A Brief History of the church
In England’s Thousand Best Churches (1999) Simon Jenkins writes, ‘we could be nowhere but Essex. The church sits on a small eminence attended by a grove of Scots pines amid open fields.
Prior to the Norman conquest, a large area south west of Chelmsford was known as Gigingas or Gegingas. This included the syllable ‘ing’ meaning possession and is seen in the names of Ingatestone, Fryerning, Margaretting, Mountnessing and Ingrave. It appears that the Normans divided up the territory and Ingatestone and Fryerning were known collectively as Ging-at-the-stone. Fryerning was given to Robert de Gernon, whose grandson Gilbert Montfitchet granted half the manor of Ginges, together with the church, to the Knights Hospitallers of Jerusalem. The Knights Hospitallers were suppressed in 1540 by Henry V111. The area became the property of Sir William Banners, a royal auditor. It became known as Ging Berners or Ging Fryerne, a reference to the Knights Hospitalers who were known as fratres of friars. In the late 16th century part of the area became the possession of the De Vere family, Earls of Oxford. Thee generations later, William Berner’s great grandson sold Fryerning to Sir Nicholas Wadham. He married Dorothy, daughter of William Petre. This couple founded Wadham College in Oxford. The college have been patrons of the church since 1620 and were involved in the appointment of the present incumbent.
The nave is the oldest part of the building, dating from the 11th century. It is constructed of pudding stone, together with courses of flint and quartz peddles and are three feet thick. There are also occasional courses of Roman tiles. It is know there was a Roman villa in the parish. There are five rounded Norman windows, one bricked up and only visible from the outside.
The font is finely carved from Caen stone from Normandy, where it was probably made. It is 12th century. It has iron staple marks on the top to show it could be locked so that the holy water could not be stolen. These were ordered to be fitted in 1236. It is possible that this font, together with two similar ones at Little Lavers and Abbess Roding, were given to the churches by Matilda, mother of Henry 11. She is known to have given generously to churches and these three churches were all connected with relations or friends of hers. The design on the font are on the north face a Vine, the west a Cross and Crown, on the east a tree of Jesse and the south the Sun, Moon and Stars.
The brick tower was constructed in the early 16th century by the Knights Hospitalers, replacing an earlier wooden one. The bricks are almost certainly of local origin. Two local fields are still known as Brick Kiln Field and Brick Clamp Field. Technical evidence strongly points to the tower having been constructed under Girolamo de Trevizi, architect to Henry V111.
The six bells date from the 16th century. The oldest is the second, made in 1590 by Robert Mot. Three others were made in 1716. A fifth in 1793. The treble bell dates from 1919.
The tiled porch dated from 1869. The vestry is also Victorian. The restoration of this date gives the church its present appearance. Until that time there was a flat ceiling which intersected the chancel arch and the east window. A gallery was removed from the western end. The exterior plastering was also removed. The pews and reading desk were provided. Total cost of the 1869 restorations was £1,400.
From this period dates the memorial to Edgar Disney, one of eight members of the family buried in a large tomb in the north of the churchyard.
Most of the glass dates from the late 19th century. The East window shows the Annunciation, Crucifixion and Resurrection. Worthy of note is the figure above the Resurrection, holding a Veronica’s cloth, containing the impression of Christ’s face.
In the North wall is a window in memory of Airey Neave, who spent the early part of his life in Fryerning. The window contains pictures of Colditz, from which he escaped, and the House of Commons, where he served for 24 years before being assassinated by the I.N.L.A. The window depicts St. Michael standing over the devil and St. Christopher carrying the Christ child over the water. It was designed by Airey’s second cousin Penelope and dedicated on 24th of March 1985 by the then Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt. Rev John Trillo.
To commemorate the Millennium, a window designed by Lisa Z. Morgan was installed. The artist has written, “I was inspired by the imagery on the font in the Church at Fryerning. This triggered ideas around the significance of flowers and plants. Flowers are symbolic of so many things but I was especially interested in the fact that they are constant; they make reference to past, present and future”. The striking window contains a vine, a rose and a lily. The artist continues, “the flower blooms are giant in scale which creates a kind of Alice in Wonderland experience for the viewer, but more importantly, the exuberance of the blooms epitomises the joy and enthusiasm we should feel about the coming Millennium. ‘There is no joy above the joy of the heart’ Eccl. 16.”
Elizabeth Harwood Royle
In July 2002 a plaque was dedicated to Elizabeth Harwood Royle, ‘The English Soprano’, who was a resident of Fryerning and sang there every Christmas. A rose, name after her, is planted by the tower.
A history of the church, written in 1979 and amended in 1992 is for sale in the church. Alternatively, it can be ordered from the Rectory, 1 Rectory Close, Fryerning Lane, Ingatestone, Essex, CM4 0DB. Cheques for £5, including post and packing, should be written to Fryerning PCC.
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