our church building
St Andrews’ church, Wormingford is one of 200 ancient churches in the south of England dedicated to Saint Andrew.
The early church building consisted of a tower with a bell, which formed a look out post to watch the river Stour for approaching raiders and sound the alarm. The present church is Norman and dates from the 12th century.
During his reign Henry VIII forced every parish to keep a register of their parishioners. Wormingfords first record of Baptism is on the 20th December 1557, the first Marriage was recorded on St. Peter’s day (29th June) 1558 and the first recorded burial was on the 23rd December 1557.
St Andrews is positioned on a height above the middle reaches of the River Stour, which is very beautiful. Just below is Smallbridge Hall, Where Sir William Waldegrave entertained Elizabeth I. On the distant horizon opposite is Arger Fen nature reserve, and the hill upon which Edmund was crowned King of East Anglia on Christmas Day, 856, and, marked by the BBC television mast, the old farmhouse where Martin Shaw composed his hymn ‘Hills of the north, rejoice!’.
The church is one of twelve in the neighbourhood which are dedicated to the apostle Andrew. Churches built near water were given St Andrew dedications.
North of the gate are the tombs of John Constable’s Uncle Abram, Aunt Mary and their children, ‘The Wormingford Folk’, as the artist described them in his letters home. By the far hedge you will find, the grave of John Nash, R.A., who painted this landscape over many years, and his wife the artist Christine Kuhlenthal.
Early 12th century, comprising of limestone, with Roman brick quoins. The Roman bricks may have come from a local villa or from Colchester. There are vast numbers of them in the district. They make fine corners. The tower is of three stages and is topped with a 17th century brick parapet and pinnacles. The windows, also made of Roman brick, are 12th century.
The tower contains six bells which are rung before all services. Bell practice is at 7:30 pm on Tuesdays. Do feel free to come along or you contact the Bell Captain, Barry Gibbons 01787 227744
Chiefly Victorian (1870) but containing the re-set 15th century archway of the earlier porch. The doorway is late 14th century. Above it may be seen the arch of the original 12th century entrance, and by the side a medieval stoup.
14th century with a north arcade of four bays. The octagonal columns have moulded capitals and bases. The south wall contains three 14th century windows, much restored, and a blocked 12th century window. The north Aisle is 14th century with a 16th century camber beam roof. The Nave roof is among the most remarkable feats of Victorian carpentry. Made of resinous soft wood, it is said to be a replica of the mediaeval roof it replaced in 1870. It is decorated with a great many thin panels of pierced tracery which lend it an airy elegance.
Fragments of 14th century glass remain in the north west and south west windows, and the piscina and sedilia in the sanctuary are of the same period. The great mid 14th century chancel arch is moulded, with sunk chamfering. The organ is by J.W. Walker (1867). The elaborate reredos of stone and alabaster commemorates the ministry of Thomas Tufnell, who was vicar of Wormingford for forty seven years. The figures are of St Andrew and St Alban, the first British martyr. The church possesses an Elizabethan chalice, and registers dating back to 1557.
The tower arch is 19th century but it contains the restored 15th century Rood screen which once divided the nave from the chancel. Peal-boards on the walls of the combined choir vestry and ringing-chamber witness to Wormingfords fame as a centre of the campanologist’s art. There are six bells. They include one cast in 1460 by a woman bell-founder, Joanna Sturdy of Colchester, and two cast by Richard Bowler in 1591. Brasses include that of a young man who died c. 1450, and who Miss Beaumont, our historian, suggests may be either Thomas Bowden or Radus Rydale, and one of a Tudor gentleman with his two wives. Like the belfry floor, which is paved with old headstones from the churchyard, these brasses no longer cover the graves of those they memorialise. Thomas Hardy would not have approved.
Carved out of ancient barn beams by Samuel Joliffe Tufnell in 1949. The shields show the three sees in which the church has been held, Rochester, St Alban’s and Chelmsford.
UNOFFICIAL ART & LEGENDS
The medieval columns and door jambs contain much graffiti, mostly initials and dates. But there is a fascinating scratching in the north aisle of the antler of a fallow deer, from the Smallbridge deer park? It is surrounded by a long inscription scratched in a fine hand but which, alas, is no longer decipherable. And in the east window of the north aisle can be seen the ‘cokadrill’-dragon-worm which has given Wormingford its own version of St George and the Dragon story. Note the poor girl’s legs. There is a full account of this brave tale on the wall to the right of the window.
Essentially St Andrew’s parish church is a Norman Medieval building which, as so many churches did, received a drastic overhaul in 1869-70. It has the appearance of timeless strength, and of Victorian confidence, all intermixed. If one takes into consideration the materials from which it was made, the Roman bricks, the flints from the local fields and the wood from the local oaks, its history could be as old as Christianity in Essex.