stmartinchurchexteriorIMG_1918a(1024x768).jpg


Chipping Ongar is an ancient market town which first appears in the will of Thursdton son of Wine in 1045. At the time of the Norman Conquest it came into the hands of Eustace, count of Boulogne and it was about this time that the church was built. Signs of Norman construction can be seen in the Chancel Roof, the lancet windows in the north wall of the nave, and the flint rubble walls, where traces of the original scaffolding can be seen. Although it was believed that the thin red bricks seen in the walls were re-used Roman, these have now been scientifically shown to be of 11th century manufacture.

One of the most interesting features of the Church is the remains of an anchorite cell in the north wall of the Sanctuary. An anchorite was a man or woman who took a vow of stability, that is to remain for the rest of their lives in their cell which was attached (or 'anchored') to the wall of the church. They would receive food from the village and villagers would come to them for spiritual counsel. The cell consists of a recess in the outside wall of the church with a small window through which the hermit could take part in worship. 


The appearance of the church has changed over the centuries. The Norman entrance in the North wall has been blocked up but can be identified by the space for a holy water stoop beside it. The chancel arch was taken down and rebuilt in about 1350, and the present East window replaced the original arrangement of six windows in two tiers, the remains of which may still be seen in the East wall. In the South wall of the sanctuary is the piscina, used for cleansing the Communion vessels, which dates from about 1290. The carved oak pulpit dates from the late 16th century. In the 19th century the vestry, west porch and south aisle were built - the latter to accommodate the children from the local grammar school. The steeple dates from the 15th century and contains two bells dated 1672 and 1737 and an early 17th century iron bedstead clock which will strike the hours but has no dial. It is in working order, keeps good time and is brought into use for special events. There are numerous memorials in the floor and on the walls. At the south end of the altar is a black marble slab marking the grave of Jane Pallavicini, a cousin of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England in the 17th century. The Pallavicinis were Italian bankers who made a fortune in the time of Elizabeth I. A monument on the south wall of the chancel is by the famous sculptor Nollekens. Many of the stained glass windows are also memorials.

Outside the church, on the south wall of the chancel, the blocked doorway of the priest's door can be seen, and beside it scratched in the stone jamb is a small sundial.The churchyard contains some interesting tombs most prominent amongthem the tomb of the Boodle family which has recently been refurbished. We are grateful to the Boodle Club in London for a donation which made this work possible.