The Parish of Langdon Hills - a Brief History


The area covered by the parish is bounded by the C2C railway line to the north, and Lee Chapel South in the east. The southern boundary includes Dry Street. It meets South Hill at Tyelands (the start of the double bends), from which it zig-zags north west to the railway line.

St Mary and All Saints Church, High Road (SS16 6HY)

St Mary and All Saints Church

St Mary’s Church was built in 1876 to replace the church in Old Church Hill, which was considered too small and too far from the migrating population. It was paid for by the rector of the day, Revd Digby Cleaver. The old church is now a dwelling place, but the churchyard remains under the control of the current church.

Revd. Digby Cleaver

The church is built on a man-made mound at the highest point of Hall Wood. It is reputed to be the highest church above sea level in Essex. The ground falls away steeply behind the church, and the solid foundations have prevented significant movement in the building. The construction is of brick, with a facing of Kentish ragstone. The church consists of chancel, nave, north aisle, west tower and porch. The east windows portray a series of scenes of Jesus’ life, in which Mary is depicted.

The peal of six bells was installed between 1877 and 1883. In 1998 considerable remedial work was undertaken to the bells, frame and mechanism, as well as the belfry and ringing chamber, in order for them to continue in use safely. The bells are rung regularly at weddings and services.

The organ was built by Henry Speechly of Dalston. The age is not certain, but could have been the early 1900s. The organ has two manuals each with three speaking stops, and operated by tracker action (wooden levers). The pedal board has a pneumatic action. In 1984-5 much work was carried out in-house to make the organ much brighter and more flexible. The organ is very reliable.

Flower Festival

A major refurbishment of the church was carried out in 2002. The Old School House on the other side of the road was sold, and some of the proceeds used to finance the changes. All repairs recommended by the architect’s quinquenniel inspection were carried out. All the stained glass was carefully cleaned and replaced where necessary. The Lady altar and platform in the north aisle were removed, and the font moved from the rear of the north aisle to the front. The whole of the sanctuary was carpeted, and the old carpet in other areas replaced. The three rear nave pews were removed in order to create an open area for refreshments after the service. A new welcome desk was made using wood reclaimed from some of the redundant furniture. The choir vestry was enlarged by moving the memorial screen forward in front of the pillars. A toilet was installed, together with a small “kitchen” area for making hot drinks and washing up. The room continues to be used by the choir.

The modifications cost £95,000, and have proved very successful.

There is a weekly service of Holy Communion at 9 am, and occasional evening services. For details see the parish website at

The Church Hall, by the Triangle shopping area, was built around 1910 as a mission hall. It has had a number of community and church uses over the years. The Basildon Operatic Society had its beginnings there in the 1930s. It has been used by St Mary’s congregation when bad weather prevented them from getting up the hill! For many years it was used by the Sunday School. Currently it is used daily by the Oakwood Pre-school, and for Rainbows, Brownies and Guides during the evening.

St John the Evangelist, Forest Glade (SS16 6RX)

St John the Evangelist, Forest Glade.

Plans for the development of the area now known as Great Berry were known in the early 1980s. The rector, Revd David Greaves, approached the New Town Commission to secure a plot of land for a “worship centre”. The original intention was for it to be an ecumenical project. Other churches were approached, and although generally interested, the lack of finance proved a stumbling-block.

The congregation of St Mary’s was keen to ensure that the church was represented in the new development, and much thought was given to how this might be accomplished. One idea was to provide a worship space in the basement of the planned supermarket. At the time general Sunday opening was not envisaged, and it was good that this idea was not pursued! A further plan was to provide a church on the cheap, by combining two houses on the planned estate. In the event the Diocese agreed to fund a purpose-designed building at a cost of £500,000, leaving the congregation to furnish and equip it for around £50,000.

The church was opened in September 1991. The intention was always to have a building that could be used for the community, as well as for worship. The church was dedicated to St John the Evangelist because of the relationship between Mary and John, cemented by Jesus on the cross.

Since the early days there has been a pre-school, which has flourished in recent years, providing child-care services between 7.30 am and 6 pm. Currently over 300 children are cared for. In 2010 a grant from Essex County Council was secured, which enabled the building of a significant extension, allowing the expansion of child-care services to meet the continuing demand.

The principal Sunday service is at 11 am. For details of other services and activities see the Parish website at

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  • A relative of mine was born in 1927 in Sissinghurst, Landon Hills. Would anyone hazard a guess where this might have been? It could have been an unmarried mothers home?
    With thanks

    Editor: Hello Joanne, you will find more information about Sissinghurst in another article on this website. Please click here

    By Ms Joanne Coates (11/11/2021)
  • Good evening, I am looking for any information of reverend Telford, who was at St Mary’s in the late 60’s early 70’s. Or his daughters Elizabeth or Katherine. Can anyone help me with this please. Thank you

    By Lindsey Forsyth (24/02/2021)
  • I have read that in the old church, Old All Saints, there were 2 bells, one with no markings and one with the name Thomas Lawrence on it. I spoke to the current owner of this church who confirmed that these were already removed from the church before he took possession in the early 1970’s.
    One of the bells had the name Thomas Laurence written on it. He would have been the master founder (Bell maker) and he worked for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 1523.
    If anyone has anymore history on these bells or on the church I would be very interested in gathering it.

    By Martin Ryan (07/10/2019)
  • Eric, you mention that your cousin Olive’s married name was Attwood. Not a very common name. There was an uncommonly tall chap in my class at LHR named Attwood. I think his first name was Vince. Somehow I think I heard he emigrated to Canada. He would have been born in 1934. I wonder if he is any relation of yours.

    By Alan Davies (26/05/2019)
  • Eric, I knew your parents slightly. We lived at Hillside, Victoria Avenue which was on the other side of the road from you, a little further along next to the field than ran down to Langdon Hills Primary School. I was born in 1939.

    By Gerald Jones (25/05/2019)
  • Eric Grant – Sissinghurst nursing home run by my father’s Aunts, the Young sisters combined with semi-detached house next door to it. I was born in 1933 in East London and visited the Aunts a number of times, more about the nursing home on this web site especially contributed by David Osborne who was also born at the nursing home much later. Between us we have heaps of history/photos/information if any help to you. Betty Telford (now living Hereford area) would love to hear more about your time. I have photographs taken at the nursing home and pictures of children there pre-war, not all identified. My cousin Ken lived there until he went in the RAF during WW2 and was always there afterwards.

    By Betty Telford (25/05/2019)
  • My name is Eric Grant, born in March 1931 at Sissinghurst care home and nursery two doors down from Langdon Hills Primary school. My cousin Olive Spencer (married name Attwood) was also born there on 8th May 1928.

    We both attended the Primary when Mrs. Jones was our first teacher in the green tin hut in the playground at the Nightingale Avenue side. We lived in the next “road” up the hill, Victoria Avenue.

    My Grandparents are interred at old St. Mary’s – surname Shipway – as are my father’s Mother Alice Grant and brother Herbert, who was drowned in army training in WW1. His grave by the rear church door is a typical army service design. My Mother Ethel Grant was buried beside the gravel path down to the lower part of the cemetary in 1961, and as yet has no headstone. I’m now 88 and would like to add one if her plot can be determined.

    I do have lots of wartime and before-and-after memories to relate and pictures if anyone wants to know.

    By Eric Grant (24/05/2019)
  • In July of 1941, the Second World War was approaching its third year. Since the Battle of Britain, London and many other of the Country’s cities were being subjected to heavy bombing by the Luftwaffe when, in its edition published on 2ndJuly,  the “Laindon Recorder”, reported (under the headline HSA Annual Service at St.Mary’s Langdon Hills)the following;

    “Under normal and happier days an HSA annual service is held in East London. However, owing to “incidents” arising out of the war and by way of a unique change, the Service is being held in the country by kind permission of the Reverend W T Hickson at St Mary’s, Langdon Hills on 20th July at 3.45pm.

    “The Branch secretary, Mr G C Buzzacott, HSA officials, members of East London Social and Propaganda Committee, Honorary Group Secretaries, HSA contributors and many other friends will be present.

    “The local Honorary Group Secretary will also be present.

    “There are over two million contributors and eighteen thousand Honorary Group Secretaries and the HSA has contributed millions of pounds to hospitals and like institutions. All HSA contributors and friends will be welcome at the service.”

    For those who do not know, the HSA standing for Hospital Savings Association was a means of saving up to meet medical costs at a time before the NHS was created. It is still in business and is now known as “Simplyhealth”

    In his book, The Buildings of England: Essex, Nikolaus Pevsner reminds us that the “romantically situated” St Mary, Langdon Hills was “new” in 1876. He says it was built to the design of William White whose one and only other excursion into Essex was at Thorpe-le-Soken in the north of the County.  As, during the period of the reign of Queen Victoria a considerable number of parish churches were either repaired, altered or “improved” we should be pleased that the Rev Digby Cleaver did not let William White loose on Langdon Hill’s original parish church. At Thorpe-le=Soken all that was left after his to St Michael’s Church was the tower it started with.

    Langdon Hill’s original church which was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin and All Saints, was tucked away down Old Church Hill so I wonder if the Rev. Cleaver had a premonition that his parish was destined to develop so much on the northern slopes of the hill that people would not want to walk half way down the southern slope as well in order to listen to his sermons. Perhaps this must be the reason why he decided to build a brand new church.

    The fact that William White did not touch any of the material of the old church and it remains largely unsullied despite it having now become a private dwelling means we can have a good idea as to just how small its congregations must have been and why a larger church had to be built. It remains particularly interesting as being one of only a few churches that had its own musician’s gallery. As I remember it, the churchyard there was still being used for interments in the 1940s.

    By John Bathurst (26/07/2015)
  • My brother Tom has several times told me his memory of Reverand Hickson. On Sunday mornings, during WW2, Reverand Hickson would park his car on Berry Lane, trudge through the field that was euphemistically called Raglan Road to our modest little bungalow. There he would take an unenthusiastic Tom with him, in his car no less, to service at St Marys. While the journey to church was no doubt a novelty and a luxurious ride to a young lad, it was always shanks pony home after church service. For some reason I always escaped Reverand Hickson’s kind ministrations. Perhaps I was thought to be a lost cause!

    By alan davies (26/07/2015)
  • Hi Mr Bathurst,

    Internments took place way after the 1940’s.

    My family have had many, many interments there, my grandmother in 1954, my grt aunts and uncles in the 1960’s, my father in 1971, my aunts in 1996 and 2001.

    My mother who passed away in 1991 could also have been buried there, we were told that if you had family roots in Langdon Hills you could be buried there.

    I am not sure if this is still the case

    Regards Ellen

    By Ellen English Nee Burr (26/07/2015)
  • Hi Gerald, no relation. My maiden name was Jones. My mother had a friend in Langdon Hills called Dot Doubleday. When I married in 1968 the Methodist Minister kindly allowed us to use his church as it was a much nicer building! Lovely to hear all the comments about the area. I live in Wales now.

    By Jenny Davies (20/07/2015)
  • Hi Bill. 

    The church is still standing but is now a private house, the arrow appears to have disappeared many years ago. 1066 is a little early as the church was not built until at least the 1400s if not later.

    By Ken Porter (09/07/2015)
  • I remember Elim Pentecostal Church. My sister-in-law Doreen Davies was married there to my brother Robert Jones. Any relation to you Jenny? The bridesmaids were the two daughters of Stan Doubleday who had the hairdressers and cafe in the row of shops near the Methodist Church. Cannot remember the date but it could have been around the mid 1950’s.

    I also remember Mr Richardson when I attended Langdon Hills Primary which I left in 1951. Was that around your time Bill? I recall being shown the old St Mary’s Church by Ms Cartwright the Akela of the cubs group. I remember the choir balcony and the coat of arms on the wall that you saw from that balcony, I often wonder if that was retained.

    By Gerald Jones (09/07/2015)
  • Hi Gerald

    Although St Mary’s (Old Church) is now a private home, the balcony and coat of arms have so far been preserved.

    By Ken Porter (09/07/2015)
  • Hi.  I recall a history lesson, I think with Mr Richardson, when at Langdon Hills Junior, concerning Crown Hill and its origins from the ice age.  We ended the lesson at old St Mary’s Church where, if it is still standing, there should be an arrow in the front wall wooden lintel as you enter the gate, dating from around 1066 and William the 1st.  Bit of info for you all. 

    By Bill Banks (08/07/2015)
  • I attended Laindon Elim and remember Mrs Elliott and Pastor West. My brother still leads Pitsea Elim and some of Mr West’s relatives live in the Rayleigh area.

    By Jenny Davies (25/04/2015)
  • Does anyone remember the Elim Pentecostal Church? I think it would have come under Langdon Hills, as it was over the railway bridge from Laindon High Road. My Mum used to go there, with our neighbour Mrs Wright. I believe the Pastor at that time was a Mr. West. He used to ride around on a little James two-stroke motorcycle.

    By Ken Elliott (17/03/2013)

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