St Catherine, East Tilbury, Essex

Download as PDF

Feature Sets (2)


East Tilbury is on the N bank of the Thames, alongside a reach of the river known as the Lower Hope. Alongside the river at this point is the Coalhouse Fort, a coastal defence dating from 1861-74 in its present form, and from this a road runs inland to East Tilbury, with the church less than half a mile from the coast. It is a fascinating if not a beautiful building, consisting of a 13thc chancel with stepped E lancets, a nave with a N aisle containing a N porch, and the remains of an arcade visible on the S wall.  On the N arcade wall a blocked round-headed window above pier 1 confirms that the aisle is a later addition. At the W end of the former S aisle an arch leads to the lower storey of the former tower, destroyed by the Dutch fleet in 1667. The arcade was blocked and the S aisle removed after this. The ground storey of the tower is now a vestry, but in 1917 another tower was begun by men of the London Electrical Engineers using heavy blocks of Kentish Rag taken from the Coalhouse Fort. In 2015 a timber kitchen extension was built on the W front, and in the course of this work the remains of a 13thc W doorway with dogtooth ornament were discovered and conserved.  From the exterior the building is dominated by the enormous tiled roof that covers the nave and N aisle.


Tilbury East and West are not distinguished in the Domesday Survey. The largest holding was a manor of 2 hides, held by Aelfric the Priest in 1066, that was held by Osbern and Ralph from Swein of Essex in 1086. A manor of 45 acres was held in 1086 by Hunald from Theodoric Pointel, and a holding of 30 acres was held in 1086 by Ranulf from William de Warenne, that had been held by Sweting in 1066.

According to Wright (1831) East Tilbury was the manor held by Hunald from Theodoric Pointel, and it passed eventually to Edward Kemeseck or Kewseck who died in 1288.

Wright has the dedication of the church as St Katharine, and RCHME (1923) and the List description have St Katherine, the former adding that it was formerly St Margaret’s. The diocese prefers Catherine as the current spelling, while Arnold Forster (1899) has it as St Margaret’s before the Reformation.


Interior Features



N arcade

4 bays with alternating octagonal and cylindrical supports. The arches are pointed with a single unmoulded order to nave and aisle. Bases are tall with a roll and a thin necking above a chamfer.

E respond

Semi-octagonal respond with a flat-leaf capital with leaf tips turned under. The necking is a thin roll and the impost is plain chamfered.

Pier 1

Cylindrical pier with fleshy volutes on the angles, but trefoil abaci, either symmetrical or asymmetric. When the shield is off-centre it is balanced by a set of nested loops rising from the necking, as on the W face. The necking is a plain roll and the impost plain chamfered.

Pier 2

Octagonal pier carrying a multi-scallop capital with 5 shields per face and pyramid wedges between the cones. There are fleshy volutes on the angles and the impost is plain chamfered.

Pier 3

Cylindrical pier carrying a low block capital with a convex bell with arrises on the angles. The impost is plain chamfered.

W respond

Semi-octagonal respond with a plain flat-leaf capital with a thin roll necking carrying a quirked chamfered impost.

S arcade

1½ bays of a blocked S arcade are visible at the E end of the nave. The arches (bay 1 is visible inside and out) are pointed but the forms of the capitals cannot be seen on the interior or exterior. At the W end of the nave the entrance to the W vestry may occupy the position of the W nave bay, but it was entirely rebuilt in the mid-13thc.

E respond

The line of the respond can be seen on the exterior, and on the interior is a double roll moulding of the base.

Pier 1

On the exterior this is entirely hidden by a later buttress, but inside is another double-roll base moulding.


The List Description, RCHME and Bettley (2007) date the N arcade to the later decades of the 12thc. To judge from the base mouldings, both arcades are of a similar date.


  • F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England’s Patron Saints, London 1899, III, 282.

  • J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 338-39.

  • J. Cooper, The Church Dedications and Saints’ Cults of Medieval Essex, Lancaster 2011, 168.

  • Historic England listed building 119779

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 4, South east. (1923), 38-41.

  • T. Wright, The History and Topography of the County of Essex, II, 1831, 565-67.

Exterior from NW
Interior to E
W doorway (13thc)
W doorway, dogtooth on N side of arch


Site Location
East Tilbury
National Grid Reference
TQ 689 770 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Essex
now: Thurrock
now: Chelmsford
medieval: London
medieval: St Margaret (1329)
now: St Catherine (from 1710)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
19 July 2016