Early Worship in the Basin
Although our little village came into being in the 1790s with the
building of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation it was to be more than
thirty years before a place of worship was built. In those early years church
worship entailed a walk or ride to St Andrew’s Church in Heybridge, within
which parish the Basin lies, and it was in St Andrew’s that baptisms, weddings
and funerals would have taken place.
Early registers did not
show abode but a 1798 entry for the baptism of William, son of John Woodcraft,
is likely to be that of a child of the Basin.
From 1813 onwards a search of St Andrew’s registers reveals entries for
more early Basiners. There are sad entries to be found in the burial registers
of young sailors who had died far from home.
The canal towpath was a more direct route than the road for walkers to
Heybridge and, for some villagers their final journey, to the churchyard, or
later to Heybridge cemetery, was made aboard a canal boat.
By the 1830s the village
had grown sufficiently to support a place of worship and a building was
provided by John Sadd for a Bethel Chapel.
This chapel played an important role in village life.
A reading room was added, Band of Hope meetings were held and a well
attended Sunday School operated. The chapel continued in use by the
Congregational Church, later the URC until its last member in the village,
Rene Chilcott, died in 2004.
From 1916 Church of England
members were also holding services within the village instead of travelling to
Heybridge. At first these meetings
took place in a room provided, for an annual rent of £4, by Samuel Purkiss,
who ran a general stores and post office in the Basin.
There is no record of the number of worshippers who gathered in that
room, but the earliest surviving records show that contributions to the
collection, amounting to between two and three shillings each week, (as well
as the £4 1s 6d profits from a jumble sale held in January 1918) were used to
pay the rent and to cover expenses such as service books, coal, and a brush
for the stove.
Early entries in this book
were made by E Hume and F E Wakelin.
Ernest Hume, in 1911was living with his family at the Dairy, Heybridge
Basin, where he was the Dairy Manager.
Mr Wakelin, probably Frederick Ernest Wakelin, was a member of a local
A payment of 6d a week,
later rising to 9d was made to George Willis.
George was shown as a thirty year old carter for a timber merchant in
the 1911 census, unmarried and living at home with his father Joseph.
Perhaps the payment was for duties preparing the meeting room?
St George’s Church
- from sergeants' mess to place of worship.
During World War 1, fields on Gardener’s
Farm at Goldhanger were used as a night landing ground by the Royal Naval Air
Service. In March 1916 Admiralty
Air Department files record the handover of this ground to the Royal Flying
Corps as an advanced landing ground.
Read about the history of the Goldhanger Flight Station on Goldhanger - Past
Squadron RFC was formed early in
1916 at Orfordness, in Suffolk, flying BE2s and BE12s.
In September 1916 it reformed as a Home Defence Squadron, its
headquarters was established at Woodham Mortimer Grange and by 15th September
flights were sent to three aerodromes: A flight to Rochford, B flight to Stow
Maries, and C flight to Goldhanger, serving as an eastern line of defence for
London, against raids by aeroplanes and airships.
C flight flew its first two patrols on March 1st 1917
In July 1917 Flight A moved from Rochford to Stow Maries and by 1918 the
Squadron Headquarters had also moved there. Finally on February 20th 1919 C
Flight left Goldhanger for Stow.
The buildings at Goldhanger were then surplus to requirement, and one of
these, the sergeants’ mess, was purchased by Mr E E Bentall of The Towers,
Heybridge who as owner of the engineering firm in Heybridge employed
many Basin menfolk.
During the war Mr
Bentall’s son had served in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and on
1915, aged 18, Second Lieutenant Ernest Hammond Bentall was killed in
action in France. It was in memory
of their son that Mr and Mrs Bentall had acquired the Sergeants’ mess, which
he gave to Heybridge parish to be be re-erected and used as a mission church
at the Basin.
The church was dedicated, to Saint George, by the Bishop of Colchester on 4th
March 1920 and has remained in use ever since. It is of timber construction
covered in plaster on the outside with a small bell tower as its only
addition since its military use. Internally it is very simple with a small
vestry at the west end. The seating consists of benches mostly manufactured
by May & Butcher, a village firm, who were makers of, among other things,
The service notebook shows that in the first year a notice board and an organ
were obtained and a belfry added.
A stained glass window depicting St George, its design attributed to
Arthur Anselm Orr, was added. The
window includes the regimental badge of the King’s Royal Rifles.
is claimed that Mrs Bentall presented the maker of this
window with a photograph of her son and that the face of St George is a
likeness of him. The window bears the inscription, taken from 2 Tim 2:1-3,
“Thou therefore, my son … endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”
Once St George’s church
was opened, a weekly Evensong service was held at 4pm, whilst on the second
Sunday of the month there was also a service of Holy Communion at 9.30am, with
an average of 5 communicants. On
February 11th 1923 there is the first record of a baptism taking place at St
George’s, but the first funeral I can find recorded was not until 1971.
entries in the service registers make fascinating reading. On several
occasions services were cancelled due to bad weather and we have February 22nd
1948 ‘no service owing to heavy snow’ whilst on Easter Day April 17th
1949 for Evensong we have ‘No Service. No one present. Very Hot Weather’.
In 1953 on February 1st there was no service due to floods.
Perhaps the most interesting entry is for Easter Day 1956 (April 1st)
‘No Service. Clergy did not turn up’, maybe the date is appropriate?
of communicants have remained remarkably constant throughout the years. The
first service of Holy Communion was on March 14th 1920 with 12
communicants and on Sunday January 8th 2006 we had 11. The average
number currently is 12-15 with a packed church for Christmas
and special services.
Over the years the little church has served the village well for
children's parties and village meetings as well asSunday
Services, Harvest Festivals, Baptisms, Funerals, even a blessing after a civil
marriage, but had never been licensed for marriages. On Saturday 15th
June 2008, the marriage of Joanne Clare Bill and Stephen Tyrrel
Lacey took place at St George's Church by special licence from the Archbishop
of Canterbury, with the Reverend Sandra Manley officiating. This was the very
first marriage to take place at St George's. In 2009 a licence was granted. St
George's now has its own marriage register and t
wo further marriages have
since taken place.
A church can only function if
it is used and this requires the involvement of dedicated people who are
prepared to devote their time to keeping it alive
Two such people were Francis and Donald May, father
and son gentlemen farmers who took on the role of Deputy Churchwardens from
the start, through to the 1980s. Francis’
initials appear on the first page of the service register in which the first
service is recorded as taking place on August 10th 1916 led by
churchwarden E. Hume. Francis continued until 1942 and was succeeded by Donald who held the
post until 1985.The
other families involved in the early days of the meeting room also maintained their
connection with the church over the years. Cyril Willis acted as a church
warden for a while, and Miss Willis was the organist in the 1920s and 30s
until 1934 when Miss Purkiss took over this task.
Mr Hume served as Churchwarden from 1920 until 1927.
In early days heating was provided by a coal fired stove and light by
oil lamps. The County of
London Electric Supply Company appear in the church accounts for the first
time in December 1936, supplying power for lighting.
The 1938 accounts show
that the coal burning stoves had caused a fire in the church
Even with a
Valor Oil Heater the services that winter must have been uncomfortably
chilly. In October 1938 a further
£59 was spent on church repairs, though it is not known if these were
connected to the fire damage.
Eventually in November 1941 the church was wired for electric stoves.
It seems that over the
years the wooden hut, erected on a marshy field, had begun to deteriorate.
In 1952 major work was undertaken to lift it and provide a stronger
base. The service book records
that the church was closed for repairs from mid-July to mid-October.
The work involved 33 and a half man hours for both brick layers and
carpenters, and with roofing and redecoration, cost a total of £166 5s 0d
March 1981 saw a steel
cross affixed to the belfry and a large oak cross to the wall beside the south
In 2000 a stained glass
window, in memory of Joan McCreadie of Jacob’s Farm, a long standing member of
the congregation, was designed and made by Andrew Fawcett.
this window is in storage as the old wooden window frames were rotten and had
to be replaced with double glazed units. It is hoped to bring it back into the
2004 the URC Chapel finally closed its doors when the last member, Mrs Rene Chilcott who was also church secretary and organist,
died. At a special event in early December 2004 the memorial plaque
commemorating those who fought in the Great War, and the lectern which
carries the names of the three who did not return, were presented to St
George’s by Rev Don McCalister the URC minister for
St George’s is a place of
worship and a meeting place for Basin folk, which (apart from a 3 month
closure for major repairs in 1952) has been in continuous use for the past 90
years. Generations of villagers
have worshipped there; their baptisms and their funerals have taken place
there. They may have attended
Christmas parties or dance classes there in the past, or in recent times come
to cast their vote in elections, or make their voice heard at a village
meeting. The first marriage in the
church took place by special licence in 2008 and the church has since been
licensed for marriages with its own register.
Further use of the
building by the community has long been hampered by a lack of kitchen and
toilets, or even running water. In
2009 the FRIENDS OF ST GEORGE’S CHURCH were launched with the aims of raising
funds to maintain and improve the fabric of St George’s Church, thus
increasing its suitability for community use. At the well attended inaugural
meeting proposals for an extension providing a kitchen, toilet and disabled
access were well received and there was a lively discussion of possible uses
of the building by villagers.
A crew from St George’s entered the 2009 Row 4a Reason event, with half
of their sponsorship serving to launch the appeal fund, and since then
villagers have enthusiastically joined in with fund raising events.
We were extremely grateful
that the Row 4A Reason committee adopted Friends of St George’s Church as
their cause for 2010, swelling the funds by well over £9000.
Planning permission was
obtained in 2011 to locate a demountable building to the south of the church
building, housing a kitchen, toilets and a meeting room. Regular fund raising
events have been held, generous grants have been received and in 2014 we were able to place the order for the building.
The modular building was delivered on September 3
2014. With white rendered walls to match the existing building,
the extension houses a
small kitchen, two WCs, one with wheel chair access, and a meeting room.
two buildings are linked by an entrance lobby with a ramp for
wheel chair access.
After continued fund raising and work to fit out the kitchen and toilets
and furnish the meeting room St George's Community Room was officially opened
by Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, on June 30th 2015.