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Church of S. Mary and All Saints, Langdon Hills
by Rev. C.E. Livesey, B.A. Rector of Langdon Hills (1931)
Church of S. Mary & All Saints, Langdon Hills by Rev. C. E. Livesey      The old Parish Church of S. Mary and All Saints, Langdon Hills, of which the following is an attempt to give a brief history and description, has been disused for regular worship for the past 53 years. A new Church was built on the summit of the hill by the Rector, the Rev. E. D. Cleaver, in 1878, and since then the old Church has been gradually falling into a ruinous condition, and would soon have been beyond repair. Fortunately, however, such a loss has been averted owing to the generosity of Miss Wheaton, who most kindly offered a sufficient amount for undertaking the repairs, and this most picturesque and interesting little 16th century Church has thus been saved from destruction. A marble tablet on the S. wall records this fact.

     The parish also owes a debt of gratitude to the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and its enterprising secretary, Mr. A. R. Powys, for their kindly interest and help. The Society has given a generous grant towards the Restoration and Maintenance Fund.

     We also feel most grateful to Mrs. Wheaton, who has so kindly acted as Secretary, and has collected £150 towards the two funds, and to all who have so willingly responded to the appeal. We must not forget also to thank the Architect, Mr. W. Weir, under whose personal supervision the work has been carried out, for all the time and attention he has given in achieving such a satisfactory result; and lastly, I should like to thank the Rev. F. G. Clayton, and Messrs. S. V. Barns and W. Gilbert, for the use of their notes and other information which has been invaluable in compiling this brief history.

     The total cost has been about £550.

     Any profits arising from the sale of this little booklet will be devoted to the old Church Fund.

C. E. L. July 4th 1931

     The parish of "Langeduna" is first mentioned in Domesday (1086), the name meaning Long hill. The view from the summit is admitted to be one of the finest in the kingdom. It stretches over the vale of the Thames from London to Southend, a distance of nearly 40 miles, with the hills of Kent as a background, and to the North it extends over a large tract of beautiful country to the well-wooded uplands of Brentwood and Billericay, and beyond. Originally Laindon or Langdon and Langdon Hills were one lordship in the possession of Alric, a Theyn of Edward the Confessor, but eventually as the forest got cleared, giving an improved value to the land, it was divided into two lordships which came to be called parishes. Accordingly each parish needed a distinctive name, and the word "Hills" was added naturally to the hilly part of the lordship by people who had by this time forgotten the derivation of the name. "South Langdon" or "Upper Langdon" would perhaps have been a more suitable name, or as Morant (1768) suggests, "Langdon with the Church of Westley."

     Westley or West Lee was formerly another parish about a mile to the East, and was united to Langdon Hills in 1432. This must not be confused with Lee Chapel or East Lee, which was an extra-parochial district, now united to Laindon, and had a Chantry Chapel which has long since disappeared. The poverty of both places was alleged as a reason for the union. It is recorded that Langdon "as well thro' the Malice of Men as by the Mortality of Cattle, and the neglet of Tilling the Ground, was so depauperated, that it was not sufficient to sustain the Rector, and enable him to maintain such convenient Hospitality as was requir'd, to keep the Chancel and Mansion-House and other buildings belonging there-unto in Repair, and to support the other Burdens of the said Church."

   West Lee was anciently the possession of Edith, daughter of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and Queen of Edward the Confessor. All traces of the Church have now completely gone, and even its site is unknown, but it probably stood somewhere near West Lee Manor House. West Lee signifies the West pasture, which it was in respect of the other already referred to as East Lee.

     At the time of the survey (1086) the parish belonged to the Canons of S. Paul's and hath so continued to the present time. In the 14th Century they granted 20 acres of this Manor to the Bauds of Corringham on condition that the latter should present yearly a buck and a doe to be offered at the high altar of S. Paul's, also "two special sutes of vestments, one embroidered with a buck and one with a doe." And in 1313 Edward II granted to this Manor the immunity "that no King's purveyor should take any corn within its precincts."

     The Manor of Langedon after the Survey belonged to Suene of Essex and his under-tenant Walter. Subsequently, Suene's grandson, Henry de Essex, lost all his possessions in 1163 through his cowardice. He was hereditary standard-bearer to Henry II, and during this King's campaign in Wales on a certain occasion, Henry de Essex threw down the royal standard and fled, causing the King's army to be thrown into confusion and routed.

     This parish was later divided into two manors, Langdon and Goldsmiths.

     After Henry de Essex, the next owner was John de Langedon; but the Knightly family of Sutton seems to have been lords paramount, for Robert de Sutton gave in frank marriage with Margaret his daughter, among other things, the suit of all his lands at Langedon with the advowson of that Church, to William, son of Hugh Bigod, first of that Christian name, Earl of Norfolk, which grant was confirmed by King John in 1209. This reference proves the existence of a church here before that date, some remains of which may be traced in the present building. The de Langedon family held the manor from 1163 to 1382, when the last representative died without issue, and his lands were seized into the King's hands by John Ewell, the King's Escheator.

     It is possible there may have been a Church here from Saxon times. In the year 654 S. Cedd was consecrated Bishop of the E. Saxons, and in Bede's Eccles. History (8th cent.) we read of his zeal in preaching and building Churches in several places; and since Tilaburgh (Tilbury) was one of the chief centres of his labours, he must have been at least familiar with "Langeduna," and often travelled over its summit.

     Whether the first Church here dates from Saxon times or from the 13th Century, it would probably be constructed partly of timber, like so many of the ancient Essex Churches, owing to the lack of local building stone. If it were built at the latter date it would be in the Early English style of architecture. The patronage of the Rectory of Langdon Hills was in Beeleigh Abbey until 1432, when upon the union with West Lee, the Abbey reserved two turns, and the third was allowed to S. Paul's. But since the Disolution of the Monasteries in the 16th Century, the whole right of patronage of the united parishes has been in the Dean and Chapter of S. Paul's.

     The Church is most picturesquely situated on the Western slope of the hill. Its position was evidently determined by that of the old Manor House which was close at hand, where part of the moat still exists. At one time this must have been a most secluded spot in the midst of the forest, and it may still be regarded as one of the beauty spots of Essex.

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