St Nicholas Church, Tolleshunt Major

The church stands on the top of a slight eminence to the east of the village. The walls are of boulder clay, flint and puddingstone rubble with dressings of limestone. The tower is of red brick. On the northeast comer of the tower there are the remains of lime wash representing prepared stone dressing. The indications are that there was a 12th century chancel and nave. The side walls appear to have been subsequently lowered. In the 15th century the chancel was extended about eight feet to the east. The tower was added in the early 16th century. Later in the same century a chapel was built on the north side. The doorway into this chapel can still be seen, thought blocked up, the chapel having been destroyed.

The chancel, which measures 21 feet by 16 feet, has a much restored 15th century east window. In the north wall is a 16th century archway leading into the rebuilt vestry. In the south wall are two windows, one of them is 15th century and the other modem. Between them is a 15th century 'priest's door'. To the right of it is a curious plastered groove, probably the arch of a 12th century window. There is no chancel arch. The roof is late 15th century and is of braced collar-beam type with a moulded wall plate and tie beam. Within the communion rails, on the right side, is a rough, segmental headed recess with a very old oak shelf and a quatrefoiled piscina, a very rare type. The piscina was used as a sink for pouring away the water used in rinsing the communion cup.

The nave, which measures 34 feet by 16 feet, has in the north wall a 15th century window; on the left of this window is there is a 16th century door[way] now partly blocked and fitted with a window in a wooden frame. Adjacent to this door is an early 16th century stoop for holding holy water. In the south wall are two modem windows. Between them is the late 14th century or early 15th century doorway. On the jambs outside can be seen the proclivity of our forefathers in the days of their youth to carve their name and initials under dates ranging from 1700 to 1800 circa. On the other side can be seen the 'mason's marks'. In the splay of the window near the pulpit are the remains of the steps of a stone rood-screen. On the wall opposite over the blocked doorway there are stones in the shape of the letter 'L' which were probably the other end of the rood-screen. The tie-beam above the pulpit has a plain king-post. The centre tie-beam has a fine king-post with a moulded capital and base. The tie-beam nearest to the tower arch has a queen-post. Between this beam and the tower arch there is a truss which supports a timber framing for a former bell-turret. (A king-post is an upright post supporting the rafter top. A queen-post is made up of two upright posts supporting the rafter-tops.)

The tower, measuring 11 feet by 10 feet was built by Sir Stephen Beckingham at the same time as the Gate House of Beckingham Hall (situated close to the church). It is built of red Tudor bricks with blue brick diapering. The tower is scheduled as an ancient monument by the Ministry of Works. There are three stages and there is an embattled parapet with the merlons cut down. The third or top stage is the bell chamber, containing three bells. The first has no inscription, but is pre-reformation.  The second is inscribed "Vox Edwardi sonet in aure Dei". ["The voice of Edward sounds in the ear of God"]. This bell is late 14th century. The third is inscribed "Thomas Gardiner, Sudbury, facit, 1726".

The above note is taken directly from an undated document entitled "A short account of the History of the Church of St Nicholas, Tolleshunt Major, in the Diocese of Chelmsford and the County of Essex. " by Rev. James Boultbee, MA.

Later the author adds a note:

From the year 1152 to 1495 the church belonged to the Prior and Convent of Caldwell in the County of Bedford, to whom the right of appointing a minister belonged. After 1495 the church was properly established as a Vicarage by Bishop Tunstall of London.

The present floors of the nave and the tower consist of softwood blocks laid in a herringbone fashion on the earth. The chancel floor is tiled with ceramic tiles. The walls are finished with a painted rendering that is generally in a good condition; in fact, until recently the appearance of the interior has attracted many exclamations of delight. The roof is sound and gives no trouble at all.