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St Mary the Virgin, Fryerning, Essex

(51°40′32″N, 0°22′3″E)
TL 638 001
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Essex
medieval St Albans
now Chelmsford
  • Ron Baxter
04 May 2018

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Fryerning is a village in the Brentwood district of mid-Essex. It is 6 miles SW of Chelmsford and 5 miles NE of Brentwood, at a junction of minor roads on the N side of the A12. The area is heavily wooded. especially to the N. The church of St Mary stands in the centre of the village, and consists of a chancel, an aisleless nave and a W tower. The nave has a S porch, timber framed on a flint pebble base, and a modern brick block was built over the N doorway in 2008, to provide a vestry, kitchen and lavatory. The W tower is of brick. The oldest parts are the nave and chancel, dating from the late-11thc or early-12thc, and constructed of puddingstone, flints and brick laid in rough courses. The nave and chancel quoins are of reused Roman tile. The N and S nave doorways are completely plain, and the nave windows; 3 on the S and 2 on the N are plain lancets, and all are modern replacements except for the westernmost on the N side, which is original but blocked. The brick W tower dates from the 15thc. Romanesque features described below are the nave doorways and the font. The church was restored in 1869 by Wykeham Chancellor, who also added the S porch.


Fryerning and Ingatestone are not distinguished in the Domesday Survey, and were held by Robert Gernon in demesne in 1086, and by Siward before the Conquest, as a manor of 3 hides. Gernon's grandson Gilbert Montfitchet granted half of the manor, and the church, to the Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem, and it remained in their hands until the order was suppressed in 1540.


Exterior Features





There is general agreement on an early (late-11thc or early 12thc) date for the nave and chancel, and a c.1200 date for the font. This font belongs to the same group as thaose at Abbess Roding and Little Laver. Christy in Wilde (1913, 14) has suggested that the font may have been the gift of either Margaret Montfitchet or the Empress Matilda, who was a distant relation to the Montfitchets by marriage, and that it might have been an import from France. This seems unlikely on three counts: the font is of clunch, a material local to the area and widely used elsewhere in the building; it forms one of a group by the same workshop, so that if this one is French, those at Little Laver and Abbess Roding would be too; and finally Matilda would seem to be ruled out as the donor as she died in 1167, before the likely date of production of the font. The confusion seems to have arisen from the misconception that it is of Caen stone, a fine grained oolitic limestone. This is repeated in the 1967 List Description and in White (1979) but not Pevsner (1954), Bettley (2007) or the RCHME Inventory (1921).


J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 373-74.

J. Cooper, The Church Dedications and Saints’ Cults of Medieval Essex, Lancaster 2011, 134.

J. Fitch (ed), Essex Churches and Chapels: A Select Guide, Donington 1997, 93.

Historic England Listed Building, English Heritage Legacy ID 373627

W. N. Paul, Essex Fonts and Font Covers, 1986

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 170.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2: Central and South West (1921), 136-42.

G. A. White, St Mary's Fryerning (Church Guide). 1979, reprinted and amended 1992.

G. Worley, Essex: A Dictionary of the County Mainly Ecclesiological, London 1915, 34-36.