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Blackmore Area Local History

Blackmore: Durrant's Handbook for Essex

An extract from 'Durrant's Handbook for Essex' written in 1887 by Miller Christy.
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Black’more. A. 2576; P. 571. Vicarage, value £83. 4 m. E. from Ongar, and 4½ N.W. From Ingatestone.

This once-important place is now a quiet village. Jericho House, adjoining the churchyard, though much altered and modernised, was once a secret resort of Henry VIII. Here, in June 1491*, was born his natural son, Henry Fitzroy, afterwards Earl of Nottingham, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, &c., &c, who died in 1536. On the occasional disappearances of the king from court, it was the common saying among the courtiers that he had "gone to Jericho", whence that still common phrase. The brook, which runs near the house, is still sometimes called the "Jordan". Here, in the reign of Henry II., Sir John de Sandford founded a Priory for Augustine monks. It was always a small establishment, not a vestige of it now remains, except a portion of the Church (St Lawrence), now parochial. The W. end of the original church is still intact. It is of massive Norman work. The W. door is very bold, though plain; over it are two wide and round headed Norman windows, and above them again is a circular window. On to this the present edifice has been built. The curious pagoda-like tower contains 5 bells. It is of timber, like that at Margaretting, and is perhaps by the same skilful architect, as that church belonged to Blackmore Priory. The nave and chancel are of equal height and width; and, with their aisles, have one common roof. The building is of moderate size, but light, and of good proportions. It seems to be of the 14th cent. (Perp.). The first arch on each side next the W. end is a plain heavy "Norman style" one. Over each is a splayed window, perhaps once part of a clerestory, but now looking into the aisles merely. Probably the massive Norman work at the W. end was preserved to serve as the foundation of a stone tower, which funds did not permit of, and a cheaper timber one was afterwards substituted. The aisle-arches on each side are similar, but the columns on the S. are octagonal, and those on the N. clustered, all having plainly moulded capitals. In the S. aisle are no windows**, probably because the cloisters originally abutted thereon. In the N. aisle are some 2-light windows with flat labels. The E. window is small, with Perp. (16th cent.) tracery. The roof is of oak, with painted human portraits, the arms of "France and England , quarterly, and other shields". Parts of the aisles are divided off in a very unusual manner by transverse walls, forming chapels. In the chancel is a very ancient and well worn stone: “To the memory of the just Prior, Thomas de Veer.”  There are many inscriptions to the Smyth family, including that to Thomas, who died in 1594, and with his wife reposes on a fine altar-tomb. The Register dates from 1602.

* Henry Fitzroy was born in 1519.
** In 1877, three windows were inserted in the south aisle, i.e. ten years before publication of this piece.

Last updated: 24 March 2009