St Mary, Sturmer, Essex

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Feature Sets (2)


Sturmer is a village in the Braintree district of north Essex, 2 miles SE of Haverhill. The village is mainly dispersed along the A1017 road out of Haverhill towards Clare and Halstead, and the church and Sturmer Hall are at the end of a side road running S off this. The church is of flint and pebble rubble, and consists of an 11-12thc nave with a 12thc chancel and a 14thc W tower with a pyramidal roof. A brick S porch was added in the 15thc.  The old roofline of the nave is visible against the tower, and the chancel was given a triple E window in the 13thc.

Romanesque work is found in two plain N chancel windows (not recorded here) the N and S doorways, and decorative shafts at the E angles of the chancel. The nave was restored in 1877 and the chancel in 1883.


Sturmer was held in demesne by Tihel the Breton in 1086, and in 1066 it had comprised two separate manors; one held by an unnamed free woman and assessed at 1½ hides and 15 acres, and the other held by a free man and assessed at 1½ hides.


Exterior Features


N nave doorway (blocked)

Single order, segmental headed with tympanum.

The jambs are plain and of large blocks, vertical on the jamb edges but only roughly shaped elsewhere. They carry a monolithic segmental tympanum with no enclosing arch, decorated on its front surface with parallel horizontal grooves. 

Height of tympanum 0.29m
Width of tympanum 0.96m
Height of opening 1.82m
Width of opening 0.71m

S nave doorway

Two orders, round headed with tympanum. All carved surfaces are heavily whitewashed and detail of the ornament is largely obscured.

Height of tympanum 0.56m
Thickness of tympanum 0.11m
Width of tympanum 1.12m
Height of opening 1.99m
Width of opening 0.925m
1st order

Plain square jambs with human head corbels at the top that carry the tympanum. The W corbel has a broad face with two oval, bulbous cheeks divided by a central nose that bifurcates into arcs defining the eyebrows. The nose is drilled for nostrils and there is a slightly open lipless horizontal mouth below. The L eyebrow is notched to indicate hairs. The eyes are oval and drilled for pupils. The E corbel is similar, but both brows are notched, and each cheek has a pair of eyes, so that the composition can be read as two heads side by side (above a single mouth).

The tympanum is apparently monolithic with a vertical crack slightly R of centre. It is slightly too small for the space and has been infilled at the top with rubble.  The lower part is a pseudo-lintel with a row of half-daisies at the lower edge and above them a row of intersecting semicircular arches.  The main field is carved with four separate motifs in relief. At the L a 12 petalled daisy with pointed petals and a drilled centre. L of this is a square frame with looped angles intersected by a centrally-placed quadrilobed interlace. Each of the 8 fields thus defined within the square contains a small boss. L of this, at centre R, is a larger similar motif, with more complex decoration in the 8 fields: largely daisies or parts of them. Finally at the R is a sexfoil daisy in a patera with small drilled bosses between the petals.

2nd order

Originally nook shafts, the W lost, the E decorated with nested chevron and with no visible base. They carry capitals, the W double scalloped with sheathed cones and recessed shields. The necking is badly chipped. The E capital a trefoil scallop with sheathed cones and ornament in the shields, its detail hidden by thick whitewash.

The arch is carved with lateral centrifugal face chevron, roll-hollow-roll, all quirked, with a cogwheel inner edge.  There is no label.

Exterior Decoration


Chancel NE angle shaft

At the NE angle of the chancel is an engaged shaft decorated with double cable, alternately beaded and plain. Its base is too worn to distinguish, and its capital a plain cushion with a plain roll necking and no impost. The shaft runs from ground level approximately two-thirds of the way up the wall.

Chancel SE angle shaft

As NE angle shaft.


Similar shafts to those on the chancel angles are found on the south doorway at Belchamp Otten church.


  • F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England’s Patron Saints, 3 vols, London 1899, III, 271.

  • J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 756.

  • Historic England Listed building 114222

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1: North West (1916), 297-98.

Exterior from S
Exterior from NE
Chancel N wall from N


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TL 690 439 
now: Essex
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Essex
now: Chelmsford
medieval: London
now: St Mary
medieval: St Mary (pre-Reformation)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
22 April 2015