Building » Ingatestone – St John the Evangelist and St Erconwald

Ingatestone – St John the Evangelist and St Erconwald

Roman Road, Ingatestone, Brentwood, Essex CM4

A 1930s neo-Tudor brick church, its design reflecting that of nearby Ingatestone Hall, the chapel of which served the oldest mission in the diocese. The benefactors were Sebastian Henry Petre and T.G. Havers. The church has several memorials to members of the Petre family and contains furnishings from the hall chapel. There are several stained glass windows by Reginald Hallward, and Morris & Co. (who used cartoons by Burne-Jones and J.H. Dearle). 

Sir William Petre rebuilt Ingatestone Hall in c.1539, marking the beginning of the presence of the Catholic Petre family in Ingatestone. The Hall had several chapels from the sixteenth century, as well as two priest hides. The Petre family had personal chaplains who from c.1703 also served the newly-established local mission, making Ingatestone the oldest mission in today’s Diocese of Brentwood. By 1750, the congregation had risen to 135. In 1840 the Ginge Petre charity (originally founded by Sir William Petre in the 1540s) was re-founded and the almshouses, now restricted to Catholic residents, were rebuilt, together with a chapel. (They are now known as Sir William Petre Almshouses). In 1863, the chapel at Ingatestone Hall was enlarged by the architect Daniel Cubitt Nichols, who had built other churches for Lord Petre, including St Edward the Confessor, Romford, in 1856, and St Helen, Ongar, in 1868-69. The extension was carried out instead of the erection of a new church which would have been preferred by the parish priest, Canon Last. By the 1890s there was a Catholic cemetery at Ingatestone, where Canon Last was buried.

The parish was erected in 1918 and in 1930, the question of a new church was being seriously considered. By 1931, a site had been donated by Sebastian Henry Petre (1857-1934) of Tor Bryan House. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Doubleday on 29 June 1931. The church was opened on 10 April 1932 and consecrated by Bishop Doubleday on 4 June 1932. Sebastian Petre contributed £1,000 towards the construction of the church and presbytery. T.G. Havers gave another £1,000 and Scottish friends of the parish priest, Canon Roderick Grant, gave £500. The total cost of building the church and presbytery was £4,000. The architect was Francis (Frank) Jerome Sherrin, son of the architect George Campbell Sherrin. The buildings were built in red brick with neo-Tudor details, taking their cue from Ingatestone Hall (whose chapel was demolished in 1959) and the almshouses. Several furnishings came from the Ingatestone Hall chapel, including the Stations, the organ, the altar rails, a prie-dieu, and two of the stained glass windows.

In the 1980s a small meeting room was added, but a planned west porch remained unexecuted. In 1983, the sanctuary was re-ordered, involving the removal of the high altar, parts of which were incorporated in the new altar and ambo.


The church faces southeast, but this description follows conventional, liturgical orientation.

The church is built in red brick, laid externally in stretcher bond and internally in five rows of stretchers alternating with one row of headers. The roof is tiled and covers both nave and chancel, slightly narrowing at the east. The plan is longitudinal, with an aisleless nave. The sacristy connects church and presbytery at the southeast. Also at the southeast are a small polygonal confessional and the boiler room. The west front has diagonal buttresses and three levels of windows: on the ground floor, two lancets; above, a row of five windows; and a small rectangular opening in the apex of the gable which is topped by a gable cross. All the window heads in the church are four-centred and all openings have square label moulds. The south elevation has a two-light west window at the same height as the Tudor-arch entrance door beside it. The two nave windows to the east of the door are both of three lights, divided by a buttress and set higher than the westernmost window on the south side. The north elevation roughly mirrors this window arrangement in the nave, although it is not identical, lacking the door and with the two three-light windows spaced further apart. The fenestration of the south and north chancel elevations is symmetrical again, with a three-light window to the west and a single lancet to the east. The east gable also has diagonal buttresses and a gable cross. The row of five east windows is set above the foundation stone. The confessional at the southeast has a small canopied niche with a statue of Our Lady.

The nave has five bays (including that taken up by the west gallery) and the chancel three. The roof is arch-braced with a kingpost above the collar; this continues into the chancel. The west gallery has a panelled timber front with a ceramic Madonna in the style of Andrea della Robbia. The pipe organ in a Gothic Revival case was built by John Rust of Chelmsford (restored 1966). The gallery stair is in the southwest corner. In front of it stands a domestic-looking high-backed bench. In the northwest corner is the octagonal stone font, carved with a quatrefoil crucifixion scene and ballflowers. Beside it stands a prie-dieu made by Edward Petre, the benefactor’s second son, an architect and aviator, who presented it to the hall chapel shortly before his death in 1912. Nearby is a large crucifix which commemorates John J. Petre DSC RN, the benefactor’s fourth son, who died in 1917.

The sanctuary has a three-sided ambo with three panels from the original high altar depicting two coats of arms and the Agnus Dei set into aedicules with scallop-shell tympana. The reading desk on top of the ambo is in the shape of a timber eagle. The mensa of the original high altar is incorporated in the current altar, supported on two rows of four Doric columns. The easternmost end of the chancel is timber-panelled on three sides, which in the centre rises to a crucifix under a canopy. Set into the panelling are the aumbry and piscina. The tabernacle on a stone pedestal is in the southeast corner.

In front of the nave chairs are two timber balustrades with twisted balusters; the remains of the former altar rails which were, without their gates, adapted as kneelers. They were originally made for the hall chapel in memory of the Havers family and bear the inscription ‘Accipite et manducate/ex hoc omnes’ from the Eucharistic prayer. The door to the sacristy is on the south side of the chancel, beside the door to the small confessional. The Stations are plaster reliefs from Ingatestone Hall, here set into the brick walls.

Two stained glass windows were transferred from the hall chapel: The two lights at the west of the north wall (NVI) depicting a pilgrim angel and a saint were made in 1907 by Morris & Co., from cartoons by Burne-Jones. The westernmost nave window on the south side (SVI) has stained glass of St Agnes and Our Lady of Sorrows (John Hardman & Co, 1870s) in memory of Agnes Lucy Tuck, wife of William Havers, and Mary Walmesley (died 1871).

The chancel has three windows by Morris & Co of 1934-35, based on cartoons by Burne-Jones and J. H. Dearle. That on the north (NIII) depicts the three Scottish saints St Columba, St Andrew, and St Margaret of Scotland, in memory of Canon Grant (died 1934). The east window (I) depicts St Sebastian, St John, Our Lady of Lourdes, St Erconwald and St Edward, in memory of the benefactor Sebastian Petre (died 1934), his sons Edward (died 1912) and John Joseph (died 1917) and his daughter Sybil Mary Gough (died 1929). The south window (SIII) in memory of the Sibeth family (the family of Sebastian Petre’s wife) features Saints Nicholas, Joseph and Edmund. A further window in the southeast corner of the nave (SIV) is of 1931, by Reginald Hallward (1858-1948). It depicts St William of York, St Helena and St Thomas Becket, and commemorates William Havers of Bacons, near Ingatestone (died 1837).

Heritage Details

Architect: F. J. Sherrin

Original Date: 1932

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed