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St Thomas the Apostle, Navestock, Essex

(51°39′47″N, 0°13′30″E)
TQ 540 984
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Essex
medieval London
now Chelmsford
  • Ann Hilder
  • Ron Baxter
11 November 2015

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Feature Sets

Navestock is a village in the Borough of Brentwood in SE Essex. It is a dispersed rural parish with no traditional centre, and the church and hall are rather isolated, N of the settlements of Navestock Heath and Navestock Side.

The church has a chancel rebuilt in the 14thc with a reticulated E window, and an 11thc-12thc nave with a later 5-bay S aisle. The 2 E bays of the arcade are oak arches with trusses, perhaps dating from the 16thc. The arcade piers and capitals are mid-13thc. There is an early Romanesque N doorway, but the entrance to the church is through a 15thc porch in the S aisle (rebuilt in 1955). The most spectacular feature of the church, however, is a great semi-octagonal tower with a timber turret and a broach spirelet, situated at the W end of the aisle.


In 1086 2 manors of 5 hides less 20 acres in total was held here by the canons of St Paul’s Cathedral, and it was held by two free men called Howard and Wulfsige in 1066. The canons claimed to have had it by gift of King William, and they also appropriated a manor of 1 hide and 40 acres that was held by Thorsten the Red before the Conquest. Another manor of 2 hides that was held by 7 men in 1066 was held by the same canons in 1086, and a priest held half a hide and 20 acres in 1086, but inevitably this was witnessed by the Hundred to belong to the canons of St Paul’s. A small manor of 80 acres was held by Gotild in 1066 and by Hamo the Steward in 1086. Whatever the truth about the appropriations of the canons of St Paul’s, they held the manor or Navestock until the 16thc, and had acquired the church by 1181.


Exterior Features



Fitch (1997) reported that the timbers of the bell turret and spire had been dated to 1193, which would suggest that the tower was originally free-standing and the aisle built to abut it, but according to Bettley (2007) the tower’s main timbers have been dated by dendrochronology to 1365-91, so if both dates are correct the tower postdated the aisle and the belfry timbers were re-used.

In 1954 Pevsner described the church as ‘neglected, almost derelict-looking’. This is explained by the VCH, which reports that it was hit by a German land-mine in 1940, and that the repairs had not been completed by 1954.

The doorway is a simple form of a common Essex type, with a tympanum carried on a segmental lintel, to be seen in more elaborate forms at Wrabness, Heybridge, Tillingham and many other sites. This one may date from the late-11thc or early in the 12thc.

The RCHME (1921) entry recorded, ‘behind organ in S. chapel—two stones with 12th-century cheveron (sic) moulding’.


J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 608.

J. Fitch (ed), Essex Churches and Chapels: A Select Guide, Donington 1997, 138.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 276-77.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2: Central and South West (1921), 190-93.

Victoria County History: Essex IV (1956), 139-50.