The church of St Mary the Virgin has been evolving ever since Archbishop Islip decreed in the 1300s that it was “the duty of the Vicar of Wrotham to appoint one fit chaplain to celebrate in the chapel of Stansted”. The first church building was built overlooking the village beside a three hundred year year old yew tree. More than seven hundred years later that tree is still standing just outside the church porch.
The church as it stands today is known to have been in existence on 8th October 1312 when John de Hynton took sanctuary there. However, the Church of St Mary is not included in the Taxatio of Pope Nicholas IV, which was completed in 1291, so it is likely that the church was built in the very early years of the 14th century.
In 1883 the Victorians restored St Mary’s and in 1992 the Church was once again improved when the Ringers’ Gallery was installed and the three bells were augmented to six. Within St Mary’s belfry hangs what is thought to be the oldest bell in the district. Cast before the Reformation, it bears a Latin inscription which reads “His name is John”. A second bell is engraved “William Hatch made me in 1656”.
The oldest tombstones in the churchyard date from 1715. One gravestone belongs to the author and composer William Edward Hickson (1803 – 1870) whose words feature in the English national anthem.
Sir Sydney Waterlow, politician and philanthropist, was also buried in Stansted churchyard in 1906. He was a commissioner at the Crystal Palace Exhibition and was director of the Union Bank of London. In 1872 Sir Sydney became Lord Mayor of London.
In the early 1980s the parish of Stansted was combined with Fairseat and Vigo in order to create a more sustainable missionary congregation. This has since led to a variety of Sunday services being shared each week between St Mary’s in Stansted, the Chapel of the Holy Innocents in Fairseat and the more informal Vigo Village Hall (See service times for more information).
October 2015 saw the completion of the most ambitious building project since the first stone was laid in the 1300s. “The Cloisters”, an extension to the main church building, provides the church and community with an attractive hall that can seat up to 50 people, a kitchenette and most importantly two toilets!
Although St Mary’s Church has seen many changes in its seven hundred plus year history, its congregation in Stansted, Fairseat and Vigo continue to meet together in worship and fellowship……we invite you to come along and join us!
A fuller version of the history of St Mary’s can also be found here.