The name Corringham is of Saxon origin and means “Curra’s dwelling on the pasture.” Following St Cedd’s evangelisation of Essex in the 7th century it is thought that a Christian Church was first on this site at those times. It would have been a small wooden structure but unfortunately there are no records or remains of this.
From the beginning of the 9th century the Thames estuary was under constant attack by Viking raiding parties and the wooden building would have been burnt to the ground. The church would have been the only building large enough to keep the entire village population safe and therefore they began to strengthen the walls. The wooden church was encased with a stone wall approximately 3 feet thick, parts of this Saxon herringbone stonework remain today in the chancel wall.
In Norman times St Mary’s began to take the form that we know today. The nave walls were made taller and the windows were replaced with the round headed ones in the Norman style. The main addition at that time was the tower, which remains largely unaltered today. However, it originally had a flat roof with battlements at the top when it was built between 1080 and 1120.
The North chapel, dedicated to St Catherine, was added in 1328 along with the North Aisle. However, following the outbreak of the Black Death the population diminished drastically and by 1400 the church had fallen into disrepair. St Mary’s remained like this until the early 15th Century when things began to improve and restoration began. The spire was added to the tower and the window replaced with the ones we have today and the roof was replaced. And for the first time seating was provided for the congregation.
After a long period of time where little money was spent on St Mary’s except to repair immediate damage in 1843 she was closed and completely restored inside and the south porch was added. Later in 1864 a new vestry was added.
Sadly in 1940 during WWII a bomb was dropped in the churchyard and much damage was done to the roof and stained glass windows. However, in the following years these were replaced until we see St Mary’s as she is today.
In a thousand years, from a small wooden structure to the beautiful stone building we have today, St Mary’s has seen many changes and been a focal place of worship for the Parish of Corringham. It remains today in the care of the worshipping community who are trying to maintain and preserve this heritage for future generations.
This information is adapted from “The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Corringham – A Short History and Guide” written by David R Mott. If you would like a copy please send a cheque or postal order for £1.50 to the parish office and we will put one in the post to you.