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A brief history of the village
and its Church

THE VILLAGE

Mount Bures lies in north-east Essex on the 46 metre contour above the River Stour which, with its tributary Cambridge Brook, forms an angle enclosing the village on both north and west sides respectively.  Each watercourse is a separate parliamentary and ancient Hundred boundary.

Prior to a national reorganisation of boundaries in the nineteenth century, the parish originally extended in a narrow strip southwards through part of Wakes Colne to the River Colne at Chappel.  The village encompasses 1,400 acres.

Typical sands, gravels, and boulder clays form the undulating river terraces. Chalk and brickearth have been worked to the north around Sudbury, and at Bures St. Mary brickworks the London clay was exposed.

EARLIER PREHISTORY

Before the last glacial deposits were laid down, in a remote period some 200,000 BC, early Stone Age man was present here on the site which eventually became Mount Bures. A palm sized flint hand-axe was found north of the church.  It is an undamaged implement classified today as “Acheulian”  (the type found at St. Acheul). Eventually, when the ice receded, people of the Mesolithic culture who lived by what they could hunt or gather, paused close to Cambridge Brook, and perhaps camped there. Discarded flint cores have been found there, which show tell-tale long marks scored by toolmakers of circa 8,000 BC Very carefully, they struck long slivers of flint from large nodules for fashioning blades and points. The landscape has not changed drastically since then, so other implements may appear as erosion continues.

Later, about 5,000 years ago, when people began to settle for longer periods in one place, keeping cattle and growing small areas of corn, they must have chosen the land near Herds Pasture.  Over the last few years three fine Neolithic flints, having neatly chipped cutting edges, were found on separate occasions after cultivation: a workman-like pick, originally hafted on a wooden handle; a superb leaf-shaped blade; and a polished axe. The last tool would have represented hours of work with sand and water to obtain the faultless polished surface.

Shortly after, wealthy Bronze Age tribes buried their chieftains in circular ditched mounds. The parish contains several large examples of these now vanished monuments. The clear traces of these and other sites may be seen in aerial photographs taken when the corn is ripening. Their patterns are known as crop marks.

IRON AGE AND ROMAN PERIODS

Queen Boadicea (Boudicca in Latin) of the Iceni tribe is often associated with the great mound in the centre of Mount Bures though with no positive reason.  A rare find was made in 1849 when the Stour Valley Railway line cut a swathe through the village from north to south.

Workmen digging a ditch uncovered what is now identified as an important Welwyn type” burial.  Within were 6 wine amphorae, a glass bottle and bead, the handles and hinges of a box and many pottery platters, all now lost.  Fortunately preserved is the major find of Celtic iron fire-dogs (see back cover) now in Colchester Castle Museum.  The grave is dated circa 10 BC  Enough is known to suggest that this and other graves such as the Colchester “Lexden tumulus” are all rich sepulchres of Iron Age nobility – even of minor royalty.  But Boadicea died in AD 60!

In fields to the south east of this area the Romans established small farm or villa with a tile kiln nearby. First to fourth century pottery, roof tiles, flue tiles from a hypocaust, and lava quern fragments for grinding corn have all been found there. Also a bronze figurine of the god Mercury, discovered near the church (which itself exhibits much Roman brick in its fabric), together with a fragment of mortared wall near our eastern boundary with Wormingford are all indications of Roman occupation.

THE MIDDLE AGES (1086)

According to Domesday Book the overlord WULFMER was holding our Saxon manor of BURA before the Conquest. His community included 6 villeins, 9 bordars, and 6 serfs working 1 hide of land (about 120 acres).  They had 3 ploughs for the lord’s land and 3 ploughs for their own.  The woodland could have fed 300 swine, and there was always a mill and 12 acres of meadow.

Curiously distinct were 3 other villeins and 2 bordars who had 1 plough between them.  Also 8 free men enjoyed a separate holding of half a hide and 30 acres and had 3 ploughs, 3 acres of meadow and woodland for 10 swine.  In total the manor supported 2 rounceys (small packhorses), 14 beasts, 80 sheep, 28 swine, and 26 goats.  The value then was £7. But by 1086 this had risen to £11, although the number of men, ploughs and animals had decreased, due no doubt to the effects of war.

Life, then, was brief and harsh. Little of this period survives except perhaps for the remains of an ancient mill dam still visible astride the brook below the church – possibly the one mentioned in Domesday.

THE NAME OF MOUNT BURES

The Old English place-name BURA often means merely a dwelling.  A cottage in place-name terms is, however, “cot” (as in Cotes and Cotons).  Therefore it is possible that BURA denotes a grander type of dwelling.

Significantly, Bures St. Mary (also BURA) has claimed the distinction of being the coronation site of King Edmund as stated in a manuscript at Cambridge.  But at which BURA this event occurred is not certain.

Buers ad Montem, alias Buers Parva, alias Buers Sancti Johannis – from the dedication of the church to St. John the Baptist – and sometimes Sackvile Mont Buers are on record to describe our village but all are later than the mid 13th century.

THE NORMAN CONQUEST

The Conquest altered the topography of the area in two major ways; first the construction of the great moated Norman motte (although at present who is to know whether a more ancient structure lay beneath); and secondly the building of the church.  They are both important protected monuments.

Ulmer’s successor here was the Norman, Roger of Poitou, whose father was the powerful Roger II of Belleme, a companion of William the Conqueror in many battles.  The latter Roger was created Earl of Shrewsbury, of Arundel and of Chichester and became lord of all Montgomery.

King William divided the land of Britain largely among 11 main Tenants-in Chief, and the family of Montgomery-Belleme was one of these.  Their lands in Normandy were also vast; and foremost among their Norman strongholds was the castle at Buers sur Dives.  There in 1077 Mabel, the mother of Roger of Poitou, was foully murdered, not perhaps without cause according to a monk of their household who wrote about them all.  Apparently she was decapitated by a vengeful neighbour whom she had wronged.  Our church has an early Norman origin and the Valuation of Norwich tells us that the number of churches in Essex before 1100 was a little over 120.  Is it possible that Roger of Poitou erected our church in memory of his mother? If so the dedication to St. John the Baptist was apt. And in that case it must have been commenced prior to 1119 when the family fell from grace and were stripped of their lands by Henry I.  The same dedication was however chosen by the great Abbey at Colchester.

Several of Mabel’s five sons were elite men-at-arms (one of them viciously cruel).  Fortification was commonplace to them and there is little doubt that our impressive moated mound was originally their work.  A wooden tower would have been placed on the summit to form a rapid defensive point, essential whilst the main fighting raged sporadically throughout the primary years of the Conquest.

The Norman family of Sackville later created Earls of Dorset (amongst other titles), held our manor of Mount Bures of the Honour of Lancaster from circa 1119 to 1578. Their arms are depicted in stone on the church porch, and also on a very fine armorial window dated circa 1506 which, with other coats of arms, commemorates a family marriage.  This window is in Mount Bures Hall.


THE CHURCH

According to Newcourt’s Repertorium (1710) the Diocese of London included the parish of Mount Bures, which at that time lay in the Archdeaconry of Colchester, and in the Deanery and Hundred of Lexden.  Other changes followed but the church is now within the Diocese of Chelmsford, in the Rural Deanery of Dedham and Tey.

For many centuries the patronage of the living of Mount Bures belonged to the lords of the manor, but that custom has now been altered.

Early descriptions of the architecture and fabric are few, and the following in Morant’s History of Essex 1768 is quaint:-

“This church (nave) is one pace with the chancel both tyled. In the middle between the chancel and the church stands a square tower of stone with a spire shingled containing four bells.”

Within two years the Rector recorded a major alteration:-

“1770. By virtue of a faculty this summer a cracked bell which had been useless above twenty years with another bell was sold, the spire taken down, the tower heightened, the two remaining bells new hung and every other necessary repairs to the church and tower done.  The faculty cost eight guineas.  Over and above the amount of the bells the expenses cost the parish a rate of about 2d in the Pound.”

Fortunately there is a photograph of the result of these alterations which included an embattled parapet around the brickwork of the encased belfry.  Happy was the Victorian reversal of the project some hundred years later, although they in their turn inevitably destroyed vital material of historic interest.  The old tower was totally demolished in 1875 when the present transepts and vestry were added.  (Previously only ninety seatings were possible).  The tower is now 15 feet by l5 feet. 9 inches.

The following is based on the report of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (1922).

THE WALLS of the church are of coursed flint-rubble with Roman brick quoins; the dressings are of limestone and clunch; the roofs are tiled.

THE CHANCEL has E. quoins of Roman brick and a 14th century window of three cinquefoiled lights with modern tracery in a triangular head.  In the N. wall is a modern doorway with a two-centred head. In the S. wall are two windows, the eastern is modern except for the splays and rear-arch, which are of the 14th century; the 14th century western window is partly restored and of three trefoiled ogee lights in a square head.

THE NAVE has three round-headed 12th century windows (one, on the South wall, now blocked).  In the N. wall is a modern window, and an early 12th century north doorway, also blocked, which has plain jambs of Roman brick and a round head.

In the S. wall is a 15th century window much restored, of two cinquefoiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with a moulded label and jambs; further W. is the late 14th century S. doorway with moulded lambs, two-centred arch and a moulded label with head stops.

In the W. wall is a late 14th century window of three trefoiled lights with net tracery in a two-centred head.

THE SOUTH PORCH is of mixed brick and flint-rubble and has a late 15th century outer archway with moulded and shafted jambs and two-centred arch in a square head with a moulded label, head stops and spandrels carved with vine foliage and shields; above it is a small pointed light.  The sidewalls have each a partly restored late 15th century window of three cinquefoiled lights in a square head.  The roof of the porch is of the 15th century and has moulded wall-plates and tie-beams with king-posts.

THE BELLS. Of the two remaining bells (15th century) the larger by Robert Burford, weighing about 13 cwt., bears the inscription “Sit nomen Domini benedictum.” The other by Henry Jones has “Sancte Nicoli ora pro nobis.”  In 1552 additional to the four original bells were two handbells, and a little one in the Chancel.

THE NORTH AND SOUTH DOORS are both 15th century; as is the NICHE on the north side of the E. window, and also the STOUP in the S. Porch which has a cinquefoiled head, no bowl.

THE FONT is a plain octagonal bowl, with moulded under-edge and plain stem, probably 15th century.

THE COMMUNION PLATE. The present Cup and Paten were made in Dunkeld in 1998 to replace an earlier cup and paten which had been stolen. The stolen cup had the maker’s mark RS, was dated 1641 and inscribed “Buers at the Mount Essex”. There is also another chalice of recent date.

Two other chalices (1552) and a pewter flagon and plate are recorded, but these disappeared several centuries ago.

THE COMMUNION TABLE which stands in the S. Transept, and the chest with three locks in the vestry are both 17th century.

LOVE’S CHARITY (1564).  Mount Bures is one of twelve parishes whose householders are entitled to this charity.  Thomas Love, “the beggar”, amassed a considerable fortune from his stop-watch professional begging; people knew within the hour when his knock would sound. At his death he directed that the interest derived from his money should be spent within the villages where his alms were regularly obtained.

THE ROYAL ARMS are classified Hanover 3 (1816-37) and are by the Colchester firm of Wallis and Coleman.  The cost was about two guineas.

THE OLD TOWER was only 12 feet 3 inches by 10 feet 11 inches across and lay centrally between the nave and chancel.  On each of the two sides adjoining the nave and chancel was a plain Norman arch only 6 feet 6 inches wide by 6 feet high to the springing.

The narrowness of these arches practically dissevered the nave from the chancel, making services extremely difficult.

Part of the report by Mr. T. Harris, the architect of the Victorian reconstruction,  is worth giving in full.

“The quoins of the tower which appeared to be old bricks 2 1/2 inches thick were discovered to be tiles of irregular shapes and sizes, varying in thickness from l 1/4 inches to 5/8 inches with a lip on the edge, the inner surface being roughly scored with varied patterns. The original use of these tiles is difficult to determine, but they are no doubt of Roman origin.

THE WALL PAINTINGS

In pulling down the tower an interesting discovery was made. Arched recesses were found, one on either side of the tower arch way with indications of their continuation along the walls; the extent of the arcading, however, cannot be determined, as by the insertion of the later windows it had been partially destroyed and was probably then built up. Traces of colour decoration of early date were discernible in all of the arches, but which, owing to the rotten state of the plaster, it was impossible to preserve. The only decipherable portion was found at the East end of the nave on the South wall and of this a careful and accurate copy has been made by the Architect. It consisted of three draped figures: Two, a male and a female in standing position were comparatively perfect; (the third) a female figure in a sitting posture, the head being wanting. From the general character and treatment of the subject, it appears to represent the meeting of the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth – the mother of the Patron Saint.”

Other interesting relics discovered then were a l3th-l4th century piscina still in good preservation; a carved label terminal, and some Roman ornamental paving tiles, all of which were handed over to the Rector, the Rev. Nathaniel Davies, M.A.

Details of the wall paintings described above have been illustrated by Mrs. Christine Nash and now hang in the church.

The importance of the Old Tower is such that if any remains of it lie below ground these should be carefully examined in the future. If, for instance, the tower could be seen to predate the building of the nave, this might mean that the tower originally served as a second fortified dwelling of the Normans before they turned to peaceful church construction.

A old photograph showing the church prior to the reconstruction 1875 hangs in the nave.  This and the plan overleaf, may enable the reader to visualise the original structure of the church.

Scale plan of the church taken from the Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments.

Crown copyright.

In common with all churches of this age there is a need for continual restoration work. The stonework of the west window in the church was skilfully restored in 1977, the Silver Jubilee Year.  The roof of the nave was recently re-tiled following severe gale damage, and the timbers treated to combat woodworm.  Action is currently in hand for the restoration of the window in the south wall to the right of the porch.  Other work in hand includes repairs to the spire.

RECORDS RELATING TO THE CHURCH

The following information has been collected from various sources.

Circa 1160. The Cartulary of St. John’s Abbey recorded that lands in Bures with 1 mark sterling (13s.4d) from the mill there were given to the Abbey at Colchester by Jordan de Sackville.  These, with lands elsewhere were given:

“For the salvation of Jordan’s soul and that of his father and mother and of those whose chattels his father took without due recompense.”

1584.  For several years the Archdeacon’s Visitations reported that the church and rectory of Mount Bures were in decay as to tiling and glazing and likely to fall down.  The Rector Mr John Woodthorpe was excommunicated in this year because of his gross negligence and continued absence, although he was not officially replaced until his death in 1599.

1587.  The same source stated:

“Joanna Abbott is suspected for a witch.”

Fortunately no record of her hanging appears in the Essex Assize lists on such matters.

1643.  The Victoria County History for Essex described events during the Civil War when County Commissions dealt with the problem of “scandalous ministers”. John Simpson vicar of Mount Bures was one of twenty seven clergymen removed from their benefices.  Charges trumped up by those of opposing beliefs were:

“That he would not come out of the alter rails to administer the sacrament;  that he swore by his faith and “troth;” that he suffered the youth of his parish to use sports on the Lord’s Day as scales and football; that he took the Archbishop to be a wise and holy man, wishing himself as godly; and (worst of all) he prayed not for the Parliament.”

1662.  This date appears on our oldest gravestone (now within the church).  It is probably the oldest surviving in Essex.  Early in the twentieth century Charles Partridge deciphered the lettering, now eroded:

“Here Lyeth Burie(d) The Body of Pruden(ce) Turner Who Depart(ed) This Life upon the 4th of December 1662.  She Died of A Dropsie Tympanie.”

Old deeds show that the Turner family lived then at Hobbs Well.

17th century.  Richard Symond’s Ecclesiological Notes registered:

“In this Churchyard stands a little Chappell in the Nor’side of the Church built of stone. Playnely in former times a Chantry house, but now turned into two tenements in the Incumb(en)ts disposinge…M(aste)r* Simpson.”

* Title for a man with a Masters Degree.

1675. Philip Havers, a Deacon, procured the Living of the Rectory of Mount Bures but, because of certain matters of conscience felt himself unable to take holy orders.  He therefore persuaded one Andrews, for the fee of 40 shillings to impersonate him before the Bishop of Gloucester where he was ordained, and received Letters of Orders of priesthood in the name of Philip Havers.

The subterfuge was discovered and Havers came before the Bishop of London at the Court of Arches where he was “condemned in expenses £30 and his letters of Orders annulled.” Finally he appealed to the Chancery Court, but at Sergeant’s Inn before a learned Commission he was excommunicated.  Documents at Cambridge University fully describe this case.

1705-6.  The manuscript Notitia Parochialis contains the original answers of parish priests to queries about the value and status of their churches.  The incumbent of Mount Bures when asked the question “What augmentation or other benefaction has your benefice had, when and by whom”, answered: “No augmentation since its foundation which was in the year 1059 as appeareth on the porch.”

Philip Morant, writing in 1768, recalled:

“At the top of the porch on the outside there formerly was a stone about 8 inches square with the date MLIX.  But that stone is now missing.”

Memories over sixty years become hazy; “on the outside” may refer to the outside wall of the church itself where a date would normally occur.  There still seems a chance that this stone may by hidden beneath the plaster over the church door within the porch.

1711.  At the General Quarter Sessions the Bench sheweth:-

“That your humble petitioner Samuel Gibson of Mount Bewers in the said County, Clerk, (in holy orders), having no Living or preferment nor never had, whereby to maintain himself and family according to his Education; Did marry several persons without License or Banns contrary to the Cannons of the Church and for that was committed to the Goale at Chelmsford for the said County about three years since.”

His plea for release:-

“Your humble petitioner being sixty years of age and by long imprisonment, having spent that little substance he had, and having endured a great deal of hardship by long and tedious confinement, and for want of necessary clothing and food, having no friends is now become a real object of pitty and Charity; and consequently must perrish if not relieved speedily; do humbly beg that this Court would be pleased to gett him discharged out of Goale, and in the meantime to allow him maintenance according to his Education; as your Worships shall see fitt, and your humble petitioner as in Duty bound, shal1 Ever pray.”

1715. Hugh Constable who died aged 48 years, great grandfather of the artist John Constable, lived here and according to his gravestone lies in Bures St Mary churchyard.  There is a letter from the artist’s sister to John in which she mentions that a search for grandfather Hugh’s stone had been made in Mount Bures churchyard.  His burial is not in the registers here however. Curiously the occupant of a cottage in Mount Bures during that period was a W.Lott.  Any relationship with the famous Willie?

1734.  By contrast with earlier Rectors, Philip Gurdon came to Mount Bures in this year and remained until 1784 – quite a record.  From his following parish entries he appears to have been a considerate and kindly man.

1742.  “Be it remembered that in the year 1742 three pews on the north side of the church were built – the two lowest next to the north door at the expense of the Parish for their joint use – and the uppermost next to the belfry being the Hall pew, at the expense of Mr. Stephen Wolfenden the present owner of Mount Hall for the use of the occupier and his estate.”  (The latter lived in Hamburg most of the time).

1752.  “The shingles of the spire were repaired, Mr. Hubbard of Bures undertook the work for £15 which was raised by a 6d rate.  N.B. The parish used to put the Churchwardens and the Poor’s Rate together ordinarily and I used to pay it as it was but a trifle, little more than the charge of the communion bread and wine but on this occasion I desired them to make the Rates Distraint which they accordingly did.”

1754.  A new register book was provided:-

30 leaves of parchment at 4 1/2d per leaf                   11s  3d

Binding and lettering                                                 4s  3d

15s  6d

“By an act passed in the year 1753 a particular form of Registering marriage is prescribed to prevent any fraud or collusion by undue entries.  This Act took place at Lady day 1754.”  (Samuel Gibson was not apparently alone in making illegal entries).

1756.  “Mr. Thomas Newman at the death of his son Thomas Newman by my leave made a vault in the churchyard at the end of the chancel for which I did not take an extraordinary fee but settled a running fee of five shilling, instead of two shillings the ordinary one, for every one that should be buried in it.  That (is) so that every Minister that officiates may share the advantage of it. This I thought much more equitable than that one should go away with the whole.”

These extracts serve to show that conditions had somewhat mellowed since the 12th century when Jordan of Sackvile gave two of his bondmen – Walter Kobbe of Bures and Robert, son of Marilda of Fordham – to the monks of St. John’s Abbey.  These serfs were unable to sell livestock or even marry without permission.  Their services were dominated to such an extent that they “came to the lord’s dunghill with cart, fork or hook” whenever bidden.  (In 1370 the monks granted manumission (freedom) to Robert Merild of Fordham, and it was plain that the family had remained in bondage for two hundred years).  The Abbey lands were well defined, usually with hedges; one wonders if portions of hedgerows in Mount Bures survive from the work of these bondmen.

THE PEOPLE

The lord of the manor meted out summary justice to our villagers as the Jury found at the Hundred Court in the second year of King Edward I’s reign (1274) when they presented that Jordan de Sackvile in the township of Bures ad Montem possessed a gallows and held “View of Frankpledge* without the Lord King’s Bailiff”, and that he took penalty fines “of assize broken of bread and ale, but it is not known by what warrant or from what time.”

* Inspection of an ancient system of group responsibility for each other’s behaviour.

The gallows stood on high land near Abrams Farm.  At that time certain standards of price, quality and measure were set on bread and beer, the staple food of the peasants.  The general trend now was for jurisdiction to be taken away from the manor courts, especially in the matter of hanging.

Small yeoman farms of less than 30 acres – their original four hundred year old site names are given in brackets – existed at:

Abrams (Pudney at the Beak);  Nortons (Binges);  Takeleys (Akermans); Brookhouse (Pudneys);  Josselyns (Worshippes);  Old House (Craxes); Hammonds (Hethehouse);  Old Brookhouse (alias Peartree) now demolished; and at Withers,  Hobbs Well  and  Solliers (later the Poor House).

References John atte Hide (1327) and Hydds Garden (1577) may perhaps indicate land associated with Herds Pasture one of our finest timber-framed houses which is situated on a strip of land once part of Bures Hamlet.  Field name evidence in the 1550-1551 Court roll also suggests it was then called Pylattes, a messuage with 38 acres, including a barn, stables and malting. An Agnes Pylat occurs here in 1381.

The manor estate was of larger extent but rarely had a resident lord.  Mrs. Pettit, the wife of a tenant farmer at the Hall in 1854 complained that the house “was mean, low and damp, not at all suitable for the principal house of the village.” She had her way and it was largely rebuild by General Bourchier who was then lord.

Frequently several members of a family died in quick succession, perhaps from plague or hardship.  A severe winter in 1614 caused the death of many people and, for want of feed and shelter, many cattle and sheep also perished in the snow of February and March.

Again in 1683  (the year of the great Frost Fair in London) there was severe weather from 26th November to 5th February when the ground required for graves was frozen two feet deep.

An old Mill Field is recorded with Takeleys long before the two wind mills were erected in the parish; and, since a stream passes close by, it was probably used for fulling cloth.  There is also a Taynterfield (Tenter) where cloth would have been stretched on hooks and dried.

The Pound, according to a “Terrior” of the village bounds, lay close to Rumpes cottage’ Garners Tye (1557) is certainly the old name for this enclosure in which the lord’s steward impounded straying cattle, and collected fines.

Early in the 19th century a new pair of cottages was built by Mr. Newman who then owned the mill (now demolished) and the Bakehouses (Catchlands).  The new pair became a brewhouse which was in 1869 purchased by Messrs. Greene King Limited and is to this day our welcoming unspoilt Thatchers Arms.  In passing, mention must by made of the Newman family who are still here in the village.  They have appeared in records over the last four hundred years, as have also the Pettits who, alas, are now living elsewhere.

Another mill (with a shop and bakery) was also in use within living memory at Well House near old Piotts Green.  Not far away, hops were grown on land close to the site of the eventual airfield used in the 1939-45 War, now in its turn little more than a crop mark in the corn. A glider club is at present operating there.

At the centre of the parish near the level crossing, stood the wheelwright’s shop or barn, which was only demolished a few years back.  There was another barn opposite, which with the pair of Tudor cottages adjacent, also incorporated a shop early last century.  In fact the population then almost doubled our present total.

Crime benefited some people in earlier times.  A Tyburn Ticket, granted in 1814 to Mr Joseph Kingsbury (of Coes) for apprehending a felon, appeared useful, for it exempted the holder from all irksome duties in the parish (Overseers of the Poor, and of the Highways) and often fetched a good sum of money if assigned or sold.  The felon was Joseph Tokely (of Takeleys) who had stolen £10 worth of goods from Mr Thomas Newman the Miller.  Grants of Tyburn Tickets were in force from 1699-1827 when the act was repealed.

In 1874 the Vestry Committee recorded a vote of thanks to the Reverend Thomas Brett, late Rector, for the gift of £160 for the erection of a schoolhouse for the use of the parishioners, and also to the late Mr John Garrod for a piece of freehold land on which to site the above.

Slates for writing were used by the 60 boys and girls who attended the newly-built village school when it opened in 1873.  The school log, with its entries of several very unpleasant illnesses, happily now rare, only commenced in 1879.  Not only the weather lowered attendance, but “dropping beans” in February and June pea-picking sometimes caused 49 of the total to be absent.  Tom Quinney and Ernest Chaplin were caned with monotonous frequency. Sanitary facilities were horrific; indeed they remained so until very recently.  The school closed finally in December 1938 when it then became St. John’s Hall  for the use of parishioners.  Extensive renovations amounting to almost £6,000 have recently been undertaken by the Hall Committee on behalf of the village and all modern equipment provided.  The hall has an attractive mural in the form of a village map painted by the late Mrs. Stella Ward.

28th November 1992 saw the erection for the first time of a decorative hand-crafted village sign for Mount Bures on the green by the level crossing.  Due ceremony and festivities heralded its dedication when parishioners were addressed by various dignitaries including the new Lady of the Manor, Mrs Valerie Sayer of Abrams Farm, who happily has brought important documents back into the village where they belonged.

In 1999 Diana Collins, widow of the late Canon John Collins (who died in 1982) and one of our residents, was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire, DBE.  Diana recently completed a combined autobiography and biography of her husband, (‘Partners in Protest’ – published by Gollanz 1992) and reviewed by Lord Longford as “the best book ever written by a wife about her husband”.

Diana describes her idyllic childhood on the River Stour estuary and the happy purchase of Mill House, Mount Bures.  She traces John’s childhood and early career and their exciting, controversial years together – St. Pauls, CND, anti-racist work in Africa and elsewhere.  She writes how moved she is by the memorial to John  “which the village provided in our lovely little church.”

More accounts of Mount Bures, its neighbouring parishes and the Stour Valley have been written by author Ronnie Blythe, in books such as ‘Word from Wormingford’ (published by Viking 1997].  Ronnie is a Lay Reader and frequently takes services at this church.

A more detailed history is given in ‘Mount Bures: its lands and its people’ by Ida McMaster and Kathleen Evans published by I. McMaster 1996.

All extracts, except where otherwise stated, are by kind permission of the Essex Record Office where an annotated copy showing source references is being deposited.

First published June 1980, second amendment June 2000.

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