7. BIRCH. (C.d.)
(O.S. 6 in. (a)xxvii. S.W. (b)xxxvi. N.W. (c)xxxvi.
Birch is a parish 5 m. S.W. of Colchester. It
includes the former parishes of Great and Little
Birch. The church of the former, now the parish
church, has no ancient features. The ruined church
of Little Birch is interesting.
b(1). Church of St. Mary (Plate, p. 6), formerly
the parish church of Little Birch, stands ¾ m.
N.E. of the parish church of Great Birch. The
walls are of rubble with some brick; the
rubble of the nave is coursed; the dressings are
of limestone and brick. The Nave was built
early in the 12th century. About the middle
of the 14th century the Chancel was rebuilt and
the West Tower added. The Chancel-arch was
inserted c. 1400. In the 16th century the upper
part of the tower was rebuilt and the stair-turret
added. The church fell into disuse, probably
in the 17th century, and is now roofless and ruinous.
The Church, Plan
Architectural Description—The Chancel (26½ ft.
by 16½ ft.) has in the E. wall the jambs of a
14th-century window; the head has gone and the
sill has been broken away. In the N. wall are
two mid 14th-century windows, with two-centred
heads and moulded labels; the former mullion
and tracery of each has been destroyed. In the
S. wall are two similar windows but the outer
arch and label of the eastern window has been
destroyed; between them is a mid 14th-century
doorway with moulded jambs, two-centred arch
and label. The chancel-arch was inserted c. 1400;
the arch has gone, but the late 14th-century
responds of cut brick have each an attached shaft,
with a moulded stone base.
The Nave (31½ ft. by 19 ft.) has in the N. wall
two windows, the eastern is of the 12th century,
now blocked, and has a Roman brick W. jamb and
splay with part of the round head of stone; the
western window has moulded jambs perhaps of the
14th century and an early 16th-century brick head;
it is set low in the wall and has a single pointed
light under a square moulded label; E. of it is
the N. doorway of which only the splays and
segmental-pointed rear-arch, probably of the 14th
century, remain; E. of the eastern window is a
small quatrefoiled opening of the 15th century
which formerly lighted the stairway to the rood-loft; the upper and lower doorways have been
removed and the openings blocked. At the E.
angles of the nave are pilaster buttresses of Roman
brick and the W. angles have quoins of the same
material. In the S. wall are two windows, the
eastern, formerly of two lights, is now only a
ragged opening with the sill and part of the E.
jamb remaining; the western window is of the
12th century and is similar to that in the N. wall
but is complete and not blocked; further W. is a
ragged opening representing the former S. doorway;
it has splays and rear-arch of Roman brick and
perhaps of the 12th century. In the S.W. angle
is the early 16th-century doorway to the stair-turret of the tower; it has chamfered jambs and a
The West Tower (6½ ft. square) is of four
stages with a ruined parapet. The two lower
stages are of the 14th century but built on to the
12th-century W. wall of the nave; the two upper
stages are of red brick and are of 16th-century
date. The 14th-century tower-arch is of brick
and has responds and two-centred arch of two
chamfered orders. The 14th-century W. window
is of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil
in a two-centred head with a moulded label and
carved stops, one with a head and one with a
grotesque beast. The second stage has in the
E. wall a square-headed opening; above it are the
marks of the former steep-pitched roof of the nave.
In the W. wall is a 14th-century window of one
cinquefoiled light with a moulded label. The
bell-chamber has in the E., N. and W. walls an
early 16th-century window of brick and of two
four-centred lights in a square head; the mullion
of the W. window has been destroyed.
Fittings—Coffin-lid: Tapering slab used as
threshold of S. doorway. Piscina: In chancel—
with moulded jambs and trefoiled head, broken
Condition—Ruinous and tower much overgrown
b(2). Birch Castle, formerly belonging to the
Gernon family (Morant, II, 182), stands a few
yards S. of the parish church. A short length
of rampart and ditch situated on a spur of high
ground is all that remains of the earthworks of
the Castle. Morant describes the work as a
mount surrounded by a ditch.
In the valley to the N.E. of the castle is an old
dam, now disused.
b(3). S.E. of Birch Holt and nearly 2 m. W.S.W.
of the parish church.
b(4). At Birch Holt Farm, 150 yards N.W. of (3).
The following monuments, unless otherwise
described, are of the 17th century and of two
storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs
are tiled or thatched. Many of the buildings have
original chimney-stacks and exposed ceiling-beams.
Condition—Good, or fairly good.
b(5). Winter flood's Farm, house, nearly 2 m.
W.N.W. of the parish church, is of L-shaped plan
with the wings extending towards the S. and E.
b(6). Cottage, on S. side of road, 500 yards
N.E. of (5).
b(7). Claypit Farm, house, nearly ¾ m. E.S.E. of
(6), was built probably late in the 16th century,
with a cross-wing at the N. and S. ends. The
original central chimney-stack has grouped hexagonal shafts.
a(8). Upper Hill Farm, house, 1½ m. N. of the
parish church, was built late in the 16th or early
in the 17th century, and has a cross-wing at the
W. end. The upper storey projects at the N. end
of the cross-wing and on the E. side of the main
b(9). Cottage, about ¼ m. S.E. of St. Mary's
b(10). Cottage, on the E. side of the road at
Birch Green, about ½ m. S. of the parish church,
was built probably in the 16th century, and has
a cross-wing at the N. end.
c(11). Roundbush Farm, house, about 1¼ m.
S.W. of the parish church, has an original chimney-stack, with four octagonal shafts.