The first record of the church’s existence is found in a charter of 1128, although the oldest parts of the present walls were built some time before. At this time the church belonged to the Abbey of St John in Colchester, but within sixty years it had passed to the Priors of St Botolph. It was from these two great religious houses that the priests who ministered to the needs of the parish were drawn for over four hundred years.
The written records of the church are few. We know that after the Black Death the monks of St Botolph set to work to rebuild the nave and tower, both of which date from about 1350. A hundred years later they raised the chancel arch and gave the church its oldest bell (1459).
During the 17th and 18th centuries the church suffered from neglect while it was held in plurality with Berechurch and other places. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that steps were taken to repair the fabric of the church and make it fully fit for worship. This was during the incumbency of the first resident vicar. The church was also enlarged by the building of the south aisle because the population had more than doubled since the turn of the century.
The bells are of particular interest. A major restoration project was completed in 2001 which involved the installation of a new bell frame and ringing chamber in the tower, a new bell, and refurbishment of the other bells, some of which are very old. Bells are rung regularly for morning service on a Sunday. Bell ringing practice takes place on a Monday evening. The Tower Captain is Mr. Martin Piper and you can contact him on 01206 734369 if you are interested in ringing.
For more information about the church, you can visit www.layerchurches.org.uk