St Mary's Church, Great Leighs.© Copyright John Salmon contributor to the Geograph Project and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
History of Great Leighs >> White's Directory 1848
LEIGHS, (GREAT) or Lees, is a parish of scattered houses, about 7 miles North North East of Chelmsford, and 5 miles South South West of Braintree. It is intersected by the small river Ter, and contains 166 souls, and 3125A.3R.30P. of land, of which, 564 souls, and 1,810 acres, are in CHATLEY hamlet, which is in Witham Hundred. and in the North Division of Essex, and extends northward to within 3½ miles or Braintree, including Fayre~Wood, Deres Bridge, St. Ann's, and the farms of Mulshum Hall, Gobion's Hall, etc.
The surface is picturesquely undulated, and the soil fertile. About 2,530 acres are arable, and 259A. wood.
The principal manors, and their owners, are - Bishop's Hall, Rev. G.E. Howman; Mulsham Hall, Lady Stewart; and Lyons, Joseph Tritton, Esq.; but a great part of the parish belongs to other proprietors.
The ancient owners were the Dapifer, Mandeville, Tani, Bovill, Melsham, Blount., Brayham, and other families.
Bishop's Hall formerly belonged to the Bishop of Norwich. St. Ann's, on the Braintree and Chelmsford road, near the bridge, was a hermitage where pilgrims rested on their way to and from the shrine of St. Thomas-a-Becket.
At the Dissolution, in 1571, it was given to Thomas Jennings and its site is now occupied by an inn, called St. Ann's Castle, and is said to be the oldest licensed public house in England.
The Church (St. Mary,) is an ancient Saxon structure, in a large burial ground on the south side of the rivulet, about a mile east of the turnpike road.
It has a round tower of flint and stone, containing five bells, and surmounted by a tall octangular spire, of wood, shingled. The west door has a handsome semi-circular arch, with chevron mouldings.
The chancel is not so old as the nave; and the walls, though of great thickness, are supported by massive buttresses. Some of the windows are in the decorated style of the reign of Edward II.; and there is some fine stained glass in that at the east end. The interior has some fine old benches, a sedilia and piscina, and an Easter sepulcher, finely crocketted.
The Rectory valued in K.B. at £25.7s.1d., and in 1831 at £920, has a good residence, and 14A.8R.25P. of glebe. It is in the patronage of Lincoln College, Oxford, and incumbency of the Rev. C. Jenkins, B.D. The tithes were commuted in 1839, for £891 per annum.
National Schools were built here in 1847-'8, in the Tudor style; and at St. Ann's, is a neat British School, erected in 1845, at the cost of £346.
The Bell-rope House is let for only about £2 a year, and the donor is unknown. In 1698, Fortune Watts left £100 to he invested in land, and the yearly proceeds thereof to be divided among ten poor people of this parish. The property purchased consists of a house and 7A. of land, let for £14 a year, which is distributed by the rector.
In 1822, John Beadle left £200, now vested at four per cent. interest, and directed half the yearly proceeds to be applied in schooling poor children, and the other half to be divided among seven poor parishioners.
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Great Leighs - Cary's New and Correct English Atlas, 1798
Great Leighs - First Series Ordnance Survey Map 1805
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