St Mary with St Leonard, Broomfield, Essex

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Feature Sets (2)


Broomfield is a village in the City of Chelmsford district of the county. less than a mile outside the main conurbation to the NW. The village is a mile from N to S, with the church just off its main road. St Mary's is a flint rubble church with much Roman brick re-used as quoins and as dressings for the tower windows. It is dominated by a handsome round W tower, probably 12thc, with a shingled spire, splayed at the foot. The nave and chancel are 11th -12thc, although the chancel was extended in the 15thc. There is a N aisle and a S porch, both rebuilt by Chancellor as part of a restoration of 1869-70 which also included the addition of a N vestry. A church hall (St Leonard's Hall) was added on the N side of the vestry by Tim Venn in 1996-97. The only Romanesque sculpture found here is a carved head reset in the exterior E wall of the chancel, and we are grateful to Richard Slaughter to drawing this to our attention.


Broomfield was held by Saewulf as a manor of 4 hides before the Conquest, and by Walter de Mandeville from his father Geoffrey de Mandeville in 1086. The manor and tenancy remained in this family until the early 15thc, along with the rectory until the last was given by Walter de Mandeville to the Priory of Holy Trinity in London, in 1226 (Wright(1836))


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration


Carved head in E chancel wall

A composite human head of light grey stone is set in the exterior of the chancel E wall, apparently as building material since it is laid slightly off the vertical and is in no way emphasized. It has a broad forehead with indications of rows of wavy hair. It narrows to what must be called a muzzle with a triangular open mouth. The eyes are drilled and there is no nose.

Height of head 0.14 m
Max. width of head 0.11 m
Distance from NE buttress 3.14 m
Distance from SE buttress 2.53 m
Height of head above ground 1.25 m


The church is notable for the large quantity of re-used Roman brick and tile in the facbric. No other grotesque heads that can be especially closely compared with this one have been discovered in the county to date.


  • J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 182.

  • J. Cooper, The Church Dedications and Saints’ Cults of Medieval Essex, Lancaster 2011, 117.

  • Historic England Listed Building, English Heritage Legacy ID: 112451


  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2: Central and South West (1921), 37-39.

  • T. Wright, The History and Topography of the County of Essex, I, 1836, 184-88.

Exterior from SW
Exterior from NW


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TL 705 105 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Essex
now: Essex
now: Chelmsford
medieval: London
now: St Mary with St Leonard
medieval: St Leonard (1261) and St Mary the Virgin (from 1481)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
25 July 2018