Willingale is a small village situated between Ongar and Chelmsford in the North of Essex. It’s main claim to fame, apart from briefly being considered as the location of London’s third airport, is that it has two Churches, not bad for an Village that only has a population of about 500 people. Their is still some speculation as to why Willingale has two churches, one popular story is that two sisters quarrelled and each built their own church. This story is without foundation as the churches date from different periods.
The real reason is probably found in the names of the parishes: Spain & Doe. Harvey D’Espania built Spains Hall and the Church of Willingale Spain, giving his name to the parish, in the 12th Century. In the 14th Century the D’ou family came to live in Willingale. Around this time the wool industry was flourishing in Essex, and the population greatly increased. The existing church was too small to accommodate the increased number of worshippers, and rather than pull down the old church and replace it with a new one, a second church was built next to the original. The two churches are now united into one parish, the parish of Willingale. Until 1929 they were separate and quite distinct, each with its own rector.
The Parish Church, formerly that of Willingale Doe, has the main services through out the year, the other, formally the Parish Church of Willingale Spain is used occasionally for special services.
The Church of Willingale Doe is dedicated to St. Christopher. This is now the Parish Church of Willingale. The Chancel & Nave were built about 1320, about the Middle of the 15th Century the Tower and South Porch were added.
St Andrews Church, formerly the parish Church of Willingale Spain. This is the older of the two Churches, the nave being built early in the 12th Century. The Chancel and Chancel Arch were rebuilt in the 15th Century. In the 19th Century the vestry and South Porch were added.
Details taken from ‘Willingale’s Two Churches’, Compiled by The Rev, Father G H Marsden