St Mary the Virgin, Stansted, Kent
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The church at Stansted, first mentioned in the Textus Roffensis complied at Rochester in the 1120's, was a small Anglo-Saxon church probably predating the Norman Conquest. Religious worship at Stansted has been evolving ever since Archbishop Islip decreed in the early 1300’s that it was the duty of the Vicar of Wrotham to provide one fit chaplain to celebrate in the chapel of Stansted. The church we see today is known to have been in existence on October 8th 1312, when a thief John de Hynton took sanctuary there. However, St Mary’s is not included in the Taxatio of Pope Nicholas IV, which was completed in 1291, so it is assumed to have been built between these dates using materials from the original Saxon chapel. The church was constructed in one phase, overlooking the village beside a 300 year old yew tree, comprising chancel, knave side aisle and tower. More than seven hundred years later that tree is still standing just outside the original porch.
In 1883 the Victorians restored St Mary’s, replacing almost all the windows, adding the vestry and pews. Many original features still exist and visual clues to the past construction can be discovered.
In 1992 the Church was once again improved when the Ringers’ Gallery was installed, and the three bells were augmented to six. Within St Mary’s belfry hangs what is thought to be the oldest bell in the district. Cast before the Reformation, it bears a Latin inscription, which reads ‘His name is John’. A second bell is engraved ‘William Hatch made me in 1656’.
The oldest tombstones in the churchyard date from 1715. One gravestone belongs to the author and composer William Edward Hickson (1803-1870) whose words feature in the English national anthem.
Sir Sydney Waterlow, politician and philanthropist, was also buried in Stansted churchyard in 1906. He was a commissioner at the Crystal Palace Exhibition and was director of the Union Bank of London. I n 1872 Sir Sydney became Lord Mayor of London.
In the early 1980’s the parish of Stansted and Fairseat was combined by act of parliament with Vigo Village in order to create a more sustainable missionary congregation with three churches, St. Marys Stansted, Holy Innocents Fairseat and Vigo Church in Vigo village hall.
In 2009 the Rector, Rev. Christopher Noble, proposed an extension to St Mary's to provide toilets, kitchenette and a room for children and coffee after services. A seven year period of planning and fundraising began, culminating in the construction of a free standing extension known as "The Cloisters", joined to the tower of the main church by a glazed link.
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The current editor is: Colin Evans