St Botolph’s is a Grade II* listed building standing alone in the middle of the fields away from the majority of the village. There is speculation that the Church is located in the ancient village centre that has long been abandoned, perhaps due to a plague. An alternative explanation is given in “The A-Z of Curious Essex” by Paul Wreyford who recounts a tale of villagers who wished to build a Church in the village but kept finding that their chosen stones for building were being moved overnight to the top of the hill by the Devil! In the end they decided that they couldn’t win a fight with the Devil and so built the Church in its present location!
The Church stands on a site that has been a place of worship for centuries, there is an ancient triangular shaped pudding stone in the Churchyard to the north east of the chancel which is believed to be an ancient pagan place of worship. Flowers left on the stone around the time of the summer solstice suggest that modern day pagans may still visit the stone. The Church is dedicated to St Botolph an Anglo-Saxon missionary who founded a Benedictine monastery in East Anglia in the Seventh Century. This dedication suggests there was a Church on the site before the Norman Conquest and long before the present structure was built.
The Nave is possibly eleventh century with a substantial rebuild in the fourteenth century. The current Chancel is a fifteenth century rebuilding of a thirteenth century original. The whole Church was enlarged and extensively rebuilt during the fifteenth century; the West Tower was added during this time. There are four bells (which are no longer capable of being rung) and date from 1664. In the later part of the nineteenth century the Porch was rebuilt and the exterior restored and in 1951 further repairs took place following war damage.
Two interesting features inside the Church are the stone staircase hidden behind a door in the nave which leads to nowhere but is believed to at one time lead to a rood loft. At the rear of the nave there are some unusual oak pews in three stages. The oak steps to the upper stages have ring handles and can be pulled out like drawers when necessary. These are fun for children but less comfortable for adults to sit in!
The Church’s dedication to St Botolph is very apt as St Botolph is a Patron Saint of farming and travellers. St Botolph’s attracts a great many visitors, some come specifically to visit, and some are just passing through. Judging by their comments in the visitor’s book what unites most of them is an appreciation of the quiet and tranquil space for reflection and prayer that the Church provides. In 2018 a new sign was installed at the roadside to encourage passers-by to visit. We are open every day.
Where to find us
Essex CM5 0PH
The church is visible from the B184 and accessed via a farm track, it is easy to miss! Look out for the church sign.