Layer Marney, St Mary's Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 16th century Marney family terracotta memorials
One of the most interesting features of St Mary's is a large painting of St Christopher on the north wall. This wall painting almost certainly predates the early 16th century rebuilding of the church and probably dates to the late 15th century. Like most depictions of St Christopher in wall paintings the Layer Marney version shows the saint in the middle of a river, the Christ child on one shoulder, his staff beginning to flower. Fish and eels wind through the water around the saint's legs, and an odd fish resembling a dog swims near his staff. On the river bank is a figuure of a boy fishing. Though much of the painting is very similar to other St Christopher paintings, the Layer Marney painting is unusual for the amount of detail in the saint's dress, and unique in that St Christopher carries a rosary.The painting was covered over around 1552 and only rediscovered in 1870.
Aside from the wall painting the main historic interest in St Mary's are the Marney family tombs, ranging in date from 1360-1525. These are found at the east end of the north aisle. The earliest is that of Sir William Marney (d. 1360). This beautiful alabaster tomb shows a fully armed Sir william upon a table. The table is surrounded by a set of wooden posts carved with leopards; these posts originally decorated the tomb of John Marney, the 2nd Lord.
Lord John's tomb is nearby, a striking effigy of black marble atop a wonderfully carved terracotta table, similiar in style to the famous Bedingfield terracotta tombs at Oxburgh. Interestingly, John's window Bridget is not buried with him; she lies at Little Horkesley church.
As striking as Lord John's tomb is, it pales by comparison to the third tomb, that of his father Henry, the 1st Lord Marrney. Lord Henry's effigy is also of black marble, similar to John's, but his table tomb stands beneath a beautifully decorated canopy made of terracotta, with classical pilasters and leaf decoration. The detail of the terracotta carving is exquisite.
Other interior features include a late 14th or early 15th century oak chest, bound with iron straps. There are a pair of carved wooden angels facing each other on opposite sides of the chancel. The pulpit has been built up from several bits of 16th and 17th century wooden panels, with a tester above, decorated with acorn pendants. There are two screens; the rood screen is probably 15th century work, with plain panels, and a later 16th century screen is in the north aisle.
I came to Layer Marney to visit the mansion, but I must say that the church is every bit as interesting in its own right. This is a wonderful Tudor building, the Marney family tombs are beautifully preserved, as is the St Christopher wall painting. I highly recommend a visit.
About Layer Marney
Address: Roundbush Road, Layer Marney, Essex, England, CO5 9UR
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Beside Layer Marney Tower, on a minor road 3 miles east of Tiptree
Website: Layer Marney
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Layer Marney Tower - 0.2 miles (Historic Building)
Copford, St Michael and All Angels Church - 3.3 miles (Historic Church)
Audley Chapel, Berechurch - 4.9 miles (Historic Church)
Lexden Earthworks and Bluebottle Grove - 5.3 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Coggeshall Abbey - 5.4 miles (Abbey)
Coggeshall Grange Barn - 5.6 miles (Historic Building)
Coggeshall, St Peter ad Vincula Church - 5.8 miles (Historic Church)
Coggeshall Museum - 5.9 miles (Museum)
Nearest Accommodation to Layer Marney: