Prittlewell Church
The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, built of Kentish rag stone, is one of the largest and, from an architectural point of view, one of the most interesting in the county. There has been a church on the site of St. Mary’s for more than a thousand years. There is archaeological evidence that a small chapel was erected on the site of the present church in the 7th century. A portion of the Saxon doorway of that tiny chapel remains today as part of the north wall of the chancel. The Norman nave was built in the 11th century, which greatly increased the size of the building, and the chancel of the new church was built over the foundations of the original Saxon chapel. St. Mary’s Prittlewell is mentioned on the Domesday Survey of 1086. A processional aisle was added to the south side of the nave towards the end of the 12th century. Further additions were made during the 15th century, namely the construction of the stately embattled tower (with pinnacles and containing a clock and bells), a south porch, (above which is a parvise chamber), an eastern wall that now forms part of the Jesus Chapel, and the enlargement of the south aisle which almost doubled the size of the church. When you step inside this stunning church the different styles of architecture are very much evident. The pulpit is of Caen stone, enriched with marble shafts, the central panel containing a bas-relief. The font is of an octagonal shape with concave sides two of which are blank but the other six contain the following Tudor devices: a heart transfixed by two spears, a shield bearing a chevron between three fleur-de-lis, a mutilated crucifix, the Tudor rose and Aragon pomegranate dimidiated, a Tudor rose in a pentagon (this is an uncommon type), and a small rose. The font is supported by a square shaft. St Mary’s also boasts of eight beautiful stained glass windows which include a memorial window to Sir Arundell Neave bart. d. 21 Sept. 1877, consisting of antique 15th century Flemish and Italian glass brought from a church in Rouen and attributed to Albert Durer. The Jesus chapel was restored in 1916 as a memorial to Canon Reay who was the vicar from 1880-1914. The porch was restored in 1921-22 with the windows being unblocked, and stained memorial windows depicting St. Michael, St. George, Sir Galahad and King Arthur inserted. In 1922 a memorial cross to those who fell in the Great War, 1914-18, was erected in front of the tower. The tower was restored in 1924-25, at a cost of £2,500. The churchyard was closed for burials by various orders from March, 1869, to Nov. 1881. The register of baptisms dates from 1649; of marriages and burials from 1645. Over the centuries the church at Prittlewell has seen joyous times, and has fallen on hard times. Shortly after Henry VIII’s reign, at the time of the Reformation, so much of the church’s income and assets were seized that the churchwardens sold the church plate to ‘pay for maintenance of the church’. During the Second World War St Mary’s suffered blast damage from bombs falling nearby, but daily services continued throughout those difficult years. It is said that the Vicar at that time, (Canon Ellis Gowing), had the valuable 16th century stained glass window removed from the Jesus Chapel and buried in the cellar of the old vicarage!

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c1900 Prittlewell Church
c1900 The Nave Prittlewell Church
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