Havering-atte-Bower is now an outlying village in the London borough of Havering, 3 miles N of Romford. The church of St John in the village centre was built by Basil Champneys on the site of the demolished medieval chapel of St Mary. St Mary's was demolished in 1876 and St John's was dedicated 2 years later. Champneys's church consists of a chancel with a N organ room and vestry, a nave with a 3-bay N aisle, and an embattled tower with a SW turret, sited on the S side of the nave at its W end. The building, in the Decorated style, is of brick faced with flint. The only Romanesque feature is the font from the old church.
Havering-atte-Bower was the name of a royal manor and liberty, centred on Romford. A royal house was in existence from the 11thc to the 17thc. It was a place of resort from the 12thc to the 16thc, and the suffix 'atte-Bower' reflects the fact that it was generally in the possession of the queen.
Following the account in the Domesday Survey, Havering-atte-Bower was held by Harold from King Edward before the Conquest as a manor of 10 hides, and to the manor were attached 4 hides held by 4 free men. In 1086 3 of these hides were held by Robert FitzCorbucion and the 4th by Hugh de Montfort. Robert also held a further 4½ hides here from the king. It was thus a substantial settlement with, in 1086, 40 villans, 41 borders and 6 slaves, indicating a total population of more than 400.
Sited at the W end of the S aisle is a font with a tapered octagonal Purbeck bowl decorated with 2 plain recessed round-headed bays of arcading on each face. The arches on the N face have traces of paint; probably not original. This is worn now but appears to show tracery designs in red and black. There are holes for staples at the E and W of the rim, and the bowl is very neatly lined with lead that precisely covers the rim without extending onto the sides of the bowl. This font was installed in the old church of St Mary in 1836, after a long period of disuse. It stands on a Decorated style base, of Bath stone, which was added when the font was installed in the present church in 1878.
B. Cherry, C. O’Brien and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London 5 East, New Haven and London 2005, 168-70.
Historic England Listed Building, English Heritage Legacy ID 201574
RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2: Central and South West (1921), 126.
Victoria County History: Essex VII (1978), 1-25.