Holy Cross, Felsted, Essex

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Feature Sets (3)


Felsted is a substantial village in the Uttlesford district of central Essex. It is 11 miles E of Bishops Stortford and 6 miles W of Braintree; the centre grouped around a junction of the B1417. Despite its village status it boasts a large II* listed house of 1596 (Boote House), two public houses and the church described below.

The church stands at the crossroads in the centre of Felsted, and consists of a chancel with a S chapel and organ room, and a N vestry; an aisled nave with S porch and a W tower. To the N of the nave and connected to it by the N doorway is Smylie Hall built in 2014-15; a large church room complex. The church is 12thc in origin, with an early 12thc W tower, a late-12thc S aisle, and a 14thc N aisle and clerestorey. The chancel was rebuilt in the 14thc, and the porch added in the 15thc. The S chapel was built to house the tomb of Richard, 1st Baron Rich (d.1567) Lord Chancellor of England from 1547-51, and his son Robert. The church is of flint and rubble with brick and tile and stone dressings, except for the Rich chapel which is of clunch ashlar.  Romanesque features described here are the S nave arcade, the tower arch, and the S and W doorways.


Felsted was held by Earl Aelfgar before the Conquest as a manor of 5 hides, and in 1086 it was held by the Abbey of La Trinité of Caen as 4 hides. The missing hide was given by King William to Roger God-save-the-ladies and Gilbert fitzSalomon. Both men had other holdings in Felsted to which these gifts were added.


Exterior Features


S nave doorway

A pointed doorway of 3 orders.

Height of opening 2.905 m
Width of opening 1.703 m
1st order

Plain and continuous.

2nd order

Detached nook-shafts on worn bulbous bases carrying waterleaf capitals with plain neckings and imposts with an undercut hollow below the face. The arch is plain and unmoulded.

3rd order

As 2nd order in jambs and arch. There is a label with an undercut hollow inside a quadrant roll.

W doorway

In the W face of the tower is a round-headed doorway of 3 orders with a tympanum.

Height of opening (without step) 2.14 m
Width of opening 1.07 m
Height of recessed lunette of tympanum 0.50 m
Overall height of tympanum 0.82 m
Overall width of tympanum 1.46 m
Width of recessed section of tympanum 1.07 m
1st order

The plain ashlar jambs are recent replacements. They carry a plain arch with trapezoidal springers that support the 7 coursed ashlar blocks of the recessed tympanum.

2nd order

The detached, en-delit nook-shafts on single-roll toroidal bases are modern replacements as are the neckings of the capitals. The capitals themselves are original badly eroded cushions, The S impost is original too and is chamfered with a tall face having a low half-roll towards the bottom. The N impost is a plain chamfered modern replacement. The arch is an unusual 2-row chevron design with the inner row frontal to the face and the outer lateral and centrifugal. Only 6 of the voussoirs are original but enough remains of them to show that this was the intended design.

3rd order

The jambs presumably as the 2nd order originally but nook-shafts, capitals and bases are all lost and the entire N jamb and the lower part of the S are rebuilt in plain ashlar blocks. Imposts are eroded with all detail of their form lost. The arch is entirely original but catastrophically eroded. What remains shows that it had 2 rows of quirked chevron, probably as the 2nd order.


There is a deep, heavy label but its stones are so badly eroded that its form cannot be described with any certainty.

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

W tower arch

The arch to the W tower is round headed with 2 orders to the E face, towards the nave, and a single order to the W, inside the tower.

1st order (shared)

Plain ashlar responds carrying an ashlar impost, chamfered with a tall face having a low half-roll towards the bottom. The arch is of brick, exposed on the angle and the E and W faces, with a modern raised decoration of circular cusping on the soffit, partly covering the bricks.

2nd order (E face only)

En-delit nook-shafts in sections carrying capitals with plain roll neckings. The S capital is a cushion with an angle tuck in which is a triangular wedge. The shields are decorated with concentric half-circles in low relief.

The N capital is a plain double scallop with an angle tuck. Both have plain neckings and the imposts are as the 1st order. The arch has an angle roll and face hollow and outside it on the face is a modern raised nebuly border.



S arcade

An arcade of 4 pointed bays, carried on alternating round and octagonal piers(piers 1 and 3 round, pier 2 and the W respond octagonal). The bases are waterholding with an angle roll above a chamfered drum plinth. The arches have 2 plian unmoulded orders to both nave and aisle, and like the tower arch the soffits have modern raised bands with circular cusping and the faces on the nave side only have raised nebuly cusping. The clunch capitals are carved in relief with friezes of foliate forms, differing in design and described in detail below. Unfortunately, when I visited all the pier capitals were covered in a network of cabling with fairy lights, securely fixed in place. Photographs were taken from angles with the least cabling, but this is not satisfactory, and I hope that a return visit after Christmas might allow more satisfactory photographs to be taken.

E respond

The capital is a modern replacement on a flat pilaster respond. It is multi-scalloped with dished shields and wedges between the cones.

Pier 1 capital

The pier is circular and the capital square with volutes at the angles and a row of upright oblong leaves with raised spines on each face. The necking is plain and circular, and the impost has a hollow between two rolls, the upper roll overhanging.

Pier 2 capital

The pier, necking, capital and impost are all octagonal in plan. Each face of the cpital is decorated with a row of 3 zigzags above the plain necking with a taller unit of zigzag at each angle. Above that on each face are 2 sprigs of stiffleaf. The impost has a quadrant hollow overhung by an angle roll on the face.

Pier 3 capital

The capital and impost are circular on a circular pier. The slightly concave bell is decorated with a row of inverted horseshoe shaped leaves enclosing pellets. The necking is plain and the impost is similar in profile to that of pier 2.

W respond capital

The respond is semi-octagonal with a capital and impost of the same plan. The capital is moulded with a hollow between two rolls, and the impost is plain chamfered.


The earliest features belong to the tower. The W doorway and the tower arch are dated c.1140 by RCHME. Then come the S arcade and the S doorway; probably from a campaign of the 1180s. The cusping described on the tower arch and the arcade arches must be a later ornament; it also occurs on the 14thc. N aisle.


  • J. Cooper, The Church Dedications and Saints’ Cults of Medieval Essex, Lancaster 2011, 132.

  • J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 354-55.

  • Historic England Listed Building, English Heritage Legacy ID: 122542

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2: Central and South West (1921), 73-74.

Exterior from NE
Exterior, nave and tower from SE
Exterior from W
Interior to E


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TL 677 204 
now: Essex
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Essex
medieval: London
now: Chelmsford
medieval: not confirmed
now: Holy Cross (by 1848)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
24 October 2018