|Church of S. Mary and All Saints, Langdon Hills|
|by Rev. C.E. Livesey, B.A. Rector of Langdon Hills (1931)|
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
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
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
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
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
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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