A Brief History of St. Mary's


The Founding

In AD 991 AETHERIC, Lord of the Manor of Bocking, was amongst those who led men to fight the Vikings at the Battle of Maldon. The East Saxon army was defeated; but Aetheric survived until 995 and willed his lands at Bocking to Christ Church Canterbury, this became effective following his wife LEOFWINE'S death in 1006. A consequence of this is that Bocking Church, built on these lands, has enjoyed a long and interesting relationship with Lambeth Palace and successive Archbishops of Canterbury and is know as one the Archbishops 'Peculiar' parishes.

The Present Building

The Church has been rebuilt many times since Aetherics day. It is a late Gothic or perpendicular building, dating mainly from the 15th and 16th Centuries, though much restored in the 19th Century.

It is a fine large Church of flint rubble with limestone dressings to openings and quoins. The oldest part is perhaps the South Door which has exceptional and elaborate wrought iron work and is though to have been made in the late 13th Century. A little 11th Century work survives in the form of Windows retained in the later rebuilding.

The East window with its flowering tracery is a fine example of the 14th Century decorated style, although its stonework is modern. The DOREWARD family were early benefactors as was WILLIAM COURTENAY, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY at the end of the 14th Century. Courtenays Arms were incorporated into the Deanery Seal a cross rouge between four dolphins and granted in 1596. Carving on the original oak roofs have bosses depicting other benefactors such as the knot of BOUCHER, the mullet of DE VERE and the leopards head of the FITCH family



The Church

Is a vital part of the community in Bocking today and all who use it for worship, education, weddings, christening etc will want to ensure that what we have here is secure for those who come after us. Unless more work is done on the windows and the stone work, we are failing the heritage we have received and the building will less glorious than it could be for future generations.

The Church serves the parish of Bocking on the north side of Braintree and is a place of regular worship, ministry and prayer.

In use for services every Sunday and most weekdays the Church continues to meet its original purpose as a centre for people to meet God and one another. There is a musical tradition and excellent standards in liturgy and preaching. Many come here to be married, to bring their children to be christened and to lay their loved ones to rest.

It is here too that the worshipper, the casual visitor or the informed explorer finds much to express the ways in which each generation has made its mark. Here in this beautiful building are signs of lives lived in the service of others. Our aim is to add to the glory of this place by restoring it for the future and show to those who come after us that we too were prepared to give our very best.



The Two Chapels

Dedicated to St. Katherine and St. Nicholas are used for weekday services, Children's work and private prayer. In front of St. Katherines Chapel lies the brass to John Doreward, twice Speaker of the House of Commons whom also fought the battle of Agincourt in 1415. It is unusual for an Essex Parish Church to be blessed with Chapels and vital that we keep them in good repair.

The Chancel

Is one of the glories of this fine Church which we are inviting you to help restore. Giving a fine space for music and worship the design of the Chancel lifts the eye and the mind to the things which are above. The Reredos and East Window were presented by Samuel and George Courtauld respectively. Of the screen the central portion was erected in 1910 but the north section and the rood were added in 1950 and the south section in 1955. The lateral screens, the roods and also the Majesta (at the west end of the Church also 1950) are the work of Sir Ninian Comper.

The Organ

A two manual-instrument, was built by Norman and Beard in 1905. We are fortunate that in 2002 the sum of 40,000 was spent in order to restore and repair the Church organ to continue to provide a rich musical tradition for all services.

The Brasses

There are three interesting brasses in the Church:

a) On the step entering the sanctuary, possibly the only nameless inscription in England. This commemorates a former dean, Richard Colebrand (d.1674) a Chaplain to Charles II.
b) In the choir, a brass to Oswald Fitch (died 1612) the last of the Doreward kin.
c) On the floor before the South Chapel, a brass of 1420 to John Doreward (see above) and Isabella Baynard of Messing, his young second wife.

These are simply some examples of the fine features of this magnificent wool Church. Let us learn from those who have given sacrificially in the past and be generous in our provision that the Church may continue to provide a place of holiness, joy and learning for many years to come.

Maybe you would like to make a contribution to the restoration of the our beautiful church? As a thanksgiving for the past, for the birth of a child, in remembrance of a special event, or of a special person, has your family history had connections with St Mary's? Please help us to make sure the building stands for another thousand years.