Monday, 6 July 2009

St Martin, Chipping Ongar

St Martin’s is a historic Norman church in the pretty little town of Chipping Ongar, and is situated just off the High Street. Built just after the Norman conquest, around 1080, the original nave and chancel still survive, the flint walls incorporating reused Roman bricks and tiles which are clearly visible from the outside. The church was extended in Victorian times, but still retains its 15th century steeple, complete with 17th century clock.

Inside, the atmosphere in the nave is dark, thanks to the low, heavy 14th century roof, and some rather heavy Victorian stained glass. The porch, south aisle and nave arcade are also Victorian, and you have to look to find the mediaeval features: narrow, round-headed Norman windows in the north wall, above a stoup for Holy Water.

The chancel arch was rebuilt around 1350, but some Norman windows also survive in the chancel, alongside 14th and 16th century insertions, and some of the 'scissor’ roof beams are also thought to be Norman. The East window is a nice Decorated Gothic example from about 1300.

The fittings include a 16th century pulpit, a 15th century font and, on the south wall of the chancel, a memorial to Sara Mitford (d. 1776) by the noted English sculptor Joseph Nollekens. Under the south side of the altar is another memorial, to Jane Pallavicini, cousin of Oliver Cromwell (whose father fought on the Royalist side). Back outside, on the north wall of the sanctuary is a small recess (now with a door). This was originally an anchorite cell - where a hermit could take part in the service without being seen or coming into contact with the parishioners.

Finally, one of the Victorian windows depicts David Livingstone - who lived in Chipping Ongar in 1838-40 to undertake probationary year at the London Missionary Society school.

Off the High Street, Chipping Ongar, CM5 9JJ

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