The Priests and Anarchists of Ashingdon

Ashingdon Village Sign

People look at onlineFOCUS for all sorts of reasons. For example, we recently had someone from New Zealand looking here because they wanted information on the history of Ashingdon. So we thought we’d better write something about the history of Ashingdon.

Now, this week the current priest at Ashingdon Church, the Rev Tim Clay , came along to a council meeting. Chris asked him about the very long list of priests at the entrance to Ashingdon Church. This list dates back to the 11th century , when the church was built by King Canute after the Battle of Ashingdon on Oct. 18, 1016 . Chris’ question was – how much do we know about all these priests?

The answer from the Rev Clay was “not much”, The only really well known one was Stigand, the very first priest of Ashingdon Church. He was installed there when the church was founded by King Canute. Stigand went on to be Archbishop of Canterbury…. Tim Clay added that his favourite out of all the obscure names was a priest called “Angel Silk”, who just had to be a bit villainous with a name like that…..

You can find a lot about the Battle of Ashingdon – and Stigand – on the web. However other aspects of Christanity in Ashingdon are harder to find.

The book “Essex Pride” by Stan Jarvis has a mention of a small smallholding in The Chase, Ashingdon, founded in 1897 by someone called James Evans and run by a group of anarchists. . They were apparently followers of the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy and were non-violent, peaceful Christians who wanted to work together communally. This wasn’t the only Tolstoyan community in Essex – there was a larger one in Purleigh which also had a printing press. These idealistic communes didn’t last very long. There’s a brief mention of the Ashingdon one on a website called Utopia Britannica. Does anybody know anything more about it?