Our Visit to St. Mary’s Church, Bocking, England

By Weldon Whipple
As I was going through some old photos yesterday, I found a few that I took while visiting my daughter in England in August 2005. At the time I had realized that I am not a descendant of the Bocking/Ipswich Whipples, so I wasn’t particularly motivated to go see Bocking. Having a spare day, we decided to look for Bocking and St. Mary’s Church. (I am the Whipple Website’s Webmaster, after all, and I had already decided to accept all Whipples in the Whipple Genweb.)

Note: Back in 1997—when I started the Whipple Website—I thought I was related to both Whipple families through a Josiah Chamberlain (descended from the Ipswich Mary Whipple who married Simon Stone). An email from a Chamberlain, followed by my own research, convinced me that there were two Josiah Chamberlains living in close proximity in Massachusetts. I already had so many Ipswich Whipples in the database that I just decided to leave them and accept more.
Note 2: Since August 2005, my mother-in-law discovered that she is a descendant of the above-mentioned Mary Whipple of Ipswich, Massachusetts. … So my wife is an Ipswich Whipple, and the daughter that I was visiting in England is a descendant of both Whipple families.

I’ll cut to the chase and get going with the travelog.  Starting at the Royal Air Force base in Lakenheath (northeast of Cambridge), we headed south and got on the A11 expressway, which became the M11 expressway and continued to its intersection with the east-west A120 expressway. (Bishop’s Stortford is on the west of that intersection; London’s Stansted Airport is on the east.) We drove east on the A120 to Braintree, then to north to Bocking. We knew we had arrived when we saw this:

Gate leading to St. Mary’s Church

Entering through the gate, we saw the church:

St. Mary’s Church, Bocking, Essex, England

Approaching the church, we passed the St. Mary’s Church Hall and Parish Office on our left:

St. Mary’s Church Hall and Parish Office

We noticed the entrance to Bocking Hall:

Entrance to Bocking Hall

We didn’t go through those gates (as far as I can recall 13 years later), but it might be interesting …

We proceeded to the church:
St. Mary’s Church is over 1000 years old

Our visit was on a Monday, when the Church is normally closed, so we initially walked around the outside. We tried entering the front door:

The front door of St. Mary’s. It was locked, being Monday.
With the door locked, we explored the yard. The gravestones were in the church yard:
Gravestones in the St. Mary’s church yard. I looked for Whipples, but found none.
Circling around the church, we saw this beautiful window:
Another side of St. Mary’s

Looking more closely at the stonework …

Closeup of stonework
Continuing our walk around the building:
Rounding the corner to the next side of St. Mary’s

We looked for a place to peer into the church.

Continuing our walk around the building …

We found a promising window to look through:

Looking into St. Mary’s from the outside

We continued to explore from the outside of the church:

We managed to get this photo from the outside, looking in


Another door

We managed to take interior photo through another outside window

Rounding another corner, we spied the Church Hall and Parish Office in the distance

We saw this clock beneath the bell tower. It would soon be noon.

Clock beneath the bell tower at St. Mary’s, Bocking
We also saw this statue of St. Katherine holding a spiked wheel. During the 4th century, she refused to make sacrifices to pagan gods and was put to death by being crushed between two spiked wheels.
St. Katherine, 4th century AD
I’m uncertain about this statue:
Unidentified sculpture
The following two seem to represent a king and queen?
My notes wonder if this might be King Henry III  (1206–1272)?


If married to Henry III, this would be Eleanor of Provence, Queen Consort of England (1223-1291)
Continuing to check around the outside of the church, we read the notices of local events. In the process we learned that the full name of the church is The Deanery Church of St. Mary the Virgin Bocking:
Local notices

More notices

I noticed this gargoyle (?):
Gargoyle at St. Mary’s Bocking
Before leaving, we decided to try the door of the Parish Office. To our delight, it was open. We walked in. “Anyone home?” we wondered.
Inside the Parish Office
We saw a picture of St. Mary’s hanging on the wall:
Picture of St. Mary’s on the wall in the Parish Office
No one seemed to be there. We were getting hungry, so we went to the gate. The road to the left looked promising. We proceeded down the street and found a place for a light lunch.
Street to the left when exiting the gate to St. Mary’s
After lunch, we returned to take a few more photos:
We expected this to be the end of our visit to St. Mary’s
Another photo of the tower

I hadn’t noticed this tree previously:
One parting photo … or so we thought
“Why did we have to come on a Monday, when the church and offices were all closed?” we asked ourselves. (I knew why: on Tuesday we would take the Chunnel to Belgium, the Netherlands, and France … but I asked it anyway.)
We decided to check the Parish Office one more time.
Les Vail, a Church Warden, had stopped by the office. When I told him I was the webmaster of the Whipple Website, he graciously unlocked St. Mary’s for us!! (Hmmm … Maybe he would have unlocked it for anyone?) Here is what we saw when we entered:
Les Vail, Church Warden, greeted us warmly.
We saw this monument to Mary Grinsell Moore (d. 1624) on the north wall of St. Mary’s chapel:
Monument to Mary Grinsell Moore
The organ at St. Mary’s was recently refurbished at a cost of £35,000:
Organ at St. Mary’s Bocking
Looking north inside the chapel, we saw this:
Looking north inside St. Mary’s Bocking
Les Vail took us up into the bell tower. Here is what we saw when we looked up in the bell tower:
Looking up in the bell tower at St. Mary’s Bocking

This photo shows the the striped ropes pulled to ring the bells:
Inside the bell tower at St. Mary’s Bocking
This plaque shows the Deans and Rectors of St. Marys from 1232 through 1996:
Deans and Rectors of Bocking
Perhaps this man was the current Dean of Bocking?

Poster at St. Mary’s Bocking

Now that we had seen the inside of the church, we decided it was time to leave. We noticed the Bocking Cemetery as we headed back to Braintree. We took many photos, but saw no Whipples.











Since the 2005 visit, new developments in Whipple research make me want to revisit the the area surrounding Bocking:

  • In the Fall 2006 issue of The Genealogist, William Wyman Fiske proposed and gave compelling evidence that the Whipples of Bishop’s Stortford were the father and grandfather of Matthew Whipple  (abt 1550–1618/19) of Bocking. (Matthew was the father of the brothers Matthew (abt 1590–1647) and John (1596–1669) that arrived in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1638.) The Bishop’s Stortford Whipples were both named Thomas. Bishop’s Stortford is a half-hour drive (about 20 miles) west of Bocking, by Stansted Airport at the intersection of expressways M11 and A120.
  • More recently researchers wondered (and then disproved) about John Whaples of Great Waltham (20 minutes southwest of Bocking by car) being the same person as the young John Whipple that came to Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1632 and later moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where he eventually became known as Captain John. The Essex Records Office in nearby Chelmsford might be worth a visit.
Perhaps I can revisit the UK in the next few years?

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