A tale of two churches

by Helen Hooker October. 08, 2020 436 views

With an afternoon off today I did some research for another church to add to the Essex churches project I began just before lockdown began in March. My chosen location was St Andrew’s in the village of Willingale Spain, near Ongar.

As well as having an intriguing name (which probably comes from the de Ispania who owned a local manor), the village is home to not one but two churches – right next to each other. They stand either side of a single churchyard. One legend suggests the churches were built by two sisters who had quarrelled with each other, but the reality is down to population growth. In reality, the local population grew during the 14th century thanks to the local wool industry. Instead of knocking St. Andrew’s down a second, larger church was simply built next door to accommodate the expanding congregation. Today St. Andrew’s is redundant and is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.

It’s a delightful building and the soft light of a cloudy day was perfect for illuminating the architecture. During World War II the 387th Bombardment Division of the US Air Force were based at nearby RAF Chipping Ongar and often used St. Andrew’s. One of the airmen left his mark, with some carved graffiti in the chancel. It took me a little while to locate the small carving high up to the side of one of the windows.

I spent a little over an hour pottering around the church in search of photos. It’s wonderful to have access to buildings like this, where I can spend some time just sitting and looking. Some images jump out at you, but others need time to reveal themselves. At some point I’ll have to return to see how St. Christopher’s, on the other side of the churchyard, compares.

8 October 2020

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