The village of Tillingham, located on the Dengie peninsula, has a long history. Remains from Neolithic times and the Bronze Age prove early settlement in this area of marshland, with further evidence of settlement during the Iron Age and Roman times. King Ethelbert, King of Kent, (not to be confused with better known Ethelbert the Unready) gave the village to Bishop Mellitus as part of the new Bishopric of London, meaning it was owned by St Paul’s Cathedral. By the time of the Domesday book, Tillingham was firmly established as an agricultural settlement; some of these farms survive to this day.

Traditional clapboard houses
Traditional clapboard houses

With land reclamation, the marshland shrank and the population grew. Many historic buildings remain and a significant number of them are listed. Today, a stroll around the village green will reveal many of them. St Nicholas’ church dominates the village centre, a place of worship standing on this site since the early 7th century, though the present building dates from the 12th century.

The Church of St Nicholas
The Church of St Nicholas

The village also has literary connections, featuring in H. G. Wells’ novel “The War of the Worlds” as the place where the narrator’s brother flees the Martian invasion. Less well known is the story of “The Ranter’s Monster”, a tale of a young pregnant girl called Mary Adams. Claiming to be the Virgin Mary, she was locked up by order of the vicar, later giving birth to a severely deformed stillborn child, the monster named in the title of the story. So the story goes, she broke out in boils and nasty scabs and died a few days later.


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