All Saints' Church History

All Saints' Church, Hutton

Hutton was once an oak bound clearing in the great forest which stretched cross the country.  It is surrounded by -ings, settlements in Old English, though its name before Domesday was ATAHOU, 'at the ridge', becoming by the thirteenth century HOUTON, the suffix -ton denoting manor.  Most unusually the manorial rights for the whole village remained with the hall alone until the last century; before that nearly all the 300-odd inhabitants were copyhold tenants.  Courts were held at the Hall until the last quarter of the nineteenth century using the early medieval rulings, and the Essex Record Office has a lengthy selections of their deliberations.

Our first official record stems from the 1086 Domesday Book in which we see the village exported fish - there are still many ponds - and had an abundance, with its oak forests, of swine.  A Saxon brooch has been found, but round the Church (said by dowsers to be built over a crossed spring) Roman coins have been excavated and there is evidence of flint tools. 

The Hall, opposite the old church, still has vestigial remains of the moated farmstead it probably once was.  Its Saxon owner, Gotius, disappeared at William's accession, and the rents of the Manor from that time until the Dissolution went with only one other Essex parish to the upkeep of the new Abbey built by him in thanksgiving at Battle, St. Martinus de bello.  (The arms of St. Martin, from school to cricket club, figure several times in Hutton.)

Benedictine monks must then have been a feature of the village and they gave a careful record of comings and goings and monetary values in the Middle Ages; the hall itself was left to various tenants such as the Master of St. Bartholomew's Hospital.

The village church, All Saints', possesses quatre-foiled piers and an excellently timbered nave roof dating from the early part of the 14th century, but is almost certainly on a much earlier site.  The typical Essex belfry of six posts with bracing and trellis strutting, straight from the surrounding oak woods, was built a hundred years later. The wooden remaining North porch, though reset on Victorian flint walls, is early 16th century.  In the 1870s a new modern Rector supervised the building of a much increased chancel and set the whole of the walls in flint. 

Brasses, notably an early 16th century knight in armour and his wife and sixteen children were removed from the nave floor and set in the walls; Victorian church furniture replaced originals such as an early font, though a piscina remains in an altered position, and stained-glass windows were donated, one of which is said to have come from the Morris workshop.

The five bells date variously from 1637 to 1814, the earliest being thought to have been made by an itinerant bell  maker in a pit near the church.  The advowson has been in the hands of St. Paul's Cathedral, as with many Essex parishes, since the middle ages.

With the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 Henry VIII passed Hutton's 1699 acres to Sir Thomas Darcy to hold for the 20th part of a Knight's fee.  Its Church goods were sold for £6 and the spoils divided between church repairs, highways and providing soldiers. 

Passing through the Rich family, the Manor was soon bought by the local and quite eminent Whites (a descendant was Selbourne's Gilbert White).  Friends of the Petres, a daughter Susan was a favourite lady-in-waiting to Mary Tudor and played a part in the marriage ceremony of Mary and Philip of Spain.  Catholics (and a grandson was Vice-Principal of the English College at Douai) like the Petres of that time they stayed out of religious controversy and indeed donated the acres of the Poorsfield as the first main Hutton Charity, half yearly proceeds of which were to go to the Church and half to its deserving poor.

Much of Essex sided with Parliament in the Civil War and the hall and its acres followed suit.  By the end of that century it had been bought by Robert Surman, the inglorious cashier of the South Sea Company; when the Bubble burst it was sequestered by Walpole and sold, after a fire in which much of the Tudor building was destroyed, to a family named Hall.  As it stands today much of the outer structure dates from the rebuilding of 1720 onwards, with a beautiful drawing room much influenced by Strawberry Hill from the latter half of the century.  It has however often had absentee owners and was let for most of the 19th century.

Until the building of Shenfield station and the start of the split-up of the Hall estate due to death duties, the population of rural Hutton remained much the same.  In the 1890s an entrepreneur bought one of the estate farms to the right of the new station and began to build a garden suburb. 

Soon afterwards George Lansbury, the Chairman of Governors of the poorly-maintained Children's Home belonging to Poplar, descended from the train and liked what he saw to the left; 100 acres were bought and the ambitions plan of building accommodation for 750 children and ancillary staff was begun.  This scheme, not locally popular, was finally accomplished by 1907 and the population of Hutton trebled.

During the inter-war years there was increased building, but in the 50's Hutton was transformed.  Lansbury's 100 acres was the site for the first new London estate for families who had lost their homes in the war.  A sister Church, St. Peter's was built by 1956 together with a new Church School.  Other estates, both Council and private, mushroomed, and other schools and churches flourished, St. Peter's being enlarged and improved more than once to fit the needs of the suburban Hutton which had grown up over the past fifty years apart from the agricultural village of time immemorial.


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