It’s been a sensational week for local history. St Andrew’s Church in Greensted - which may be the world’s oldest wooden church - has secured a place in Historic England's feted “Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places”. Moreover it’s been announced that the “Willingale Treasure”, a stunning medieval gold and sapphire ring dating to the thirteenth or fourteenth century will be staying in Essex after local people raised enough money to save it.
St Andrew’s Church, more commonly known as Greensted Church, is a remarkable survival from Anglo-Saxon England. I used to teach early English history and it’s a true delight to see St Andrew’s getting the national recognition that it has so long deserved. It’s amazing to think how this simple, beautiful little wooden church has served local families for over a thousand years – its walls are made up of tree trunks sliced down the middle and over the years it has been patched up and extended by Saxon, Norman, Tudor and Victorian builders. Now it is to be ranked in Historic England’s “Faith & Belief Top Ten” alongside such other prestigious sites as Stonehenge, Canterbury Cathedral, and Brick Lane Mosque.
Reverend David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, who selected the top ten for Historic England, grew up in Brentwood, and remembers cycling to visit the church as a boy. He writes: “Parish churches are integral to so much of the English landscape. Often the very materials used to build them come from the surrounding land, so they reflect their environments and seem to have grown out of the soil of their local communities.”
On the subject of local soil, a ring found by a metal detectorist in a field in the parish of Willingale looks set to stay in the county after an amazing response to a crowdfunder organised by Epping Forest District Museum.
The campaign had already received support from the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and SHARE Museums East and Epping Forest District Museum committed funding from its reserves leaving £3000 to be raised. This money has now been raised through public donations. Tony O’Connor, says crowdfunding page has been “an enriching experience”. If you want to donate towards the fund, you can still do so at: www.spacehive.com/willingaletreasure
Thanks to the Epping Forest District Museum for allowing me to share these pictures of this beautiful piece of jewellery.