As the large estates of the Saxon landowners began to be divided up, the system of parishes as we know it began to form. It seems likely that this came about through the establishment of the manorial system, as churches began to be associated either directly with landowner’s manors or with the villages in which their workers lived.
It was also during this period that the monastic orders reached their height. Some monasteries and convents were already established, many owned significant portions of land and they were largely self-sufficient. Some orders maintained hospitals for the sick and needy where the power of God and the attentions of the monks or nuns might heal them. The impressive Abbey and Priory buildings they left behind are a testament to their wealth and to the skills of the craftsmen employed, as at Waltham Abbey, Prittlewell Priory, and St. Botolph’s Priory in Colchester.
The parish churches of Essex are mainly medieval in origin, ranging from the large and magnificent "wool cathedrals" of Thaxted and Saffron Walden, financed through the profits of the wool trade, to the tiny churches of rural hamlets such as Ulting.