St. Peter-ad-Vincula, Roydon

  • St Peter's Church,
  • High Street,
  • Roydon, Harlow
  • Essex
  • CM19 5LW

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Post Reformation

The Parish Vestry book from 1604 to 1754 is in the Essex Record Office. It is a long thin book, some 12" deep and 4" wide, bound in ivory with two metal clasps. Year after year the entries are similar, except for changes of names. This book, now 400 years old, was on display at the re-dedication service of the Colte Chapel in November 2004, by kind permission of the Essex Record Office.

In 1715 the tower of the church was provided with a modern pendulum clock, with an external face and hands for all to see the time, and chiming the hours. It is still going in its original form and has to be wound by hand once a week. There is a report of an earlier clock in 1580 which this replaced. In 1820 the Churchwardens decided that repairs were needed and sent for a clockmaker in Hertford, who quoted £20 for "new minute and hour hands, the replacement of worn-out gears and a new winding mechanism". The clock required winding every four days, so the wardens asked for a mechanism which only needed the clock to be wound once a week. The clockmaker demurred at this saying it would be too difficult and expensive. There have subsequently been two further repairs, with improvements resulting in the clock only needing to be wound weekly, but the clock is otherwise basically as built in 1715. It is not known precisely when the six bells were added to the tower, but all were melted down and recast in Whitechapel in 1898.

In 1752 there arrived as vicar a great character, the Revd William Day, who remained vicar for 56 years - the longest incumbency on record in the parish. He became known nationally as "The Pugilist Parson of Roydon" and achieved fame as a boxer of no mean ability, fighting not only locally, but also around the country. It is recorded that on one occasion when he was in the pulpit, there arose an argument between himself and a man in the congregation.

It ended by his inviting the particular gentleman to go outside with him to settle the matter on the village green.

William Day also acted as curate for Hunsdon Church on many occasions in the absence of the vicar of that church, a reminder that then there was no division between Chelmsford and St. Albans Dioceses, because all locally was in Rochester Diocese. William Day's memorial, together with that of his mother, is on the north wall by the Font.

In 1804, while William Day was still vicar, there was a theft from the church of two bibles, and some saucepans and coppers and curtains were stolen from the wash-house of the vicarage, together with some tiles off the wash-house roof. The same night there were similar thefts from the neighbouring church and vicarage of Stanstead Abbotts.

Victorian antiquaries were very interested in Nether Hall and in the 1870's did much work to preserve the gateway, but by the time of an article in The Essex Archaeological Journal in 1899, more work was needed. Recently, English Heritage has done a lot to ensure that it will remain as visible evidence of the great past of Nether Hall.

Two men, William Blake and John Watson, being very heavily laden, were stopped on the road to London, searched, and apprehended when it turned out that theyhad the stolen articles. They were indicted in court, found guilty, and a sentence of death was passed on both prisoners - a startling reminder of the harshness of the times.

The next longest serving Vicar (throughout most of the reign of Victoria) was the Revd Alfred Pyne, who came to Roydon in 1843, remaining until his death at the age of 80 in 1893. The church seems to have thrived in those days, and it had a flourishing choir which left a large collection of Victorian music in the choir cupboard.

The railway came to Roydon in 1841, just before the start of Alfred Pyne's incumbency. The railway brought new affluence to the village, employing 22 men in the middle of Victoria's reign, and introducing that new being, the "Commuter". Roydon was still, however, a country village, with many farms, even in the very centre of the village.