Church of England Diocese of Chelmsford The Icknield Way Villages

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The land area of the Parish of Little Chishill is a strange one. It extends from the Bridgefoot Kennels, near Flint Cross, on its northern border to a mile south of St Nicholas Church. This is just over 4 miles, but the width of the parish is never more than 1000 yards. It also takes in Chishill windmill. On the west side a watercourse divides the Chishills from Barley in Hertfordshire. This is believed to be the old division between Mercia and the Kingdom of the East Saxons.

The spelling of the name of the parish has changed over the years. In the Domesday Book, the spelling is Cishel and later Christehela (1068), Christehall and Christeshall (1272), Creshale (1321), Cressall (1594), Creshall (1768) and more recently Chishall and Chishill. Crist is old English for Christ and healh is old English for nook.

At various times in its history, the parish has been situated in the diocese of London, Rochester, St Albans and at present, Chelmsford. Secularly it passed from the County of Essex to the County of Cambridgeshire in about 1895. In the 13th Century there was a very ancient and considerable family from the Chishills who took the name of Chishill. John Chishill, who died in 1279, was successively Dean of St Pauls, Archdeacon of London, Lord Treasurer, Keeper of the Great Seal, Lord Chancellor and Bishop of London.

The Manor of Little Chishill passed to Peter Soame of Heydon in 1517. The last known member of the family, Sir Peter Buckworth Soame, is buried in a tomb just below the east window of St Nicholas church.

The church was closed for a period during the 19th Century but was reopened and refurnished by the Crossman family, who had bought the Cokenach Estate, of which Little Chishill was a small part in about 1885. They also built the present Manor House. Many of their family memorials and graves are in the church and churchyard. During the plague of the Black Death, the churchyard was used as a mass burial ground for victims from nearby parishes.

The Chancel of the Church of St Nicholas dates from Norman times and is built of church rubble. A Norman window on the north side still remains. The East window is Perpendicular and dates from the time when the Chancel was lengthened. Other windows belong to the Decorated period. The tower seems to be of an earlier period. It houses a 16' bell, dated 1774, and made by Pack and Chapman of Whitechapel. The font is also Perpendicular and carries quatrefoil panels.

The east window glass is a memorial by Kempe and Taylor about 1916. The tiled nave, Chancel, south porch and west tower are features of the church. There is an interesting tomb half in and half out of the church wall on the south side. The story goes that in it are the relics of a naughty nun!

For many years "Heydon with Little Chishill" was a parish within Saffron Walden Deanery. In 1930 the parish was asked to raise £15-15s-3d towards the Diocean Quota and in fact contributed £15-18s-11d – Happy Days!

Today, other than for the occasional marriage or burial, there is only one regular service every month at St Nicholas church. These services are normally Holy Communion with hymns and a sermon, held at 9am on the first Sunday of the month and are well supported by many from the Icknield Way Villages. The church and the churchyard are looked after by a small but very dedicated District Church Council.
For details of services in the parish, go to www.icknieldwayparish.com and click on Services.

Little Chishill Road
Little Chishill
Royston
SG8 8PB

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