The discovery of Anglo-Saxon graves possibly of the Middle-Saxon period, south of the surviving churchyard suggests that a pre-conquest church stood on or near to 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. London
1206 ~ A church here was first recorded. (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 c1857).
1254 ~ The rectory was valued at 3 marks.
1286 ~ The first known rector was instituted, Thomas Aignell.
1291 ~ The rectory was valued at £2 13s 6d.
1310 ~ Adam Atte Welle was rector.
1330 ~ Richard De Borham was rector.
1348 ~ Joseph Elianore obtained a licence to found a chantry*. He was several times bailiff of
1361 ~ William De Bellasford was rector.
1361 ~ John Beltesford was rector.
1382 ~ William Cranwell was rector.
1385 ~ The Tower needed repair.
1385 ~ Ralph Pinsthorpe De Henham was rector.
1390 ~ Thomas Lowe was rector.
1394 ~ John Horewood was rector.
1395 ~ Robert Ware was rector.
1398 ~ Papal authority was given for the rector to have a portable alter.
1403 ~ John Cannon was rector.
1403 ~ Thomas Wilkenson was rector.
1434 ~ John Chicheley was rector.
1436 ~ John Mildwell was rector.
1439 ~ Robert Lardener was rector.
1440 ~ Papal authority was given for the rector to hold another living due to the poverty of St Mary’s.
1464 ~ Robert Wylly was rector.
1467 ~ William Ketill was rector. He owned a beautiful bible, written by hand in Latin that was presented by the Beckett family.
1476 ~ John Isaac was rector.
1483 ~ Thomas Kerver was rector.
1503 ~ Robert Lownde was rector.
1531 ~ Edmund Campion was rector.
1532 ~ John Clarke was rector.
1534 ~ Tower was replaced by the surviving tower, built of rubble containing Roman bricks and tiles, with limestone dressings.
1535 ~ The rectory was valued at £10.
1539 ~ Thomas Kyrkham was rector.
1544 ~ Thomas Kyrkham was fined for failing to read the king’s statutes in his church and for living with a woman.
1551 ~ Marmaduke Smyth was rector.
1554 ~ Marmaduke Smyth escaped deprivation for marriage in the spring, but took the precaution of fleeing before the arrival of bishop Bonner’s Episcopal visitors in October.
1555 ~ John Thorpe was rector.
1556 ~ John Francis was rector.
1556 ~ Thomas Dyconson was rector.
1558 ~ Thomas Browne was rector.
1561 ~ First record of baptisms and marriages.
1562 ~ Hugo Allen was rector. He also held St Mary Magdalen and, from 1567, Tolleshunt D`Arcy.
1562 ~ John Walfare / Walford was rector. He was an unpreaching minister and held St Mary’s by sequestration until the year of 1596. He was rector of All Saints from 1571-1609.
1569 ~ First record of burials.
1596 ~ George Archer was rector. He was formerly a scrivenor and an attorney in the County Court. He also held St Nicholas by sequestration from 1598 until his death in 1604.
1603 ~ Thomas Taylcott was rector. He was known to be a conformist, and the rector of All Saints between 1609-1626, and of Mile End 1626-1641.
1610 ~ The glebe* comprised of c 10 a. of arable, 3 a. of half year land, and 2 small houses in St Mary’s Lane.
1641 ~ John Stevens was rector.
1641~ William Boissard was rector.
1648 ~ The Siege of
Colchester. June 15 St Mary’s Church was
fortified and a large cannon was placed on the roof, which was to be masterly
fired by the renowned ‘One-Eyed Jack Thompson’. July 14 / 15 The Royalist fort
within the walls at St Mary’s church was blown to pieces and their main cannon
battery destroyed. During the siege, damage was caused to the building.
1661 ~ John Smith was rector. He was also minister of the Dutch church 1668-1675; he was later known as `Narrative Smith` for his narrative of 1679 on the Polish plot.
1676 ~ Joseph Powell was rector.
1679 ~ A new bell was cast. It has a William and Mary patent on it, which is uncommon.
1697 ~ David Kenneir was rector.
1707 ~ Robert Middleton was rector.
1709 ~ Rector, the Reverend Robert Middleton, encouraged by Sir Isaac Rebow, took steps to rebuild the church.
1713 ~ The remains of the chancel*, nave* and porch were demolished. New brick church designed by John Price was built immediately east of the medieval tower comprising of an aisled nave* with a west gallery, a small chancel*, and the tower.
1713/14 ~ St Mary’s was rebuilt using money left for the church by Sir Isaac Rebow at the cost of £1,600.
1714 ~ The churchyard was levelled, and lime tree lined paths were laid around the church.
1714 ~ A chantry* house in the churchyard near the northeast end of the church was demolished.
1722 ~ Sir Isaac Rebow was high steward in
government of the town was by a mayor, high steward, a recorder or his deputy,
eleven aldermen, a chamberlain, a town clerk, assistants, and eighteen common
1729 ~ Tower upper stage was rebuilt in brick.
1735 ~ John Carleton was rector.
1737 ~ Philip Morant was the rector until his death in 1770.
1741 ~ The slate coloured marble tablet in the vestry was erected to the memory of Thomas Mayhew.
1766 ~ Charles Gray gave the rector of St Mary’s tithes* on 24 1/2 a., formerly tithe-free lands of St Botolph`s Priory.
1771 ~ Thomas Barstow was rector.
1788 ~ Thomas Twining was rector.
1804 ~ Philip Bayles was rector.
1848 ~ D. R. Wells was curate. Mr John Rule was clerk and sexton. Mr D. Pelgar was the organist. The parish had 1272 inhabitants, and 114 voters.
1851 ~ On census Sunday 400 people attended morning and afternoon services.
Colchester census index lists a Philip Bayles, aged 76, born in Colchester, living in
the parish of St-Mary-At-The-Walls.
1853 ~ Churchyard was closed under the burials act.
1853 ~ The western gallery was removed, revealing the tower arch.
1855 ~ Charles Alfred L`Oste was rector.
1859 ~ A southeast vestry imitating Price’s style was added.
1859 ~ The church school began as a Sunday and Dame School.
Colchester census index lists a Charles L`Oste aged 71 with a Catherine
L`Oste aged 73 living in the parish of St-Mary-At-The-Walls.
1862 ~ From Kelly’s Directory for
St-Mary-At-The-Walls-Church. The living is a rectory, in the gift of the Bishop
of Rochester, and held by the Rev. Charles Alfred L`Oste, B. A., of CaiusCollege,
, value £242 yearly, with residence. The old church was nearly
demolished by the Parliamentarians during the siege of the town, but was
restored in the year 1713. The edifice consists of a nave, two side aisles and
a square tower. In the interior is a handsome monument to the memory of “John
Rebow, of Cambridge Colchester, merchant”.
1864 ~ The Sunday and Dame school was moved to the building on Balkerne Lane after the rector of St Mary`s, Charles Alfred L`Oste, had donated the site and a public subscription had paid for the building.
1870 ~ John William Irvine was rector.
1870 ~ From Kelly’s Directory for Essex: The living is a rectory, yearly value £242, with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Rochester, and held by the Rev. John William Irvine, M. A., of Christ Church, Oxford. John Rule was the parish clerk.
1871 ~ Old rectory was demolished. Approaches to the church improved.
1872 ~ St Mary’s (except the tower) was rebuilt in red and black brick using Sir Arthur Blomfield as architect. 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 18 century foundations. A clerestory* and north and south porches were added.
stone was used for around the windows. The roofs were of
stained deal, as also the nave seats; those in the chancel were of pitch pine.
It was designed to accommodate about 500 and was heated with hot water. Mr.
Gardner, of Coggeshall, carried out the work and the Church was reopened in
1872 ~ Church was consecrated by the Bishop of Rochester.
1872 ~ Mr Crisp transcribed data from the gravestones and interior tablets.
1873 ~ An infant school opened in
Balkerne Lane. Despite overcrowding, it continued to be supported by
subscriptions and government grants until competition from School Board and
later local authority schools brought about its closure in 1930.
1874 ~ From Kelly’s Directory for
register dates from the year 1561. The approaches to the church were widened
and improved in 1871. There is a wide path with an avenue of limes round the
churchyard, and Morant tells us that it used to be the fashionable promenade.
The living is a…. (As 1870)…this living was once held by the Rev. Philip Morant,
the historian: the old rectory house in which Morant wrote his histories was
demolished in 1871, and a handsome new one erected in the centre of what was
the paddock. Rev John William Irvine, M. A. rector; John Rule, Parish clerk.
1881 ~ The census shows John W
45, and his family living at the rectory. Irvine
1881 ~ An organ was built for the church by the
of Alfred Hunter. London
1882 ~ From Kelly’s Directory for
Essex: The square
tower contained 1 bell.
The north aisle is a monument with effigy to John Rebow, of Colchester, merchant, 1699 and Sarah, his wife, erected by their son, Sir Isaac Rebow M. P. for Colchester who twice entertained William III and was knighted by that king; he left a yearly sum of 20s to the sexton of this church to keep the monument clean: there is also a memorial to the Rev. Thomas Twining M. A., formerly rector of this parish ob 7 Aug 1804. Rev John William Irvine M. A. rector, Rev John Kemp, M. A. curate, William Charles Rule, parish clerk.
1884 ~ April 22 about the
Colchester earthquake, magnitude 5.1, caused some damage to the church.
1888 ~ Francis Smythies was buried 24 May aged 77. He appears to be the final person actually buried in the churchyard.
1889 ~ A new organ was erected at the cost of £600.
1889-1890 ~ Charles Golding compiled a list of Monumental Inscriptions.
1891 ~ Census of Colchester shows John William Irvine (aged 55) and family still at the rectory.
1894 ~ From Kelly’s Directory for
St Mary at the Walls (infants). Balkerne Lane, erected in 1864, for 130 children, average attendance, 130;
Miss Annie Ellis, mistress. Parish clerk was Henry Grimwade, Head Street; deputy Charrington Nunn, Balkerne Lane.
1897 ~ Greville Turner Hayles was rector.
1898 ~ The annual net income was £275.
1900 ~ By this year all the glebe* had been sold.
off ChristChurch Maldon
Road was opened
as a chapel of ease to St-Mary-at-the-Walls.
1908 ~ From Kelly`s Directory for Essex: The living is a rectory, net yearly value £330, with residence. Parish clerk was Charrington Nunn,
32 Balkerne Lane.
1910 ~ The board in the entrance under the tower listing previous rectors was the work and gift of Henrietta Selina Ord and fixed in this year.
1911 ~ The tower battlements, damaged in the 1884 earthquake, were repaired and twelve feet of brickwork was added. A chancel* screen and choir stalls were built; the cast iron columns of the nave* arcades were clad with light ochre terracotta and their capitals* decorated.
1914 ~ John Edwin Watts-Ditchfield was rector.
1916 ~ Nave* roof was re-tiled.
1917 ~ From Kelly’s Directory for
clerk was Charrington Nunn, 44 Balkerne Lane.
1922 ~ An apse* was added to the south chapel, which was refitted as a war memorial.
1922 ~ The rood* screen fixed to the south wall near to the west entrance, below the list of rectors, was donated by Percival Robert and Florence Brinton.
1930 ~ The church school was closed.
1931 ~ A rood* and beam were erected in the south chapel.
1931 ~ The organ was rebuilt by Hill, Norman and Beard when the Twelfth and the Mixture on the Great Organ were replaced by Diapasons. The organist at this period was W. F. Kingdon.
1932 ~ Grenville Turner Hayles was buried after cremation in the churchyard on 3October.
1933 ~ George Augustus Campbell was rector.
1936 ~ Vestries were added to the northeast end of the church.
1937 ~ Interior walls of the church were plastered and whitened, covering
’s patterned brickwork. Bloomfield
1946 ~ Harold Isaac Noakes was rector.
1954 ~ A Garden of Rest for the interment of ashes was constructed.
1965 ~ Ralph Stevens was rector.
1978 ~ The church was closed. The bell was moved to
’s. The organ was donated to Brentwood Cathedral and was
completely rebuilt and restored by Percy Daniel & Co Ltd. of Clevedon. St Leonard
1980 ~ First opened it’s doors as Colchester Arts Centre.
1994-1996 ~ Octagon Architects and Designers was involved with the Colchester Arts Centre from 1994 through to 1996. During this period planning permission was obtained to install a new balcony and toilet facilities in this Grade II listed redundant church.
2001 ~ The Colchester Archaeological Group made a complete survey of the memorials and stones in St Mary’s graveyard during the Summer of 2001. The photographs, records, plans and overview report have all been lodged in the Colchester Museums Resource Centre,
15 Ryegate Road, Colchester.
*: The central part of a church, extending from the narthex to the chancel and flanked by aisles.
*: Semicircular projection, or recess at end of a church with vaulted roof.
*: That part of a Christian church, usually at the east end, in which the choir and clergy sit, and at upper extremity of which the alter stands.
*: Soil: ground: land belonging to a parish church or ecclesiastical benefice.
*: A tenth part of one’s annual income contributed voluntarily or due as a tax, especially for the support of the clergy or church.
*: The uppermost part of a column.
*: In early English law, the right of local jurisdiction, generally one of the feudal rights of lordship.
*: The upper part of the nave, transepts, and choir of a church, containing windows. Also known as an upper portion of a wall containing windows for supplying natural light to a building.
*: An endowment to cover expenses for the saying of masses and prayers, usually for the soul of the founder of the endowment or an altar or chapel endowed for the saying of such masses and prayers.
*: A small rear gate, especially one in a fort or castle.
*: A crucifix symbolizing the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Also known as a large, usually wooden crucifix surmounting the rood screen or rood beam of a medieval church.
I accept neither credit nor criticism for the accuracy of this timeline,
which is meant as a guide only.