In 653 AD, St Cedd, a monk from Lindisfarne, was sent to Essex as a missionary. Cedd
landed at Bradwell-on-Sea, where he founded a minster - a church base for clergy
to teach the Christian faith in the surrounding area. Over the next ten years Cedd
established four more minsters, including at a major Roman crossroads above the Thames,
now known as Upminster.
The first church in Upminster was probably made of timber and thatch, as there was
no local source of stone. It would have been very small, as the population was sparse.
Little is known of the parish history until the 12th century when the church was
rebuilt in stone.
In the early 14th century the church was much enlarged with the addition of a north
aisle. 1861/2 saw much rebuilding of the church: the chancel, north aisle and south
porch being practically rebuilt.
In the 20th century Upminster rapidly developed from a village to a suburb. The old
village church was clearly inadequate. Accordingly, extensive additions were undertaken
in 1928/9 from the designs of Sir Charles Nicholson. The old chancel was removed
and the present choir and sanctuary were built at the east end, together with the
choir aisle, the St George Chapel (behind the organ) and the Lady Chapel in the north-east
corner of the church. The sacristy and choir vestry were added later.
The church was extensively refurbished and restored in 1992.
In 2003 the church was re-ordered, creating a large open space in the centre of the
THECHURCHTOWER is the oldest part of the present church building, the lower parts
dating from about 1200, when the original timber church was rebuilt in stone. The
tower reaches to a height of 28 metres (90 feet). Note the ancient timbers supporting
the bell chamber, with grooves worn in the wood by bell ropes.
The tower houses FOURBELLS. They range in weight from 10 cwt (inscribed 'God save
our nobel Queene Elizabeth 1602') to 7 cwt which was cast in the mid-15th century.
THEFONT, where new Christians are baptised into the Christian faith, dates from
the late 15th century. It was originally in the chapel of Upminster House (the home
of the Branfil family) and was donated to the church in 1777 when the house was demolished.
The font used to stand at the 'crossways' by the church door but was removed to its
present position in 1976. Nothing is known of the church's original font.
Looking east from the tower area, you see the MAINAISLE leading to an open area
by the PULPIT. A movable altar is placed in the middle of this area on Sundays and
is the focus of worship. This area is also used for concerts and other community
Further to the east are the CLERGYSTALLS and CHOIRSTALLS. At the far east end of
the church is the HIGHALTAR.
Beneath the Pieta is an ancient COFFINLID that was discovered when the foundations
were being dug for the Lady Chapel.
To the left of the altar, on the east wall, is a small safe (covered by curtains)
known as an AUMBRY. This contains the Reserved Sacrament – the bread consecrated
at Holy Communion. It stands as a sign of the presence of Christ in the Church. (Please
respect the sanctity of the aumbry by not touching it).
To the right of the altar is a VOTIVECANDLESTAND. Anyone may light a candle and
place it here as a sign of their prayers.
Starting in the Lady Chapel, on the north wall, are the STATIONSOFTHE CROSS. There
are fourteen of these in sequence around the whole church. They depict the story
of Jesus' death, from his condemnation by the authorities to his interment in the
tomb following his crucifixion. The Stations of the Cross are used for devotion,
particularly in the season of Lent before Easter.
Go through the opening to the right of the altar. This leads into the space between
the choir stalls and a high altar.
The HIGHALTAR was designed to be the place from where worship was to be led. Since
the creation of the open space next to the pulpit, where a movable altar is placed
on Sundays, the high altar is less frequently used.
Beside the high altar are doors that lead into the Sacristy and Choir Vestry area.
These doors are locked outside service times.
The STAINEDGLASSWINDOW above the high altar depicts some of the saints of the Church.
Among them (to the right of centre) are St Cedd (the founder of Upminster Church)
and St Laurence (the Patron of the church). St Cedd is seen holding a model of the
original church made of wood and thatch. St Laurence holds a model of the church
much as it is today.
Next to the choir stalls is a fine two manual Tickell PIPEORGAN installed in 2003.
Pass behind the organ into the St George Chapel.
The SAINT GEORGE CHAPEL was considerably reduced in size when the present organ was
installed. It is therefore only used for worship on Saint Georges’ day.
Above the altar is a STAINED-GLASSWINDOW depicting three English saints of local
interest: St Helena, St Mellitus, and St Ethelburga. This window replaces one that
was bomb damaged during the Second World War.
On the south wall behind the organ are a set of MONUMENTALBRASSES collected together
from more vulnerable places around the church. They are interesting for their depiction
of period costume and armour.
At the west end of the St George Chapel is a CARVEDOAKSCREEN.
Beyond the screen the final two STATIONSOFTHE CROSS can be seen.