For many centuries a church had stood at the summit of Pitsea Mount. Though
few details exist of earlier structures the church of St. Michael's was last rebuilt in 1871, with the exception of the tower which
is of late perpendicular style and believed to date from the 16th century, and now sadly all that remains.
A new modern church called St.
Gabriel's was constructed in Rectory Road and opened in 1964.
Around the mid 1900s the general condition
of the church had shown signs of structural defects and although the church became a Ministry of
Works listed building in 1950 fears over its future were very apparent as early as 1970, by which time the building
had already become semi redundant, and it was hoped that the planned Pitsea Mount development might
secure the future of the church.
It was during these times that the final wedding is believed
to have taken place on 24th May 1975 and involved the consent of the Bishop of Chelmsford, John
Trillo. Rev. Aubrey Ridge, the then vicar, conducted the service and hymns were sung accompanied
by the sound of the churches' harmonium.
Although the housing development went ahead it didn't prevent the church
from permanent closure with the final service taking place in 1982. The church was then officially confirmed as
redundant on 16th March 1983. It then stood empty and fenced off for many years, with the main structure
and tower suffering due to maintenance costs and vandalism.
In July 1983
a planned scheme by the Basildon leisure and recreation committee to convert the redundant
building to a local history museum and viewing tower for the Wat Tyler Country Park failed to
materialise. The local council would have taken control had the venture succeeded.
Orange PCS Ltd.
During the 1990s the
communications company Orange Personal Communications Services Ltd. identified the tower as a potential site for a
mobile phone mast. Following negotiations the company then purchased the tower and erected a mast thereby ensuring the
future and later restoration of the tower. A copper plaque
confirming this was later fixed to the south facing tower wall. The main
structure though, consisting of the nave and chancel, was causing concern, and considered a danger, so
following a period of consultation a decision was taken to dismantle it, which then went ahead in 1998. Restoration, though highly unlikely, is
not impossible as much was saved and put into storage.
The churchyard, which is maintained
by Basildon Council, is now closed to new burials. It is open to the public at all times.
A concrete outline of the
former church remains, and there is seating where fine views can still be enjoyed.
The following is taken from the 1894
edition of Kelly's Directory of Essex.
The church of St. Michael, standing on a picturesque knoll, is an edifice of stone in the
Perpendicular style, and consists of chancel, nave, south porch and an embattled western tower containing 3 bells: the church
was rebuilt, with the exception of the tower, in 1871: there are 100 sittings. The register of baptisms dates from 1688; burials,
1738; marriages, 1757.
The directory of 1914 adds some additional information:
The church plate includes a chalice, dated 1597, and a paten, dated 1692, and
engraved with the arms of Sir Samuel Moyer (kt.), of Pitsea Hall (d. 1716).
The following is a list of Rectors from 1300:-