|The Parish Church of St Stephen, Great Wigborough.
Beautifully situated on the top of a hill at the highest point of the parish, the tower of the church is a landmark for many
miles around. The large manor (Abbots (Abbess) Hall belonged to the important nunnery of Barking from at Least the Norman Conquest (1066)
until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, and with that went the patronage of the parish church, so we can assume that there was a
church here from at least early Norman times. There are records of clergy here back to the 13th century.
There was also from early times a chapel at Salcot-Wigborough (now Salcott Parish Church) for the convenience of that hamlet at a distance
from the main parish and across the creek, but annexed to the parish church of Great Wigborough. Virley was a separate parish with its
The present church of St Stephen, of septaria and rubble with tilled roofs, owing to rebuilding and restoration has no features earlier
than the 14th century. The nave and chancel were built late in the 14th century, but the chancel has been completely rebuilt. Late in the 15th
Century a west tower was added, also a south porch, but both have been rebuilt following the extensive damage done by the N.E. Essex Earthquake
in 1884. The nave thus remains the only part of the original building, but the windows are mostly modern work.
The now blocked north doorway is of late 14th century date; the south doorway is of mid 15th century date. In the northeast corner behind the pulpit
is the late 14th century staircase which led to the rood-loft above the chancel screen in pre-Reformation days. The is some reused 15th century
material in both tower and porch.
The severe local earthquake in 1884 which did much damage in the area between Colchester and Mersea Island, badly shook the church,
dislodging pinnacles from the tower, causing serious cracks, and making the whole building unsafe.
The tower had to be rebuilt, the money raised by public subscription and help from the Mansion House Fund; the foundation stone was laid
by Mrs Watson on Sept 4th 1885. In 1890 the chancel was entirely rebuilt and the nave restored at a cost of £3,000 by the
generosity of the rector - the Revd. Frederick Theobald. In 1895 a new vestry was built on the south side, and in 1903 the south porch
2020/21 refurbishment took place as part of the "Meeting Place for the Community Project". The floor in the nave was raised by about 6 inches to allow level access through the porch. The font was moved from the back of the nave to front of the nave on the south side.
A brief chronology
12th Century. Stone Ornament in splay of south doorway
13th Century. First Recorded Rector. Robert 1241.
14th Century. Nave and former chancel built. North Doorway (now blocked) & Rood Loft Staircase.
1372 Inquisition re Salcott Chapel
15th Century. South Porch and former W. Tower Built. Font. Bell by John Danyell. South Doorway. Door to Tower staircase Niche.
16th Century. The Reformation. Elizabethan Communion Cup & Cover. Paren Marriage Register from 1560: Burials from 1570.
Barking Abbey dissolved.
1555 Wigborough Martyrs John Simson and John Ardley [or Ardeley]
17th Century. Brass to Henry Bullock, 1609. Baptism Register 1602. Floor slabs to Richard Wiseman 1616: Anne Marke, 1621: & Henry Bullock 1628.
18th Century. Morant, 1768, records:- The Church is of one pace with chancel leaded. In a tower of stone are two bells. It stands on the top of a hill - extensive prospect &c.
19th Century. 1884 earthquake damaged the church. 1885 tower rebuilt. 1890 chancel rebuilt. 1895 vestry added. 1898 pulpit.
1854 Church School built.
20th Century. 1903 S. Porch restored.
24 September 1916 Zeppelin L33 brought down in Little Wigborough.
1919 new organ installed, payed for by Norah Forbes as a thanks offering for the ending of the war.
1929 new lectern.
1963 redecoration and installation of electric light.
Rectors of St Stephen's
Reverend Llewellyn Christopher Watson Bullock
Great Wigborough War Memorial
Ann Marke memorial in St Stephen's Church
The Bells of St Stephen Great Wigborough
The New Tower of Great Wigborough Church
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments 1922 report
Great Expectations in Great Wigborough churchyard
Church Briefs - Great Wigborough
Church Terriers - Great & Little Wigborough
Parish Records - Burial in Wool
St Stephen's Great Wigborough - a Meeting Place for the Community
The paragraphs describing the church were used in a leaflet produced by Rev. Edward Lendon in the 1980s, with research by T.B. Millatt.
The chronology is from a display board produced by T.B. Millatt, now saved in the Church Tower.