About Dedham Church

Dedham Church

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 Valley.

The Nave, Dedham Church

The Nave

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.

Pew in Dedham Church dedicated to the people of Dedham, Massachusetts
Pew dedicated to the people of Dedham, Massachusetts

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 in the Vicar's Vestry all mark the connection between Dedham, Essex and Dedham, Massachusetts


The Ascension, courtesy of The Constable Trust

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. This painting is the only one of the three that now hangs in its original church.