A Visitor's Guide to St John the Baptist, Layer de la HayeEnglish, Dutch, German and French versions of a guide leaflet are available in the church (just inside the door, to your right, as you enter). It highlights some of the main features and points of interest in and around the church. The following is a shortened version which you may like to print and bring with you.
A church has stood on this site since 1128 and you are invited to take a walk around both the inside and outside.
You enter the church through the restored 14th century porch. Look up in the nave, which was built in 1350, and you will see a good example of an ancient trussed rafter roof.
Walk up the aisle on the old tiled floor, formerly glazed but now well-worn by the feet of worshippers. On the left you pass the carved wooden pulpit and then step up into the chancel which is the oldest part of the church. The small 12th century window on the north side was rediscovered and restored in 1964. Close by is the tomb of Thomas Tey and his wife buried in 1543. The tomb is of Purbeck marble.
On the south wall you will see an aumbry where consecrated bread and wine are kept before being taken to the homes of sick parishioners for their communion. The adjacent window was added in 1964.
Retrace your steps past the organ. The Bevington two manual organ was built in 1890. It has been regularly restored and in 1986 a fifteenth on the Great and a balanced swell pedal were added.
You will find in the south aisle a memorial tablet to people from the village killed in two World Wars (1914-18 and 1939-45). The south aisle is full at the main festival services and at other times serves as a social area for meetings and coffee after services.
Look at the kneelers in the pews. These were embroidered by members of the congregation and depict many interesting aspects of the life of the church.
On the west wall you will see the rolls of baptism and also the list of vicars. On the bookcase near the font is the visitors' book which you are invited to sign.
The tower was built in the 14th century. Until 1999 it had five bells hung in a mediaeval wooden bell frame. The oldest bell was cast in 1459 by a lady bellfounder, Johanna Sturdy of London. This bell and the mediaeval frame were a gift to the church from the monks of St Botolph's, Colchester who at the time ministered to the spiritual needs of the parish. After the tower was damaged in the Colchester earthquake of 1884 the bells could not be rung at all until they were adapted for chiming in 1936. A major restoration project was completed in February 2001. A new bell frame was installed, the old bells were refurbished and a new bell, cast in September 2000, was added. The rare original mediaeval frame has been preserved in its original position in the tower. Now, after many years, the bells are once again in full ringing order. (For safety reasons the tower is only open to the public on special occasions.)
Outside the church you can see that some Roman brick has been used in the construction of the walls of the tower and the chancel. The monument near the porch is an obelisk commemorating Lieutenant General J. Brown (1764) who served under the famous Duke of Marlborough. The oldest grave is dated 1719. One area of the churchyard is maintained as a conservation area. It is kept wild to encourage birds, insects and the regeneration of wild meadow flowers which might otherwise become extinct.
We hope you have enjoyed your visit. If you would like to join us in worship you will find details of services in the church porch and on this website.
Page updated: 14 MAY 2006