St James the Less, Little Tey, Essex

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Feature Sets (2)


Little Tey is a small village in the Colchester district of Essex, situated on the former Roman road of Stane Street (now the A120), some 6 miles W of Colchester.  It is dwarfed by its neighbours, Marks Tey to the E and Great Tey to the N, and consists of little more than a few dwellings on a minor road that runs northwards from the A120 and peters out when it reaches the church.

St James’s is a small single-cell building of flint rubble with ashlar dressings and puddingstone quoiss.  It has an apsidal E end; originally Norman but refenestrated in the early 14thc. Nave and chancel are decorated with an extensive series of 13thc wallpaintings of the Passion. There is a timber bell turret over the W end of the nave, and a S porch protecting a 12thc doorway – the only feature described here. The N doorway is now covered by a vestry.


The Domesday Survey does not distinguish between the three Tey settlements, but records two holdings between them. Count Eustace held a manor of 3½ hides on 1086 that had been held by a free man in 1066. A second manor of 1½ hides and 20 acres was held by Geoffrey de Mandeville in demesne. According to Wright, however, it was included with Feering in the Survey and was held by Westminster Abbey; a theory apparently confirmed by the fact that the patronage of Little Tey was held by the abbey until its suppression.


Exterior Features


S nave doorway

2 orders with tympanum, round headed.

Height of opening 1.91m
Height of tympanum 0.495m
Height of tympanum and lintel 0.61m
Width of opening 1.05m
Width of tympanum 1.36m
1st order

Plain ashlar jambs carrying chamfered imposts with narrow rolls at the bottom of the faces. They must originally have carried a lintel, but now each carries two bricks, one above the other, and these support the ends of a rough and rotting wooden lintel, It is this that supports the tympanum: a lunette of opus reticulatum, with each tile decorated with a chip-carved saltire. Gaps between the edge of the tympanum and the arch of the 2nd order are filled with tile fragments.

2nd order

Jambs and imposts as the 1st order. The arch has an angle roll and a quadrant hollow forming a label.


The list description dates the doorway to the 11thc, while the RCHME prefers a date of c.1130 for the nave and chancel, which the present author is happy to accept. Curiously Pevsner (1954) made no mention of the wallpaintings. The use of chip-carved opus reticulatum in the tympanum relates the sculpture to other sites in Essex and Suffolk, e.g. (in Essex) Stansted Mountfitchet, Tillingham and Heybridge.


  • J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 560

  • Historic England Listed Building 420604

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 258.

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 3: North East (1922), 173-74.

  • T. Wright, The History and Topography of the County of Essex, 1, 1836, 415-16.

Exterior from S
Interior to E


Site Location
Little Tey
National Grid Reference
TL 892 238 
now: Essex
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Essex
now: Chelmsford
medieval: London
medieval: St James the Less (pre-Reformation)
now: St James the Less
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
25 September 2014