St Osyth, Essex

Historical Description

Osyth, St, a village and a parish in Essex. The village stands on a creek of the river Colne, opposite Brightlingsea, If mile N of the coast, 4 ¼ miles S of Thorington station on the G.E.R., 4 W of Clacton-on-Sea station and pier, and 12 SE of Colchester. It has a post, money order, and telegraph office under Colchester. The parish extends to the coast of the North Sea, and comprises 8568 acres of land and 1308 of water; population, 1441. There is a parish council consisting of nine members. Much of the land is marsh, but part is comparatively high, and includes Beacon Hill. A battery and three martello towers are on tne coast. The manor is vested in the trustees of the late Mr W. F. Nassau. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St Allans; net value, £198 with residence. The church is a large and fine building, mostly in the Late Perpendicular style, with parts of the Early English and perhaps of the Norman styles, consisting of chancel, transepts, nave, aisles, S porch, and a massive western embattled tower. It contains some ancient tombs and monuments, among which are five effigies in alabaster of members of the D'Arcy family. There are two Wesleyan chapels. St Osyth is one of the oldest places in the county; was called Chich in Saxon times; took its present name from St Osyth, the daughter of Frithewald (a Mercian princess), who founded here a nunnery and was its first abbess. She was martyred by heathen pirates, probably about 665, and the nunnery destroyed. The parish, which had its church dedicated to St Peter in St Osyth's time, became afterwards part of the royal estates of King Canute, who gave it to Earl Ciodwin, but at the Conquest it was attached to the bishopric of London, and in 1118 Bishop de Belmeis founded here an Augustinian priory which nourished till the dissolution, and had among its abbots and canons many eminent men. After the dissolution, the priory-which is very pleasantly situated in a well-wooded park of 250 acres-was turned into a mansion, and belonged in succession to Lord Thomas Cromwell, Princess Mary, the Lords D'Arcy, the Earls Rochford, and the Nassaus, from whom it was purchased in 1863 by Sir John H. Johnson. About half a mile SE from the village is the old manor house of St Clere, formerly entirely and now on three sides surrounded by a moat.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5


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