• Village
  • Porch
  • Interior
  • Font
  • West End & Tower
  • Nave
  • Chancel & Vestry
  • Sanctuary
  • Exterior
  • Tower

Doddinghurst

In the early centuries after Christ, much of the southern half of England was forested and communication was by way of 'Trails' or 'Treks'; the ancient forerunners of our footpaths. They connected the major places of occupation, and were the highways along which the tribes moved and camped. These people hunted for food, and bartered with other tribes for their needs. Often they stayed for only one night and moved on. Sometimes they stayed longer and once in a while put down roots and started an agricultural society.

In AD 601, Pope Gregory suggested that a Church should be built at the crossing of the most important routes. The routes from Brentwood to Norton Mandeville and from Dunton via Hutton Mount to Stondon Massey and High Layer cross here in Doddinghurst and a Roman Road from the Fort at Havering-ate-Bower to Chelmsford ran along the line of Church Lane outside the Church, so it is more than likely that a Church was built here in the early 7th century AD, though nothing remains today of that building.

The present name of the village has developed over the years from 'Doddenhenc' in 1086 through, 'Dutinghest', 'Dutighirst, to 'Duddingeherst' in 1276. The name Doddinghurst may derive from old English words. 'Doeth' or 'Dudda' meaning 'a wiseman', and 'Hurst' meaning 'wood'. The village is mentioned in the Doomsday Book, but no returns were received from Doddinghurst, showing that no plough teams existed in the village. Doddinghurst was evidently part of the Barstable Hundred and part of the ancient forest of Essex.

From Georgian times the Parish Priest of Doddinghurst lived in grand style in a three storey mansion with stables, orchards and six acres of land. This house was pulled down just after the war and the site sold for housing, now Bakers Meadow, off the Doddinghurst Road. The modern Rectory stands on Church Lane in an acre of what used to be the Old Rectory paddocks. The house next door to the Rectory, 'Glebe House' is built on part of the orchard and over the pathway from the Old Rectory to the Church, and the Ghost of a Priest can be seen going to the Church first thing in the morning and last thing at night. He's quite friendly so rumour has it!

The Porch

The timber porch with its twenty unglazed lights and original tie beam roof, is said to be the finest of its kind. It is also the longest in Essex. The porch was added to the church in Tudor times hence the doorway has a typical Tudor shape.

The wrought iron gates and window grills were installed at the end of the last century and paid for by the Friends of All Saints'. The design was with the help of English Heritage. The porch had become a meeting place for youths of the area.

The doorway to the church is the oldest remaining feature, dating from about 1220. It is Early English in style with the typical dogtooth decoration over the doorway. This feature is a development of the Norman zigzag pattern, produced by the stone-mason undercutting the pattern and creating hollow pyramids. The pattern was used only on those places where a little richness was wanted such as at the entrance.

The Interior of the Church

The interior of the church is dark and a little austere; the Early English builders were keen to make their Churches symbols of the renunciation of the flesh and of worldly riches, hence the narrow windows, a new feature in church building, put in as life became more settled and glass for windows was made.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

The Font

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

The Font is on the left as you go into the church. Baptism is the time when a person is made a member of the church, and so the Font stands at the door to remind us of our 'entry' into the Christian church. The Font is from the 14th Century, the decorated period in English Architectural history, though the wooden cover is more modern. The Font is made of upper greensand and carved in relief on one of its facets is a green man, a mysterious and symbolic relic of an earlier period, the origins now lost in antiquity.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

In the middle ages Fonts were covered and locked. The Holy Water was kept in the Font all the time, and Devil worshippers used to steal it for their black magic ceremonies. This sort of threat still exists today, and that together with the vandalism in church buildings, means that we cannot leave this ancient and peaceful house of prayer open.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

The West End & Tower

In the West End is a fine example of Victorian stained glass, depicting Jesus talking to two of his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Undoubtedly the point in the Gospel story where Jesus, after his resurrection, appeared to the disciples and is telling Peter to 'Feed my sheep' John 21, verses 15 to 19. This window forms one of the whole set in the church, all given in 1887 in memory of members of the family of the then Rector, Francis Stewart.

Above i s the Tower, the construction is typical of this part of Essex, with its exposed timbers, some from old buildings and some from old ships in the Essex estuaries.

Also in the West End All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst of the Church is a list of Rectors until 2002, the first recorded was 1329. One, Nehemiah Rogers (1421), a fervent Royalist and friend of Archbishop Laud, was buried in the churchyard in 1660. He wrote some important works on the parables.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

The Nave

The Nave is so called because it comes from the Latin word Naven meaning 'ship'. There are three windows in this part of the building.

The two windows on the left or North depict Jesus with the children 'Suffer little children to come unto me', and 'Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem' amazing the teachers with his understanding, considering his age, just twelve years old (Luke 2 verses 41 - 51).

On the right or South side is a much larger window showing 'The Wedding Feast' at Cana in Galilee where Jesus turned the water into wine.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

The roof of the Nave is 13th Century and is of a type of construction normally seen in Norman or transitional style buildings. The experts tell us that there is a 'Mason's Mitre' here, which is the most primitive method of joining two moulded timbers at right angles, and there is not a single nail used in the roof work!

There are two plaques in the Nave. One to honour the record reign of Queen Victoria and one as a Memorial to those who died in the Great War.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

The Chancel & Vestry

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

Above the Chancel step, is the Rood Screen 'rood' being the old English word for 'the cross of Christ'. The Crucifix is English, circa 1300, and pre-dates the other two figures of Mary and St John which are of the 16th Century and Flemish. it is interesting to note that the figures have flat backs suggesting that they may have been originally set against a wall.

The Chancel, from the Latin word cancelli meaning lattice work and suggesting a place seen through a screen, is the place occupied by the Choir.

The windows in the Chancel show Jesus on the cross with Mary and St John (a repeat of the figures on The Rood) and Jesus being laid in the tomb.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

The Processional Cross may have come from the Church of San Francesco in Sienna, Italy. The figures on it represent Our Lord, St Francis of Assisi, St Clare and St Ansamus. On the other side the figures are The Almighty, St Bernardino, St Victor and St Catherine of Sienna. How this cross came to Doddinghurst is not clear.

All Saints' have an active and accomplished choir, their repertoire includes a mixture of traditional hymns and modern songs. The Church Pipe Organ has recently been refurbished.

The Vestry is a Victorian addition to the church.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

The Sanctuary

The Great East Window in the Sanctuary depicts a picture of Jesus in Glory with the Saints', notice St George and his Dragon.

On the right or South side is a seat in the wall called a 'Sedilia' or 'Sedile' because there is only one seat and not three as there should be, this was traditionally put here for the Clergy, but is now used for Servers.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

On the left or North side of the Sanctuary, is the 'aumbrey', it contains the 'Blessed Sacrament' (the consecrated bread from the Holy Communion on Sunday). This is kept in the Church for two reasons, firstly to be taken out to the sick and housebound, and secondly for a focus for prayer. A white light burns constantly over the aumbrey. When you kneel at the altar rail you pray with Jesus. Confessions are often heard within sight of the reserved Sacrament.

Also in the Sanctuary is a Jacobean Chair, said to have been used by Oliver Cromwell when he visited the manor at Doddinghurst, which stood where the Moat Public House is now.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

The Exterior

Floodlights were installed to celebrate the Millennium and were first lit in December 1999. During recent work a Victorian brick well was found to the north of the church with a feed pipe leading to the old boiler house beneath the central aisle of the church. Old photographs show the chimney from the boiler on the roof of the Vestry. Some parishioners can remember the grating in the aisle being lifted and the boiler man descending the stairs.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

The Essex boarded building next door to the church, known as Priest House dates from at least Elizabethan times. Whether it was ever the Priest's House is open to conjecture.

In the Churchyard, there is one grave of particular interest, it is just in front of Priest House and is dedicated to an Indian Princess who it is said married an Englishman, came to this country and died of a broken heart and lack of sun!

At the East end of the Church, if you look carefully, you will find several fossils in amongst the knapped flints that decorate the walls. There is at least one complete ammonite and several bits. It is curious to note that the builder could have had no idea what they were when he put them there, just that they were and are decorative. All Saints' is a Grade One listed building.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

The Tower

The weather-boarded tower with its Broach Spire has been rebuilt at least twice, once in Medieval times and again in the 19th Century. The Spire has been completely re-shingled with cedar wood shingles, and is unique in construction, being built around one central vertical post seated upon a massive cambered beam.

All Saints' Church - Doddinghurst

There are three bells, the first by Thomas Laurence early in the 16th Century and inscribed 'Sainte Nicolai Ora Pro Nobis'; the second by James Bagley dated 1712, and the third by Robert Mot in 1578. The ships bell on the Mayflower was also cast by Robert Mot, giving Doddinghurst a direct connection with the Pilgrim Fathers! At least one of these was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which is casting bells on the same site today. The Foundry moved to this site in the 1570's making the bell in All Saints one of its earliest.

When all church bells were being rung at midnight to celebrate the new Millennium All Saints' bell tower was out of action but the most magnificent peal of bells that the village had ever heard was broadcast through loud speakers. All Saints received a certificate to show that they were also part of the celebrations.

Rotten timbers and beetle activity made the bell tower unsafe and the bells could not be rung for several years. They rang again in May 2001 when repairs were complete at a cost of £60,000.