A Short History

In 653 AD, St Cedd, a monk from Lindisfarne, was sent to Essex as a missionary. Cedd landed at Bradwell-on-Sea, where he founded a minster - a church base for clergy to teach the Christian faith in the surrounding area. Over the next ten years Cedd established four more minsters, including at a major Roman crossroads above the Thames, now known as 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. Little is known of the parish history until the 12th century when the church was rebuilt in stone.

In the early 14th century the church was much enlarged with the addition of a north aisle. 1861/2 saw much rebuilding of the church: the chancel, north aisle and south porch being practically rebuilt.

In the 20th 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 old chancel was removed and the present choir and sanctuary were built at the east end, together with the choir aisle, the St George Chapel (behind the organ) and the Lady Chapel in the north-east corner of the church. The sacristy and choir vestry were added later.

The church was extensively refurbished and restored in 1992.

In 2003 the church was re-ordered, creating a large open space in the centre of the church.

A Tour of the Church

THE CHURCH TOWER is the oldest part of the present church building, the lower parts dating from about 1200, when the original timber church was rebuilt in stone. The tower reaches to a height of 28 metres (90 feet). Note the ancient timbers supporting the bell chamber, with grooves worn in the wood by bell ropes.

The tower houses FOUR BELLS. They range in weight from 10 cwt (inscribed 'God save our nobel Queene Elizabeth 1602') to 7 cwt which was cast in the mid-15th century.

THE FONT, where new Christians are baptised into the Christian faith, dates from the late 15th century. It was originally in the chapel of Upminster House (the home of the Branfil family) and was donated to the church in 1777 when the house was demolished. The font used to stand at the 'crossways' by the church door but was removed to its present position in 1976. Nothing is known of the church's original font.

Looking east from the tower area, you see the MAIN AISLE leading to an open area by the PULPIT. A movable altar is placed in the middle of this area on Sundays and is the focus of worship. This area is also used for concerts and other community events.

Further to the east are the CLERGY STALLS and CHOIR STALLS. At the far east end of the church is the HIGH ALTAR.

Beneath the Pieta is an ancient COFFIN LID that was discovered when the foundations were being dug for the Lady Chapel.

To the left of the altar, on the east wall, is a small safe (covered by curtains) known as an AUMBRY. This contains the Reserved Sacrament – the bread consecrated at Holy Communion. It stands as a sign of the presence of Christ in the Church. (Please respect the sanctity of the aumbry by not touching it).

To the right of the altar is a VOTIVE CANDLE STAND. Anyone may light a candle and place it here as a sign of their prayers.

Starting in the Lady Chapel, on the north wall, are the STATIONS OF THE CROSS. There are fourteen of these in sequence around the whole church. They depict the story of Jesus' death, from his condemnation by the authorities to his interment in the tomb following his crucifixion. The Stations of the Cross are used for devotion, particularly in the season of Lent before Easter.

Go through the opening to the right of the altar. This leads into the space between the choir stalls and a high altar.

The HIGH ALTAR was designed to be the place from where worship was to be led. Since the creation of the open space next to the pulpit, where a movable altar is placed on Sundays, the high altar is less frequently used.

Beside the high altar are doors that lead into the Sacristy and Choir Vestry area. These doors are locked outside service times.

The STAINED GLASS WINDOW above the high altar depicts some of the saints of the Church. Among them (to the right of centre) are St Cedd (the founder of Upminster Church) and St Laurence (the Patron of the church). St Cedd is seen holding a model of the original church made of wood and thatch. St Laurence holds a model of the church much as it is today.

Next to the choir stalls is a fine two manual Tickell PIPE ORGAN installed in 2003.

Pass behind the organ into the St George Chapel.

The SAINT GEORGE CHAPEL was considerably reduced in size when the present organ was installed. It is therefore only used for worship on Saint Georges’ day.

Above the altar is a STAINED-GLASS WINDOW depicting three English saints of local interest: St Helena, St Mellitus, and St Ethelburga. This window replaces one that was bomb damaged during the Second World War.

On the south wall behind the organ are a set of MONUMENTAL BRASSES collected together from more vulnerable places around the church. They are interesting for their depiction of period costume and armour.

At the west end of the St George Chapel is a CARVED OAK SCREEN.

Beyond the screen the final two STATIONS OF THE CROSS can be seen.

Audio Guide

Follow this link to our audio guide of St Laurence Church. This guide explores the history of the church building and how it has changed across the centuries.

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