History of St Michael and All Angels Leaden Roding
The church stands about a quarter of a mile west of the ‘centre’ of the village, near the site of the original moated manor house, which is known to have been there in the 13th century, and probably much earlier.
It was the first church in the area to have a lead roof, from which the village is said to have taken its name. The church dates back to Norman Times when the Manor belonged to the Warren family, and it is on record that the 2nd Earl Warren (son of the first Earl, who came to England with William the Conqueror) gave the church and advowson of Leaden Roding as part of an initial endowment to the Priory of Castle Acre in Norfolk, which he founded about the year 1090.
The present church building is the oldest in the Rodings group, parts of the structure dating from the latter years of the 11th century. It is a small building in the Norman style (approximately 60ft by 21ft), with walls of flint rubble with some admixture of freestones. It has a nave and chancel, with a small vestry on the north side and a porch on the south, both of which were added in the 19th century. The roofs are now tiled, and at the west end there is a weather-boarded bell tower surmounted by a squat shingled spire.
The church is entered on the south side through an 11th century Norman doorway. It is thought-provoking to reflect as you enter the church that worshippers have been using this same doorway for 900 years. As is so often the case in ancient buildings, the doorway is low by modern standards – an indication that in those days few people grew so tall as today!
The nave (approximately 36ft by 21ft), tapering slightly towards the west end (under the bell tower) is basically late 11th century. It has two windows in the north wall (one partly obscured by the bell tower supports), both 14th/15th century (much restored) having two cinquefoil lights and moulded labels. In the south wall of the nave, apart from the Norman doorway, is a single round-headed light. The window at the west end (at the back of the church) of the nave is of 15th or 16th century origin.
The chancel is thought to have been built in the 13th century, replacing an earlier chancel, the opportunity being taken of widening it on both sides so that it is approximately square. It was probably intended to rebuild and enlarge the nave, but this was never done, with the result that the present nave and chancel are of similar width, without any chancel arch or dividing screen. This is of considerable help to modern worship as there is no sense that clergy and choir are separated from the congregation.
During the Second World War the whole of the east wall of the church collapsed due to bomb damage and had to be rebuilt. It would appear that a German bomber, returning home after a raid on London, shed his remaining bombs before crossing the Channel, and the load was dropped between the church and the village shop.
The bell turret at the west end of the nave stands on four double hollow-chamfered oak posts with tie-beams and curved braces, probably of late 15th or early 16th century date. There are three bells, a 15th century Treble bell, a Second bell, founded by Robert Stainbank of London in 1868 and a Tenor bell, founded by Thomas Lawrence of London in 1523; this is reputed to be the oldest bell in Essex, and is also the only pre-Reformation bell in Essex inscribed in English. The inscription reads “John Aylet gave me in the Vorchyp of the Trinite Ac 1523”. The bell is also engraved with a small figure of John the Baptist.
The special Holdich organ has several unusual features such as the various styles of lettering on the stops and the positioning of the dulciana stop, which indicate an organ constantly changed and worked on. This is evidence that this organ was kept by George Holdich for his personal use and was said to be his favourite. Apart from the addition of the electric motor and removal of the old blowing arm, the organ has changed very little from when it moved from Brighton to Fingringhoe in 1902 and to Leaden Roding in 1998.
The importance of this like all church buildings which have stood for so many centuries as a witness to God, lies not in their ancient stones and timbers, nor in the history enshrined in the fabric and fittings; nor in the fact the building is considered as a symbol of the continuing ethos of the village; but in the fact that God’s Good News (The Gospel) is preached here – a message of life and hope for all who will accept Christ as Saviour and Lord; a message that has been preached in this church for over 900 years.
Where to find us
Essex CM6 1RB
The church can be found on the A1060 as you enter the village from Hatfield Heath. It is easy to spot!