PRIORY CHURCH OF ST. MARY THE VIRGIN
Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex
A Saxon church stood here long before the Norman Conquest and is recorded in the Domesday Book. However, the church which stands today has its origins in the Benedictine Monastery founded here in 1135 by Aubrey de Vere II, Earl of Oxford – one of five he founded in the county. The original deed of foundation is still in existence and is housed at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Hatfield Broad Oak is often called Hatfield Regis, and some confusion came about in the late 12th Century regarding tithes from St Botolph’s Priory in Colchester who owned the royal manor of Hatfield. The dispute and confusion was settled in 1194.
In 1230 a fire swept through the Priory at Hatfield Broad Oak and destroyed part of the church. Henry III ordered a rebuild and it is to this period that the tower of today’s church most likely dates.
The Priory continued as a small but prosperous foundation right through to the Dissolution in 1536, by that time only the prior and four monks lived at the Priory. Briefly the land was owned by Barking Abbey but when that too was dissolved Trinity College, Cambridge came into possession.
The majority of Priory remains are long gone, but the Church has survived as the parish church. The church is still very ancient looking and seems, largely, to have escaped the attention of the Victorians.
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