St Barnabas church in Great Tey is a beautiful building, standing prominently in the centre of the village in a well kept churchyard containing a considerable number of Georgian and early Victorian headstones and tombs.
Aldham Church was first mentioned around 1145 when Thiel of Aldham. By 1850 the church building was in a very poor state. In May 1853 the archdeacon of Colchester described the church as in a ‘most slovenly and wretched state’ but he was informed that a new church was then ‘in contemplation’.
The design for the new church was prepared by the architect, Edward Hakewill who also designed the magnificent church of St John of Jerusalem, Hackney. The old churchyard was sold in 1981 for the sum of £500 and whilst it is now part of Church House Farm, use of the old site is restricted to grazing.
After some opposition the old church was taken down and rebuilt on the new site in 1854 to 55 by Henry Luff of Ipswich.
Most of the stone window frames were reused, as were the nave and aisle roof timbers, but the enlarged chancel was roofed with timber taken from elsewhere. The 18th century communion rails were reused, as was the 14th century timber porch, on a new flint and rubble foundation. Remains of the old wooden panelling, perhaps from the box pews, formed the lower back portions of the new pine pews. Those of the front pews on the north side were carved. The piscina (drain for cleansing the Communion vessels) in the chancel and another in the south aisle are from the old church.
The chancel arch, with figures of Saints Peter and Paul was new; symbols of the four evangelists on the ends of the choir stalls may be from the old church. The columns of the south arcade were new; on the westernmost pier, a consecration cross, probably of 1855, can be seen. The memorial window on the north wall of the chancel, by Ward, was given in 1855 by the Rector in memory of his parents
The doors were also retained; the door now on the south side of the tower is c.1300 and has decorative iron work round the handle; the door jambs are also of about the same date. The vestry door is 14th century and the 15th century south door is presumably the south door of the old church; the door on the south side of the chancel is also 15th century, with modern fillets.
The base of the font is from the old church. New stone columns divided the aisle from the nave; on the base of the westernmost there is a consecration cross. The three lancet windows of the south aisle were new, as were the similar windows on the west wall, with an oeil de boeuf window above. The west window of the old church, or its successor, now lights the tower. The east window in the chancel, of stained glass, was made in memory of Philip Morant in 1855, also by Ward.
The church’s dedication to the Saints Margaret and Catherine dates only from the late 19th century and is probably taken from the names of the bells.