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St. Nicolas Church

According to Heritage England, the parish Church of St Nicolas has strong evidence of a pre-Conquest church, and that it was a minster, possibly from the 8th century. The earliest surviving portions of the current structure are twelfth century, but the church was substantially rebuilt and enlarged from c.1330.         

The early 14th century structure consisted of an arcaded nave with north and south aisle, a chancel and western tower.  It was built in the Gothic Decorated style as it remains today, with two later additions on each side. The tower was originally squat with a wooden turret which decayed over the years and was replaced in 1743 with a higher brick turret. This was again rebuilt in 1862 as it is now although only after much argument. The clock added by Mary Bramston (see Bramstons, 16 Chipping Hill) dates from 1887, and lasted until 1981 before needing a major repair. The tower has a peel of eight bells, dating from 1601 to 1932.

The first addition was the vestry, added later in the 14th century. Walls nearly three feet thick were of Kentish ragstone and is approached from the chancel through a low carved archway and the original oak door is still in use. It is two storeys with the upper floor reached by a spiral stairway.

The south porch was also added later in the 14th century, to give protection to the main entrance. It was built to match the main body of the church, with a gargoyle each side and parapets added later. The south chapel may have been built soon after 1444, dedicated to St. Mary and is now called the Lady Chapel. It has flint walls and limestone similar to the main walls of the church. The north chapel was built later, filling the small gap at the end of the aisle and now contains the organ. It is dedicated to St. John the Baptist.

The interior was coloured deep red with 'flaming stars' in black, as recorded prior to the restoration of 1877 when it was cleaned off. The chancel screen was built in the 15th century to separate the nave and the chancel.  It is a fine example of 15th century carving, and would originally have been painted in red and gold, but has now lost that decoration. The interior of the church holds a number of monuments.  The oak pews in the nave were installed between 1849 and 1877. The lectern was presented by Admiral Sir William Luard and Lady Luard to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary in 1908. 

Sources - The Parish Church of St. Nicolas, Witham, Essex. Published by Witham Parochial Church Council, written by Tom Henderson.

Below: A plan of the church from the above publication.

 

 

 

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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