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St Andrew's Church (HT)

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About St Andrew's Church (HT)

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Entering Rochford from the west prior to 1777, you would first pass what is now The Lawns, which may have been the old gatehouse to the Rochford Hall estate. To avoid the coaches and carts heading down Ironwell Lane between Hockley and Rochford, many people would take the long footpath, which passed the front of Rochford Hall and the imposing St Andrew’s church. In 1777, the owner of Rochford Hall decided to dissuade travellers from this natural approach to Rochford running past his front door, so he built Hall Road slightly away from his property and included a bridge across the Roach tributary. This road would later become a Turnpike or toll road.

St Andrew’s church building has its origins in the 13th and 14th centuries, although the list of incumbents lets us know that people were worshipping God on this site much earlier than this. Take a while to look inside at the stained-glass windows and the inscriptions on the tombs. 

The 15th/16th century tower is a fine example of Tudor brickwork, featuring interspersed Reigate stone to give a diaper pattern. The tower is built from 15th century brick that came from Rochford brickworks and was built by Thomas Boteler, Earl of Ormond, the maternal great grandfather of Anne Boleyn. Although Sir Richard Rich would later claim the tower’s construction, and indeed may have contributed to its completion in some way, the Ormond coat of arms above the west entrance seems to settle this dispute. To the north is the vestry, a late 16th century brick addition. 

Edward Calamy would join the church in the 1630’s and soon caught malaria as a result of living in this area. He would preach all his sermons while sitting at his desk as he became dizzy if he stood up. 

In 1862 the interior of the church was restored, by replacing the old pews, raising the ceiling and removing the gallery. The Reverend Benjamin Cotton became rector in 1861, staying for over fifty years and oversaw many of these changes. 

Benton, the local farmer and historian, recorded in 1882 that smugglers secretly used the church tower to store gin, tea and other goods brought from France and a cavity below the pulpit was called the magazine! 

The Rochford parish memorial to local victims of the Great War of 1914-18 was moved to its present location in the tower in 2005. In the porch, wooden boards list the name of every Rochford resident who served in the war. The Great War caused difficulty for faith groups, especially when conscription became law. The Peculiar People wrestled with this topic – was it right for men to bear arms against each other? Some took on work of national importance, which meant that they could help the war effort without actually fighting, others became conscientious objectors and of this group many would serve hard labour in Dartmoor Jail. The conditions there were hard, food was consistently bad, and anyone caught looking out of his cell window during the day was punished with three days of a bread and water diet.

Today, the church is possibly unique in now being completely surrounded by a golf course.

The important brass of Thomas de Stapel moved from Shopland Church to Sutton Church. With the closure of Sutton Church, Thomas looks to be on the move again with plans to relocate the brass to St Andrew’s. Thomas de Stapel was one of the most famous individuals of Shopland and a former resident at Shopland Hall. He was a Sergeant-at-Arms to King Edward III and fought in the battle of Crecy in 1346 but died on 3rd March 1371, most likely whilst protecting the King. The effigy depicts Thomas de Stapel in armour wearing a pointed bascinet, which is a Medieval European open-faced military helmet, typically fitted with an aventail and hinged visor.

Address:Church Walk
Town:Rochford
Postcode:SS4 1NW
Categories:Historical, Point of Interest