The Old Church

Morant apparently preferred the form “Mile End”, and this spelling also appears on the present Church Plate, for the beautiful silver Chalice and Paten which are used in the Church today are those originally used in the old Church; they were made as a pair in 1660 and the inscription on the Chalice is as follows:

This cup was made in March 1660. Robert Root and Edward Springham being then Churchwardens of the parrish of Mile End by Colchester.

The inscription on the Paten is similar, except that “parish” is spelled correctly with one “r”.

The earliest Church Registers, which were saved from the old Church, are in good condition: the first entries are:

St. Michael Miland in Colchester.
Christengs.
John ye son of Mary Giles three years old and Sarah ye daughter of Mary Giles five years old were baptised Novemebr ye 5th 1671.

The first marriage recorded is as follows:

June ye 9. 1674. Jefferv Marsh of Tolfbury, singleman; and Margaret Wright of ye same town widow were married.

The first entry in the Burial Register makes reference to an act of 1667 which was passed to help the woollen industry, requiring that every person should be buried in a woolen shroud; the entry is as follows:

John ye son of Robert Bacon sen. was buried August 30th 1678. An affidavit that he was buried in woolen was brought September 8th.

Illustration of the old churchThis description of the old Church is taken from Morant’s “History of Colchester”, previously referred to:

The Church is of one pace with the Chancel, and very small: at the West end there is a little wooden Turret, containing one Bell. It is rated in the Kings Books at £7.10s. John Hetoun was Rector of This Parish in 1310.

The foundation stones, and a number of tombstones, may still be seen in the grounds of the Rectory. An effigy of St. Michael, taken from the old Church, is housed in the present Church. The Illustration is a reproduction of a picture showing the Church as it appeared in Morant’s time.

Newcourt’s Repertorium (Ecclesiastical Parochial history of the Diocese of London) gives the following information:

Mvlend. Rectory in the Archdeac. of Colchester, Deanry and Hundr. of Lexden. and is one of the four Parishes within the Liberties of that town, distant about a mile, N. and because the Ch. is dedicated to St Michael the Arch-Angel, is Commonlv call’d S. Michael Milend It is subject to the Archdeacon. The Ch. is a Rectory, and belong‘d to the Pri. and Conv. of S. Botolph in Colchester, who continu’d Patrons till their Suppression. Then falling to the Crown. Hen. VIII Reg. 28 granted the Advowson to Sir Tho. Audley. Kt. Chancellor of his Court of Augmentations who presented to it in 1542. and by his Will, gave it to his Brother Thomas Audley, who not many Years after, pass’d it away to John Lucas, Esq; who presented in 1551, in which Family, afterwards enobled, it continu’d, till bv the Death of John, Lord Lucas, in 1670, without Issue-Male it came to Anthony, E. of Kent, by his Marriage with Mary, his sole Daughter and Heir, in which Noble Family of Kent, I suppose it still continues.

This was in 1710; the Patron in 1851 was the Rt. Hon. Thomas Philip Earl of Grey, K.G.; later, Earl Cowper was Patron; and at the present time the living is in the gift of Balliol College, Oxford.

The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, 1922, states:

The old church fell down in the 19th Century and a new church was built in the village in 1854-5. On the site are the remains of the rubble foundations of the nave about 18ft. wide and of indeterminate length: the chancel has entirely disappeared. Near the entrance to the churchyard are two pieces of 14th or 15th Century moulded stonework.

And what of the Rectors who served the Parish in this first Church of Myland? A list of their names is appended, but only of the Rev. Philip T. Strong - have we any written records. The first existing Parish Minute Book contains the minutes of Parish or Vestry Meetings attended by him and his Churchwardens from 1824 onwards, and in the early part of the 19th Century the Parish Councils dealt with matters relating to Highways, Poor Law and Public Health, although these powers were lost to them one after another in the era of reconstruction which followed the Reform Act of 1832. The Rev. P. Strong held a position of great influence in the Parish; he was concerned too with the need for providing general education for the children, as is shown by this appeal which he sent out on March 30th, 1844:

Revd. P. Strong having found the efficiency of his Sunday School sadly impeded by the idle interval between Sabbath and Sabbath, feels constrained by a sense of duty to appeal to his Parishioners, to help him in obtaining a Weekly Establishment for the Children of the labouring Poor. His object is, not to educate overmuch, but to train up both sexes, with such principles and information, as may make them diligent, useful, & religious Members of Society in the Class to which they belong. And he does not desire to keep them under Tuition, the Girls after 14, & the Boys after 9 years of age, except on Sundays.

A Schoolroom (it is well known) has been already provided. And Mr. Strong earnestly hopes (when the very desirable objects of his proposal are considered) that it will receive the liberal support of all, who are connected with the Parish.

Photo of the old school buildingsThe result was a subscription list totalling nearly £20, and the day-school was soon established in premises on the opposite side of the road to the Rectory (The picture on the left is of the old school).

In 1955, there were still people living in the village who remembered stories told by their grandparents, about the Rev. P. Strong. Mrs. Mortis, of Nayland Road, told how her husband’s grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth Osborne, used to recollect that one day she was talking to a friend on North Hill and the two girls watched the aged clergyman, who was descending the hill, stop, turn, and look back to the town whence he had come. One said to the other: “Just look at Parson Strong! He be gazing at that owd hill as if he fare never to set eyes on it again’ “ That evening Parson Strong, after thirty-two years’ faithful service in the Parish, was called from this life whilst he knelt at his bedside repeating the Lord’s Prayer.

Four years later, Mrs. Osborne (Elizabeth Kettle, as she was then) was married in the little old Parish Church of Myland, and by this time the foundation of the new Church was already being excavated; both her brother Tom and her “best man” were among those employed on the work.