Over the Heritage Open Days weekend in September 2014 we visited St. Mary’s Church in Mundon. The church is redundant, and is now in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches. Once a year a service is held there.
It’s a tiny church, and even today you feel a little like a pilgrim as you have to search for it, as it’s hidden deep in the Essex countryside, along a farm track. Searching for the church though is all a part of its attraction.
The oldest part of the church dates from the 14th century, and it feels to the visitor as if the centuries have passed it by. The church became redundant in 1974, and since then it has been in the care of the Friends, who have carried out extensive conservation work. It’s now Grade 1 listed, and has only been open to visitors again since 2009.
You enter the church through a timber framed tower, above which is the weather-boarded belfry. There’s no electric light in the the church, (far too modern), so even on a sunny day the atmosphere is very calm and muted. There are box pews, and a feature that I loved – wooden shutters across the windows in the tower. There are faint traces of early wall paintings to be seen, as well as some 18th century decoration. But the overall feeling is one of simplicity.
St. Mary’s is a church where you can let your imagination fly, picturing farm workers and the gentry from nearby Mundon Hall meeting on a Sunday morning in a world that disappeared with the 1st World War.
And as an extra treat, walk out the back of the graveyard and cross the field to look at the petrified oak trees of Mundon Furze, which are really, really spooky on even a sunny day. It’s evidently one of the last areas of surviving ancient woodland in the Dengie peninsula, and looking at the vast expanse of flat land leading to the estuary gives you an entirely different perspective on the Essex coast.
I’ve visited many beautiful churches, but this I think is one of my favourites, for it’s simplicity, its calm and the way you can feel such a strong connection with the past – and maybe your own ancestors. I feel very lucky to have visited St. Mary’s, if your travelling in the area when it’s open, do try to go and see it.