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St Michael and All Angels, Copford, Essex

(51°52′9″N, 0°48′33″E)
TL 935 227
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Essex
medieval London
now Chelmsford
  • Ron Baxter
11 August 2015

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Copford is a village in the Colchester district of Essex, 2 miles W of Colchester. The modern village of Copford is along the road that runs through the villages of Marks Tey (to the W) and Stanway and Lexden (to the E) on the old London Road that runs 2-300 yards to the S of the present A12. Half a mile to the S is Copford Green, an older settlement that includes the church.

St Michael’s consists of an apse, chancel with vestry, nave with 3- bay S aisle, S porch, and timber belfry with spire. The walls are of rubble with substantial amounts of Roman and medieval brick. The apse, chancel and central vessel of the nave date from c.1120 and were apparently built in a single campaign. The responds of three vaulting arches, their imposts carrying a few courses of the transverse arches themselves, survive in the nave. The 12thc parts of the church are lavishly painted with an original scheme dating from the same time. They were rediscovered under whitewash in 1690-91 and re-covered with fresh whitewash. In 1871 the apse whitewash was removed, and in the following year the paintings uncovered there were restored by Daniel Bell, who ‘added and supplied what was necessary’. The nave paintings were restored in 1879, and all the paintings were restored again in 1931-32 by E. W. Tristram, in 1963-64 by Eve Baker, and in 1990-93 by Wolfgang Gärtner. This is not the place for a detailed account of them (for which see references given in the VCH entry in the bibliography), and the painting is not described in detail in the desciptions of the features given below, but can be examined in the photographs. Romanesque sculpture is found on two N doorways, on the windows of the nave and apse, on the apse arch and on the nave vaulting arch imposts, and on the 12thc Purbeck marble font.


The manor of Copford was given to the Bishops of London as early as the late-10thc., and most of it remained in the see until the reformation. It was assessed at 1½ hides and 18 acres in 1086. Successive Bishops of London exercised their right of advowson regularly as Lords of the Manor until 1559 when the Queen presented, Bishop Bonner having been deprived.


Exterior Features



Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Vaulting/Roof Supports





Copford was described by Pevsner (1954) as ‘the most remarkable Norman parish church in the county’, on the grounds of its wall paintings, the apse vault, and the evidence for a barrel vault in the nave and chancel. Similar evidence is found at Great Clacton, and it is to be greatly regretted that neither of their main vessel vaults survives. Bettley (2007) offers a date of 1125-30 for the church, and the VCH c.1120, which the present author marginally prefers. At any rate it is interesting to observe the restricted range of capitals used here: plain cushions and double scallops with a few volute capitals. All imposts are plain chamfered, and there is no arch decoration at all beyong the angle rolls on the N nave doorway. In many cases brick has been preferred to ashlar for arches.


J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 305-07.

J. Cooper, The Church Dedications and Saints’ Cults of Medieval Essex, Lancaster 2011, 127.

Historic England Listed Building 416465

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 134-35.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 3: North East (1922), 76-78.

Victoria County History: Essex X (2001), 139-52.