St Mary at the Walls is now an Arts Centre:
Church Street, to the east of Balkerne Hill is St Mary-at-the-Walls,
built against the Roman Walls and overlooking the western suburbs of the town.
First recorded in 1206, the church has a notable history. It is the site at
which 23 were during
the reign of the ().
During the the
church tower was used as a gun emplacement by the army, this resulted in its destruction by siege batteries. The theory that the tower
gave rise to the rhyme is
now probably . The
tower of the Norman church remains, the rest was rebuilt in red brick in 1713 –
14., the Essex historian, was Rector from 1737 to 1770. There was a further major rebuild in 1872 In 1978, the parish was united with in a new building in Christ Church Ireton Road. The old church became redundant; the bell went to ’s in and
the organ to . In 1980, the building reopened as the . St Leonard
The church organ ended up here:
Originally built by Hunter in 1881, for the church of St. Mary-at-the-Walls, Colchester, the Cathedral organ is now sited at the west end of the original Gothic nave of Brentwood’s Victorian Catholic church, in a case designed by the architect of the new Cathedral, Quinlan Terry.
When St. Mary’s became an Arts Centre in 1977, the organ was given to Brentwood Cathedral, and was completely rebuilt and restored by Percy Daniel & Co Ltd. of Clevedon for installation in the new Cathedral dedicated in 1991.
The organ has recently been thoroughly cleaned and refurbished through the generosity of the Brentwood Diocesan Cathedral and Choral Trust Fund. A new solo Fanfare Trumpet stop has been added together with tonal revisions to the positive completed by Percy Daniel & Co Ltd and Dr David Frostick.
Here is an interesting webpage about the gargoyles:
From this website:
The discovery of Anglo-Saxon graves, perhaps of the Middle-Saxon period, south of the surviving churchyard suggests that a pre-Conquest church stood on or near the site of the surviving building. () The church, near the western postern in the town wall, lay within the soke acquired by the bishop of
between 998 and 1066 and was recorded in 1206. () It was an episcopal peculiar; () although it was included in the archdeacon’s
visitation in 1683 it was exempt from his jurisdiction in 1768 and
parishioners’ wills were proved in the bishop of London’s, not the
archdeacon’s, courts until c. 1857. () The advowson, retained by the bishop of London when
he leased the soke in 1206, passed to successive diocesan bishops, and the
bishop of London was patron when the church closed in 1978. () The Crown presented in 1361 and 1596, the bishopric
being vacant. () Chelmsford
The rectory was valued at 3 marks in 1254, £2 13s. 4d. in 1291, and £10 in 1535. A payment of 2s. from
St. Martin’s rectory, recorded in 1254, was apparently lost by 1291. () In 1429 the abbot of successfully claimed tithes on land in Monksdown in the parish.
() In 1650 the living was worth £40 a year. () In 1766 Charles Gray gave the rector of St. Mary’s
tithes on 24½ a., formerly tithe-free lands of St. Botolph’s priory. () A parliamentary grant of £200 in 1833 and an annual
grant of £50 from that year by the patron, the bishop of St. John’s ,
raised the value of the living to £212 a year in 1835. () In 1898, when the annual net income was £275, boundary
changes resulted in tithe rent charges of £48 being transferred from Lexden to
St. Mary’s. () London
In 1610 the glebe comprised c. 10 a. of arable, 3 a. of half year land, and two small houses in St. Mary’s Lane. () The houses apparently replaced two taken down in the 1540s and were later divided into three dwellings which were pulled down c. 1677. () By 1810 Philip Bayles, rector 1804-55, had increased the half year land to 11 a. by lease and purchase; from 1823 or earlier until c. 1890 he and his successors leased from the free burgesses rights of common on the glebe. () By 1900 all the glebe had been sold. ()
The rector had an orchard and garden, and presumably also a house, in the early 14th century. () A rectory house mentioned in 1610 was probably the one opposite the church in St. Mary’s Lane that had 10 hearths in 1671, and was extended eastwards c. 1677 by the rector, Joseph Powell. In 1739 its older west end was rebuilt by the rector, Philip Morant. () A new house was built in 1871, to the designs of Frederic Chancellor, north-east of the old house, which was demolished. () The 1871 house was pulled down and replaced in 1964-5 by a smaller one, which was sold in 1983 to the Mercury theatre and renamed Mercury House. ()
In 1338 Joseph Eleanor or
Colchester, clerk, obtained licence to alienate 2 messuages, 102 a., a
toft, and 10s.
rent to two priests to say divine service in St. Mary’s church. () In 1348 he gave the same endowment, with 100 sheep,
for a chantry of St. Mary and All Saints served by two chaplains who were to
pray for him, his parents and benefactors, and all faithful Christians. () From 1362 or earlier the chantry was served by one
priest in the chapel of the Martyr. When Eleanor
died its advowson passed to the bailiffs and commonalty, who presented until
the Suppression. () The endowment, worth £8 6s. in 1535, was given by the king to the
bailiffs and commonalty in 1539 for the foundation of a grammar school and
other uses. () A chantry house in the churchyard near the north-east
end of the church was demolished when the church was rebuilt in 1714. () St.
Rectors were recorded from c. 1220; the living was poor and in the Middle Ages incumbencies were usually short. () Papal authority was given in 1398 for the rector to have a portable altar, and in 1440 to allow the new rector, Robert Lardener, to hold another living, because of the poverty of St. Mary’s. () Lardener (d. 1464) endowed two lights before the great crucifix and one at the entrance to the chancel. () The sale by the churchwardens of a silver and gilt pyx and other plate c. 1534 and the removal of painted window glass by 1548 suggest that parishioners held protestant views, as presumably did Thomas Kirkham, rector 1540-51, who was fined in 1544 for failing to read the king’s statutes in the church and for living with a woman. () His successor, Marmaduke Smith, escaped deprivation for marriage in the spring of 1554, but took the precaution of fleeing before the arrival of bishop Bonner’s episcopal visitors in October. ()
From 1562 until 1804 rectors of
St. Mary’s served at least one other cure, usually in or near Colchester, and from c.
1644 to 1735 were sequestrators of Holy Trinity. () Hugh Allen, rector from 1562, also held St. Mary
Magdalen and, from 1567, Tolleshunt D’Arcy. He subsequently went to with the Ardes Expedition of 1572, becoming bishop of Down and
Connor (1572-82) and of Fearns (1582-9). John Walford, rector of All Saints,
1571-1609, and an unpreaching minister, held St Mary’s by sequestration until
1596. () George Archer, formerly ‘a scrivenor and an attorney in
the County Court’, was instituted in 1596 and also held St Nicholas’s by
sequestration from 1598 until his death in 1604. () Archer was succeeded by the conformist Thomas Talcott,
1604-41, rector of All Saints, 1609-26 and of Mile End 1626-41. () Ireland
In 1644 parliament replaced the non-resident Robert Mercer, who was also vicar of St. Peter’s, with William Boissard, who may have had royalist sympathies as he was presented to All Saints’ rectory in 1640 by Sir Henry Audley. () Nevertheless he remained at St. Mary’s until 1660, when he became perpetual curate of St. Giles’s. () Despite serious damage in the siege of 1648 ()
St. Mary’s church was used for baptisms 1654- c.
1663 and for marriages 1656-c. 1660. () The congregation used Holy Trinity church for services
until 1714, () when St. Mary’s church was rebuilt. John Smith, rector
1676 was also minister of the Dutch church 1668-75; he was later known as
‘Narrative Smith’ for his narrative of 1679 on the Popish plot. () The pluralist Joseph Powell, rector 1676-97, seems to
have lived in Colchester at least occasionally, for he enlarged the rectory
house, but an assistant curate, William Shillito, served St. Mary’s and Holy
Trinity 1679-99. ()
Robert Middleton, rector 1706-34, rebuilt St. Mary’s church in 1714 and from that time provided one Sunday service in St. Mary’s, another in Holy Trinity, and communion once a month and at festivals in the two churches by turns. From 1723 or earlier he employed assistant curates. () In the later 18th century the parish, with several wealthy residents, a new church, and a good rectory house, () attracted two eminent scholars who preached to ‘polite congregations’. () Philip Morant, historian of Essex, rector 1737-70, provided one full Sunday service, communion once a month and at festivals, and read prayers on Sundays between Michaelmas and Easter. He lived in the rectory house until he moved in 1767 to his other benefice at Aldham, leaving an assistant curate to serve St. Mary’s. () Thomas Twining, translator of Aristotle, vicar of White Notley 1772-96, and curate of Fordham 1763-89, thought the living so attractive, although not valuable, that he ‘used a bit of pushery’ to get it in 1788. He lived at Fordham and
Colchester and died in 1804. ()
His successor Philip Bayles, rector 1804-55, served the cure himself, assisted in his later years by a curate, and on Census Sunday in 1851 morning and afternoon services were attended by c. 400. () In the 1860s the rector Charles L’Oste’s great age inhibited innovation, but parish life revived under his successor John W. Irvine, rector 1870-97 and rural dean from 1880, who increased the number of services and rebuilt the church and rectory house. () His association with G. H. Wilkinson suggests an interest in the reconciliation of ritualists and evangelicals; he also urged better relations with nonconformists. () The parish boundaries were altered in 1898 by an exchange of detached parts with Lexden and in 1911 by the transfer to St. Mary’s of detached parts of St. Runwald’s, St. Botolph’s, and Holy Trinity, consolidating the parish south and west of the church. () Greville T. Brunwin-Hales, rector of St. Mary’s 1897- 1932 and vicar of Berechurch 1913-32, rural dean from 1907, was active in borough affairs and did notable work in the formation of the new diocese of Chelmsford. () He introduced daily matins and evensong and weekly communion, attracting many people from other parishes to St. Mary’s. () G. A. Campbell, rector and rural dean 1933-46, replaced daily matins, which was rarely attended, with daily communion in St. Mary’s or
chapel of ease. () In the 1970s St. Mary’s was isolated from much of its
parish by the new ring road, and in 1978 the church was closed. () Christ Church
The church of St. Mary’s-at-the-Walls comprises a chancel with northern organ chamber, north-east vestries, and a south chapel, an aisled and clerestoried nave, north and south porches, and a north-west tower. () All but the tower are of 1872. The medieval church apparently comprised a chancel, perhaps with a chapel, a nave, south porch, and north-west tower. () The tower needed repair in 1385, and was replaced c. 1534 by the surviving tower, built of rubble containing Roman bricks and tiles, with limestone dressings. () The church was ruined in the siege of 1648. ()
The repair of the church may have been mooted in 1679 when a new bell was cast, but it was not until 1709 that steps were taken to rebuild the church by brief. () In 1713 the remains of the chancel, nave, and porch were demolished, and a new brick church, designed by John Price, was built immediately east of the stump of the medieval tower. It comprised an aisled nave with a west gallery, a small chancel, and the tower whose the upper stage was rebuilt in brick in 1729. () Plans to crown the tower with four stone pineapples and a cupola may not have been carried out. () In 1853 the western gallery was removed, revealing the tower arch. () A south-east vestry, in imitation of Price’s style, was added c. 1859. ()
In 1872 the church, except the tower, was rebuilt in red and black brick to the designs of Arthur Blomfield. The chancel with south chapel and north organ chamber was built first as an extension to the existing church, but as funds increased the nave and aisles were rebuilt on the 18th-century foundations, the columns of the arcades being of cast iron. A clerestory and north and south porches were added. () In 1911 the tower battlements, damaged in the earthquake of 1884, were repaired and a chancel screen and choir stalls were built; the iron columns of the nave arcades were clad with light ochre terracotta and their capitals decorated. () In 1922 an apse was added to the south chapel which was refitted as a war memorial. () A rood and beam were erected in 1931. In 1936 vestries were added to the north-east end of the church, () and in 1937 the interior walls of the church were plastered and whitened, covering Blomfield’s patterned brickwork. () In 1980 the building was converted to an arts centre. ()
The church had one bell of 1679, which was moved to
’s when St. Mary’s closed. () The plate deposited in St. Leonard Colchester museum
includes a chalice of 1633, apparently made for the friary of Ross ( ); it is not known how or when St. Mary’s acquired it. () A table font by Albert Hartshorne c.
1872, () survived in the tower in 1988. Several monuments from
the 18th-century church were re-erected in 1872 and retained in 1980. Among
them is a memorial to the Rebow family, with a figure of John (d. 1699), () and a tablet in memory of Thomas Twining, rector
1788-1804. A tablet commemorating Philip Morant was erected in 1966. () Mrs. Church, by will proved 1928, gave £301 stock to
maintain, repair and decorate the fabric; the income of £9 a year was
transferred to Ireland in 1978. () Dame Catherine R. Hunt, by will proved 1950, gave
£1,468 for the benefit of the church and parish. () Christ Church
In 1714 the churchyard was levelled, tree-lined paths were laid round the church, and the place became a fashionable resort of the gentry. () The paths and lime trees survived in 1988 with some 18th- and 19th-century monuments.