St Peter's Church, Boxted, Essex
St Peter's Church, Boxted

Romans and Saxons

In the early years of the 11th century, a Saxon lord named Edwin built a church at Boxted, on the southern slopes of the Dedham Vale. The site chosen by Edwin for his church is rumoured to have been occupied by the ruins of a Roman villa destroyed by Queen Boudicca in her rebellion against the Romans in 61AD. Certainly, the Saxon church was built using Roman bricks, mixed with local rubble.

Early historical studies of Boxted church suggest that Edwin's church used septaria stones, of the sort used to build the town walls of Colchester a few miles to the south. 

In the late 11th century Edwin's church was replaced with a grand new building in stone. The builders were Robert de Horkesley and his wife Beatrice. The building was begun sometime around 1090 and completed by 1130.

The church was dedicated to St Mary, and that dedication held true until sometime around the Reformation - perhaps when nearby Little Horkesley Priory was dissolved, at which point the church was rededicated to St Peter. The first priest was a monk from Little Horkesley Priory named Roberto.

The material was a mix of puddingstone, rubble, and Roman brick, but the upper part of the tower was rebuilt in the 16th century with brick, and brick buttresses added. At the same time a timber porch was added.

12th century window
12th-century window

The church was always kept in good repair; following the Reformation the locals complained that the chancel was in such poor condition that the vicar refused to hold services there. The church was heavily repaired in 1870 by AW Blomfield, one of the most active Victorian church architects. During a subsequent restoration in 1930 medieval wall paintings were uncovered, then just as quickly painted over again.

Historical Highlights

Interior features include a series of 17th-century grave slabs to members of the Maidstone family, and to two servants of the Earl of Oxford. A painted and gilded royal coat of arms to George III is hung on the north wall of the nave. There is a 17th-century oak chest and several 12th-century windows set high above the north arcade. The simple chancel arch is also 12th century. The nave roof is an intriguing crown-post design. On the wall is an attractive early 17th century memorial to Nathaniel Bacon.

Summing up Boxted church

I'd call St Peters an attractive church, not blessed with an enormous number of historic features, but a church with an ancient and interesting history nonetheless. Rather than making a special trip, I'd suggest seeing St Peter's as part of a longer outing visiting several of the fascinating historic churches in Dedham Vale, like those at Little Horkesley, Wormingford, and Langham. To the best of my knowledge, the church is normally open daylight hours.

More Photos

About Boxted
Address: Church Street, Boxted, Essex, England, CO4 5SU
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Boxted is located on minor roads just north of the A12 Colchester ring road. Parking alongside the church.
Location map
OS: TL999332
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Thorington Hall - 1.6 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Stoke-by-Nayland, St Mary's Church - 2.1 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Langham, St Mary's Church - 2.1 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Little Horkesley Church - 2.4 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Higham, Suffolk, St Mary's Church - 2.6 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Wissington, St Mary's Church - 2.7 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Polstead, St Mary's Church - 3.1 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Dedham, St Mary's Church - 3.6 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Nearest Holiday Cottages to Boxted:

  More self catering near Boxted

Show self catering cottages near Boxted