Woodford Halse Archive

Front View of St Mary’s
Front View of St Mary’s

Woodford Buildings

St Mary’s

The parish church is believed to have been built in the 12th century, but there is reason to believe that an earlier church was in existence, as when the present church was renovated in 1878 the foundations of an earlier building were found on the south aisle, the foundations running parallel to the present walls. It was recorded in the Vestry Minute Book in 1878, that during the excavations skeletons were found and bones under the whole floor of the church and as some were found under the foundations of a pillar in the south aisle they were evidently buried before the present church was built.

How the church came into existence is a matter for conjecture, and one can only assume that when Christianity came to this area in Saxon times, the Christians in the three hamlets of Woodford Halse, Hinton and West Farndon, got together and decided to have one priest and one burial ground between them, and to build one church. A priest would be invited to take charge at some time and the people would pledge part of their income for his maintenance and the upkeep of the church and this would, in time, become a tithe, enforceable by law.

Very little is known of the early days of the church and although it is known that a chapel, dedicated to Our Lady, did exist, nothing is known of its disappearance and there are only records of dedications made to it by devout persons such as the following:

“To the chapel of Our Lady, a bullock” in 1517.

“A trental, to be sung for me and my friends at St. Katherine’s altar”,1518 (A trental was a set of thirty requiem masses).

“To Our Lady chapel in the churchyard, a land of barley, and a carpet that was my daughter’s”, 1518.

“To Our Lady chapel, six sheep”, 1526.

“To Our Lady’s light, St. Michael’s light and St. Anthony’s light, a pound of wax among them” 1528.

And there are records of burials in the chapel.

By kind permission of Woodford Halse Archive