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St Botolph, Hadstock, Essex

(52°4′43″N, 0°16′19″E)
TL 558 447
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Essex
medieval London
now Chelmsford
  • Ron Baxter
  • Ron Baxter
29 October 2020

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Hadstock is a village in the NW of the county, on the Cambridgeshire border and 4 miles N of Saffron Walden. The village is on the B1052 road linking Linton and Saffron Walden and the church stands on the main road, S of the village centre. It was originally cruciform and is normally dated to the 2nd quarter of the 11thc. It probably had a crossing tower but this fell at an unknown date. The N transept has long-and-short work visible on the NW angle, but its entrance arch and its jambs were rebuilt in the 14thc on the old bases and plinths. The S transept was more completely rebuilt, but its entrance arch retains more original fabric. It still has its original jambs and bases. including capitals and imposts, and only the arch was replaced in the 14thc. The nave is 11thc, and retains 2 plain round-arched windows on the S wall and 3 on the N (that above the N doorway is blocked). The interiors of the windows are splayed.The W tower and N porch were added in the 15thc. The chancel was rebuilt by Butterfield in 1884, and replaced a small apse built in 1790 to replace a larger late-Medieval eastern arm, perhaps of the 14thc. Butterfield's chancel arch copies the design of the two transept arches. The S vestry and organ chamber date from the same period. The church also retains an 11thc N door, dated by dendrochronology in 2003 (see Comments). Construction is of pebble and flint rubble in lime mortar.


Hadstock was held by the Abbey of Ely in 1066 and in 1086, when it was assessed at 2 hides. The dedication to St Botolph is found in Liber Eliensis (1145x55) but may be earlier as a fair to be held on the feast of St Botolph and recorded in 1129 was said to date from the time of William I or earlier (see Cooper 2011, 135).


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Loose Sculpture


Following extensive archaeological investigations, Rodwell (1976) proposed that the church had three Anglo-Saxon building campaigns: the first a 5-cell cruciform church that may have been part of the 7thc monastery founded by St Botolph at Icanho, the second a timber building, perhaps necessitated by fire damage to the first church, and the third a monumental rebuilding in the early-11thc, possibly by Cnut in celebration of his victory over Edmund Ironside at Assandun. This was dedicated in 1020. Finally there was an extensive series of repairs following the collapse of the tower, and this phase he dated to the 13thc and 14thc. In 1983, Fernie questioned this chronology on the grounds that the oldest parts of the present church, the N doorway and the crossing. date to none of the postulated building campaigns. His hypothesis does not exclude a pre-Viking date for the earliest church, but places the main rebuilding that includes the crossing and the N doorway in the 1060s or 1070s, on the basis of a comparison between the angle roll on the doorway and a similar feature at Saint-Etienne de Caen, built between 1060 and the early 1080s.

Dendrochronology carried out on the N door in 2003 was hampered by the fact that the door has no sapwood (Bridge and Miles 2003). The latest heartwood ring dates from 1025, and estimates of the lowest number of sapwood rings lost suggest that the earliest possible felling date was 1034. No estimate of the latest date was possible from the evidence, so a date range of c.1050 -75 was proposed, as a compromise between the inconclusive tree-ring dates and Fernie's analysis of the architecture. Bettley and Pevsner's (2007) assertion that the angle roll on the arch 'indicates a date after 1060' is an oversimplification of Fernie's carefully argued position. Pevsner (1954) followed by Bettley (2007) noted a similarity between the doorway and the chancel arch at nearby Strethall in the distancing of the label from the inner roll of the arch. At Strethall (dated in the 11thc here but probably post-Conquest), the outer arch is reeded and corresponds to vertical flanking pilasters of the same design, but the sculpture there is not comparable to Hadstock's.

The sculpture that survives in the 3 features described here and the loose sculpture is remarkably uniform. Capitals are a form of angular or geometric cushion and the decoration is a variant of the dart ornament, employing triangular fluted leaves. The dart ornament itself was to become a relatively common form of decoration in mid-12thc Herefordshire (e.g. Pudlestone, Madley, Leominster), but this cannot really be connected to what we see here.

The Corpus is most grateful to the Reverend Paula Griffiths and to Janice Snell, for making our visit possible at a difficult time.


J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 438-40.

M. C. Bridge and D. W. H. Miles, ‘The Tree-ring dating of the North Door, St Botolph’s Church, Hadstock, Essex’, Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory Report 2003/30 (unpublished, 2003).

M. Bridge and D. Miles, 'Dendrochronologically Dated Doors in Great Britain', Regional Furniture XXVI (2012), 73-103.

J. Cooper, The Church Dedications and Saints’ Cults of Medieval Essex, Lancaster 2011, 135.

E. Fernie, 'The Responds and the Dating of St Botolph's, Hadstock', Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 136. 1 (1983), 62-73.

Historic England Listed Building, English Heritage Legacy ID: 121984

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 199-200

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1: North West (1916), 143-46.

W. Rodwell, Under Hadstock church, Linton 1974 (church guide)

W. Rodwell, 'The Archaeological Investigation of Hadstock Church, Essex: An Interim Report'. The Antiquaries Journal, 56.1 (1976), 55-71.