32. GREAT BURSTEAD. (C.c.)
(O.S. 6 in. (a)lxviii. N.W. (b)lxviii. N.E.)
Great Burstead is a parish 8 m. S. of Chelmsford.
The small town of Billericay, at the N. end of the
civil parish, was formed into a separate ecclesiastical
parish in 1844. The church in Great Burstead
village is the principal monument.
a(1). Ovens or Kilns. In 1724, "a place made
like an oven, of hard dark clay, large enough
to hold 6 half-peck loaves" was found 3 ft. below
the surface "at the windmill on a high hill near
Billericay." This site is usually identified with
that on which a windmill now stands, about
1 m. N. of the parish church of Great Burstead;
formerly, however, another windmill existed close
by but on the W. side of the Rayleigh road.
With the oven was a large bed of black earth or
ashes containing Roman potsherds, fibulae, two
denarii of Trajan and Hadrian, and other coins
(Morant, Hist, of Essex, I, 196; Salmon, Hist, of
Essex (1743), 264, 303, 334, and MS. note in
Gough's interleaved copy of Salmon in the
Bodleian Library, quoting Soc. Ant. MS. Minutes
In the middle of the 19th century, in graveldigging, similar finds of dark earth, potsherds and
"the remains of an oven" were found (Essex
Arch. Soc. Trans. (O.S.), II, 70), and near it
"subterranean masonry," thought to be part of
a hypocaust but perhaps connected with a kiln.
Close by was a pit 25 ft. deep full of potsherds,
and a number of incineration burials with a British
gold coin and coins of Trajan, Hadrian, Pius and
Constantine (B.A.A. Journ., III, 249–50; IV,
74, 155–6; Essex Arch. Soc. Trans. (O.S.), II,
70–1; V, 209–11; Proc. Soc. Ant. (2nd S.),
a(2). About 500 yards W. of (1), in digging for a
gasometer (now removed) in 1877, a "pavement
or platform" of mortar or concrete 3 in. thick and
6 ft. square was found. On it lay a number of
broken vessels, including 'Samian' (one said to
have been stamped DACMVS) and, it is said, some
cinerary urns (Arch. Journ., XXXVI, 76). Burials
were also discovered in the Dissenters' Burial
Ground, Billericay, about ¼ m. N. of (1), and a vault
containing stone-coffins, probably post-Roman,
was also found there (Arch. Journ., XXXVI, 75;
Essex Arch. Soc. Trans. (O.S.), II, 72).
b(3). Norsey Wood, at the N.E. corner of the
parish, contains various earthworks including
trenches of different sizes which run in different
directions without coherent plan. These have
been partially disturbed by the digging of gravel.
One was 8 ft. deep, 300 yards long and 4–5 ft.
wide, ending in a circular pit 15 ft. in diameter;
the largest was 10–12 ft. deep, twice as wide, and
curved at the bottom. Many had been filled with
dark soil containing broken Roman pottery and
tiles. In one of the eastern group of trenches was
a primitive smelting-furnace containing a little
slag, black ashes and lumps of gritty substance
like mortaria. "Two rods" from it in the same
trench a kiln was found 3–4 ft. in diameter, domed
and built of square bricks (6–8 in. square and
about 2 in. thick). When found, "a score or
two" of black pots, apparently whole, were in
it. Other kilns were also found and cinerary
deposits associated with flanged tiles were
encountered in great numbers. Some of the
urns were apparently of Late Celtic type, and
it is in any case clear that the wood was a pre-Roman site, the occupation of which was continued
into the Roman period. At least some of the
trenches must have been made before the kilns,
since these were built in them. Good clay is found
below the gravel in the neighbourhood, and it was
perhaps for this that the trenches were cut. It may
here be noted that a hoard of 1,000 bronze coins
was found about 1820 at Tylde Hall, Ramsden
Crays, just outside the wood and parish, but is
not recorded in detail (Essex Arch. Soc. Trans.
(O.S.), II, 70).
(See Sectional Preface, p. xxxviii; and Essex
Arch. Soc. Trans. (O.S.), V, 212; V.C.H. Essex, I,
284; and MS. notes by the late Col. Branfill, R.E.,
a(4). Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalen
stands towards the S. end of the parish. The walls
are mixed rubble partly covered with cement;
the tower is of ragstone; the dressings are of
limestone; the roofs are tiled. The Nave was built
in the 12th century. Late in the 14th century the
West Tower was added. The Chancel was probably
re-built and enlarged in the 14th or 15th century.
In the 15th century the South Aisle was added,
incorporating re-used 14th-century work; late in
the same century or early in the 16th the South
Chapel and North and South Porches were added
probably in the order given.
Architectural Description—The Chancel (31 ft.
by 21½ ft.) has in the E. wall a window with a
two-centred head and probably of the 15th century,
but now blocked. In the N. wall are two windows,
the eastern of early 16th-century date and of three
four-centred lights in a square head with a moulded
label; the western is probably of late 15th-century
date and is of three cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label; below the
eastern window is an early 16th-century doorway
with a moulded rear-arch and now blocked. The
late 15th or early 16th-century S. arcade is of two
bays with two-centred arches of two moulded
orders, the outer continuous and the inner springing
from attached shafts with moulded capitals and
bases. There is no chancel-arch.
The South Chapel (31 ft. by 16 ft.) is of early
16th-century date. The E. wall has two courses of
flint and stone chequer-work above the plinth;
the E. window is of three cinque-foiled lights in a
four-centred head with a moulded label. In the
S. wall are two windows similar to that in the E.
wall but of smaller size; between them is a doorway with moulded jambs and two-centred head
with a moulded label; it is now blocked.
The Nave (44 ft. by 23½ ft.) has in the N. wall
three windows; the easternmost is of late 14th-century date and of three trefoiled ogee lights
with tracery in a two-centred head with a moulded
label and one defaced head-stop; the middle
window is a small 12th-century light with a round
head; the westernmost window is probably of
early 16th-century date and is of three four-centred
lights in a square head with a moulded label; the
late 15th or early 16th-century N. doorway has
moulded jambs and two-centred arch in a square
head with a moulded label and crowned head-stops;
the spandrels (Plate, p. 84) are carved with the
Annunciation. The figure of Gabriel holds a
scroll inscribed "Ave Maria [gratia] plena dominus
tecum." The 15th-century S. arcade is of three
bays with two-centred arches of two chamfered
orders; the octagonal columns have moulded
capitals and bases and the responds have attached
half-columns; E. of the arcade is a cutting,
through the wall, of doubtful date with an arched
The South Aisle (15 ft. wide) has in the S. wall
two re-set early 14th-century windows each of two
trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred
head; the 15th-century S. doorway has double
hollow-chamfered jambs and two-centred arch
with a moulded label. The W. wall has been largely
re-built and contains a modern window.
Great Burstead, the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalen
The West Tower (14 ft. square) was built late in
the 14th century and is of three stages with a
moulded plinth and embattled parapet; it is
finished with a timber spire of some height (Plate,
pp. xxxii–iii). The two-centred tower-arch is of
two chamfered orders; the responds have attached
semi-octagonal shafts with moulded capitals and
bases. The W. window is of two cinque-foiled
lights with tracery in a two-centred head; the
label, jambs and mullion are modern; the W.
doorway has moulded jambs and two-centred arch.
The N. and S. walls of the second stage have each
a partly restored window of one trefoiled light.
The bell-chamber has in each wall a much restored
window of two trefoiled lights in a square head
with a moulded label.
The North Porch is of c. 1500, timber-framed
and of two bays; the outer archway is four-centred
and is flanked by openings with remains of traceried
heads; the gable has foiled barge-boards, carved
with foliage. The mullions and heads of the lights
of the side bays have been removed. The roof is of
king-post type with curved braces, forming four-centred arches.
The South Porch is of early 16th-century date,
partly restored; it is timber-framed and of two
bays; the outer archway is two-centred. The side
bays are each of two lights with modern three-centred heads. The roof is of similar character to
that of the N. porch.
The Roof of the chancel is of the 15th century and
of two bays with moulded and embattled tie-beams
and wall-plates and square rebated king-posts
with four-way struts. The early 16th-century
roof of the S. chapel is similar to that of the
chancel; the curved braces of the tie-beams rest
on stone corbels, one carved with an angel holding
a blank shield; the spandrels of one truss are
carved with a quatrefoil and a grotesque face. The
15th-century roof of the nave is of four bays,
with moulded and embattled plates and moulded
tie-beams supporting octagonal king-posts with
moulded capitals and bases. The late 15th or early
16th-century roof of the S. aisle is of four bays
with king-post trusses, moulded wall-plates and
Fittings—Bells: five; 4th by John Walgrave,
early 15th-century, inscribed "Vox Augustini
Sonet In Aure Dei." Chairs: In chancel—two,
one with carved back and rails, twisted legs and
posts, and arms; the second with carved back,
curved legs and twisted rails, late 17th-century.
Chest (Plate, p. xliii): heavy 'dug-out' of oak,
bound with iron, seven hinges and three hasps,
12th or 13th-century. Communion Rails (Plate,
p. 53): with moulded upper and lower rails, panelled
uprights and turned balusters, gates now in belfry,
quadrant-shaped corners, late 17th-century, said
to have come from a London Church. Doors:
In S. doorway of S. chapel—of battens with
strap-hinge and two drop-handles, 15th-century.
In N. doorway—of overlapping battens with
trellis-framing, strap-hinges and drop-handle,
15th-century. In S. doorway—similar to that in
N. doorway, with ornamental pierced scutcheon-plate, 15th-century. Font: octagonal bowl with
moulded under-side, plain stem and moulded
base, 15th-century. Glass: In chancel—in N.W.
window, foliated quarries, a sun, stars, rose and
fragments, 15th and 16th-century. In nave—in
N.E. window, various fragments, 14th and 16th-century. In S. aisle—in S.E. window, fragments
including borders of crowns, foliage, etc., partly
in situ; in S.W. window, similar ornament and in
situ in head, foliage and a shield (Plate, pp. xliv–v)
barry argent and azure a label of five points gules
for Grey of Wilton, 14th-century. In W. window
of tower—two foliated roundels, 14th-century.
Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In
chancel—on S. wall, (1) to Ursula (Thresher),
wife of John Cooke, 1705, and to their daughter
Ursula, 1703, marble tablet with cherub-head
and shield-of-arms. In churchyard—N. side,
(2) to Robert Chignall, 1695, head-stone; S. side,
(3) to Eliza Hewes, 1694, head and foot-stones;
(4) to Thomas Price, 1714, head-stone; (5) to
Samuel Finch, 1713, head-stone. Floor-slabs:
In chancel—(1) to Thomas Stokes, 1701; (2) to
Samuel Thresher, 1702. In S. chapel—(3) to John
Tyrell, 1712, with achievement-of-arms. In nave
—(4) to Samuel Bridge, 1661, preacher; (5) to
Joseph Fis . . ., and Ann, his wife, late 17th-century. Piscinae: In chancel—with moulded
jambs and trefoiled ogee arch in a square head,
15th-century. In S. chapel—on S. wall, with
moulded jambs and four-centred head, broken
round drain, 15th-century. Reredos (Plate, p. 53):
of oak in three bays, divided by fluted Corinthian
pilasters, middle bay with two round-headed
panels and a curved pediment with the sacred
name, irradiated, and above a pelican in her
piety, side bays each with rectangular panels and
above them small panels filled with carved foliage,
late 17th-century, said to have come from a
London church. Scratchings: On arcade on S. of
chancel—various masons' marks. Seating: In S.
aisle—ten pews (Plate, p. 5) and one front, of
oak with buttressed ends each with a cinque-foiled
and traceried head, the back of one pew and the
single front have similar buttresses and heads, 15th-century. Stoup: In N. porch—recess with moulded
four-centred arch in a square head with rosettes in
the spandrels and a moulded label, 15th-century.
Miscellanea: In S. aisle—a length of moulded
and embattled beam, probably from a roof, 15th-century.
a(5). Church of St. Mary Magdalen, Billericay, stands on the E. side of the High Street.
(Plate, p. xl). The West Tower was built late in
the 15th century, but the rest of the church was
re-built in the 18th century and the two staircases
flanking the tower are modern additions.
Architectural Description—The West Tower
(8 ft. by 8½ ft.) is entirely of red brick (Plate,
p. xxxviii). It is of three stages, the lowest divided
into two storeys internally; the tower is finished
with a crow-stepped parapet projecting on trefoiled
corbelling; at the angles are small hexagonal
pinnacles. The tower-arch is two-centred and of
two hollow-chamfered orders; the responds have
each an attached shaft with moulded capitals;
the lower part of the tower-arch is blocked and
has an 18th-century archway inserted in the blocking. The N. and S. walls have each an opening,
both probably modern. The W. doorway has
moulded jambs and two-centred arch in a square
head with a moulded label; above it is a window
of two cinque-foiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head with a moulded label. The second
stage has in the E. wall a pointed opening.
The N. and W. walls have each a window of one
four-centred light. In the S. wall is a doorway with
a two-centred head, now blocked. The bell-chamber
has in each wall two windows, both with two-centred heads.
Fittings—Recess: In second stage—in S. wall,
plain rectangular recess with corbelled head, late
15th-century. Stoup: S. of W. doorway, externally, recess with square head and stone sill, basin
destroyed, late 15th-century.
The following monuments, unless otherwise
described, are of the 17th century and of two
storeys, timber-framed and plastered or weather-boarded; the roofs are tiled. Some of the buildings
have original chimney-stacks and exposed ceiling-beams.
Condition—Good or fairly good unless noted.
a(6). House, formerly an inn, at W. end of the
churchyard, is of two storeys with attics. It was
built on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending
towards the S. and W. but has been added to on
the S. The upper storey originally projected at
the N. end of the E. front but has been under-built
by the modern additions. The original chimney-stack at the W. end of the house has two diagonal
shafts. Inside the building is an original battened
a(7). House, on opposite side of the road to (6),
has an original chimney-stack of three diagonal
b(8). House and barn, on N.W. side of the road,
50 yards N. of the church. The House is a small
building of late 16th or early 17th-century date
with later additions. The lower part of the main
chimney-stack is original but the upper part has
been re-built. Inside the building some of the
timber-construction is exposed and there is a
blocked two-light window with a moulded frame and
mullion in the S. wall. There is a small portion of
early 17th-century panelling and an original doorway with a four-centred head.
The Barn, N. of the house, is possibly of the 17th
century but has undergone later repairs.
b(9). King's Head Inn, at Slicesgate, nearly
¾ m. N.E. of the church, has been added to and
b(10). Highbury, house (Plate, p. xxxiv), 1 m.
N.E. of the church, was built late in the 16th or
early in the 17th century on an L-shaped plan
with the wings extending towards the N.E. and
N.W. but later additions make the present plan
T-shaped. The timber-framing is exposed both
externally and internally. Inside the building is
a heavy battened door.
b(11). Bullstead Farm, house, ¾ m. N.N.E. of
the church, is a long 17th-century building which
has been slightly altered and added to at later dates.
The chimneys have been re-built but most of the
first floor windows retain their original lead casements and iron fastenings.
Billericay: High Street, W. side
a(12). Chantry House (Plate, p. xl), with shop
and tenement adjoining on the N., 300 yards S. of
the railway bridge, was originally one building of
the central-hall type with N. and S. cross-wings
and a S. extension. It was built probably early
in the 16th century but a floor has since been
inserted in the Hall and considerable modern
alterations have been made. On the E. front the
timber-framing is exposed at the S. end; the date
1510 below the S. gable is said to have been discovered when this was done. In the upper floor
of the S. wing are two blocked two-light windows
divided vertically by iron bars and in the roof
over the central block is a gabled dormer. Inside
the building some of the timber-construction is
exposed. The two blocked doorways in the N.
wall of the S. cross-wing suggest this to have been
the buttery wing. The ground-floor room is lined
with 16th-century panelling and the two disused
doors are panelled in a similar manner. A late
17th-century moulded wood cornice runs round
the room and by the fireplace is a panelled cupboard of the same date with a segmental head and
archivolt supported by fluted pilasters with
moulded caps. In the room above is some 16th-century panelling and a late 17th-century cornice
and fireplace. On the same floor are two battened
doors and a 16th-century door with wrought-iron
a(13). Red Lion Inn, 240 yards S.S.W. of (12),
is a fragment of a late 15th-century house, but has
been considerably altered and added to. Some of
the original roof-timbers are visible in the bedroom
ceilings. The purlins are moulded and have curved
wind-braces and the collar-beams are cambered.
a(14). Burstead House and tenement adjoining
on the N., 10 yards S. of (13), are of two storeys
with attics. Originally one house, the present
building has been refronted in brick and considerably altered; it now forms a rectangular
block with two modern additions at the back.
The main chimney-stack is of grouped diagonal
shafts. Inside the building, three of the first-floor
rooms have late 17th-century fireplaces with
panelled overmantels and one room has a panelled
dado. The main staircase is of the same date and of
massive character with square newels, moulded,
string and handrail and twisted balusters.
a(15). House, now two tenements, 150 yards S.
of the railway bridge, has a cross-wing at the
S. end and is of early 17th-century date or possibly
earlier. The roof of the N. block is much lower
than that of the cross-wing which has a slightly
projecting upper storey. There are. two early
17th-century chimney-stacks, the one to the S.
wing having three diagonal shafts.
a(16). House, now two tenements, 80 yards S.
of (15), is of weather-boarded timber-framing.
Inside the building is a battened door; the original
newel at the top of the stairs has a shaped head.
a(17). House, adjoining (16) on the S., is a late
16th-century rectangular building with a later
addition at the back. In the E. wall of the original
building is a moulded beam inscribed "THE:
YEAR: OF: OUR: LORDE: 1577 (?) ELIZABETH . . ."; the rest of the inscription is hidden
by the floor-beams in the back addition. There is
a battened door on the first floor.
a(18). House, adjoining (17) on the S., is of two
storeys with attics. The upper storey projected on
the W. front but has been under-built by a modern
a(19). House, incorporating tenements and the
N. end of the Chequers Inn, 5 yards S. of (18),
has been altered and added to on the E.
a(20). Chequers Inn and baker's shop, adjoining
on the S. immediately S. of (19), were built probably
in the 16th century as one house with a central
Hall and N. and S. cross-wings. Additions have
been made both on the back and front and in
adapting the building to its present purposes the
interior has been completely altered. The upper
storey of the S. cross-wing originally projected on
the street front but has been under-built by the
a(21). Barn (Plate, p. xli) at back of (20) is
built partly of split logs, and is probably of
a(22). Two tenements, in Chapel Street, adjoining
(21) on the S., were built late in the 16th or early in
the following century and were probably parts of
the same house. The southernmost is of two storeys
with attics. Both have been added to at the back
and otherwise altered. The upper storey of the
N. tenement projects on the street front and is
carried on curved brackets at either end. Inside
the building is an original door and the stairs to
the attics are probably of the same date.
a(23). Shop, 80 yards S. of the church, is of two
storeys with attics. It has been much altered.
a(24). Conservative Club, adjoining (23) on the S.,
has a modern front to the lower storey.
a(25). House, adjoining (24) on the S., is modern
but has over the back door a re-used door-head
carved with a simple enrichment and the date
1588, 13 (?) and the letter M.
a(26). House and shop, 25 yards S. of (25) has
a cross-wing at the N. end.
a(27). Council Offices, 140 yards S. of (26) has
a central block, N. and S. cross-wings. The lower
storey of the N. cross-wing forms an open
carriage-way to the yard at the back; the S.
wing has been extended. Both internally and
externally the building has been much altered.
a(28). House, 25 yards S. of (27) is of two storeys
with attics and cellars. It is of early 18th-century date but has been much altered.
a(29). Dryden House, adjoining (28) on the S., is
of two storeys with attics and cellars. The roofs
are covered with slates. It was built early in
the 18th century on an L-shaped plan with the
wings extending towards the N. and E., but
later additions make the present plan rectangular.
The street front has a wooden modillioned
a(30). House, now three tenements, 20 yards S.
of (29), has additions at the back. The main
chimney-stack has three diagonal shafts.
a(31). House, now two tenements, 50 yards S.
of (30), has a cross-wing at the S. end with a
projecting upper storey on the street front. There
are modern additions at the back. Inside the
building are some moulded battened doors.
Billericay, Plan Shewing Position of Monuments
b(32). Burial-Mounds, etc., in Norsey Wood,
1 m. N.W. of Billericay Church. The wood is
thickly planted and partly enclosed within a strong
bank from 5 ft. to 6 ft. high. In it are two
burial-mounds which were opened in 1865.
(Essex Arch. Soc. Trans., V, p. 214 (1873), N.S.,
V, p. 227.) The S. burial-mound is 45 ft. in
diameter and 5 ft. high and was found to contain
"a British urn of rude workmanship and three
large burial urns with ashes and calcined bones
The N. burial-mound is about 50 ft. in diameter
and 5 ft. high and contained seven similar urns all
within 3 ft. of the summit. Across the S. end of the
wood is a bank about ½ m. long shown on the
O.S. sheets as "The Deerbank." There are several
shallow pits in the wood of doubtful origin but of
considerable antiquity. (See also Roman (3).)
Condition—Of burial-mounds, fairly good.