The Peldon Rectory

Today, the old Victorian Rectory on Church Road, in the heart of the village, houses young adults for Autism Anglia. With new houses built in front of the stately red brick building on what was once a fine garden with lawns and specimen trees, the building is no longer visible from the road.

The Rev C.R. Harrison, Rector of St Mary's, Peldon, from 1855 - 1867, wrote the following about what was known about this building and even earlier rectories.

The Rectory House} The Rectory House formerly stood on a portion of The Glebe, near the Tithe barn and yards, near where is now The Plough Public House. Some exchange of land was subsequently made and a new Rectory was built by the Reverend R. Palmer in about the year 1822 nearly on the site of the present Rectory. The present Rectory was built in the year 1852 by the Rev W.S.H. Meadows (the former one being pulled down on the plea of bad construction), £1,000 being borrowed from Queen Anne's Bounty for the purpose. Some alterations were made, and some outbuilding erected by the Rev C.R. Harrison, his successor. Rev C.R. Harrison Some Record of The Parish of Peldon 1867 D/P287/28/6

A hundred years later, another rector of Peldon, The Reverend Anthony Gough, (the incumbent between 1964 and 1971), researched the history of the church and village, subsequently writing the church booklet which is still on sale in St Mary's today. In an article of his, published in the Parish magazine in 2004, he sheds more light on those early buildings.

One of the earliest Peldon rectories was situated by the parish pump, behind the Plough Inn on the Lower Road and subsequently became Glebe Land. The land, on what is known today as 'The Old Rectory' (on Church Road) came into the possession of the church in 1822, when a new Rectory was built there roughly in the centre of the present old Rectory lawn. However, it was poorly constructed and a letter still exists, dated 31st March 1852, from the Bishop of Rochester, licensing the rector, William Spencer Braham Meadows to be absent from his parish for 9 months while the new building was erected'

The next major record of The Old Rectory was when it was severely damaged in the earthquake in April 1884. The Reverend Carter Hall rather cryptically wrote

The Rector had a very narrow escape. Some Record of the Parish Of Peldon Rev C R Harrison 1867 D/P287/28/6 Essex Records Office

He was to write

'My poor Church and Rectory have suffered so severely from the Earthquake that I am induced to appeal to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to ask if they will afford me any help in so great an emergency'
Published in the Parish News of Peldon and the Wigboroughs in April 1974 on the 90th anniversary. The origin of the letter is not given.

Peter Haining in The Great Colchester Earthquake elucidates the Rector's narrow escape. Carter Hall had been in his upstairs study when the chimney stacks fell through the rectory roof, rendering all the upstairs rooms uninhabitable. In The Illustrated London News an etching of the rectory, made just after the earthquake, indicates the extent of the damage.

Between 1939 and 1947 The Reverend John Robert Wilson was incumbent at St Mary's. In his daughter's unpublished memoirs, which span the war years, she describes the rectory in detail.

The Rectory was a gigantic 3-storey place with outhouses and a huge garden and orchard. There was a lawn in front of the house and beyond the lawn were three majestic trees. One was a fully-grown Ilex in voluminous splendour of evergreen leaves, another was a small specimen of a Giant Redwood, and the third was a magnificent brawny-limbed Cedar....there were five servants rooms on the top floor. On the middle floor there were three large bedrooms and a bathroom and a toilet. There were two staircases, one for servants and one for the family. Halfway down the servants' stairs was a truly ancient loo. The thing was all boarded in and the pan was like a funnel. When the chain was pulled the water went down with a great roar causing a spectacular whirlpool! On the ground floor there was a large study, a dining room, very ample sitting-room and a huge kitchen with scullery, larder, coal shed etc. Besides these there was a large room we called the Rectory Room, used for Church functions. Below, there was a huge cellar which was always flooded ...

It was impossible to heat it properly in the winter. We huddled around a cosy stove in the sitting-room. To me the house seemed to be full of ghosts - creepy, cold and unattractive. Phyllis Day unpublished memoir, copy in St Mary's

Phyllis went on to write that, during the war, five officers of the Somerset Light Infantry were billeted in the Rectory, using the Rectory Room as their headquarters. Their men camped under canvas in an adjacent field.

Her criticism of the state of the Rectory was mild in comparison to this undated letter her father wrote to the Parish magazine

              WHITE ELEPHANT

I wonder if many people have looked at our Peldon Rectory
And thought it would be a very nice house to live in? If so
the only reply to make is 'come and see how you like it!'
Forgive me if on this occasion I write a personal letter for our
magazine. Several people have said to me, 'I hear you will soon
be leaving us', and so a word of explanation is necessary.
In reply I can only say I don't know at all what the future holds
in store; but I do know that the Rectory is becoming an impossible
burden and something has got to be done about it. What do you
think of this? Recently, an estimate of cost for necessary
outside repairs was made at £340. Further, the official
deduction each year for future repairs is fixed at £45, not to
mention necessary inside repairs. On top of all this the
recent cold winter has convinced us that we cannot face another
such in this big cold house. And so you will understand that,
without a small fortune to draw upon, life in the Rectory is
becoming impossible. At the moment I cannot say what will
happen. The future fate of the Rectory is of course in the
hands of the Church authorities. As regards ourselves we must
ultimately live elsewhere, if continuing to work in the parish.

Will you please pray that God's will may be done in this
matter? the future support of the clergy and provision of
suitable houses is also a matter for serious consideration in
the future. Something definite must be done and done quickly.

May God bless you all!

Yours sincerely,

J. R. WILSON

It was not to be until the Rev Antony Gough's incumbency that the Church started the search for a suitable site on which to build a new rectory. In 1968 it was proposed that this should be on the Glebe land fronting Lower Road. However, by July of that year the Church decided to buy Strood Close, The Strood, Peldon, built in 1860 and now known as Pyefleet House.

Pyefleet House, formerly Strood Close. A magic lantern slide showing earthquake damage to the chimney.

The church still has the Conveyance document for Strood Close, between Mrs Gwendoline Lilian Harding, The Church Commissioners for England and the Reverend W Gough dated 15th July 1968. Gwendoline and her late husband, Edward, had bought Strood Close twenty years before from Leslie Grimes, the artist and cartoonist. Gwendoline sold the property to the Church for £10,000, the money being taken out of the Church of England's 'parsonage fund' and by October of that year the Reverend Gough, his wife and four daughters, were installed in this new house, re-named The Rectory.

[The document for Strood Close lists two previous owners between whom a conveyance was signed in 1904. Alfonso Lay of the first part and Lily Jane Kinnard and Jane Pullen of the second. The latter was landlady of The Peldon Rose for close to seventy years. She bought up quite a number of properties near The Rose. Lily Jane was her daughter who had been widowed that year.]

As far as the villagers were concerned the new vicarage was not as convenient and the vicar less accessible. Strood Close was to be a rectory for just over two years, and although the Reverend Gough's successor moved into Strood Close (Gough left in 1971) this was only a temporary measure while a new vicarage was being built back in the heart of the village. The Church Commissioners sold the house on the Strood that year and the incoming family, the Tates, named it Pyefleet House.

As for the old Victorian rectory in Church Road, run-down and cold and, presumably, empty for two years, it was bought and renovated by Vic Pallas-Clark, Director of E. M. Mason printing works in 1970.

It was in the gardens of the Old Rectory, fronting the road, that two new houses were built; the left one of which became the next vicarage into which Gough's replacement, The Reverend John Carpenter, moved in October 1971 and then upon his retirement, the Reverend James E Seddon, instituted on 31st July 1974.

The Old Rectory remained a family home for the Pallas-Clarks for about seven years and, in 1977, Vic Pallas-Clark sold up to David and Pat Eaton who in turn sold it to the autistic home, which opened in 1983.

The Princess in Peldon! We have heard from Mr Alex Wallace that Princess Anne will be coming at the end of July for the official opening of the Old Rectory as a Home for Autistic Adolescents. The first of the new residents have already arrived and are settling in and by the end of July will be well established. The Princess opened a former centre for which Alex was responsible and he is looking forward to this Royal occasion as well. Peldon and Wigborough Parish News May 1983

Many villagers remember the helicopter landing on Peldon Green.

The Princess in Peldon! There must be a variety of personal memories about the events of that great historic day when Princess Anne officially opened the Old Rectory as a home for Autistic Adolescents. She spoke to many folk during her visit, including the Brownies, who looked very smart in their uniforms and so caught the royal eye! She unveiled a plaque in the lounge of the Old Rectory, signed the Visitors' Book and met the Committee and the staff, Many recorded the occasion on film and the results were most colourful. Peldon and Wigborough Parish News September 1983

Unfortunately, the two houses built in the grounds of The Old Rectory proved to be poorly built and cracks appeared in The Rectory while the house next door, (Viewpoint), suffered severe structural problems and subsidence. The Archdeacon of Colchester wrote in 1988 there is a real possibility that we shall want to change the present house, which is sub-standard. The situation is that we build a new Rectory on glebe land which is likely to become available for building in the very near future.

In 1989 the rector, Canon E.C. Lendon, made a request of the parsonage committee. He asked a favour on behalf of the occupant of Viewpoint. His next door neighbour [Joy Wisdom]

the widow of a former churchwarden here [who] lives in an almost identical house, is having great problems with subsidence...as the rectory will be unoccupied after my departure in early April, she wonders whether you would be agreeable to her moving into the Rectory while her house is being repaired. I know this is a very unusual request but it would help her considerably. She is our main organist at Peldon, leads the choir, involved in our Sunday School, a PCC member to name but a few activities.

Joy did indeed move into the rectory temporarily and the following year Canon Lendon was replaced by Canon J.S. Short who came to Peldon in 1990.

By 1991 The Rectory building was being monitored for movement and it was proposed trees in the grounds were either removed or pollarded to help the situation. A surveyor's report made the additional point

This house is very under-sized and not designed for use as a parsonage. There is currently a scheme to build a new Rectory in the village subject to Local Authority consent.

By now, the autistic home was interested in buying The Rectory having already bought Viewpoint from Joy Wisdom and wanting further accommodation to extend its rehabilitation work. It was clear from notes by the Rector, however, that the diocese was dragging its heels on making a decision to build a replacement Rectory in the village.

Back in 1986, the diocese had already gained outline planning permission to build four houses, on what was Glebe land, along the north side of Lower Road adjacent to The Plough The new houses which were built in the 1990s are, moving from east to west, Claypots next to The Plough, Amberley Lodge, Glebe House (reflecting the origins of the land) and The Petals.

A fifth plot, on the western side is being retained to ensure that there is adequate access to the backland should development become possible at some future date.

There was a suggestion that a new rectory could be built in this development of the lower Glebe field but the Rector states that the Housing Committee deemed it too far away from the church.

However, another plot presented itself on Church Road next to Feathers, not far from the church, almost opposite the existing rectory and therefore much more suitable. (Feathers was demolished in more recent times and replaced by Orchard House), The area, described by the Council as rough grassland and undergrowth would, however, have involved extending the village envelope and seems to have been tied in with a wish to build more houses on the upper field. The proposal was rejected by the Council.

The rector, Canon Short, put forward an objection to the refusal of planning permission but following a local public enquiry in 1991 the council overturned his objection and refused to allow the moving of the village envelope. It was

considered an unnecessary intrusion into the open countryside in a Countryside Conservation Area ... it is ... considered that this would represent an undesirable extension of ribbon development along the South side of Church Road, which would be likely to create pressures for the inclusion of further land. Review of Adopted Colchester Borough Local Plan: Public Local Enquiry into Objections 1991

A map showing the 1991 proposal for a new vicarage which was refused by the Local Authority. The thick black line indicates the village envelope.

Canon Short was to be the last rector to live in the village and upon his departure in 1993 Peldon and the Wigboroughs became part of Mersea's benefice and shared West Mersea's rector. In November 1994 the Rev Robin Elphick was instituted as Priest in Charge of the benefice replacing the Reverend Swallow.

No longer needed, a new rectory in Peldon was not forthcoming and the two modern houses built in the grounds of The Old Rectory were acquired by the autistic society and are now part of Autism Anglia's campus.

The Peldon Campus, now consists of 4 homes which can support up to 23 adults altogether. Peldon Old Rectory is now an 11-bed property. Ashton House, the former 1970s rectory, houses a complex needs unit for up to 3 adults who are supported on a 1:1 basis and what is now known as John Jones House, is a purpose-built complex needs unit for people who require a higher level of support in terms of behaviour and needs.

Nowadays, Peldon remains part of a united benefice and (when we have an incumbent) we share the rector with West and East Mersea, Great and Little Wigborough. The rectories in Great and Little Wigborough, Peldon and East Mersea are no longer owned by the Church but in private ownership and the rector of all the parishes resides in West Mersea in a modern house.

Elaine Barker
Peldon History Project

Author: Elaine Barker

Related Images

 Peldon Rectory. Postcard P1055  PH01_211PH01_211
Peldon Rectory. Postcard P1055
 The Rectory at Peldon after the 1884 Earthquake.  PH01_213PH01_213
The Rectory at Peldon after the 1884 Earthquake.
cMay 1884
 Peldon Rectories. Map showing site of proposed new vicarage.
</p><p>Other houses named on the map are Viewpoint, Green-way, Mallards, Kendal Rise, Stony-banks, Lingwood, Treetops, Island View, Merelee, Feathers, Wheatlands.  PH01_215PH01_215
Peldon Rectories. Map showing site of proposed new vicarage.

Other houses named on the map are Viewpoint, Green-way, Mallards, Kendal Rise, Stony-banks, Lingwood, Treetops, Island View, Merelee, Feathers, Wheatlands.

 Letter from J.R. Wilson, Peldon about the problems of living in Peldon Rectory.

 From Yates Family correspondence.  YTS_008_131YTS_008_131
Letter from J.R. Wilson, Peldon about the problems of living in Peldon Rectory.
From Yates Family correspondence.
ID: PH01_RTY
Source: Mersea Museum