley, J, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Essex, (2007)
Taylor, H M, Anglo-Saxon Architecture. Volume 3, (1978)


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

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 08 Jul 2003
Reference: IOE01/10561/15
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Wilfred N. Winder. Source Historic England Archive
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