The “shameful” story of a medieval church’s ill-fated demolition has been told by the author of a new book.

A History of St Nicholas’s Church, Loughton, has been written by Epping Forest conservator and local historian Richard Morris to tell the story of the lost church and its importance to the town today.

St Nicholas was Loughton’s original parish church, built in the sixteenth century on the site of today’s Grade II listed 1946 Memorial Chapel in Rectory Lane, Loughton.

Today, little remains of the old building other than an outline of the foundations and gravestone slabs that had formed part of the floor.

Morris describes the church as a “small but attractive building”, which was probably the second to have been built on the site.

Constructed in the sixteenth century, it was placed close to the ancient Loughton Hall for the convenience of the lord.

However, when the hall was destroyed by fire hundreds of years later in 1836, it sowed the seed for the loss of St Nicholas.

With the population growth in the village a mile to the north, along the High Road from London to Newmarket, the vestry decided to demolish the church in what Morris calls a “shameful” and “ill-timed spirit of economy”.

St Nicholas was torn down, demolished by the highest bidder who claimed the materials would raise £250 for the construction of the new St John the Baptist in what is now Church Lane.

When it came to the sale, the bidder had wildly over-estimated and only £80 was raised while an important piece of Loughton’s history was lost, claims Morris.

He said: “It was a lovely medieval church that was going on for 300, 400 years old, so why knock it down?

“Yes we needed a new one, but there was no reason they should not have kept that beautiful church.”

Others have shared the same opinion, including distinguished Loughton historian William Chapman Waller, who wrote in 1893: “Such an act of vandalism would, we venture to hope, be impossible nowadays.”

A number of religious monuments were lost in the demolition, as well as brasses which Morris claims were “of national importance” for their design.

A recent survey, which used advanced techniques such as ground-penetrating radar, found that 74 graves are left in the churchyard, with research identifying most of the people who are buried.

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Today, the Memorial Chapel stands on the site of the demolished St Nicholas' Church

With his new book, Morris hopes to tell the stories of some of the buried to highlight the importance of St Nicholas and the surrounding area for Loughton as a whole.

He said: “The book seeks to put together in one volume the story of the church and churchyard, and to add some biographical details of the people who contributed much to the history of the village and town of Loughton.  

“The preservation of a corner of Loughton’s history sheltered among the ancient yew, holm oak, willow, and holly trees in the churchyard is important for today and the future.”

A History of St Nicholas's Church, Loughton, is available to buy in local bookshops and online at