Little Dunmow is an Ancient Parish in the county of Essex.

Alternative names:

Parish church: St. Mary

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1549
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1629; 1800

Nonconformists include:

Adjacent Parishes

Parish History

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

DUNMOW (Little), a parish in Dunmow district, Essex; on the left side of the river Chelmer, adjacent to the line of the Bishop-Stortford and Braintree railway, 2 miles ESE of Great Dunmow r. station, and 6½ W by S of Braintree. It has a post-office under Chelmsford. Acres, 1, 715. Real property, £2, 738. Pop., 379. Houses, 79. The property is divided among a few. The manor belonged anciently to the Baynards; passed to the Fitzwalters and others; and was then held by the tenure of giving a gammon of bacon to any married pair who chose to take oath that they had been true to each other, had not quarrelled, and had not wished themselves unmarried for a year and a day. This curious custom took root also at Wichnor in Staffordshire; was observed at Little Dunmow first in 1444; went into desuetude here in 1751 or 1763; and was commemorated at Great Dunmow, under the presidency of Mr. Harrison Ainsworth, in 1855. An Augustinian priory was founded at Little Dunmow, by Lady Ingar Baynard, in 1104; and some portions of it, with late Norman and decorated English features, and comprising a monument of the foundress, monuments of the Fitzwalters, and an alabaster effigies of the time of Henry IV., are still standing. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Rochester. Value, £72. Patron, the Rev. W. Toke. The church is good.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

A Topographical Dictionary of England 1848

DUNMOW, LITTLE (St. Mary), a parish, in the union and hundred of Dunmow, N. division of Essex, 2¼ miles (E. S. E.) from Great Dunmow; containing 385 inhabitants. It is celebrated for an ancient custom connected with the manor of Little Dunmow, of delivering a gammon, or flitch of bacon, on demand to any couple who, after having been married a year and a day, will swear that neither party has repented, and that no cause of quarrel or complaint has arisen between them. Before the Reformation the oath used to be administered, and the bacon given, by the prior of the convent; and since, the ceremony has been occasionally performed at a court baron before the steward of the manor. The institution of the custom is supposed to have taken place soon after the Norman Conquest, but the earliest instance on record of the delivery of the bacon, is in the 23rd of Henry VI., and the latest in 1751; and the whole number of successful claimants is said to have been but six couples. The living is a perpetual curacy, net income, £72; patron, the Rev. W. Toke; impropriator, E. Knight, Esq., whose tithes have been commuted for £515. 18. The church consists only of the south aisle and part of the nave of a church that belonged to a priory of Augustine canons founded in 1104, the revenue of which, at the Dissolution, was £173. 2. 4. Under an arched recess in the south wall is a coffin-shaped tomb, supposed to be that of Lady Juga, sister of Ralph Baynard, foundress of the priory; near it is a monument with the figures of an armed knight and his lady, thought to have been erected for Sir Walter Fitz-Walter, who died in 1198; and on the opposite side of the church is a monument with a female figure in alabaster, said to represent Matilda Fitz-Walter, famous in legendary story as the wife or mistress of Robin Hood, and the object of the illicit passion of King John, who is stated to have caused her to be poisoned, in revenge for having rejected his addresses.

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis 1848

Parish Records


Poll Books


  • County: Essex
  • Civil Registration District: Dunmow
  • Probate Court: Court of the Archdeaconry of Middlesex (Essex and Hertfordshire Division)
  • Diocese: Pre-1846 – London, Post-1845 – Rochester
  • Rural Deanery: Dunmow
  • Poor Law Union: Dunmow
  • Hundred: Dunmow
  • Province: Canterbury

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