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St Martin of Tours, Chipping Ongar, Essex

(51°42′15″N, 0°14′45″E)
Chipping Ongar
TL 553 030
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Essex
medieval London
now Chelmsford
  • Ron Baxter
11 November 2015

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Feature Sets

Chipping Ongar is a small town in the Epping Forest district of SW Essex, 10 miles W of Chelmsford. The busy High Street runs S from the junction with the main A414 Harlow to Chelmsford road, and the church is tucked away on a side road on its E side. It is of coursed flint and pebble rubble with brick quoins, with a Norman nave and chancel with a 4-bay S aisle added to the nave in 1884, a vestry added on the N side of the chancel at the same time, a W gallery and a 19thc W porch. There is no tower but a weatherboarded W bell turret with a spirelet over the W bay of the nave. There are plain Norman lancets in the chancel N and S walls and the nave N and W walls, but the only features recorded here are the N and S chancel doorways.


Chipping Ongar and High Ongar are not distinguished by name in the Domesday Survey. Aethelgyth held a manor of 1 hide here in 1066, that was held by Count Eustace in demesne in 1086. Although there was only a small area of ploughland the manor had woodland sufficient for 1000 pigs, and 28 acres of meadow. A second manor was held by Roger from John FitzWaleran in 1086, and this was held by Leofric before the Conquest. This was assessed at 3 virgates and had woodland for 200 pigs and 8 acres of meadow. Finally a holding of 15 acres was appropriated by Berengar, a man of Count Eustace.

Following the account in VCH, from Eustace the manor passed as part of the Honour of Boulogne to his daughter Maud, married to KIng Stephen. It passed to their son William, who granted it to Richard de Lucy, later Henry II’s justiciar. When Richard died in 1179 he was succeeded by his grandson Richard and thence Richard the younger’s brother Herbert. By 1185 the lands were in the hands of Herbert’s uncle Godfrey de Lucy, later Bishop of Winchester. Herbert’s heirs were his sisters, and the Honour of Ongar eventually came to Geoffrey de Lascelles, Herbert’s sister’s son-in-law. The later history of the manor will be found in VCH. The advowson of the church is known to have been held by the Lord of the Manor in 1254.


Exterior Features



The tall, narrow S doorway implies an 11thc date, as suggested by the list description and the Sites and Monuments Record, although the imposts seem a little elaborate for such an early date. Pevsner (1954) simply calls it Norman, but they are agreed that it is an uncommonly complete Norman church. Bettley in the 2007 revision makes the point that the brick quoins appear to be medieval and original, making an 11thc date unlikely and placing it in the 12thc, a dating accepted here.


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England’s Patron Saints, London 1899, III, 86.

J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 233.

J. Cooper, The Church Dedications and Saints’ Cults of Medieval Essex, Lancaster 2011, 152.

Essex Sites and Monuments Record 4110

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 111.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2: Central and South West (1921), 51-53.

Victoria County History: Essex IV (1956), 159-64.