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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Essex

by Peter Kessler, 22 May 2020

Basildon Part 1: Churches of Bowers Gifford & Pitsea

Church of St Margaret of Antioch, Bowers Gifford, Basildon, Essex

The Church of St Margaret of Antioch, Bowers Hall near Bowers Gifford, stands in a large churchyard on the eastern side of Church Road, flanked to the south by the railway line to Benfleet. This is an isolated location near the edge of Bowers Marshes, with its church being built about 1320 by Sir John Gifford. The sanctuary contains an incomplete memorial brass to him, while also boasting an unusual wooden spire and a large diagonal buttress supporting the fortress tower.

Church of St Margaret of Antioch, Bowers Gifford, Basildon, Essex

That tower was built in two stages but, when large parts of the coursed ashlar, flint, and brick church were rebuilt in the early sixteenth century, the timber-framed bell stage was added to the tower. A more thorough restoration was undertaken in 1910, with the south porch seen on the right here being added at that time. The building is said to be haunted, with tales including reports of the organ being played by unseen hands, and of odd electrical faults in cars nearby.

Basildon & District Crematorium Chapel, Pitsea, Basildon, Essex

Basildon & District Crematorium Chapel, Pitsea, sits at the south-western edge of the crematorium (the brown roofs seen just off-centre in this aerial photo), on the southern side of Church Road, overlooked by the multi-lane bulk of the A13 and reachable from London Road. The area also contains Bowers Gifford Cemetery & Memorial Gardens (to the right of the photo). The crematorium was built in 1998 and the site occupies a total of 3.24 hectares of land.

The Church at Gun Hill (Elim Pentecostal), Bowers Gifford, Basildon, Essex

The Church at Gun Hill (Elim Pentecostal), Bowers Gifford, is on the southern side of London Road, about thirty metres west of the junction with Church Road. It was built in 1884 as Pitsea Mission Chapel (Congregational). Apparently, John Willsmer, the miller from nearby Pitsea, was one of the people responsible for its construction. Rectory Park Drive Chapel replaced it in 1927, and the building was bought in the 1940s by Bowers Gifford Elim Pentecostal Church.

St John's Mission Church, Bowers Gifford, Basildon, Essex

St John's Mission Church (or St John's Hall), Bowers Gifford, once sat on the southern side of London Road, a little under three hundred metres east of Church Road. The church (not chapel) is shown on post-war OS maps with St Margaret's C of E Primary School behind it in a more modest-sized building than the present one. It has to be assumed that the church was there to serve the school in its early days but was later removed. The land is now a car park.

Pitsea Baptist Church, Pitsea, Basildon, Essex

Pitsea Baptist Church, Bowers Gifford, was set back behind a perfectly normal detached house on the northern side of London Road about fifty metres east of the Fairleigh Road junction. Records show it was active between 1936-1949. By 2019 the dilapidated former church building was still just about visible from the main road (seen through the gap between buildings here) - the houses to the right were built in 2016 on previously open land behind the former Bull Inn.

Three photos on this page kindly contributed by Graham Jones of The Church at Gun Hill, one by Ken Porter of Basildon Borough Heritage Society, and one by Terry Joyce via the 'History Files: Churches of the British Isles' Flickr group.

 

 

     
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