It is believed that St. Mary’s
formed part of the Pilgrims’ Way for the
Canterbury Pilgrimages. Pilgrims travelled down Pilgrims’
Lane to St. Clement’s Church in West
Thurrock before crossing the Thames on foot at the ford which used to exist
at low tide, before the river was dredged in modern
times. There was also another crossing point at Tilbury.
Because of the importance of preserving
wild flowers whose only refuge from modern farming
practices may be at the churchyard, certain areas are
not mown until July at least. This accounts for the
sometimes rather unkempt appearance of the churchyard.
St. Mary’s is constructed from local
sandstone (from quarries at West Thurrock and Northfleet
in Kent), flints, of which there is a local abundance,
and lime mortar.
The church tower
is surrounded by an oak-shingled broach spire, which supports
the clock which has been restored since it was made in
1885. The clock strikes the little bell housed on
the outside of the steeple. Formerly this was the
Angelus bell, struck to let workers in the fields know
when the bread and wine were consecrated for Holy
Communion inside the church. They would pause in
their work to pray before continuing with the harvest.
The south door
is not as large or ornate as the north door, but it is
flanked by a pair of medieval stone heads on the corbels
of the outside arch.
The east window
is also flanked by corbels and heads, however they
appear to be crowned; one male and one female.
The west window
is decorated with corbels and heads but the south window
appears to have been damaged and the heads chopped from
the corbels (Cromwell's work perhaps).