1854 - 1871
Mile End had become a separate parish by 1254, when the church was recorded, and presumably a settlement already existed. St Botolph’s priory held the advowson [patronage, or having the right to nominate a clergyman] of the rectory. The patronage remained with the priory until the Dissolution by King Henry VIII.
In 1443 the living of St Michael’s Church was vacant because of its poverty.
In 1448 there were two churchwardens at St Michael’s Church.
Saxton’s Map of Essex (1576) is small-scale but does show “Myle end”, St Michael’s Church, a wooded landscape and what was probably Chesterwell Wood. The Horkesleys are called Horseley magna and Horseley parva.
In 1637 St Michael’s Church held about 27 acres of glebe.
In 1648 southern Mile End was said to have been used for fortified encampments for Oliver Cromwell’s troops during the Siege of Colchester, one of the last campaigns of the Civil War. One of Cromwell’s forts, Col. Fothergill’s fort, seems to have been sited a little to the north of the original St Michael’s Church. [In 2002, the occupants of 80 Mile End Road reported that their garden contained evidence of what could have been a fort from that era.]
It appears that the remains of another fort, Fort Rainsborough, may lie in front of the original St Michael’s Church.
According to a local newspaper dated 14 September 1909, St Michael’s Church was damaged during the Civil War by fire from the town’s batteries directed at Parliamentarian encampments:
“... the fire of the town batteries was drawn to this spot.”
The church had suffered so much during the Civil War that a complete rebuild was necessary and this was accomplished in 1660.
The original church was evidently much larger than shown in later records and pictures. The nave was 32 ft 9 ins long and 18 ft 9 ins wide with walls 2 ft to 2 ft 6 ins thick. From this extended a chancel with a width of 15 ft 9 ins. The south wall was traced for 23 ft of its length and the east end lay at some point beyond.
By 1660 the rebuilding of St Michael’s Church was completed, using materials from the original church. The chancel of the new church was only 6 ft 10 ins long and this is the building depicted in old drawings and by a model made by Miss A P Strong which is in Hollytrees Museum.
Morant, published between 1763 and 1768, page 135, says of the rebuilt church:
“The Church is of one pace with the Chancel, and very small: At the west end there is a little wooden Turret, containing one bell.”
The silver chalice and paten used in St Michael’s Church date from 1660. The inscription on the chalice reads:
“This cup was made in March 1660. Robert Root and Edward Springham being then Churchwardens of the parrish of Mile End by Colchester.”
In about 1700 the eastern part of St Michael’s Church’s ruined chancel was demolished and a new east wall built. A western gallery and perhaps the wooden bell turret at the west end of the nave were built at the same time.
Bowen’s Map of Essex (about 1760) shows St Michael’s Church, High Woods (too far south), Mile End Hall (too far west) and the Broad Oak, a well known Mile End feature. Otherwise, little detail is shown.
Chapman and Andres map of Essex (1777) shows a number of interesting Mile End features:
St Michael’s Church on its original site
Very few houses
Mile End Heath, which extended to Tower Lane (then Severalls Lane) in the north east, Rustic Farm and the Rosefields development in the west and marginally to the south of Mill Road. In other words, the present Severalls site but extended to the south and west.
Mile End Hall (now St Helena Hospice)
Severalls Hall in what is now Severalls Lane, demolished some years ago.
The road to West Bergholt which forked at Braiswick, the left continuing to Bergholt Heath and Bergholt (not West Bergholt) and the right passing through the northern end of Chesterwell Wood, across Black Brook, across Horsley (not Horkesley) Heath and on in the general direction of Little Horsley (not Horkesley), passing a little to the east of Wood House, Great Horkesley.
Two windmills, one on or very close to the Dog and Pheasant site and the other (for corn) further east, on Mile End Heath in Mill Road.
In the early 19th century two churchwardens, two overseers, surveyors, constables and assessors were usually appointed each year, presumably continuing an existing pattern. Vestry meetings were usually held in the church but were sometimes held at the Dog and Pheasant and once at the Waggon and Horses on North Hill, Colchester.
No vestry records survive for St Michael’s Church before 1810.
A map of 1846 shows the old St Michael’s Church, High Woods, Mile End Hall, Severalls Hall, Mile End Heath, remnants of Chesterwell Wood, the Severalls, the Dog and Pheasant, Tubswick, Church Farm, Braiswick Farm and the Primitive Methodist Meeting House. Houses are shown in Nayland Road, north and south (both sides) of the Dog and Pheasant and at the western end of Mill Road (north side). The road towards Little Horkesley, branching to the right at Braiswick, is also shown.
In 1851 the rector, the Revd A E Julius, started a subscription fund for a new church in order to replace the old one, which had comprised a chancel, aisleless nave, south porch, western gallery and wooden bell turret at the western end of the nave.
The Foundation Stone of the new Church of St Michael, Myland was laid on March 21st 1854.
The new St Michael’s Parish Church was built in 1854-5, half a mile north of the old one. As a result, a village focus developed round the new church. It was designed by E Hakewill of Craig’s Court, Charing Cross, London, in the Early English style of the 13th century and built on a site given by Thomas Philip Weddell, Earl de Grey, the patron. It comprises chancel, nave with north aisle, west tower and south porch. Donations for building the new church totalled £2,143 14s 2d (£2143.71p), of which Earl de Grey subscribed £500, the rector the Revd A E Julius £100 and the son of the previous rector, the Revd P Strong, £200. The church was built by Mr White of Vauxhall Bridge Road, London. Woodwork was by Mr S Grimes, Builder, of North Hill, Colchester. The church is built from Kentish rag stone with Caen stone dressings for the windows and porch.
The new St Michael’s Church was consecrated on 18th May 1855. It was in the diocese of Rochester. The Revd Edmund Hall was appointed rector.
White’s Directory of Essex, 1863, describes the old St Michael’s Church as “a small ancient fabric, with a nave, chancel and wooden turret, but it is now disused.”
White’s, 1863, also says that the rectory had 28 acres, 1 rood and 14 poles of glebe, written as 28A. 1R. 14P. It adds: “The Rectory House is a neat mansion, erected in 1842, and having pleasant grounds, commanding fine views of the Colne valley.” (Note: A rood is a quarter of an acre, or 1,210 square yards. A pole when used for area is 30¼ square yards.)
The school for 137 children, with a teacher’s house, was built next to the new church in 1871, using materials from the old church. The school opened on 30th January and 50 children were admitted on the first day. The weather was very cold and it snowed for much of the day. The opening ceremony was conducted by the Revd Hall. The (head) master and (head) mistress were Mr and Mrs George Freeman.