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.
Parish Councils have a long history and may have originated in field side meetings to agree strip farming and crop rotation. Our records do not go back that far but our older records can be found in the Essex County Records Office in Chelmsford. More recent records are with the Parish Clerk, firstname.lastname@example.org, and on this website.
One of the main roles of the Parish Council is to make sure the infrastructure of the village is kept in good order. Some of this the Parish Council manages directly such as village greens, benches, signs and the war memorial. In close liaison with other local groups such as the Village Hall Management Committee they ensure the facilities of the Village are enhanced and social events supported. The footpath network, churchyard, village greens are monitored and cut by the council. Maps and booklets of walks are also produced.
Where the infrastructure is maintained by external bodies, such as Essex County Council and Uttlesford District Council, the Council’s task is to ensure that these agencies do their job. Examples include road maintenance, water leaks, drainage and some rights of way. In recent years the Parish Council successfully campaigned for the construction of the pedestrian footway through the eastern side of the village. Liaison with the police is maintained to ensure road safety and law and order issues are not neglected.
They scrutinise all planning applications that are submitted, and whilst there is no power of veto they do make strong representations where appropriate to maintain the character of the Village. They also respond to consultations from many agencies and levels of government. Communication is another aspect of our work, funding the website, supporting the email newsletter, providing a Newcomers pack to new arrivals to the village and maintaining notice boards.
The Council meets monthly and residents are encouraged to attend. They will listen to any issues or representations before the meeting. However, only councillors can speak at the meeting, but residents are welcome to stay as observers. There is an Annual Parish Meeting in May at which the council briefly reports to the village on the years’ activities, finance (inc. precept) and achievements. This is an opportunity for new topics to be raised and challenges made.
The Council is funded by precept from the District Council and every villager pays a contribution via the council tax. Currently the council receives £9250 and produces an annual budget and expenditure, which is audited internally. Details are published on the website and accounts always open to scrutiny.
Want to know more? – then please check out the rest of the website or contact the Clerk for more information. If you would like to join the Council this can be done either at the elections held every four years, the next ones are due in 2023, or by secondment if there is an interim casual vacancy. Please contact the Chairman if you are interested. The current Council comprises:”