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Page last updated at 11:26 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 12:26 UK
'Retired' church remains active
St Mary The Virgin church
St Mary The Virgin remains consecrated and still holds the occasional service

Although no longer an active church, Stansted Mountfitchet's St Mary The Virgin remains special to the village.

The historic Anglican church is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust and has parts of it dating back to 70 years after the Norman Conquest.

The church is no longer the Parish church, but remains consecrated and is still used for occasional services.

"She's much loved by the locals, used for events and occasional services," said the trust's Chloe Cockerill.

The church stands in the grounds of Stansted Hall, in a peaceful woodland setting- despite being just a couple of miles away from the nearby airport and M11 motorway.

Historically St Mary's is very important.

Interior of St Mary The Virgin
Parts of the church date back to the 12th century

The chancel arch and north and south nave doorways date from circa 1120. The chancel was extended eastward in the 13th century and a chapel was added on the north side.

The whole building underwent an extensive restoration programme in the late 1880's which completely transformed the church, with several design features of the Victorian period still remaining.

Inside St Mary's there are two exceptional 17th century monuments with effigies.

One of them is to the wasp-waisted Hester Salusbury, who local legend has it was killed by a stag whilst hunting in Stansted Park in 1614.

The other is to her father, Sir Thomas Middleton, Lord of the Manor of Stansted Hall from 1615 until his death in 1631.

The Churches Conservation Trust look after over 340 Anglican churches in the country, of which 11 are in Essex.

Their work sees them restore and care for the buildings because of their architectural importance.

"I think the highest compliment is that most people think this is still a 'living' church, when in fact she's been in retirement for some time now," said Chloe Cockerill, development manager of the trust in the south east.

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