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All Saints, Writtle, Essex

(51°43′45″N, 0°25′42″E)
TL 678 062
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

Writtle is a large village, 2 miles E of the centre of Chelmsford in central Essex. The village is centred on a green from which the church iis reached by a narrow lane on the S side. All Saints’ is a substantial building with a chancel with 2-bay N and S chapels and a vestry, now the parish office, at the E end of the N chapel. The nave has a clerestories and 5-bay aisles with N and S transeptal chapels in bay 1 of the nave aisles, and a W tower. There are N and S nave doorways under porches, and the S porch is now kept locked and used for storage. None of the fabric is Romanesque. The chancel with its chapels and vestries are largely of the 14thc. The nave arcades are 13thc work, but the aisles were remodelled in the 14thc. Both transeptal chapels are 16thc: the shallow N chapel of stone and the deeper S chapel of red brick with an embattled parapet. Both were presumably chantries. The tower was rebuilt after it collapsed in 1802. The only Romanesque feature here is the font.


The manor of Writtle was held by Earl Harold before the Conquest, when it was assessed at 16 hides, and by King William in 1086, when it was assessed at 14 hides This great manor also contained woodland for 1000 pigs and 3 acres of meadow. Two hides and 20 acres in Writtle were held by the Bishop of Hereford in 1086; 1 hide of this had been held by Earl Harold in 1066, and the rest by the church.

The church was granted by King Stephen to Bermondsey Priory in 1143. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) founded the Hospital of the Santo Spirito in the church of St Mary in Saxia, Rome, for the English population of the city, and at his request King John granted the church of Writtle to it in 1204 for its support. Until the church became vacant, the king supported the hospital from the Exchequer, and this happened in 1218. A priory was built alongside the church at Writtle, and thereafter the church was served by the brethren. It was apparently rebuilt in the 1230s to reflect its new status.





The font is similar in form to that at Norton Mandeville. The RCHME writes that it is probably of Barnack stone, and dates it to the 12thc. The list description and SMR also simply date it to the 12thc, Pevsner (1954) did not record a font, but Bettley, in the revised edition, dated it to c.1170 and called it Caen stone. I have yet to find a writer who agrees with me that it is badly eroded Purbeck.


J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 858-60.

Essex Sites and Monuments number 30959

Historic England Listed Building 428450

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 401-02.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2: Central and South West (1921), 271-77.

A. Suckling, Memorials of the Antiquities and Architecture, Family History and Heraldry of the County of Essex, London 1845, 138-44.

Victoria County History: Essex II (1907), 200-01 (on the Hospital)