History, Legends and Folklore of The Parish Church Essex

History, Legends and Folklore of The Parish Church Essex

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History, Legends and Folklore of The Parish Church Essex

The 3rd August 2020 – 3rd August 2021 was Stephen and Yhana‘s first year on YouTube – To celebrate they are sharing one video a day across all of their favourite social media platforms – Facebook Page, Twitter and Website, as well as a daily shout out on their youtube community page. – So please check often incase you missed any of their videos during that first year.

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Stephen and Yhana - History and Adventure Hunters Almanac - OUT NOW
Stephen and Yhana – History and Adventure Hunters Almanac – OUT NOW

History, Legends and Folklore of The Parish Church Essex


Love church history? Check out this video on the History, Legends and Folklore of The Parish Church Essex.

Let’s explore the history of the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, anciently known as St. Leonard stands prominent in the centre of the village of Broomfield near. Chelmsford, Essex.

When the original Norman church was built in the late 11th century, Possibly around the time of the Domesday Book of 1086, the village was known as Brumfelda”, “Brumfeld” or “Brunfelle”, respectively.

The church was likely built on the site of an old wooden Saxon church which existed before the conquest.

There’s so much rich history here. I could go on and on…which I do in this video. Be sure to watch till the end.

The Church, The Dragon and other stories.

Broomfield Essex, the Church, The Dragon, Mandeville and Janes Family.

The parish church of St. Mary the Virgin, anciently known as St. Leonard stands prominent in the centre of the village of Broomfield near. Chelmsford, Essex.

When the original Norman church was built in the late 11th century, Possibly around the time of the Domesday Book of 1086, the village was known as Brumfelda”, “Brumfeld” or “Brunfelle”, respectively.

The church was probably built on the site of an old wooden Saxon church which existed before the conquest,

Before the Normans invaded Broomfield was owned by a Saxon lord named Saewulf – his name appears as Lord of 30 other holdings before 1066 around England and as far away as Cornwall.

He lost his Broomfield holding after the Normans invaded, but may not have fallen entirely from favour as his name still appears as landowner of 7 places from 1086 onwards, these landholdings were held directly from the crown and so he was answerable to King William I.

In telling the history of the church as we know today, I am going to begin its humble beginnings from 1086

From 1086 onwards The Land was owned by Geoffrey de Mandeville who was also Tenant-in-chief of 138 places across the country, which off cause Included Broomfield and Great Leighs, which is interesting as both of these churches have a round tower.

Geoffrey was an important Domesday tenant-in-chief and one of the ten richest men in England at the time.

William granted him large estates for his loyalty at Hastings these were primarily in Essex but across ten other counties as well. He served as the first sheriff of London and Middlesex and possibly the first sheriff of Essex too. He was also a constable of the Tower of London and one of his castles and possibly his main residence was Pleshey Castle, not far from Broomfield.

In 1086 Broomfield may only have been a smallholding consisting of 9 villagers, 4 slaves, 14 acres of meadow, 50 pigs, woodland and a mill situated on the nearby River Chelmer – but it played a small and important part in the history of Norman England.

Namely, due to the Mandeville family.

Geoffrey was married twice, firstly to Athelaise de Balts, whom they had issue – 3 children and a later second wife only known to us as Lescelina.

His three children are as follows:

William, the eldest son would later become the 1st Earl of Essex.

Beatrice his daughter was married to Geoffrey Fitz Eustace, a brother to Godfrey of Bouillon, the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem.

Geoffrey Fitz Eustace, step-mother was Goda, Princess of Wessex a daughter of Ethelred the unready.

We then come to Geoffrey de Mandeville’s youngest son, Walter, who was lord of Broomfield under his father. So paid taxes directly to him. His name is recorded in the Domesday book for another 159 places across England.

This Walter resided at Broomfield Hall nearly 1000 years ago, and he may have overseen the building of Broomfield Parish Church.

The south wall of that original small church containing nave and chancel still survives today. The windows were small lancets then and the chancel was shorter.

This can be seen from the line of red Roman bricks that formed the original south-east corner. The church was built from re-used material or locally sourced stone, Flint provides one of the biggest sources of material used in the building work. Flint can be found in abundance in Essex and throughout North-West Europe in fact, almost every pebble on the beach and in gardens is flint. It’s a hard rock found in the Chalk, a soft, white, limestone layer that is up to 200m thick in north Essex and Cambridgeshire. In north-west Essex, this chalk is between 66 and 90 million years old –

Chalk started as a thick mud on the floor of a prehistoric tropical sea that covered most of Britain and north-west Europe. This mud contained the remains of tiny sea creatures (plankton) which grew shells of calcium carbonate. When they died, this plankton and their shells fell to the seafloor to form a thick mud, which compacted into chalk over millions of years.

As it compacted, it squeezed out the seawater containing dissolved quartz, or silica (which comes from the skeletons of tiny sponges, a very simple animal). This silica was pushed out into gaps, cracks and burrows in the chalky mud to form nodules or layers of flint.

So it’s interesting, as I look at this church in front of me, most of what we see is just one huge fossil.

The Roman bricks seen in the South wall were probably recycled from an abandoned Roman Villa located nearby in New Barn Lane.

Here on the Southside of the church is also a projecting puddingstone. Some believe that such marker stones are an indication of a pre-Christian site.

The Roman tiles are also a reminder of an old Essex folk story, relating to a Dragon.

The Mandeville family originally planned to build the church at the top of New Barn Lane. But the Dragon of Broomfield would not let them, each day the villagers and builders most likely Saxon slaves set their building materials down at the top of New Barn Lane, but each night whilst the villagers slept the sneaky dragon moved those stones down to the Green. This continued night after night after night, Finally, the villagers gave up and so not to anger the Dragon they built the church where it is today.

At the end of New Barn Lane, in an adjacent field is a spot called Dragon’s Foot, this is also recorded on the tithe maps. Just here is a depression in the ground, now somewhat ploughed out but still deep enough to show exactly what it once was – A very big dragon’s footprint.

Dragons Foot was also the site of a Roman building which still yields numerous hypocaust tiles and bricks,

The Dragon story is a delightful one

Although truth is, it was probably just hardworking Saxons trundling cartloads of Roman bricks down to the Green on the orders of their new Norman masters.

The lack of cut stone may also be the reason for the round tower. The thickness of the wall at the tower arch which is virtually that of the church west wall and the tower wall together shows that this was added later, possibly about 1130. The circular structure of flint was built against the west wall, the tower grew at a very slow process and over several years and built of rubble and fieldstones. Elsewhere church round towers fell out of fashion and so were gradually replaced as transporting stone became easier and more affordable, but Broomfield is proud to be one of the six that survive in Essex. The other five round tower churches in Essex can be found at Bardfield Saling, Great Leighs, Lamarsh, South Ockendon and Pentlow.

The one here at Broomfield is by far the biggest.

The round tower churches of England are an incredible Saxon and Norman cultural legacy. These fantastic historical structures feature round, rather than square, towers and were mostly built during the early Norman period. They have their roots in Saxon tradition and are confined to just five counties, with the vast majority of them in Norfolk (124 intact and eight ruins). This could be due to the smaller stone found in East Anglia being more easily fashioned into round towers, but the enigmatic structures are shrouded in mystery, with little known about their origins.

The first church was dedicated to St Leonard and around 1150 the church and tithes of Broomfield were given to the Prior and canons of Holy Trinity, London.

The Holy Trinity Priory, also known as Christchurch Aldgate, was a priory of Austin canons (Black Canons, due to their black cloaks) founded around 1108 by Queen Matilda of England, wife of King Henry I, near Aldgate in London This foundation appointed the vicars for Broomfield until the Reformation, when it was dissolved in February 1532 and given back to King Henry VIII.

Early in this period, the Norman font of Purbeck stone was given to the church.

The arcaded sides and four pillars are typical of the period but the central support is a later addition. Solid though it looks the font has been moved several times, and not only in recent re-orderings. During the Civil War, the font was thrown out of the church along with stained glass and candlesticks as a sign of ‘popery’. The story goes that Cromwell’s soldiers used it as a trough to water their horses. Certainly, it re-appeared in the Vicarage stableyard where it was later recognised and restored to the church.

During the 14th and 15th centuries, The church underwent a lot of restoration larger windows were introduced in the south wall. The earliest was the low-side window near the pulpit, As well as gaining larger windows, the church also had its chancel extended in 1430 and the perpendicular style east window installed. The line of Roman bricks in the south wall marks where the old chancel ended.

Other changes included the spire of the round tower, with its remarkable internal timber frame. The first south porch was built and to the right of the south door was a holy water stoup, since vandalised by the Commonwealth iconoclasts.

A holy water font or stoup is a vessel containing holy water which is generally placed near the entrance of a church. It is often placed at the base of a crucifix or religious representation. It is used in the Catholic Church, Anglican Churches, and some Lutheran churches to make the Sign of the Cross using the holy water upon entrance of the church.

By 1504 the church had been re-dedicated to St Mary.

When in 1532 Henry VIII dissolved the Priory of the Holy Trinity, the Priory’s possessions were bought by Lord Rich of Leez, who used the Broomfield tithes to help fund his new school at Felsted. Protestant enthusiasm removed the signs of ‘Popery’ but with the re-introduction of Catholicism under Mary Tudor, the churchwardens at Broomfield had to buy a mass book, cross and images for the rood screen. Under Elizabeth, I, the Act of Uniformity brought the end of the chantry chapel and the introduction of parish registers. The first page of the earliest register – now in the Record Office – is decorated with cadells and swashing and reads:

‘The Register Booke for the Parish of Broomfield in the County of Essex in which is contained all the Baptisms, Burialls and Marriages which could be found from the year of our Lord 1546 until the year 1598 and the 27th day of May.

A visitation of 1689 gives a depressing picture of what the church was like after the turbulent years of the Commonwealth. The smashed stoup in the Porch is a lasting reminder of the dissenters and the destruction they caused across England.

The Church of St Mary with St Leonard has all the hallmarks of a subsumed (Christianised) site. As at Alphamstone in Essex and Pewsey in Wiltshire, it has an unusual stone protruding (and prominently visible) in its foundations. Across the lane from St Mary with St Leonard’s, there is a pond (as there is at East Kennet church in Wiltshire). The pond is fed by both a stream and several springs – one of the houses (parts of which are medieval) opposite the church has a rivulet running under the paving stones in its cellar. It is said that the two sarsen stones in front of the church gate were originally in the stream that runs close to the church. The springs and stream, together with evidence of a Roman villa and the unusual black puddingstone in the church foundations, perhaps all indicate that the site was sacred and pre-dates both Christianity and the Roman occupation.

The parish registers of St Mary’s have a couple of interesting notes inscribed in its old pages. These include a reference to the 1884 Colchester Earthquake.

The Colchester earthquake, also known as the Great English earthquake, occurred on the morning of 22 April 1884 at 09:18. It caused considerable damage in Colchester and the surrounding villages in Essex. In terms of overall destruction caused it is certainly the most destructive earthquake to have hit the United Kingdom in at least the last 400 years, since the Dover Straits earthquake of 1580.

At 9:18 am the earthquake struck, centred mainly in the villages of Wivenhoe, Abberton, Langenhoe, and Peldon causing the surrounding area to rise and fall violently as the waves spread, lasting for around 20 seconds. Measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale, the effects were felt across England, as well as in northern France and Belgium.

The earthquake damaged about 1,250 buildings.

The second interesting entry belongs to the baptism of an 8-week old baby.

It is recorded as follows:

Charity Broomfield (A Foundling where father or mother was unknown) was baptised August 6th, being as is supposed about 8 weeks old.

He being found in the road June 14th

Charity Broomfield was sent to London shortly afterwards, sadly in 1704, there was no established charity to support homeless children –

The Foundling Hospital in London, England, wasn’t founded until 1739 so it is likely that Charity ended up in a large household and taught to serve, clean and attend the masters of that home. Life must have been grim and sad too, as Charity died aged 10. And was buried on the 20th October 1714 in St James, Piccadilly, Westminster. A very affluent area and a big indication he served in a wealthy household.

My family connections begin in Broomfield in 1705 – 1712, with the death of William Janes, Sadler of Chelmsford. A record of Deeds records Fishers Farm 40 acres in Broomfield, and 2 messuages in Chelmsford market-place in the occupation of Lionel Sheldon, grocer, and William Janes, Sadler.

This 40 acres of land were likely taken over by Simon Janes, as he appears in the village shortly after 1705 and his name is first recorded in the parish register in 1732, with the birth of my 6th great-aunt Mary Janes. She was baptised on the 7th April 1732 and was the daughter of Simon and Mary Janes. This birth, however, was not a happy start for the family, as Simon’s wife Mary died two days later on the 9th April, a strong indication that the death was caused as a result of childbirth complications.

A common cause of death for women in the 18th century.

The year that followed must have been difficult for Simon, but he didn’t waste much time and re-married a year later on the 18th October 1733 to my 6th great-grandmother Sarah Crow – A daughter of William Crow of Boreham.

Over the next ten years the couple had three children – Simon Janes Junior baptised on the 10th November 1734, Jonathan James Janes baptised on the 27th May 1739 (he is my 5th great-grandfather) and lastly, Ann Janes baptised on the 28th March 1742.

The only information available as to where in Broomfield they resided was through the UK Land Tax redemption in 1798, Jonathan resided in a property owned by a John Parsons. Parson graves can still be found in Broomfield cemetery today. Many on the south side of the church where the eldest burials exist.

The Janes family were resident of the parish until the death of Jonathan James Janes on the 27th May 1817. He was the last member of the family to reside in Broomfield, as later generations took advantage of the newly built canal system in 1790 and relocated to Heybridge, Essex.

For more than 100 years the Janes family were a part of the Broomfield community, although their legacy and connection to the Chelmsford area is much older than that and can be traced back to 1585 to the patriarch of the family Abel Janes. Forefather to both the Essex, England Janes and the illustrious Janes Family of Massachusetts, both families share DNA and descend from the same branch of the family.

Here in England the 17th century Essex Janes are difficult to trace due to civil war and years of hardship under Cromwell, as a result, many gaps exist and lots of names are lost from history.

As for our American cousins, many members of this branch of Janes thrived, they established the township of Janesville, Wisconsin in 1835 whilst other members of the family met their ends tragically, the story of Samuel and Sarah Janes is one of the most remembered. They were murdered alongside three of their children on the 13th May 1704 in a bloodied attack known as the Pascomac Massacre.

Not only murdered but scalped by Indians and left for dead.

The Broomfield Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin with St Leonard and the land it sits on has an incredible history spanning a period that pre-dates the Roman occupation of England.

The building itself is built from rock millions of years old and its history ties together antiquity, Roman, Saxon, Medieval, Victorian, The New World and folklore.

It truly is one of my favourite churches and a crowning gem, a treasure for the people of Broomfield and the city of Chelmsford.

  • Published: 6 November 2020
  • Location: Broomfield, Essex
  • Duration: 47:29
  • Photography – Stephen Robert Kuta / Yhana Kuta
  • Written by – Stephen Robert Kuta

Music –

  • Rain Will Fall – Philip Ayers

Music Licensed by Epidemic Sound

History, Legends and Folklore of The Parish Church Essex

​Stephen and Yhana – History and Adventure Hunters Almanac

Stephen and Yhana - History and Adventure Hunters Almanac - OUT NOW
Stephen and Yhana – History and Adventure Hunters Almanac – OUT NOW

Support us on Patreon / Stephen and Yhana YouTube Channel

Become a Patron!

On the 30th of January, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). In the following weeks, the virus quickly spread worldwide, forcing the governments of affected countries to implement lockdown measures to decrease transmission rates and prevent the overload of hospital emergency rooms.

The United Kingdom implemented lockdown on the 16th of March, 2020 and from this date and up until the 3rd August, 2021 the UK had suffered three national lockdowns which all included Restrictive measures on border controls, closing of schools, markets, restaurants, nonessential shops, bars, entertainment and leisure facilities, as well as a ban on all public and private events and gatherings. In between these lockdowns we saw tier systems and heavy restrictions on how we all lived our lives.

We all decided on different approaches on how we spent that free time as many people were on Furlough as their businesses were shut, only key-workers carried out their working duties. Although I continued working as a key-worker, I still had a lot more free time as Yhana was not at school.

Both Yhana and I spent those first few months experimenting with tiktok and photography, we explored our home village of Great Leighs and took some incredible photographs as spring and eventually summer took hold.

Tiktok was a short-lived adventure for us, although we enjoyed it all the same — tiktok like so many Social Media platforms had exploded during the pandemic but none more so then YouTube.

In 2020 alone YouTube had more than 9 billion views globally

66% of people used YouTube to develop a new hobby in 2020, and a whopping 94% of people in India used YouTube to learn to do things themselves, Whilst Globally, 82% used YouTube to the same. What were they learning to do, exactly?

• Views of beauty tutorials increased nearly 50% in 2020.

• There was a 90% increase in bike maintenance and repair videos.

• Daily views of videos with “raising chickens” in the title increased 160%.

• Videos related to learning guitar saw 160 million views from mid-March to mid-April.

• Videos about container gardening saw 6 million views in the same period.

• There was a 215% increase in daily uploads of videos related to self-care.

• There was a 458% increase in daily views of videos about making sourdough bread and a 200% increase in daily views of recipe videos for bubble tea.

• Videos of how-to videos for home haircuts also spiked in April.

Even though these giant increases in YouTube views began as early as March 2020, it took Yhana and I up until August of that year to begin our own channel, and Yhana’s encouragement certainly helped on that matter.

So it began, 3 August 2020 – We went out and filmed our very first video. To be honest I wasn’t sure what our plan would be for our channel, I had a rough idea of what kind of content I would like Yhana and I to make and as a historian I looked at the channel as a way to record at least one year of our life, not just any year either, but our life during the Covid-19 Pandemic. So for me, it was a great way to record a piece of social history.

This book in front of you developed from that period of our lives also, and is a showcase / diary / almanac of all the videos we created, many of the photographs we took, the treasure hunts we went on and some of the incredible finds we discovered just a short walk from where we lived. In truth, those finds would never have been discovered if it wasn’t for lockdown.

So for prosperity, social history, a window into our lives during the Covid-19 pandemic and a transparent visual look at what its like to create a YouTube channel in that first year including channelytics, descriptions of videos, thumbnail artwork, viewer comments and more.

We have written this full guide, our first joint book –

Stephen and Yhana – History and Adventure Hunters Almanac.

Stephen and Yhana - History and Adventure Hunters Almanac - OUT NOW
Stephen and Yhana – History and Adventure Hunters Almanac – OUT NOW

The book is available to buy through Amazon and via all good bookshops.



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