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Gallery: Churches of Essex
by Peter Kessler, 22 May 2020.
Updated 25 October 2020
Basildon Part 1: Churches of Bowers Gifford
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.
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, 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, 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.
London Road Congregational Chapel (otherwise
known as 'The Hut'), once stood on the southern side of London Road,
opposite the Eversley Road turning. Like many of pre-war Basildon's
buildings it was an inexpensive affair, built as a temporary means
of providing for the area's few Congregationalists. It was quickly
replaced by the more permanent Pitsea Mission Chapel (see above) in
1885 and was converted into a house until demolition in the 1990s.
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.