There was possibly a small wooden chapel here in Saxon times, but the first evidence is a charter of William II in 1094, establishing a church at Gt. Sampford with a chapel of ease in Hempstead, with the tithes going to William the Conqueror's foundation, Battle Abbey. The only features remaining from this period are the font and the tomb of Dame Margerie de Basingge, who died in 1318.
The present building was begun circa 1330, so possibly Dame Margerie left money to rebuild in stone.
The church was consecrated on 8th January 1365, by Simon of Sudbury, then Bishop of London. (He later became Archbishop of Canterbury and was beheaded during the peasants' revolt in 1381. His head can still be seen in the vestry of St. Gregory's church in Sudbury.) He also consecrated the churchyard, to which only a parish church is entitled, so Hempstead was possibly the only church to enjoy the privileges of parish status from 1365 to 1977, when it was united with Radwinter and the diocese legalised the situation.
The church is mainly of the perpendicular style, with several alterations and modifications over the years. Around 1650, Eliab Harvey, brother of the famous Doctor William Harvey (discoverer of the circulation of the blood) excavated a crypt for the family coffins and built over it a chapel and schoolroom (now the vestry) and shortened and rebuilt the chancel in brick.
In 1882 the 15th century tower fell down rendering the church unusable until 1888, after a restoration programme had been completed. In 1933 the Harveian Society of London gave money for the rebuilding of the tower. When the rebuilding reached nave height, the money ran out and they were £1,000 short. When the tower was completed in 1960, it cost £14,000!!
In 1883 the Royal College of Physicians removed William Harvey's coffin from the crypt and placed it in a Carrara marble sarcophagus in the Harvey chapel, leaving 49 other members of the family in the crypt.
Welcome to Hempstead
Hempstead is a vibrant village and we hope you will find activities and interests that please you and which you want to join in. There is much to choose from and we communicate with everyone in several ways:
- Website: https://www.hempstead-essex.org.uk
- Newsletter – emailed to you monthly, if you sign up with Diana Frost at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Village Facebook Group Hempstead Village | Facebook
- Ambo Parish Magazine – published quarterly with Benefice news and delivered through your door.
- Noticeboards in the heart of the village
In brief, Hempstead has been populated since Saxon times and has had some famous residents in William Harvey, Sir Eliab Harvey and, of course, Dick Turpin. There are approximately 440 residents today.
There is something for everyone:
- Keep Fit Club – weekly meetings
- Cubs – weekly meetings in term time
- Dramatic Society – puts on one production a year
- Village Hall – available for hire and events
- The Parish Council sits regularly throughout the year and holds an Annual Assembly in May to which every resident is encouraged to attend and make an active contribution.
In general, we believe in keeping the village rural in style but safe and maintained and aim to encourage good neighbourliness generally and promote consideration for others by not parking on the road blocking visibility for others. This is a ‘dark’ village without street lights, and we wish to remain so, to protect the rural nature of Hempstead.
A Defibrillator is on the wall at the front door of the Village Hall, and a Voluntary Emergency Telephone System (VETS) is available and operated by village residents.
Ultrafast broadband is available through County Broadband: https://countybroadband.co.uk/ Please enjoy exercising your dog/horse on the many available footpaths and bridleways, but we respectfully ask that you keep dogs on the lead on cultivated fields and use the ‘dog bins’ provided.
We hope you settle in well and look forward to meeting you in and around the village.
The Parish Council