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St Nicolas, Witham, Essex

(51°48′27″N, 0°38′3″E)
TL 817 154
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Essex
medieval London
now Chelmsford
  • Ron Baxter
13 August 2015

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Feature Sets

Witham is a town in the Braintree district of E Essex, on the Roman road from Colchester, 13 miles to the NE, to Chelmsford, 8 miles SW. The old settlement is in the area of Chipping Hill, on the N side of the modern town, and it is here that the church is found. Most of Witham is taken up by the three large council estates that were built in the 1960s and ‘70s on the N, W and S sides of the old centre to accommodate families from London to move to as part of the Expanded Town overspill policy of that period.

The church is a large one consisting of a clerestoried nave with 4-bay aisles and a S porch, a chancel with a N vestry and a S chapel, and a W tower. The church is of the early 14thc, except for the 15thc chapel and late-14thc vestry and porch. The feature described here is the S doorway, which must have been incorporated from an earlier phase of the building. It is certainly 13thc but is included on account of the chevron ornament it contains.


A manor of 5 hides was held by Earl Harold in 1066, and in 1086 it was held by Peter the Sheriff on behalf of the king. A further 51 acres formerly held by Earl Harold were held in 1086 by Richard from Count Eustace. A manor of 4 hides that was held by Burgheard, a free man, in 1066 was held by Hugh from Robert Gernon in 1086. Finally Modwin held 1 hide in 1086 that Earl Harold had held in 1066.

The chief manor of Great Witham was given, according to Wright, to Count Eistace of Boulogne who had married William I’s sister Goda. It thus passed to the crown, and King Stephen gave it to the Knights Templar, excepting the church, which he gave to St Martin-le-Grand in London.


Exterior Features



The date of the doorway is hard to pin down. It is described as 12thc by the RCHME, late 12thc in the List Description and c.1200 by Pevsner (1954) and Bettley (2007). 12thc features are the chevron of the 3rd order and the nook-shaft bases, while the capitals, label stops and keeled archivolts point to a date well into the 13thc, which is the present author’s opinion.


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England’s Patron Saints, London 1899, III, 311.

J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 842-44.

Historic England Listed Building 113490

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 393-94.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2: Central and South West (1921), 263-69.

T. Wright, The History and Topography of the County of Essex, 1836, I, 214-221.