St. Nicholas Church was built in the 13th century.
It takes its name from
Nicholas - b. c. 1245 in Sant'Angelo, Pontano, Italy - d. 10/09/1305. He was canonized a saint on 5th June 1466. The remains of St.
Nicholas are preserved at the Shrine of Saint Nicholas in the Basilica di San Nicola da Tolentino in the city of Tolentino, province
of Macerata in Marche, Italy.
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 looks down the incline of the course of Church Hill in the direction of 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 around the late 1950s early 1960s during development of Lee
Chapel North the junction was closed off and Markhams Chase was realigned to a new junction off the newly
completed Ballards Walk. It's original alignment, which by then had a line of 1930s semi-detached council houses, 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 Chowdhary Primary School and Nicholas Comprehensive School, and now used by the James Hornsby 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.
The following is taken from the 1894 edition of Kelly's Directory of Essex.
The church of St.
Nicholas, standing on rising ground, at some distance from the village, is a building of stone originally Early English, but now in the
Perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, nave, south aisle, divided from the nave by an arcade of two bays, and a western tower
with oak shingled spire containing 5 bells, two of which are dated 1588 and 1619: there is a piscina and in the aisle a recess
supposed to be the founder's tomb, which has been carefully preserved.
Perhaps the most interesting feature about the
church is the priest's house at the west end, the lower story of which was used, till recently, as a schoolroom; of its curious
external oak framing, so much as was actually decayed was removed at the restoration and replaced by new, the remainder being
refixed and kept together by iron bands: the lower room is now used as a vestry: the restorations, carried out in 1881-3, at a cost
of £1,700, from designs by Mr. F. Chancellor, of Chelmsford, are in the Perpendicular style. The register dates from the year 1653.
The directory of 1914 includes parts of the 1894 description along with some additional information:
The church of St. Nicholas, standing on rising ground,
is a building of stone, originally Early English, but now in the Perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, nave, south aisle or
chapel, divided from the nave by an arcade of two bays, south porch, and a western tower of wood, rising above the roof
of the nave, with oak shingled broach spire and containing 5 bells, two of which are dated 1636 and 1756: the tower or belfry
is carried on an elaborate arrangement of timber framing at the west end of the nave, which starts from the floor and is carried up
through the roof, but is kept free from this as well as from the walls.
The font is of stone, and consists of a square plainly arcaded
basin, resting on a large cylindrical support, with four smaller ones at the angles, the whole being on a square base: there are
two piscina and two brasses, one of a priest, c.1468, and a signed, with great probability, to John Kekil-penny, an ancient
rector, holding a chalice, and a smaller effigy of a priest, with chalice and host, but not wearing a stole, c.1510, and perhaps
representing Dr. Richard Bladwell, ob. 1513; both these brasses have lost their inscriptions: there is a large slab with the matrix
of another brass on the south side of the nave. There are 150 sittings.
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:-