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St Mary, Belchamp Walter, Essex

(52°2′4″N, 0°39′43″E)
Belchamp Walter
TL 827 407
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Essex
medieval London
now Chelmsford
  • Ron Baxter
21 April 2015

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Feature Sets

Belchamp Walter is a village in the Braintree district of N Essex, 3 miles W of Sudbury and 3.5 miles S of the Suffolk border. The three Belchamp villages, of which this is the easternmost, occupy a network of minor roads in the rolling farmland on the S side of the River Stour. The village centre is at a crossroads, with the church and hall in a group 0.5 miles to the E. St Mary’s is a large church with a nave with a timber-framed S porch, a W tower and a chancel. Of these the chancel is the earliest, and may date from the 12thc to judge from the round-headed lancet in its N wall. At any event, the E wall has been replaced, a Y-tracery window installed, and the chancel lengthened c.1860. Around this time too, the chancel arch was rebuilt by John J Cole. The 14thc nave is much taller and wider than the chancel. The timber porch and the W tower are 15thc work. The nave contains well-preserved wall-paintings of the Passion and saints’ lives on the N wall, dating from the early 14thc, and the spectacular arched canopy of the 1324-25 tomb of Sir John de Boutetourt, which looks as if it had escaped from Westminster Abbey. The only Romanesque sculpture here is the font.


The three Belchamps: St Paul, Walter and Otten, are called simply Belcamp or Belcham in the Domesday Survey. The Canons of St Paul’s cathedral held a manor of 5 hides, presumably Belchamp St Paul, before and after the Conquest. A manor of 1 hide and 45 acres was held by Leodmaer in 1066 and by Ulmar from Count Eustace in 1086. A third manor of 2½ hides was held by Wulfwine in 1066 and by Aubrey de Vere in demesne in 1086, and finally a manor of 1 hide and 38 ½ acres was held by 6 free men in 1066, and by Robert de Vaux from Roger Bigod in 1086.

According to Wright (1831) Belchamp Walter was Aubrey de Vere’s holding, and passed through his daughter Roese to her son with her second husband, Payne de Beauchamp, Baron of Bedford. This was Simon de Beauchamp, steward of King Stephen, who was succeeded by his son William who died c.1260. For the later history of this manor the reader is referred to Wright (1831).





The Inventory entry describes the font as early 12thc – the present author would place it in the 1130s or ‘40s.


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England’s Patron Saints, 3 vols, London 1899, III, 47.

J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 129-30.

J. Cooper, The Church Dedications and Saints’ Cults of Medieval Essex, Lancaster 2011, 112.

Historic England Listed building 115731

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1: North West (1916), 18-21.

T. Wright, The History and Topography of the County of Essex, 2 vols, 2nd ed. 1831-36, I, 576-81.