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St Mary, Birchanger, Essex

(51°53′0″N, 0°11′17″E)
TL 507 228
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Essex
medieval London
now Chelmsford
  • Ron Baxter
29 September 2011

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Feature Sets

Birchanger is a small village in the west of the county, immediately 2 miles NE of Bishops Stortford. The name relates to the ancient birch wood of Birchanger, which still survives in part to the west of the village. Immediately to the east is the M11, and on the other side of it is Stansted airport. St Mary’s church is on the west side of the village. It consists of a nave and chancel in one with a N aisle and porch by Arthur Blomfield (1898). The nave has 12thc S and W doorways, and a double bellcote above the W gable (by G. E. Pritchett, 1851). The chancel has three 13thc lancets, the remains of an arch to a former S chapel, and a N vestry also by Blomfield. Over the W end of the nave. Construction is of flint with limestone dressings.


The Domesday Survey lists three holdings in Birchanger. First Heoruwulf held 1 hide before the Conquest that was held in 1086 by Tascelin the Priest in alms of the king. Then two hides in Birchanger were held as a manor by Thorkil before the Conquest, and in 1086 by the Abbey of Saint-Valéry (Somme). Finally, half a hide was held before the Conquest by a sokeman of Esger, and in 1086 by Germund from Geoffrey de Mandeville. The advowson of the church was held in the time of Edward I by the Priory of Takeley (Essex), an Alien Priory under Saint-Valéry.


Exterior Features



The smaller W doorway was originally the N doorway, probably moved in the 19thc when the N aisle was added. The EH listing text dates both doorways to c.1125, and the rebuilding of the chancel to c1225. There was once a round W tower, according to the listing text, destroyed in the 18thc. The Romanesque-looking bellcote on the nave is 19thc, according to Pevsner (1954), and he also states that the S doorway was only discovered in 1930.


J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 139.

J. Cooper, The Church Dedications and Saints’ Cults of Medieval Essex, Lancaster 2011, 114.

W. Dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum, vol 6 part II, London 1830, 1048.

English Heritage, Listed Building 121495

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 75-76.