Monument record MCC7842 - St Martin's Church, Colchester


Norman W tower incorporating Roman brick.


Grid reference TL 9960 2533 (point) (FCE)
Map sheet TL92NE


Type and Period (7)

Full Description

Norman W tower incorporating Roman brick. Nave, chancel and aisles C14-C15. <1> Walls are flint rubble with much Roman and later brick; dressings are limestone and Roman brick; roofs are tiled. Nave is early C12, and had a narrow N aisle. Late in the C12 the W tower was added. Early in the C14 the chancel was rebuilt and a N chapel was perhaps built at the same time. Late in the C14 the N and S arcades of the nave were built, the N aisle widened and the S aisle and the N and S transepts added. A S porch was probably built at the same time. About the middle of the C15 the chancel arch was rebuilt. The upper part of the tower fell, probably early in the C17 and later in the century the S porch was rebuilt. Restoration in the C19. Features and fittings include: C14, C15, C16 windows; C14 and C15 doorways late C14 (probably) door in nave N doorway; early C14 carved and moulded cancel roof with truss with braces forming a two-centred arch (photo in RCHM); plain roofs to nave, transepts, aisles, late C14; altar in chancel with consecration crosses; C13 coffin lid in chancel; raised C15 strap hinges on door in S aisle, S doorway; C15 font (photo in RCHM); late C14 niche on SW buttress of porch; C14 piscinae; C14 sedilia; C14 recess (Easter Sepulchre); early C15 screen. <2> <4> NW angle of C12 N aisle, narrower than present aisle reveals a church of that date. W tower also Norman but a little later. Early C14 chancel - most impressive early C14 features in roof truss across chancel. Early perpendicular transepts and N and S arcades. C14 font. Early C15 screen. <3> Rodwell suggests Anglo-Saxon origin (see 12265) for much of the present building. Ground plan is average size for a Colchester church - "it never achieved an imposing late medieval form like St Peter's or St James'. Parish had declined so much by C17 that the damaged tower was never repaired. This was partially halted by late C19 restorations but they were not completed and the church is still in a sorry state. Of the fitting reported by the RCHM Rodwell did not know the presesnt whereabouts. The C13 coffin lid was found in the chancel in the early C19 (see Buckler, source 7) and the rare medieval altar slab was found in 1894 and set up as a `mensa' (see source 8). It is now at St James' church. <5> <10> Other ref. <11> Three trial trenches excavated within church August 1991. Trench A contained a grave lined with Roman tile with pottery giving C11-C12 date. Probable medieval wall foundation of south aisle recorded with smooth U-shaped foundation trench running E-W. Possible earlier transept recorded, which later had aisle added to it. Trench B medieval walls of north chancel and eastern return of north aisle located in trench. Construction of large stones and reused Roman tile and peg tile bonded with mortar. Upper foundations of the E-W wall were of a later build than lower foundations. Trench C against western most part of north arcade. Foundation of pier consists of mortar and septaria with a layer of ?tranple, associated with the construction phase, was found. An iron nail and piece of residual Roman pot may suggest a medieval date. Foundation constructed in same way as in trench B. A sandy loam material was above the ?tranple layer and is also probably medieval.<12>

Site Assessment = In bad condition in 1977. Theatre store. <1> The church contains interesting C12 and C14 work, the roof truss forming an open screen in the chancel being an unusual feature. In good condition when the RCHM visited but some ivy on ruined tower. <2> The Norman W tower and C19 timber arch in the chancel are rare features. Church has been in decay for a long time, despite late C19 restorations. Since 1958 in use as a theatre store, interior has been wrecked by the daubing of green paint over medeival features. W end in urgent need of good restoration - should be preceded by complete fabric record. Uppermost archaeological layers against S side destoyed by C19 drain. It is very

Sources/Archives (12)

  • <1> DESC TEXT: Priddy, DA. unknown. SMR.
  • <2> DESC TEXT: RCHME. 1922. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex - Volume 3. Vol 3, pp.37-39.
  • <3> DESC TEXT: Pevsner, N. 1954. The Buildings of England, Essex. pp120-121.
  • <4> DESC TEXT: unknown. 1971. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest:Colchester. p130.
  • <5> DESC TEXT: Rodwell, Warwick J with Rodwell, KA. 1977. CBA Research Report No. 19 Historic Churches - a wasting asset. pp29-30.
  • <6> DESC TEXT: Morant, P. 1748. History of Colchester.
  • <7> DESC TEXT: Buckler, G. 1856. Twenty-two of the Churches of Essex, Architecturally Described and Illustrated. p121.
  • <8> DESC TEXT: Trans Essex Archaeological Soc. 1945. Trans Essex Archaeol Soc. New Series, Vol 23, p378.
  • <9> DESC TEXT: Rickward, G. 1891. Historical Sketch of the Parish of St Martin, Colchester.
  • <10> DESC TEXT: Hewett, CA. unknown. Church Carpentry. p125.
  • <11> RECORD SHEET/FORM: Ordnance Survey. unknown. OS cards. TL92NE3.7, 1976.
  • <12> DESC TEXT: Partridge, J. 1991. Summary report of the excavation practice and recording (level II) of three trial trenches inside St. 1991.

Finds (7)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Nov 3 2015 11:41AM

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