Picture of church


Contents of chapter


The clergy, and the fabric of the church building itself, are recorded in the previous two chapters (chapters 4 and chapter 5 and ). Here are all the other things that go to make up All Saints' parish church. The attendants of the church, and the objects that it contains are often intimately associated with religious practice. These smaller items are often more important to the congregation at worship than the architecture of the church building itself.

At Cranham, these smaller components of the church also re-emphasize the historical continuity of the parish because of the 1873 re-building. Many of the subjects of this chapter were in place in the old church for centuries before the new one was built. Whilst, at first, many of the subjects of this chapter may seem ancillary, it is their intimate role in religious practice and their survival from the earlier days of Cranham that makes them important.

Generally speaking, it is the lay people that care for their parish church. Often, it has been the lay people that have provided stability, protecting the church and its parishioners, whilst the clergy themselves were changing frequently or even absent (see the discussions on pluralism in Chapter 4). Without its lay servants, Cranham's most important building could not exist, and religious practice within it could not take place.

Inevitably, this chapter is incomplete. This chapter is something of a collection of brief items because so little about these smaller things made it into the written records. But here is a start.


The oldest dated bells in England are of 1296, at Claughton, Leicestershire (74). It is likely that older, but undated, bells exist elsewhere. It is customary for a founder to inscribe his bells.

Cranham had bells at least as early as 1421, when Beatrice Curson (see chapter 2) left money in her will for them. The entry in Newcourt (29, 93) appears wrongly under North Ockendon, but clearly refers to Cranham. Her will reads:

"Beatrix Curson (1421): 53 (sic) Marche: lego c solidos ad empicion campanarum ecclesiae de Wokydon episcopi. Item lego c solidos in adjunctorium composcionis campanilis ejusdem ecclesiae".

In other words, Beatrice, the wife of Sir John Curson, Lord of the Manor, left 100 shillings for bells and another 100 shillings for a belfry at Cranham. Whether the bells were already present, or whether this was designed to be a bequest permitting the first purchase of bells is unclear.

In 1547, the Archdeacon's visitation noted that there were three bells at Cranham, weighing 118 lb. in total (94). In 1683, this was again noted in a visitation, together with a comment: "there are three bells in very good order"(78).

Those three bells are still at All Saints', albeit in a rather younger tower. The two smaller ones were cast by a founder called John Danyell, who wrote inside them "Johannis est nomen eius" ("John is his name"; Luke 1:63); typically in the middle ages, the bells would be cast in pits dug in the churchyard. The third and largest bell was cast by Henry Jordan of London, and is inscribed "Sancte Petre Ora Nobis" (66). Jordan was a first class bell founder, and also made the famous ring of bells at King's College, Cambridge. The third bell must date from about 1400, and the other two may be earlier; perhaps Beatrice Curson's will paid for the third bell, and for the maintenance of bells that were already there. Certainly they had been hanging for a century or two before the visitation of 1547 inspected them.

From 1683 to 1848 there are no records about the bells. Presumably, they were well-behaved for this century and a half ! In 1848, the visitation again noted that there were three bells "sound and well hung"(82). During the rebuilding of the church, it is said that the bells were stored in the Boyd Hall, and that when replaced in the new church they were arranged so that the clappers struck exactly the same spot as before they were taken down (1, 89). The bells are hung for chiming, but not for ringing, i.e. they do not turn full circle on the wheel. In 1890, new ropes were needed, and cost the parish 10 / = d. (95). In 1953, the bells were quarter-turned; Dr.Thornwell Jacobs of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, and in memory of the General, paid for this maintenance.

Of all things that are constant in Cranham's history, the sound of the church bells must be the most certain: to the mediaeval, Tudor, Georgian and Victorian peasant, as well as for us today, they sound exactly the same.


There is a great fraternity amongst bellringers, and not a little rivalry. The ale jugs at Hornchurch are but a small example of the rewards that might be earnt by a tower captain and his band. This rivalry is less today than in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but does still persist. Often the steeple-keeper, and the ringers, are otherwise uninvolved in parish life. Cranham's bells, being hung for chiming only, are not very attractive for the serious bell-ringer.

There is one single record relating to Cranham's bell-ringers. On April 2, 1888, William Carson (who was also the sexton) gave notice that he would no longer ring the bells for the parish (87). He was replaced by H. Monk, and he in turn by H. W. Robinson in 1890 (87). It is hard to imagine one man ringing all three bells; probably they were responsible for organising the team. Their payments are not recorded.


A chancel arranged to accommodate a choir, and to be occupied by choristers in surplices (their uniform), is a Victorian invention. Before that, it would be typical if a few villagers would act as singers and musicians, and perform at the back of the nave.

In 1894, the vestry noted that it cost 14 / = d. to wash the choir surplices (95). There is only a single entry of this type, which begs the question of whether they otherwise went for long periods, unwashed !

In 1908, the choirboys were paid half a crown per quarter. This was used as much as a technique to maintain control as a reward for their singing: the church wardens would pay the money to the choirmaster, who would then deduct fines for misbehaviour. In 1906, the choirmaster was a Mr.Thorogood (87). Money from fines were used for the purchase of sheet music.

The choir today varies in size. It would be typical for twenty members or so to be present at the most important service of the week on Sunday morning, although rather fewer stay for the Scouts' and Guides' flag parades once each month.


The new choirstalls were built in 1953. They were paid for by the National Society of Colonial Dames in 1958 (2). The heraldic emblems are those of the State of Georgia, USA, and General Oglethorpe.


Most of the church decorations are memorials of one type or the other (see below). However, the four coats of arms on the front of are those of the dioceses of London, St.Alban's, Rochester (Kent) and Chelmsford. These are the dioceses within which Cranham has resided during the last thousand years.


The organ was installed in 1874 (87), and originally it was at the west end of the church. It has given little trouble, and its costs have been more directly related to moving it, cleaning it, and paying for it to be played.

Cleaning it cost 15 guineas in 1905. After 15 years' service, the vestry gave Mr.Thorogood £10 upon his resignation as organist and choir master on April 24, 1905. However, two years later (April 4, 1907), they re-appointed him as organist, at a salary of £10 per annum.

The organ did need re-tuning in 1906 (a problem hard to imagine given the fixed nature of organ pipes). In any case, Mr.Monk was paid three guineas to do the job.

The west gallery in the nave was built in 1965. The organ was moved to the chancel at that same time. The instrument now has an electric keyboard and fan.


A few technical terms apply to church robes, especially those used by the clergy. A surplice is a white robe, usually in the form of a smock or shirt which does not have buttons. A cope is a colourful cape, worn over the surplice. A vestment is another coloured overgarment.

In 1547 there was a national effort by Edward VI to restore property to the church. Part of this effort was a national inventory of church goods, whether held by the church or apparently stolen from it. "In the hands of" was commonly used as a euphemism for the taking of church property by private persons, and has connotations of illegality (77). At Cranham, the inventory is of a large collection of church robes:

These were all in the possession of the rector (John Colbourne). The inventory then continues with church property alleged to be held by others:

This totals 3 copes, 7 vestments, 2 towels, and one each of a cross-cloth, surplice, rocheat, body cloth and hearse cloth.

It is curious that Sir John Mordaunt is identified as the culprit in 1547: other evidence suggests that he had been dead for four years. In any case, the Lord of the Manor at the time of this inventory was his son, Sir Lewis. The inventory continues, with some satisfaction:

These sound like a large, fine, and brilliantly coloured collection of textiles, and some would appear to correspond to the rector's inventory shown above.

These bright clothes would have been a natural target of the puritans. Indeed, in 1683, another visitation noted that Cranham had just a single surplice, and made no mention of any copes (45). The puritans seem to have cleared out the parish very thoroughly.

Robes are little reported in the parish records for the next two centuries. Georgian surplices were voluminous, and their cleaning and repair was the responsibility of the parish. The visitation of 1815 noted: "At Cranham, out of the body of one surplice, sleeve the other."

Today, the stock of church robes approaches its pre-puritan size. The robes are of different colours for the church season, and also for different types of service. In addition, the choir now have their own surplices.


"The hye alter" is mentioned only in passing in the visitation of 1547 (77). In 1683 (78), the altar and its position was recorded as follows:

"There is a very good carpet of green cloth for ye communon table, there wants a napkin for the cmmunon table.

Ordered: the seat against the east window be removed that ye communon table be placed under ye east window in the chancel and a rail be placed about it semecercle wais."

Altar rails were introduced after the reformation. Chancel screens were disappearing during this period, and something else was needed to protect the altar; it was not uncommon to take dogs into church at that time. During the puritan era, altars were removed from the chancel to the nave. The notice in the 1683 visitation was therefore an order to put it back in the chancel. This is further evidence, if any is needed given the clergy that we know were at Cranham (chapter 4), that the puritan influence was indeed felt in our remote, rural parish.

There are minor references to the altar in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. All its hangings were replaced in 1845 (82), and again in 1901, when an altar cloth cost the parish fifteen guineas. The life of an altar cloth therefore appears to be about 55 years.

In 1886, the oak altar table was repaired by Rev.Sharpe, meriting notice in the Essex Directory (5). So far, there has been no expert examination of the altar to determine its age.


Two pounds were spent on hassocks in April 1905 (87).


As with the textiles, descriptions of church plate use various technical terms. A chalice contains wine for the communion. The lid of a chalice is called a patten, and this often does double duty as a plate for the bread. Cruets were used to hold wine and water before decanting them into the chalice. Candlesticks, altar crosses, processional crosses, and censers (for burning incense) made up the full complement of church plate at Cranham. All might be made of brass (latten), pewter, silver, silver gilt, or gold.

In 1547 (77), there was at Cranham:

Thus at Cranham there was a cross and two candlesticks on the altar, which was the usual arrangement before the Commonwealth. The chalice, at 8 ounces, must have been quite small, and this corresponds to the practice, in mediaeval times, of denying wine to the lay people at church; this practice survives today in many German Catholic churches (257).

With the puritans came two important changes. Firstly, the laity now regularly received wine, and therefore a trend throughout England was for parishes to obtain larger chalices. Secondly, much church plate was sold or destroyed as representing excessive luxury. At Cranham in 1683 (78), there were "a flagon, a silver cup with a cover which serves to administer the bread upon, and a plate for your offerings." None of these pieces were in the 1547 survey, and shows that Cranham followed the national trend for increased wine dispensing. Reportedly, this flagon was pear shaped, silver, twelve inches high, and inscribed "Glory be to God on high". The flagon was replaced by an electro-plated copy in 1891 for reasons that are unknown (89), but doubtless to do with raising money for the church from redundant possessions.

The patten at Cranham today is the one described in the 1683 survey. It dates to between 1558 and 1625 (Jacobean or Elizabethan), and probably earlier rather than later during this period (97). It is 5 1/2 inches in diameter, and has a flat topped knob, or foot, at its centre. The maker's marks cannot be read, but an inscription reads "In usum cone Domine in Par: de Cranham, Essex." This paten is too big for the chalice, and it is unclear whether it was ever a member of a matching set, or simply bought as a separate item.

The present day chalice is cup-shaped and bears the Brittania standard marks; it therefore dates from between 1696 and 1729 (97). It is 8 1/4 inches high, pear-shaped, four inches in diameter at the rim, and is 4 3/4 inches across at the foot. Although legible, its maker's marks have not been identified. Rev.Woodroofe gave this chalice to the parish in 1745, although clearly, it was not new, and it may have been Woodroofe's personal property before he gave it to All Saints'. In any case, Woodroofe had it inscribed: "Deus opt. max. in sacros usus ecclesiae de Cranham apud Essexiensis D.D.D. Johannes Woodroofe Christi Minister indignus AD MDCCXLV. Hoc poculum est novum testamentum." ("In the name of Almighty God, for the sacred use of the church at Cranham in Essex, given and dedicated by John Woodroofe, minister in Christ, instituted A.D. 1745. Here is a little part of the New Testament." (author's translation). The cup has a clumsy repair, with a piece of silver inserted into the bowl.

There is a second patten at Cranham, which does fit Woodroofe's cup. It, too, was made between 1696 and 1729, and it has a kidney shaped mark enclosing the letters CP. Curiously, the piece carries not only the Brittania mark, attesting its age, but also a date stamp of 1823. It is possible that this patten was the source of the silver for the repair of the cup, that 1823 was the date of the repair, and that the patten was re-assayed at that time.

Until 1889, one of the pattens was used as an alms dish. In that year a brass, embossed alms dish was bought, which is still in use (89). A glass cruet was recorded in 1892, and may also be the one in use today (89). Today's six brass altar candlesticks are Victorian. A brass cup is now commonly used in church; the valuable plate is stored safely elsewhere (1).


In 1683, the visitation noted (78):

"There must be two locks and two keys provided to the chest wherein the register books must be constantly kept."

Chests of that date were typically about two feet by three feet, with a lapped lid, multiple locks and a lot of iron strapping. Typically, the keys for the multiple locks differed, and were held by separate parish officers, thus requiring them all to be present when the chest was opened. This chest has not survived at Cranham.

In 1848, it was noted that the registers were in an iron chest at the rectory (82); this was still true in 1879 (89). A newspaper cutting of February 21, 1896 (61) notes that a safe had been bought by the parish at a cost of £9.


Typically, Cranham has had two churchwardens. Their duties have varied over the centuries, ranging from the maintenance of the poor, collection of tithes, and maintenance of the church fabric. In addition, for many centuries, they were charged with keeping good order in the nave during services. The wardens' staffs of office, about 4 feet long and marking their pews at All Saints, are remnants of the tools of this enforcement role.

Wardens are appointed officers. The record of their names at Cranham is very incomplete. Our first recorded churchwardens were George Frythe and John Wyndell in 1547 (77); Frythe and Robert Dore were noted to be the parish treasurers in the same year. In 1683, John Gibbs was a church warden; he may have served alone.

From 1703 to 1796, it is certain that Cranham had only one churchwarden, and he was appointed by the Rector. From 1796 to 1828, the selection procedure was changed slightly, in that the Rector nominated the churchwarden, who was then appointed, if found suitable, by the vestry (12). From 1828 to the present day there have always been two wardens. Today, one is appointed by the Rector, and the other is appointed by the parishioners; they are known as the Rector's Warden and the People's Warden, respectively, for this reason.

In the twentieth century, Mr.Charles Fox Thomson of Cranham Lodge, was a particularly long-serving warden, holding his post from 1906 until his death in 1930. The vestry minutes (12, 82, 89) contain a complete list of the wardens of this century.


Historically, a verger was a church usher. When a bishop visited, it was the verger's privilege to carry the staff (crozier or crook) in procession. At Cranham, the verger has often been a salaried post. Duties have included maintenance of the church and churchyard. There are few records of these men at Cranham; it is possible that they frequently served several parishes at once, in order to make a reasonable living.

In 1926, the salary would appear to have been, at least theoretically, two pounds per week. There is a famous altercation between Dr.Wright and the Parish Council over keeping the church unlocked during the day (chapter 4). But the Parish Council declined to provide these monies, and a verger was not appointed.


At Cranham the duties of he sexton overlapped with those of the verger; this may also explain the scarcity of records for one type of officer or other. A sexton is appointed to maintain the church and churchyard, and to supervise bellringing and gravedigging.

In 1642 the register notes the burial of Josiah Fowler, described as the sexton, at All Saints' (30). Not for two centuries do we hear of another sexton, until, in 1842, George Laisell was paid 8 / = d. per half year (78). Laisell was succeeded by William Dawson in 1844, and the salary rose to 13 / = d. per half year, quite a nominal amount. A.Carson followed, from 1846 to 1854, but without any increase in salary (98). William Carson succeeded his brother (5). All these gentlemen were described in the Essex Directories of the day as farmers, whilst Dawson was both an auctioneer and a farmer (18). Their duties were clearly part-time.


The amount of parish administration was probably greatest during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the vestry had to maintain the church fabric, supervise the parish officers (sextons, vergers, etc.), administer relief for the poor, provide for road repairs, and collect its own rates. The vestry also ran the workhouse for a short period in the nineteenth century (chapter 9).

The distinction between parish, and therefore vestry duties, and ecclesiastical or Rector's duties, were often blurred. There can be no doubt that much of the former became a burden to the latter during, for example, Ludbey's tenure at All Saints'. Clerks typically served more than one small parish at a time, and should be viewed as assistants to both rector and vestry. In London, parish clerks had their own guild.

Although it is likely that there was parish clerk at Cranham during the last half of the sixteenth century (see Registers, below), we know of only two parish clerks by name. In 1662, William Sawkyns was appointed as parish clerk by Revd. Devereux. Part of Sawkyns's duties was to keep the registers accurately; this was the re-establishment of traditional procedures after the puritans, and it is likely that it is his handwriting that appears in the registers for the period.

In 1870, the parish rate yielded about £24 per annum. As early as 1833, a man called Hawkins was paid £2-14s.-3d. per half year to act as parish clerk, and must therefore have represented a considerable expenditure by the parish. In 1854, the salary was reduced to the unusual sum of £2-5s.-10 1/2 d. per half year (98), although the clerk's name is not recorded.


In 1837 it was noted that "G.Laisell's wife" was paid 10 / = d. per half year for cleaning the church (95). Her husband, the sexton, and therefore her boss, was paid only 8 / = d. In 1854 the cleaner was paid the same amount. In 1885, Mrs.Theobald was paid £5 per annum "to clean the church on Mondays, and dust it later in the week" (95). This was the new building. Since that time, church cleaning has been a voluntary duty. The cleaners burden today is less than Mrs.Theobald's, now that electricity instead of candle wax is used for lighting.


Before printing was so widely available, books were highly valued. Typically in church, books were chained to a stand. Before the puritan upheavals, churches may have possessed colourful, illuminated books dating from before the time of Caxton.

The visitation of 1547 makes no mention of any books at Cranham (77). However, in 1683 we read (78):

"There is a book of homilys, canons and articles. The Bible wants new binding"

Today there is a modern Bible on an impressive brass, eagle, lectern. There is a good supply of hymn books and books of common prayer. There are also small, red, booklets containing most of the sung Eucharist which help children find their way through the major Sunday Mass. Many adults find them to be of use, too.


Thomas Cromwell became Vicar-General in 1538, and ordered that all baptisms, marriages and burials should be recorded in good ink and on parchment. In 1598 it was ordered that the register books should be used for that purpose alone, in spite of their cost. In 1653 the "Barebones Parliament" required each parish to appoint a registrar to keep the registers. The oldest registers in the country are for St.James Garlickhythe and St.Mary Bothaw in the City, which begin in 1536. Many parish registers begin from 1539, the year after the definitive law.

At Cranham, the earliest surviving register dates from 1558. This is quite early for a county where registers have, in general, not been highly prized and have suffered various viscitudes, including floods, wars and sheer neglect. Our first book is parchment, according to the law at the time, and has waxed covers; it is long and thin and is the most exciting record that the author has held in his own hands (44). Logically arranged, baptisms are at the front, marriages in the middle, and burials at the back.

This book was used for two and a half centuries until 1812, except for marriages, which begin in another volume, in 1753. Baptisms record the name of the new member of the congregation and the date; the parents are sometimes also named. Marriages record those wedded, their prior marital status (bachelor, spinster, widowed), the date, and the name of the clergyman officiating. Burials simply record the date and the name of the deceased, and the next of kin.

The very first entry is for the burial of John Colbourne "late parson of Cranham", Maie 20 [1558]", as we saw in chapter 4. This suggests that the new parson arrived either to find no register, or could not find the old register, and so started a new one in compliance with the law.

There is only one handwriting in the registers from 1558 to 1603. It is a beautiful Elizabethan script, called, technically, "secretary hand". The writer is anonymous; it is cannot that of the rector because the handwriting spans the tenures of both Revd. Halton and Revd. Goldring (see chapter 4). This is evidence for a parish clerk at Cranham during the late sixteenth century, although his identity remains a mystery.

In all three sections of the register, there are gaps for the years 1622-1628. It has been suggested (1) that this was a period of considerable civil unrest, that the registers were not properly kept, and that, later on, there were fewer names than expected to fill in the gaps during after-the-event completions.

This hypothesis for the gaps in the registers, however, seems unlikely in the context of the clergy of the day. The gap 1622-1628 lies entirely within Adam Harsnett's tenure (see chapter 4), and again, a single person has made all the entries from 1612 to 1639, and these dates correspond to the incumbency of Adam Harsnett, and are probably Harsnett's own handwriting. Harsnett was one of Cranham's most literate rectors, and a puritan who should have encountered little opposition at the time; it looks like Harsnett recorded the burial of his own wife in 1639, and a brand new hand records Harsnett's own burial. Lastly, it is hard to understand why civil unrest should be expressed in the failure to complete the church registers.

William Sawkyns, the parish clerk, kept the registers at Cranham from 1653. His salary is unknown (see above).

More modern registers are printed books, with four or five entries to a page. The registrar merely fills in the boxes. Compared to the old parchment book, there is much less feeling of history associated with these volumes. Nonetheless, some personalities escape from the pages, especially associated with their places of abode (see Table 6). Some of these proforma books, at Cranham for entries between 1768 and 1818, appear to have been printed by Andrew Strahan, the Rector's brother. From April 21, 1813 until March 9, 1938, there were 684 recorded burials at Cranham. Often there were no other notices of the passing of a parishioner.


Most of the memorials lie in the churchyard, and may be inspected by anyone who strolls there. The principal ones are:

An accurate, foot-by-foot, survey of the churchyard has been made, and a gazetteer is available (204). There was recently some concern about lack of space in the churchyard, and an extension on its north side has been opened. Cremation, and the re-use of relatives' graves is encouraged.

Inside the church there are 12 memorials. These record more than twelve persons and even one person who did not actually die !

A number of anonymous memorials were placed in the church in 1965. These include an Italian carving of the Virgin, a water stoop in the porch (made from stone from the Deanery church at Bocking), and a sacrament house in the north wall of the chancel.

A memorial that is now lost was recorded by the Revd.Ludbey in his register book (100). Susannah Potts was remembered by a wooden memorial which hung in the chancel. On the board was a memorial poem, dating from the seventeenth century, and Ludbey noted that parts of it were hard to read. Its was remarkable in that the initial letters of each line spelt out the child's name (this is called an acrostic), and the memorial read as follows:

"To the memory of Susannah Potts, aged 7 months, 1651:

Sweete baby lye still, now freed from all thy pain and griefe

Underneath thou resting firmly fixed in belief

Shall rise againe and mounte on high with God in love

All glory there abides, all happiness above

Nobles, saintes, martirs, angels shall with thee have place

No spottes no teares no wrincles shall thee deface

Alas we weep, but thou shalt wake in perfecte grace

Pity mee not, though here I lie bereft of breath

Only while I sleep immured by death

Till that shrill liveing trumpetts voice with [clamour]

Shall shout, Awake Susanna, rise, sing and shout Hosanna !"

The poem reflects, of course the lack of constancy in seventeenth century spelling. It appears that the first part of the poem is addressed to the child, and the second part is her reply, with the dividing line between her Christian and family names. It is not certain why this child was of sufficient importance to merit such a memorial; surely infant deaths were common at that time ? She was probably the grand-daughter of Nathan Wright (Chapter 2 and figure 6a), and daughter of Charles and Susannah Potts (nee Wright). Her mother was eventually widowed, and remarried Sir Francis Drake (229).

Lastly, beneath the carpet beyond the altar rail there are several memorials to various members of the Wright family set into the floor. These are small brasses and relatively minor examples of that art.


In 1854, a crown (5 / = d.) was spent on coal and coke for the year in the old church. New stove pipes were also needed that year, and cost 17 / 6 d. In 1904, a new heating and ventilation system was installed by a Mr. Grundy of 30 Dunstan Terrace, City Road, London, N. The total cost was £45. Whilst this heating firm has disappeared, the terrace survives, and one end adjoins The Angel underground railway station. Electrical storage heaters are now in use.


Values insured after the rebuilding varied between £700 in 1879 to £1500 in 1886. Both these amounts are far less than the cost of the re-building in 1873 (chapter 5). Two years later, The Royal Exchange Insurance Co. charged 10 / 6 d. per annum.

In this chapter are recorded some of the smaller objects, inside the building. More importantly, the people who maintained the church can often be found in the vestry minutes carrying out their duties, and in the registers when married or buried. This is probably the only place where the ordinary people of Cranham have their names recorded. There is much more to a parish church than simply its architecture.