Monument record MCC7565 - Church of St Michael and All Angels, Copford


C12 church with Norman wall paintings, vaulted apse (nave and chancel also originally vaulted) and Norman work of various periods. Bettley and Pevsner (2007, p.305) describe it as 'the most remarkable Norman parish church in Essex'.


Grid reference Centred TL 9349 2269 (31m by 20m)
Map sheet TL92SW
County ESSEX


Type and Period (3)

Full Description

C12 church with Norman wall paintings, vaulted apse and Norman work of various periods. The nave has C13 brickwork in the arcades. <1>
Built c.1125-30, probably as a chapel by the bishops of London. Three-bay nave, one-bay chancel and apsidal sanctuary. The whole was originally vaulted (the springers are still visible) and the apse still is; Norman vaults in parish churches are exceedingly rare in England.<7>

The Norman work is of more than one period which includes the addition of a south transept and, in the C13, a south aisle. The arcade contains a rare but not notable example of C13 brickwork. The 'Danes skin' from the north door has recently been re-examined and confirmed as human.<2> C12 with C13 and C14 alterations. Built of coursed rubble and Roman brick with some uncoursed rubble on the south aisle, and with dressings of limestone; the bell tower is weatherboarded and shingled. The early C12 nave and chancel are apparently of one build. The roof is late C13 scissor braced with two octagonal crown posts. Of the original vault only abutments and springing for the transverse arches remain in the nave. Early C12 apse with plain half domed vault and three windows with round head of two arches of Roman brick. Early C12 north door with plain jambs, round arch and tympanum filled with Roman bricks. The south wall of the nave has four arches, one modern, one late C12, one late C13 and the fourth possibly C14. There are early C12 window heads above the arches. The west wall has two windows, the lower C14 set in a C12 opening and the upper C12. The south aisle is late C13 or early C14; of the three windows two are modern and the third C14.

There are mid C12 wall paintings, much restored, in the apse of St Michael and St Gabriel and 10 apostles, centrally a majesty with rainbow supported by angels. The nave and chancel have numerous figures with extensive decorative work and diaper motifs.<3> The apse, nave and chancel were built c.1100 with barrel vault and chamber above. Late in the C12 the easternmost arch of the south arcade was inserted and the south transept or chapel added. Probably at the end of the C13 the chapel was extended west to form a south aisle. The apse has flat pilaster buttresses. The roof of the body of the church is of trussed rafter type. The bell turret at the west end of the nave stands on 2 heavy posts with a tie beam and curved braces probably of the C15. The fittings include two bells of the C15, a possibly C14 rectangular iron bound chest in the nave, an early C15 screen between the chancel and the nave, a C12 square bowled font of Purbeck Marble and late C15 window glass in the west window of the nave. There are the remains of mid C12 paintings on the whole of the original building which were discovered in 1865 and have been considerably restored.<4><5>

The paintings are by far the most important medieval wall paintings in Essex. They date from the same time as the church, and are comparable with contemporary paintings in St Gabriel's Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral. Heavily restored, especially in the apse - discovered during repairs in 1871-2 and overpainted by Daniel Bell.<7> In the apse, Christ in circular Glory surrounded by angels, with apostles below and Signs of the Zodiac in the soffit of the arch.

Rectangular, iron-bound chest, assigned to the C14.<7>

Font, square purbeck type, c.1200.<7>

Graveyard survey and plan in this source.<6>

Site Assessment by Rodwell and Rodwell = 'The Norman wall paintings are well known and are the finest murals in the Diocese. The murals have been reconstructed but essentially they are archaeological reconstructions and their educational value is great. Internally there are deep underfloor heating ducts and externally the ground level was lowered drasticlly in the C19. While archaeologically there are various questions to be asked, both above and below ground, the evidence must now be largely inaccessible or destroyed.'<2>

Ten digital photographs taken July 2016.<8>

Sources/Archives (10)

  • --- Photograph: Priddy, DA. 1989. unknown.
  • --- Photograph: Priddy, DA. 1989. unknown.
  • <1> DESC TEXT: unknown. 1960 0nwards. SMR form unknown.
  • <2> Monograph: Rodwell, Warwick J with Rodwell, KA. 1977. Historic Churches: a wasting asset. p.104.
  • <3> DESC TEXT: Department of the Environment. 1982. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest: Colchester Rural. p.62.
  • <4> DESC TEXT: RCHME. 1922. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex - Volume 3. Vol 3, pp.76-78.
  • <5> DESC TEXT: RCHME. 1922. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex - Volume 3. Vol 3, photo opposite pp.77-78.
  • <6> MENTION: Evans, K and West, H. 1982. Churchyard surveys in the Colchester District. Vol 25, p27.
  • <7> Monograph: Bettley, James and Pevsner, Nikolaus. 2007. The buildings of England: Essex. pp.305-306.
  • <8> Photograph: Tipper, J.. 2016. Photographs of St Michael & All Angels' Church, Copford. Digital.

Finds (9)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

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Record last edited

Sep 12 2016 12:01PM

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