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St Mary, High Ongar, Essex

(51°42′39″N, 0°15′49″E)
High Ongar
TL 565 038
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Essex
medieval London
now Chelmsford
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Ron Baxter
06 February 2018

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Feature Sets

High Ongar is a village in the Epping Forest district of Essex, 8 miles E of Harlow and 9 miles W of Chelmsford, on the S side of the A414 linking the two towns. The church stands on The Street, the main village street, and consists of a broad nave and chancel in one with no chancel arch, a tower porch on the S side of the nave, and a vestry on the N side accessed from the interior via the N nave doorway. The body of the church is of flint rubble with dressings of clunch. It dates from the 12thc (see the S doorway and two nave windows) although the chancel was rebuilt in the 13thc. The tower porch is of yellow brick, and dates from 1858 when it was built to replace a timber bell cote that stood at the W end of the nave. The vestry dates from 1885 and is also of flint rubble. Romanesque sculpture is found on the elaborate S doorway, now protected by the tower porch.


Chipping Ongar and High Ongar are not distinguished by name in the Domesday Survey. It seems clear that the church stood in the manor held by Roger from John FitzWaleran in 1086, and by Leofric before the Conquest. This was assessed at 3 virgates and had woodland for 200 pigs and 8 acres of meadow. Despite this the church was in the hands of Eustace, Count of Boulogne who was Lord of Chipping Ongar. In the early 12thc he granted the advowsons of Little Laver, Stanford Rivers and High Ongar to the Cluniac Priory of Rumilly-le-Comte. At some time between 1216 and 1227 Robert de Cern', Rector of High Ongar, obtained licence to hold an annual fair at his church.


Exterior Features



The S doorway is described by Bettley and Pevsner (2007) as 'one of the most ornate Norman doorways in Essex.' VCH offers a mid-12thc date for it. The lavish use of chevron with chip carving and a segmental lintel allows us to associate it with the sculpture at South Weald and Orsett.


J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 492.

Historic England Listed Building, English Heritage Legacy ID: 118423

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2: Central and South West (1921), 131-33.

Victoria County History: Essex IV (1956), 171-88.

S. G. Welch, St Mary's Church High Ongar (church guide), High Ongar 1995.