|St Mary Magdalene's Churchyard||Havering|
Still set in rural surroundings, the medieval church of St Mary Magdalene serves North Ockendon, one of the parishes of the Chafford Hundred. Largely flint, the building has elements of various periods from the C12th on. The Benyon family were local benefactors and funded its C19th restoration and building of the parish school and reading room. Local dignitaries commemorated in the church include the Poyntz family of North Ockendon Hall and the Russell family of Stubbers. Another owner of Stubbers, well-known botanist William Coys, (d.1627) was buried near the present chancel. The churchyard is entered through a gate, with a path flanked by a fine avenue of lime trees leading to another gate looking out onto open fields. Adjacent to the churchyard is Hall Farm on the site of the C16th moated North Ockendon Hall, destroyed during WWII.
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The medieval parish church of St Mary Magdalene in North Ockendon still stands in the middle of a rural farming area. North Ockendon was one of the parishes of the Chafford Hundred, the manor once held by Westminster Abbey. In 1935 the parish was divided between two urban districts, the south-west corner became part of Thurrock, the remainder joined to Hornchurch, now within LB Havering despite being outside the M25. Largely flint, the church has elements from various periods, with a C12th doorway, C13th arcade, C14th chancel and C17th pulpit. The chancel and main body of the church date from c.1170, the north aisle was added c.1240, the north chapel and arcade in 1300 and the tower in 1500 when the chancel was rebuilt. On a pillar between the chancel and chapel is carving of oak and vine leaves that is 700 years old. Further restoration work was carried out in the mid C19th and the early C20th and the latest restoration took place in 2003. In the C19th local benefactors, the Benyon family of Cranham Hall (q.v.), funded the restoration of the church by architect Richard Armstrong and also the building of the parish school and reading room in North Ockendon. The church houses some fine monuments such as that of the Russell family who lived at Stubbers (q.v.) from the 1690s to the 1940s. A prior owner of Stubbers, the botanist William Coys (d.1627) who developed Stubbers’ garden in the early C17th, is buried near the present chancel although there is no gravestone. The Poyntz chapel with its monuments and brasses, including eight marble tombs with kneeling effigies, presents an interesting portrait of this family of North Ockendon Hall who held the manor from the time of Edward III to 1714.
The churchyard is tranquil and well kept, entered from the roadway through a gate. A path flanked by a fine avenue of lime trees leads down to a gate looking out onto open fields. Through here and adjacent to the churchyard is Hall Farm, on the site of the C16th North Ockendon Hall, destroyed during World War II. Part of the C16th red brick garden walls and a portion of the moat can still be seen, comprised of 3 areas of water, the smallest northern pond surrounded by planted trees and shrubs, the central pond is used for angling as is the southern lake. An interesting shrine near the church is also visible, St Cedd's Well, now housed in a small grotto created by schoolchildren. St Cedd was a famous East Saxon bishop, his brother was St Chad, the patron saint of springs.
Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993) p569; Arthur Mee 'The King's England: London North of the Thames except the City and Westminster' (Hodder & Stoughton 1972); 'Parishes: North Ockendon', A History of the County of Essex: Volume 7 (1978), pp. 110-117; John Drury, 'Treasures of Havering', (Ian Henry Publications, 1998); Paul Drury Partnership for LB Havering, 'North Ockendon Conservation Area Character Appraisal and Management Proposals', c.2006.