What to See in England
By Gordon Home
Public Domain Books
A SAXON CHURCH WITH WOODEN WALLS
=How to get there.=–Train from Liverpool Street or Fenchurch Street. Great Eastern Railway. =Nearest Station.=–Chipping Ongar (1 mile from Greenstead Church). =Distance from London.=–22-3/4 miles. =Average Time.=–Varies between 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
1st 2nd 3rd =Fares.=–Single 3s. 11d. 2s. 10d. 1s. 11-1/2d. Return 5s. 9d. 4s. 2d. 3s. 1d.
=Accommodation Obtainable.=–Inn, etc., at Ongar.
Entering Ongar from the railway station one finds on the right a footpath leading into a fine avenue. About ten minutes’ walk down this brings one to Greenstead Hall, a red brick Jacobean house, with the church adjoining it. Set among a profusion of foliage, the simple little building would be quite interesting as an ideally situated little rustic church, but when one realises how unique it is, the spot at once becomes fascinating. The walls of the diminutive nave, as one may see from the illustration given here, consist of the trunks of large oak trees split down the centre and roughly sharpened at each end. They are raised from the ground by a low foundation of brick, and inside the spaces between the trees are covered with fillets of wood. On top the trees are fastened into a frame of rough timber by wooden pins. The interior of the building is exceedingly dark, for there are no windows in the wooden walls, and the chief light comes from the porch and a dormer window. This window in the roof, however, was not in the original design, for the rude structure was only designed as a temporary resting-place for the body of St. Edmund the Martyr. It was in A.D. 1010 that the saint’s body was removed from Bury to London, its protectors fearing an incursion of the Danes at that time. Three years afterwards, however, the body was brought back to Bury, and on its journey rested for a time at Greenstead–a wooden chapel being erected in its honour. The remains of this chapel, built nearly half a century before the Conquest, are still to be seen in the wooden walls just referred to. The length of the original structure was 29 feet 9 inches long by 14 feet wide. The walls, 5 feet 6 inches high, supported the rough timber roof, which possessed no windows. The chancel and tower were added afterwards.
Ongar Castle, a huge artificial mound surrounded by a moat, is close to the main street. The church contains in the chancel, hidden by a carpet, the grave of Oliver Cromwell’s daughter. A house in the High Street is associated with Livingstone.
[Illustration: GREENSTEAD CHURCH, ESSEX.
Built in 1013, is remarkable for its nave, constructed of solid tree trunks.]