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St Mary, Stifford, Essex

(51°29′55″N, 0°18′39″E)
TQ 605 803
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Thurrock
medieval London
now Chelmsford
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Ron Baxter
21 July 2016

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Stifford is in the Thurrock Unitary Authority, between Purfleet in the W and Grays in the E. The parish covers the settlements of North and South Stifford, separated by the A13, with the church in North Stifford, basically a village High Street extending for a mile and occupied by the church, a pub and several housing that includes several attractive timber framed buildings. St Mary’s is on the S side of this street and consists of a chancel with a S chapel housing the organ, a nave with a 2-bay S aisle linked to the chapel, a N porch facing the High Street, and a W tower with a short broach spire. A blocked arch at the E end of the N nave wall suggests that there was formerly a chapel here. The nave and its N doorway are 12thc in origin; the aisle was added in the 13thc, as was the tower; The chancel chapel dates from the late 13thc. The church was restored by Henry Stock of Snooke and Stock in 1861-63. It is of rubble including flint and ragstone with some puddingstone. Romanesque features recorded here are the N doorway and the font.


1 hide and 30 acres in Stifford were held by Aelfric in 1066 and by Hugh (de Montfort?) from the Bishop of Bayeux in 1086. This appears to have been the main manor, and had a church with 30 acres given in alms by the neighbours. Bishop Odo also held a manor of 1½ hides that Ralph FitzTurold held from him in 1086, and was held by Gilbert in 1066.

Another 40 acres in Stifford were held by Barking Abbey in 1086, and 25 acres were held by a free man from Esger the Cook.

After Odo’s fall, his Stifford lands were, following VCH, divided between neighbouring barons. The Bishop of London may have acquired some and added it to his manor in Little Thurrock. The overlordship of the manor of Stifford, or Stifford Hall, however passed to the Honr of Peverel of Dover, and the tenancy was held in 1170 by Roger Kentish, otherwise Roger of Stifford, who had acquired it by marriage. It subsequently passed to Michael of Stifford, who was holding in 1215.

The advowson of the church mentioned in Domesday was granted in 1170 by Roger Kentish to Gilbert Malet, who later gave it to Rochester Cathedral Priory. In 1215 Michael of Stifford successfully claimed the church back, and he or his namesake was recorded as patron in 1254.


Exterior Features





Pevsner (1954) ignores the font, and RCHME, Bettley and VCH all date it to the 13thc. It could be earlier, at least in part, and is included for that reason.


J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 750.

Historic England listed building 119716

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 339.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 4, South east. (1923), 152-54.

Victoria County History: Essex VIII (1983), 24-35.