The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Wivenhoe

Dates back to the early 1300s

High Street Research Team

The tower has Roman bricks incorporated into it
Photo: Peter Hill
A picture of St Mary's Church taken after the 1884 earthquake. Notice the damage to the top of the tower.
From a picture postcard bought by Peter Hill
The Parish Church of Wivenhoe - St Mary the Virgin
Photo by the late Sue Murray ARPS
St Mary's Church Choir 1905
Wivenhoe Memories Collection
The font in St Mary's Church
Photo: Peter Hill
This board hangs in St Mary's Church on which the names of all the Rectors have been recorded since 1330.
Photo: Peter Hill

The Church probably dates back to the early 1300s although there is a reference to a Church here in 1254. Read more about the early history of the church here

After a fire in 1850, the church was patched up but it was decided that the structure was to be significantly rebuilt and enlarged. This enlargement and re-modelling was completed in 1860.

In 1884, the church structure was damaged by the Essex earthquake but not the wooden Cupola which is evident on top of the tower.  The tower itself was not added to the building until sometime in the 1500s.

Read more about the church pre and post earthquake here

In the church there are stone & wooden carvings such as the wooden boss heads attached to the nave roof possibly representing merchants, they were later painted in the 1960s.

The 15th century font was found in the churchyard and placed back inside the Church in 1923, replacing the more ornate one which had been installed as part of the re-modelling which had taken place in 1860.

The organ was built in 1885 and restored in 1991. This organ replaced a smaller one located beneath the tower at the west end of the Church.

The NW colourful church window dates from 1900.

In 1860 six church bells were hung but unfortunately they were cracked in the earthquake and in 1905 they were replaced, together with a new oak frame. They were renovated in 1998. Read more about the church bells here

The churchyard was closed for burials in 1856 when the Old Cemetery was opened. In the 1950s, the headstones in the churchyard were moved around the edge of the churchyard to make maintaining the churchyard easier.

Inside there are outstanding memorial brasses to Elizabeth, the Countess of Oxford, and her husband, William Viscount Beaumont of Wivenhoe Hall, as well as a small brass to Thomas Westeley who was chaplain to the Countess of Oxford.

Read more about the will of the Countess of Oxford here

There is a record of past Rectors inside the Church – see picture right.

Read more about the Reverend Carolin – a colourful character here


  • The Friend’s of St. Mary’s Booklet,  The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin by David Clarke – Formerly Church Warden.
  • The Day Before Yesterday: a Glimpse into Wivenhoe’s Past, by Olive Whaley, 1980

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This page was added on 02/08/2018.

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