Greensted Church, Essex

One of the most famous churches in the East of England, Greensted church is around 1,200 years old … it is possible that there has been a place of worship here since the 4th Century.

The first, recorded, permanent church here was started around 654 AD shortly after St. Cedd converted the local Saxons to Christianity. Remains of two simple wooden buildings were discovered under the chancel floor dating to this period. The church seems to have been dedicated to St. Andrew from a very early time.

King Edmund of East Anglia briefly rested at the church in 1013 on his way to burial in Bury St. Edmunds. Not that long after this an unknown crusader arrived badly wounded at the church and died there. His tomb is by the south wall.

The nave was once dated to 845 AD, but later revisions to this suggest some time between 1063 and 1108. It is made of large split oak tree trunks, a traditional Saxon method. Although built during the Norman period, it is likely that local Saxon craftsmen were responsible. It is this oak-trunk walling for which Greensted Church is considered important.

The chancel was added in the 1500s and the distinctive white wood tower was added in the early 17th Century. One of the bells carries an inscription dating it to 1618 which suggests the tower is earlier than that and might even cross into the 16th Century.

Inevitably, the Victorians added to the Church, but this time did so with sensitivity for the extreme age of the structure and kept their changes to adding in windows and a porch.

Greensted Church is one of the most visited churches in Essex and also one of the best preserved Saxon monuments in the country.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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