The History of St Andrew's Church

St Andrew's is the Parish Church of Hornchurch. It is listed by the Department of the Environment as a Grade 1 listed building - a building of outstanding distinction. A church has stood on this site for over 800 years, each generation in turn having cared for it and added to or subtracted from it, altering the Church to suit needs of the time.

The present church is built of septaria and ragstone with some brick. The North wall contains many bottles, placed both neck and base outwards. These are an interesting and unexpected addition to the masonry.

The tower is thought to have been built by William of Wykeham and the fact that it closely resembles New College, Oxford supports this theory. At the top of the West face of one of the turrets is a figure of a bishop believed to represent William.

Inside, the four bays and cylindrical columns with moulded capitals in the nave, together with the triple sedilia, piscine and hagioscope, date back to the mid 14th century.

The Bull's Head

Bull's headAt the East end of the roof is a bull's head statue, which is a unique feature to find on a church. However, in 1222 the first written reference to the church refers to the monasterium cornutum or horned church at Havering. There are numerous legends and theories to explain the existence of the horns, but the truth remains obscure. 

In 1610 the horns were thought to have been made of lead but when they were repaired in 1824 they were found to be made of copper.

In 1999 the copper horns were stolen from the bull' s head. They were never recovered and new horns replaced them in 2001.

The tower

TowerThe tower is separated from the church by a handsome oak screen, placed there in 1934 in memory of Edgar Bratchell who took a leading part in most of the village activities, and commemorates his 50 years in the choir.

A bench on the south wall incorporates a list of Priors and Chaplains from Cwemo in 1206 to the present day. When New College, Oxford was endowed with St Andrew's and its lands, it appointed a Vicar Temporal to be, as the Book of Common Prayer would have expressed it, their 'Ordinary'. As a result of this the incumbent of Hornchurch enjoyed freedom from the jurisdiction of the Bishop. This was called a 'Peculiar' and ended in 1901. Before 1901 the Bishop had to ask permission to enter the church. New College, our Patron, is still involved with the Bishop in appointing the Incumbent.

BellsIn the corner of the tower are the stairs leading to the ringers' chamber. St Andrew's has had ten bells installed over some 500 years. In 1552 it is known that five bells were hanging in the tower; in 1779 these were recast into six and in 1901 two further bells were added.  In November 2001 the then eight bells were increased to ten, approximately one hundred years after the last addition.

The clock on the north side of the tower was a gift from Thomas Brandon in 1674. In 1982 the heavy weights which provided the driving force for the pendulum and the striking hour bell were replaced by smaller weights which use electricity to keep time. 

Memorials within the Church

MemorialThe Withering Memorial commemorates Thomas Withering, Postmaster General to Charles I who lived at the Manor of Nelmes; on September 28th 1651 he died while travelling to church. The house was destroyed in the 1960s but his name is still remembered with a road running through the original grounds of Nelmes and is called The Witherings.

The Rame Memorial is made of alabaster. Francis Rame, his wife, eleven sons and one daughter are shown on this. Francis was steward to Sir Anthony Cooke of Gidea Hall, tutor to Edward VI.

High on the North wall of the sanctuary is the Spencer Memorial by the famous sculptor, Flaxman. The Spencer family lived in Hornchurch Hall, which stood opposite the Church.

On the East corner of the South wall can be seen the memorial to Sir Francis Prujean. Originally this would have been painted and traces of colour can still be seen. Sir Francis was President of the College of Physicians. He lived in Suttons Gate when staying in Hornchurch. In 1666 he died at his London home which was known as Prujean Square.

Under the fitted carpet in the Chancel are several memorial floor slabs, brasses and indents, the earliest of these being that of Boniface de Hart, who was Prior from 1323-25. There are also complete brasses of Thomas Drywoode, his wife and children in 1591, Elizabeth and Alice Drywoode in 1601, and Thomas Hone, his wife, six sons and six daughters in 1604.

The memorial to Richard Blackstone can be found in the North wall and shows two figures kneeling in prayer, presumably he and his wife. The space left for her memorial was never filled in.

The Sportsman's Battalion brass on the North wall commemorates members of that battalion who suffered heavy losses in the First World War.


The ceiling of the church dates from the 15th century. During the 19th century the ceiling was covered over but in 1957 the original was revealed. A number of bosses can be seen.


PulpitIn 1962 the Victorian stone pulpit was replaced by the present oak pulpit, completed with sounding board. This was designed and carved by Gwynneth Holt. This was given in memory of Honora Willis who died on July 31 st 1947.

A table tomb of William Ayloffe of Bretons can be found in the sanctuary. The arms displayed on the sides of the tomb show Ayloff impaling Shaa Ayloff, Shaa impaling d'Arey of St Osyth and Bruges of Gloucester impaling Ayloffe. William's son was responsible for making returns to the government of the vestments and furniture of Essex churches at the time of the Reformation. A descendent of his paid a high price for his loyalty to the Stuart cause when as High Sheriff of Essex he went with riders from Bretons to Colchester the day before the Parliamentary army began the siege. When this ended he was at first ordered to be shot, but instead he was shipped to Barbados to work on a plantation. When Charles II regained the throne, Ayloffe was made Knight of Essex.


West windowThe West Window is in the ringers' chamber and was given in memory of Betsy Mashiter, who died in 1860. The central light shows Henry II presenting to a monk of the Abbey of Montjoux a Charter granting land in Havering. On the left are the arms of New Zealand noting that Grey Towers was their first base camp in England during the First World War. Later it became their hospital and in 1916 four young Maori soldiers were buried in St Andrew's Churchyard. On the right are the arms of the Fraternity of Trinity House. At one time the Church spire acted as a navigational landmark for Thames pilots and Trinity House contributed an annual peppercorn rent towards the upkeep of the spire. 

East windowThe East window replaces one destroyed by enemy action in the Second World War, and is dedicated to the memory of Thomas Mashiter. It shows the arms of the Dioceses of Rochester, London, Chelmsford, St Albans and Essex together with those of the Urban District of Hornchurch. In the left window can be seen Edward the Confessor in front of Westminster Abbey holding a ring. This refers to the legend of Have-a-ring. Next can be seen St Andrew. In the centre is Christ standing on the shores of a lake. Then comes St Peter, and on the extreme right is William of Wykeham standing before New College. The window was designed by Gerald Smith and made by Nicholson Stained Glass Studio in 1954. 

Windows on the North wall were made in the late 19th and 20th century. On the left of the North door the windows show Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus with Pontius Pilate and Jesus on the road to Calvary. Further along is the memorial window to Sarah Williams, who lived at the manor house of Langtons. The Virgin Mary, St Elizabeth and St Sarah are shown in this design by Haydon Bacon of London. In 1991 a window was installed to commemorate the six hundredth anniversary of St Andrew's becoming a Parish church.

North windowIn the left light can be seen William of Wykeham in 1391 receiving a licence from Richard H allowing him to purchase the lands of the monks of Montjoux in Havering to endow his college of St Mary in Oxford (known as New College). The right hand light represents the Parish in 1991 with figures depicting worship, outreach and pastoral care covering all ages and the co-operation of clergy and laity. Recent history of the time is symbolised by a spitfire representing the important role of the Hornchurch Airfield in World War II. Local industry is acknowledged with a Ford Fiesta car and an Amstrad computer. In the background of the window can be seen New College, St Andrew's, and the daughter churches of St George's and St Matthew's. Linking the whole window is the figure of the crucified Christ with arms stretched wide in compassion over the Parish, as an eternal presence.