St. Nicholas Church was built in the 13th century. The
chancel and south aisle were added in the 14th century. The timber roof is more than 500 years
old, while the oldest part is the nave, dating back over 800 years.
At the west end a timber
annexe was added, possibly in the 17th century or earlier. This became a Priest's House and
also home to the first school in the area. Puckle's School, as it was known, opened around
1837. The last schoolmaster, James Hornsby, taught there for 48 years. Married three times,
the Hornsby's also lived in the Priest's House. Born in 1805 he died in May 1887 in his 83rd
year. His grave and those of his three wives are in the churchyard nearby.
In the early 1970s the church held various fund raising events to counter the cost of retiling
the church roof. Following completion, a special thanksgiving service was held on Sunday, September 30th
1973, where the then Rev. Michael Lewis invited married couples, young and old who had been wed
there, to attend.
Church records relating to weddings go back over 400 years to the late 1500s.
The importance of
the church and its continuing presence was recognised when it was awarded
Grade 1 listed building status.
The Church serves the Parish of
Laindon with Dunton.
This early view shows Church Hill looking towards Markhams Chase at its original junction with
St. Nicholas Lane. The road can be seen curving towards the right before straightening beyond
the junction where it becomes Markhams Chase. Years later during development of Lee Chapel
North the junction was closed off and the road became a cul-de-sac and renamed Weymarks. The
fields in the distance to the right of Markhams Chase would later form part of the playing
fields for Nicholas School, and now used by the James Hornsby High School.
In 1950 the church became a listed
building on the Ministry of Works list of buildings of historic interest. The church has since been designated a Grade
I listed building.
In 1951 the Rev. E.C. Telford, then Assistant Curate of Laindon-cum-Basildon, wrote a short book
entitled Notes on the parish of Laindon-cum-Basildon. Within the book he lists all known Rectors from the period c.1254
to 1940. The names and corresponding year can be seen below along with all subsequent Rectors
dating to the present.
List of Rectors from 1254:-