The parish of Aythorpe Roding is believed to have been named after an ancient possessor of the land in the time of King Edward 1.
The church is located well away from and to the west of the present village, which is spread out with no defined centre. It may have always been like this, although there is some evidence to suggest that when construction of the present church building commenced, a significant part of the village may have been located around the church. This medieval village may well have been abandoned during the Black Death.
The church building itself is an example of the typical 13th century Essex Manor Church. It is of flint and rubble construction, though this has been largely obscured by a coating of cement added later. The roof is tiled and at the west end there is a weather-boarded bell tower surmounted by a squat shingled spire.
The church was restored in the 19th century when a vestry was added on the north side and a porch on the south. The date can be seen on the woodwork. The path to the church is through the churchyard at the entrance to which is a lynch gate where the coffin-bearers would await the arrival of the minister.
The church is entered via the porch and a low 13th century doorway. The interior of the church gives a warm and friendly feeling, but it is relatively dark due to the small windows and stained glass. The lancet window at the west end of the church depicts a scene showing Christ blessing the children. It was installed in memory of Thomas Aldham of Highhams who died in 1902. The lancet windows on the east wall show our Lord on the cross, with the Virgin Mary on one side and the Apostle John on the other, these windows were a memorial to Rev Kershaw, rector of the parish from 1895-1906.
On the north wall is a white marble memorial to the six men from the parish who gave their lives during the First World War and a brass tablet to the one parishioner killed in action during the Second World War.
The bell tower at the west end of the nave stands on four 15th century oak posts supporting two tie-beams, the beam at the extreme west end still having the original curved braces. At some time, a small gallery was installed under the bell tower, and it is possible to see where the oak posts were repaired when the gallery was later removed. The three inscribed bells were all founded by John Tonne early in the 16th century and are still in working order.
Where to find us
St Mary’s Church
The 13th century church of St Mary the Virgin at Aythorpe Roding is set away from the village in fields just west of the B184 Ongar-Great Dunmow road.