About the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Dedham
The present parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Dedham was built in the 15th century. Building work started in 1492, the year that Columbus discovered America, and St Mary's was completed 30 years later, before King Henry VIII made himself head of the Church in England. The tower, completed in 1519, is actually an independent structure and is particularly imposing for a church of this size. It is said that Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, paid for the tower to be built. The tower is 131 feet high and is the most striking feature in this part of the Stour.
The Church has seen a number of famous preachers grace its building including the celebrated Puritan Divine Matthew Newcomen, who preached several times before the House of Commons at Westminster, and 'Roaring' John Rogers who thundered the Gospel of Salvation from the turret to twelve hundred eager people gathered in the churchyard. It was also from this building that they carried the well-loved Lecturer William Burkitt after he had collapsed at a service, a few days before his death.
The American Connection: Dedham, Massachusetts
Many residents of Dedham and surrounding villages emigrated to the United States of America, some settling in Massachusetts. In 1636, the town of Dedham, Massachusetts was founded, taking its name from Dedham, Essex. From that time the links between Dedham, Essex, and descendants of early settlers in the USA have remained strong. Shields in the Nave Roof, a dedicated Nave Pew and a Sealed Resolution all mark the connection between Dedham, Essex and Dedham, Massachusetts.
The Sealed Resolution from the Town of Dedham, Massachusetts reads:
The United States of America
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Town of Dedham
Be it here known to all that:
The Board of Selectmen of the Town of Dedham hereby offers their solicitations and best wishes to:
Officials of Dedham, England
in recognition of the Brotherhood which has always existed between our two surnamed towns, and the Friendship of it's mutual residents, and we express the Hope for future Good Fortune and continued Friendship between this Generation and Generations to come, in a Peaceful World.
Given this Sixth Day of August, in the Year of Our Lord, One Thousand, Nine Hundred and Seventy-Three.
George A. Coles
Helen M. Carney
Francis W. O'Brian
Gerard J. Mazzola
Board of Selectmen
Town of Dedham
The John Constable Connection
Dedham Church is a magnificent building and can be found in 26 of the paintings of John Constable who was born and baptised in the neighbouring village of East Bergholt. He walked across the vale to attend Dedham Grammar School and St Mary the Virgin parish church which he loved. From these earliest times, as he has recorded, scenes from the Dedham Vale were his inspiration and made him a painter.
An original Constable painting, 'The Ascension', now hangs in St. Mary's Church, Dedham. This is one of three religious subjects which Constable painted as commissions for local churches.
You can find out more about Dedham Church by following these links which open in a new window.