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Parish Church of St Laurence

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In 653 AD, St. Cedd a monk from Lindisfarne was sent to Essex as a missionary by Bishop Finan. Cedd landed at Bradwell - on- Sea, where he founded a minster - a church base for clergy to teach the Christian faith in the surrounding areas or "the parish". Over the next ten years Cedd established four more minsters at Tilbury, Canewdon, Southminster, and Upminster.

The first Church in Upminster was probably made of timber and thatch, as there was no local source of stone. It would have been very small, as the population was sparse; the Doomsday Book records there being 31 working men and their families. Little is known of the parish history until the reign of King John (1199 - 1216) when the Church was rebuilt in stone.

In the early fourteenth century the church was much enlarged with the addition of a north aisle, all that now remains of this is the three bay north arcade. Then little is known until the seventeenth century, when the Archdeacon’s court at Romford ordered the churchwardens to repair the church which had fallen into decay.

1861/2 saw much rebuilding to the church; the chancel, north aisle, St. Mary’s chapel and south porch being practically rebuilt, except perhaps the core of some of the walls, and the south wall of the nave was refaced, or rebuilt.

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In the twentieth century Upminster rapidly developed from a village to a suburb, the old village church was clearly inadequate. Accordingly, extensive additions were undertaken in 1928/9 from the designs of Sir Charles Nicholson. The then existing chancel was removed and the present beautiful choir and sanctuary were built at the east end, together with the choir aisle and the St. George’s chapel on the south side and the Lady chapel at the east end of the north aisle. The sacristy and choir vestry were later added.

In 1976 the font was moved under the tower, from its earlier position at the intersection of the aisles

The Organ

The extensive additions to the church necessitated the re sighting and enlargement of the organ in 1929, this work being carried out by Henry Speechly & Sons of Dalston. This instrument was modernised and further enlarged in 1958 by the John Compton Organ Co. Ltd.

In 1975 Martin K. Cross, organ builder of Grays, carried out a general overhaul with tonal improvements. In the course of the work some pipes from an earlier organ of 1876 by Bishop & Son were found to be still in use. The organ consists of three manuals with 29 speaking stops.

The Churchyard

The oldest remaining memorials in the churchyard are four headstones placed against the outer walls of the North aisle. Two are dated 1717 and the others 1710 and 1695. There are also several good examples of eighteenth and nineteenth century table tombs.

St. Laurence

The sources for the martyrdom of Laurence are among the earliest, though the details are thin. Laurence was one of the seven deacons at Rome and closely associated with Pope Sixtus II, martyred just a few days before him. His examiners insisted he produce the Church treasures. He asked for three days, in which time he gave the church wealth to the poor and needy, then assembling all the poor, he is reputed to have said, "These are the treasures of the Church." The story of his being put to death on a gridiron is a much later addition to his story. He died on August 10th in the year 258.

The Parish Church is normally open every day, and is used daily for worship - details of services are in the porch. More information about the church building and its history can be found in the Brief history and Guide, on sale at the back of Church priced £1.

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