>Heart Of Oak



I didn’t even know we had wooden churches in England. And I didn’t know that the oldest wooden church in the world is 40 minutes drive from Ten-Inch Villas, down meandering verdant Essex lanes at Greensted. To give its proper moniker, The Church of St Andrew, Greensted-juxta-Ongar has been there since at least the sixth century, though the thriving yew tree in the church yard and the nearby pond are perhaps evidence of a pre-Christian holy site. The dark, split-oak log nave is the oldest part, probably replacing a Saxon construction in the years after the Norman conquest. No point in using stone if you’ve got Epping Forest outside your door. It was thatched originally and It’s tiny – I’ve been in bigger sheds.


It’s very easy to imagine the locals cowering in there, giving thanks for surviving local power skirmishes, civil war, plagues or famine. The white, weatherboarded tower might have been added in the 1600s – nobody really knows. The light-flooded chancel was added in Tudor period, replacing a Norman original and could reflect an increase in the local population and prosperity. Pragmatic as ever, the Victorians contributed a hands-off restoration, a brick damp-proof course and those dormer windows. In the North wall is what has long been thought of as being a leper’s squint – a spyhole where a sufferer could take a blessing if they couldn’t mingle with the congregation. They’d have to be a very short leper (or lying down). In fact, contemporary opinion is that the squint is more likely a holy water stoup – it’s next to the former position of a door.

On the way home we got lost and ended up sampling the er, charms of urban Essex. This is what they do to Vespas in Romford, a town which seems to be nothing but shopping malls, kebab shops and stone cladding.


About teninchwheels

Designer, photographer and Vespa-fixated pub bore. Born in Yorkshire, living in that London these past 20 years. Get in touch at teninchwheels@gmail.com, especially if you'd like to send me some free beer.
This entry was posted in edward woodward, Wood, woodwork, woody. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to >Heart Of Oak

  1. grooverider says:

    >There is a wooden church in the Aire Valley, St James' Baildon. It's a lovely building which has recently been moved and restored. There's a bit about here.http://saltairedailyphoto.blogspot.com/2010/03/st-james-church-baildon.htmlThe one in your blog post looks very nice though.Cheers.

  2. Affer says:

    >Churches fall into two camps (imo): those built for worship, and which now seem to be oases of simple calm elegance, and those monstrosities built to project the power of the Church. Guess which type I like!!!

  3. TIW says:

    >Grooverider, many thanks for that. I'll have a look next time I'm up that way.Affer – some churches just seem to radiate tranquility, and this is one of them.

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