To think I nearly missed seeing this little beauty of a church. I was in Roydon attending a school fete in the cold, wind and rain, supporting my grandchildren who attend the primary school there. After a couple of hours spent pretending to be warm and having finally won a coconut that probably cost me £50 (my aim is terrible and the stall holder decided the best thing to do was lie flat on the ground and cover his head with his arms when it was my turn to throw), I decided to go for a walk through Roydon as I’ve only seen this lovely little village briefly when either dropping the kids off or picking them up.
10 minutes later I was at St Peter-ad-Vincula (St. Peter in chains) and walking through the door of this Grade 1 Listed Building. The priest – Dr. Anthea Cannell – was sitting quietly folding order of service sheets for the next day’s service. She stood up and gave me such a lovely warm smile and shook my hand that my instinct was to stay awhile and find out more. What a lovely knowledgeable lady!
Anthea explained that the original church was built between 1225 and 1240 and now forms the nave, which extends from the organ to the Colte Chapel screen. She gave me a little leaflet ‘A Short History’ of the church, which further explained that St Peter’s was probably built by Sir Walter Fitzgerald who at that time was the Lord of the Manor of Roydon. He was also a prominent member of the Knights Templar and it was assumed that he also had help with the build from that quarter.
Without going into too much detail, there is a brass plaque on the left side of the altar marking the place where Sir Thomas Colte died in 1476. Sir Thomas saved the life of the Yorkist King, Edward IV, during the War of the Roses. The King rewarded Thomas by giving him a Knighthood, plus money and lands in Essex, including the Manor of Nether Hall in Roydon. So the first Coltes arrived in Roydon in the 1460s.
The Sanctuary (now the Colte Chapel) was added at the end of the 14th Century and the screen dates to around 1380. The Tower was added around 1450 and was probably based on Norman work.
There are six Hatchments (the diamond-shaped wooden boards with coats of arms painted on them) in the church, relating to families connected with the church.
The old organ was destroyed by fire in 1968 and a new one was installed in 1970.
The roof of the nave is a beautiful wooden structure, showing the fabulous workmanship of its day.
The churchyard has a modern section where burials still take place and a conservation area where most of the ancient memorials have now been taken away. Part of the conservation area is reserved for the burial of ashes and, in 1996, a new memorial carved by Angela Godfrey was erected to commemorate the names of those whose ashes are buried nearby.
Time to get back to the Fete. I walked slowly, taking a few pictures of wisteria-covered cottages along the way. I wondered as I walked, if there would be any time left to have a go at “kick the ball through the hoop.” I can picture the stall-holder flinching at the thought.