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The Parish of Rainham with Wennington » Church History

Wennington Parish Church of St Mary & St Peter

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The Church of St Mary and St Peter has had a presence in the small village of Wennington for over 800 years and is still an active place of worship, with a small congregation meeting regularly. The present church was built around 1248AD and has been added to since. The tower is at the West end of the chancel to the East. Entry to the church is by way of the porch on the North side of the building that dates from the late 1800s. The date of the first church on the site, the Saxon one, is difficult to pin down. Certainly there was a church at Wennington by 1042-1044, when Edward the Confessor confirmed the Parish as belonging to Westminster Abbey.

A charity called Friends of Wennington Church was formed when the church, a Grade II* listed building, was threatened with redundancy due to it being in a state of disrepair. The Parochial Church Council at that time could not see how the necessary repairs could be paid for. Fundraising started, and with grants from English Heritage and other bodies such as Essex Over The Border, work commenced on essential roofing works. Slowly, the building was restored to a sound state of repair. Friends of Wennington Church disbanded in 2016, and their role has subsequently been passed on to Friends of Essex Churches.

Rainham Parish Church of St Helen & St Giles

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The Church of St. Helen & St. Giles is a Grade I listed building of high historical and architectural importance. It was built around 1170AD by Richard de Lucy, and despite some alterations, stands as it was built, with chancel, nave, aisles and tower. It is dedicated to St. Helen, or Helena (c. 247–327AD) who was reputedly British and by her marriage to a Roman Officer became the mother of Constantine the Great; and St. Giles (c.7th century), who was Greek. Such a dedication is unique in the British Isles.

Up to 1327AD it was administered by the Abbot of Lesnes Abbey; the vicars since then are listed to the right of the church door. There is much to be observed, but two features are unique and cannot be matched in any other church in the country; the beautiful arrangement of the six small windows in the east wall of the chancel, and the eye-like shaping of the six clerestory windows.

The walls are built of septaria, a rocklike substance eroded from the clay cliffs of the Essex coast, and flint-rubble, with limestone dressings. Clunch, a hard chalk, is included in the interior work, thus most of the building materials are local. All of the east windows were bricked up for 150 years before the 1897-1910 restoration. They now follow the Norman pattern. The Norman chancel arch is one of the best preserved examples of its kind

Note the doorway and the roodloft stairs which originally gave acess to a parapet of the rood loft on which images would have been displayed. The graffito in the staircase wall of a cog, or two-masted sailing vessel is interesting. This was probably pre-Reformation.

There are three 17th century bells in the tower, which are no longer able to be rung due to their supports being too decayed.