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The Old Vicarage

There are records of a house and barn being provided for the first known vicar in 1223. The present building is a timber framed structure probably part of the 21 room house erected between 1680 and 1710 by the vicar Jonas Warley, who was also Archdeacon of Colchester.   

 

The grounds were landscaped in about 1740 by Philip Southcote of Witham Place, a member of the 'natural' school of landscape gardening. In 1749 Horace Walpole called the result 'one of the most charming villas in England', together with the adjoining 'sweet meadows' and 'the prettiest winding stream you ever saw'. A plan of the grounds dated 1762 shows a cascade and a bath house.   

The house was encased in brick about this time. The Rev. John Bramston, who was vicar in the middle of the 19th century, blamed this and other false fronts in Witham on pretensions aroused by the Witham Spa in the 1730s. He complained of a 'spirit of sham' which thought lath and plaster 'a disgrace and wicked'. However, on her arrival in 1840, his first wife had said that the Vicarage was a 'most cheerful, most bright-looking Home which John has done all that taste aided by £.s.d. could do to make perfect'.

 

The building was reduced in size in the 1930s and remained as the Vicarage until 1974. It was then sold as a private house which was then modernised. The stables were converted into a church hall in 1972. The current vicarage is in Chipping Dell, backing on to the churchyard.

 

The Old Vicarage is listed Grade II and now has a modern side extension. The photograph below shows the Old Vicarage before the reduction in size.

 

Sources: Janet Gyford, Maurice Smith, Witham & Countryside Society

 

Text and Photographs: John Palombi and Cyril Taylor unless otherwise accredited. Illustrations: John Finch and Julie & John Denney. Translations: Google.com. Original Concept: Joy Vaughan, Witham Town Centre Strategy Group. Narration: John Rhodes
 

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