Welcome to the history of  All Saints, St. Paul's Walden 

online


 

 We have a great heritage in our church both in its architecture and in that it represents centuries of Christian worship in this parish. We give thanks for all those that through history have ensured that the building stands today as a witness to God's glory. We pray that the faithfulness of past generations may continue now and into the future. 


 

The story of this parish of St.Paul's Walden - before the Reformation Abbot's Walden- may be said to date from the year 888-A.D., when Aethelred, Earl of Mercia under King Alfred the Great, granted to his minister Wulfgar, in consideration of faithful services, a portion of his estates at "Waldene". That part of "Waldene" retained by Aethelred continued in the possession of the Hereditary Earls of Mercia until it passed to Harold, the last of the Saxon Kings, and it continued to be a royal manor after the Norman Conquest - hence the name of our neighbouring parish, King's Walden. Soon after he received them, however, Wulfgar in turn granted his lands at "Waldene"to the Abbey of St. Albans, and what is now this parish was known until the Reformation in the 16th century as Abbot's Walden. The name was changed again when Henry VIII granted these former Abbey lands to the Dean and Chapter of St.Paul's Cathedral, London, in 1544, who, (the Church Commissioners in Trust) are still lords of the manor of St. Paul's Walden as well as patrons of the living.

St. Paul's Walden is notable in Hertfordshire as one of only a few parishes to have kept alive the story of the founding of its church. According to the still remembered legend the people attempted to build their church in a field near the present St. Paul's Walden Bury house - but each night the Devil moved the stones to the opposite hill, where the church now stands.

The reference of this legend to the endurance and strength of Pagan popular belief in determining that the new Christian church - perhaps at first only in the form of a preaching cross - should be built at the local ancient holy place, was supported by archaeological evidence revealed in 1973 by the excavation along the north wall of the church nave for the building of the Church Rooms extension. Skeletons protruding from beneath the north nave wall foundations faced north and south rather than, by Christian practice, facing east (except for clergy by custom buried looking westward, toward their congregations at the Resurrection) strongly suggest a Pagan Saxon burying ground. Probably most of it lay to the north of the present church, since it was usual to build Christian churches just to the south of Pagan cemeteries - hence the many Hertfordshire legends about the north part of churchyards belonging to Satan, and the reluctance even today to be buried there.

It is important to note also that there was a Roman settlement near the church: Roman artefacts and other evidence of Roman occupation were found by John Divine, the local schoolmaster in the 1930s in the grounds of the White House, which stands on the site of one of the Abbot's Walden medieval vicarages. Indeed, the whole area surrounding the church, known anciently as Church End, is historically speaking a "deserted medieval village", very much smaller in population now than before the mid 14th century plague of the Black Death. How devastating this was may be seen in the large number of parish residents named in the Hertfordshire Lay Subsidy (tax) Roll of 1307 (published by the Hertfordshire Record Society in 1998).


The First Church Building

A Saxon Foundation

Recently discovered architectural features, notably in the lower tower masonry (and thought to continue, though now concealed by later work in the thick north nave wall) point to a Saxon foundation. This probably took place out of necessity some time after Wulfgar the Saxon was granted part of Waldene by Aethelred, Earl of Mercia, in

888-AD - soon after which, as we have seen, Wulfgar in turn gave these lands to St. Albans Abbey. The consequence of Wulfgar's donation left the now "Abbot's Walden" people without a church and in a separate jurisdiction from that of the already existing Saxon church at King's Walden.

In keeping with the earliest custom of Saxon church building in this part of England, the Christian church at Abbot's Walden was built by the south side of the pagan Saxon graveyard (excavations 1973). Probably it was of a simple nave and sanctuary type, with a square east end or apse, made of local materials, flints with limestone dressings

Note that the Norman Domesday Survey of 1086 makes no mention of church or priest at Abbot's Walden. This Survey is now known to be incomplete, especially for small rural parishes.

The Medieval Clergy

The earliest clergy were non-resident, sent up from St. Albans Abbey from time to time to serve the cure of souls. Masonry features within the tower indicate that one or more rooms were built here, probably to accommodate a priest before a clergy house was built near the church.

Vicars were appointed to the parish at least as early as the tenure of Abbot William of St. Albans Abbey (1210-1230) for he granted Richard de Hoo, lord of the Hoo manor, always the largest in the parish, the right to have the convenience of an oratory there, but stipulated that the cleric in charge "was to be obedient to the Archdeacon of St. Albans and to the Vicar of Walden, and that all oblations were to go to Walden".

The names of most of the Pre-Reformation clergy have yet to be recovered. Among the earliest known, and most prominent was John Amundesham (Amersham), who was Vicar from 1444 to 1452. He is best known as the chronicler of St.Albans Abbey from 1421 to 1440. He held the office of Prior at the Abbey under Abbot John of Wheathamstead, after which he retired to Abbot's Walden as Vicar. In 1452 according to his will Amundesham left the sum of 6s 8d for his burial in the chancel before the high altar.

Other medieval vicars include Thomas Parker (1468-1489), thought to have been unpopular and perhaps largely an absentee; John Lenarde (1448), also for a time pluralist vicar of Sandridge; Robert Mighell (Michael) (c.1492-c. 1495) an efficient disciplinarian who seems to have been sent by Abbot Ramryge to restore the parish to good order after his predecessor's lax incumbency. Thomas Smyth (c.1497-1526) last of the pre-reformation vicars, well liked, forebearing, accessible to his flock, whose incumbency lasted some thirty years and who afterward apparently lived in retirement in the parish. One William Hynnbache was curate (c.1533-1534). The post-reformation clergy are recorded in the Parish Registers that begin in 1558 (Burials).

The living has always been poor. In the ecclesiastical taxation made in 1291 by order of Pope Nicholas IV, the vicarage was rated at 10 (half the value of King's Walden), and it was rated the same sum in 1534, when a general survey was made of living on the dissolution of religious houses.


 

Church Dedication

The church itself is known to have been dedicated to "All Saints" at least since the Reformation, but changes of dedication were not uncommon in the late Middle Ages, and this dedication may not be original.

 

The Medieval Church Interior

The earliest composite "picture" of the church interior that we now have was largely built up (by L.F. Baker) from the oldest known bequests to the fabric in the wills of parishioners, and belongs to the 15th century. Here we find "the flickering light of candles, lamps, and torches, the costly image of the Virgin in the south aisle, the unpaved nave of trodden earth empty of seating whose chief ornament was a replica of the Holy Sepulchre ringed with lamps, the special candlestick before the figure of Our Lord on the rood cross, the altars to St.John the Baptist, St.Catherine, St.Nicholas and St. Margaret, the font - now near the south door -in the chancel, and before the high altar the tomb of the great chronicler Vicar John Amundesham."

 

Let us explore this venerable parish church.

 

South Porch And South Door

These are of the fourteenth century. On the left of the of the doorway are interesting graffiti, including a dagger possibly dating from the Peasants' Revolt (14th century) but up-dated by later hands, and on the right are two medieval crosses and writing now too faint to read.

 

South Aisle Arcade

The south aisle arcade, which replaced a largely 12th century south nave wall in the 14th century is of five bays. The octagonal columns have moulded caps and bases raised upon plinth blocks. The arches are of double chamfered orders, with carved heads over the pillars.

 

South Aisle Windows

Only one of the original 14th century windows remains in the south aisle, to the west of the south door. A three light traceried window with "Kentish" cusping in the quatrefoils of the tracery, and a moulded interior arch, this is regarded by most architects as the finest window in the church.

The other two windows, of three lights, now in the south aisle wall - with long basement lights in the tracery of the four-centred arched heads, are 15th century. They belong to a set of four windows which replaced earlier 14th century windows in the south aisle. The most easterly of the two south aisle windows has since 1963 contained a memorial in contemporary glass to Sir David Bowes Lyon, K.C.V.O., Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, brother of the Queen Mother, and for many years church warden here.

On the west wall of the south aisle traces can still be seen of another of the 15th century windows. This one was blocked up probably when the church was restored by G.G. Bodley at the end of the 19th century. The jambs still show on the outside of the west wall, and much of the tracery of the window head. Reinstatement of this window would not be difficult, and would let much needed light into the church from the west.

The fourth of the 15th century windows was inserted in the east wall of the south aisle, and with four lights, was probably wider than the others. In the early 16th century, however, this window was removed to permit the building of an archway giving access from the south aisle to the newly constructed Hoo Chapel (see below). Despite later alterations here, some trace of the 15th century window remains; its south interior jamb may be seen close to the south-east corner of the aisle.

 

Medieval Glass: The Great Treasure Of This Church

Hertfordshire churches have little medieval glass of good quality now remaining, but the beautiful early 14th century Virgin and Child, now in the south aisle window east of the south door, is among the finest examples. It was recently removed from the tower window and restored for a memorial to the Hon. Lady Rachel Bowes Lyon (1907 - 1996), wife of Sir David Bowes Lyon (q.v.). This choice is fitting since Lady Rachel is remembered kindly as a generous benefactor to this church and many other good causes in this parish.

Pevsner, the architectural modernist, in his Hertfordshire volume (Buildings of England series, 2nd.edn. 1977) described this glass as "a beautiful Virgin of the early fourteenth century". It shows Mary in a particoloured brown and green robe wearing a crown as Queen of Heaven. On her left arm is the Christ Child in red holding the dove of peace. In Mary's right hand is a sprig of flowers resembling corn flowers. Not, however, the artistically traditional fleur-de-lis reported by John Cussans (History of Hertfordshire 1874-1878), who visited the church toward the end of the 19th century. The recent cleaning of this glass reveals it as of greater art historical importance than before, and raises a number of questions. From its style, was this glass Flemish in its origin?

Cussans' visit, moreover, is important for describing the medieval glass of the virgin and the child before it was moved several years later, to the lower tower window - and for his description of the then still extant companion glass showing the figure of St. John in the adjoining light in the north east nave window. No trace of the St. John glass remains in the church. No doubt it was "discarded" - and lost- when the Virgin and Child was removed to the tower window to accommodate the contemporary glass memorial still in place.

Cussans' description is the most recent that we have: he wrote: "In the north (east) window several fragments of old stained glass. The only subject sufficiently perfect for recognition is a figure of the Virgin holding a fleur-delis (sic.) in her right hand, the Holy Child on her left arm". The medieval glass was first recorded in this north nave window-itself dated to the first half of the 14th century, that is, before the Black Death stopped work on the church fabric (see Tower Stairs). But this may not have been the earliest position of this glass in the church, since it was certainly grand enough to have filled the place of greatest honour: the east Chancel window.

The north east nave window was first described by historian Sir Henry Chauncy (Hertfordshire, 1700) "In the north window next to the pulpit is the effigy of St. John with his fan in his hand, and the Virgin Mary with a child in her arms. "A generation later the Revd. Nathaniel Salmon (History of Hertfordshire, 1728) gave us more detail: "In the north window next to the pulpit are two large figures, one with a fan in his hand, and St. John written above. In another window (sic.) (a) king with a Saxon crown on, holding a child in his arms.'

The County historians do not mention seeing the following inscription, in medieval lettering, below the Virgin and Child, a well known Pre-Reformation canticle:

 

AVE MARIS STELLA HAIL, STAR OF THE SEA

DEI MATER ALMA MOTHER OF GOD MATERNAL

ATQUE SEMPER VIRGO YET EVER A VIRGIN

FELIX COELI PORTA BLESSED GATEWAY TO HEAVEN

 

The Font

In medieval times the font was in the chancel. It now stands at the west end of the south aisle, raised up on a platform above a large burial vault. Octagonal in shape, it belongs to the early 15th century. The font has an embattled bowl, ornamented with a band of foliage in high relief, and is supported on an octagonal panelled shaft. In 1888 the font had an oak kneeling board, which was thought to be Jacobean.

 

Altar Tomb

By the west wall on the vault platform is the altar tomb of Peter Nicol, Esq. who died in 1798, for many years, as his inscription says, "First Clerk in the Cofferer's Office of His Majesty's Household..." We do not know his connection with the parish.

By the Nicol tomb are several loose objects of historic interest: the remains of a medieval stone coffin lid with floriated cross and a medieval scalloped piscine of uncertain date, perhaps removed from its position by the altar at the east end of the south aisle when the Hoo chapel was built in the early 16th century.

 

Tower Door

In the west wall of the south aisle is the narrow, low early 14th century doorway to the tower stairs.

 

The Tower

The tower, in which traces of Saxon work have been identified recently, is battlemented and crowned with the traditional short spire known as the "Hertfordshire spike". The lower part dates largely from the early 14th century, and the upper stage was built in the 15th century.

One of the curious architectural features of this church is the marking of the place in the tower stairway where construction was resumed in the 15th century. This was done by fixing part of (another) 13th century floriated coffin lid face downward, visible under the curve of the stairs to all ascending. It was structurally unnecessary. Was this some kind of medieval token to ward off evil such as the fearful tempest of St.Maur's Day, 1362 which toppled a number of church towers in this part of Hertfordshire, including those at Welwyn and Hitchin?

For its early 14th century date the tower arch is unusually low. This and other

architectural evidence suggests that during the middle ages there were rooms built into the tower that, partly at least, were used for residential purposes, whether by priests or other clerics assigned by St.Albans Abbey to serve the cure of this parish, and perhaps also by pilgrims or other travellers. Such rooms in church towers were a rather common feature in medieval Hertfordshire churches.

 

The Tower Window

The small tower window just above the west door of the church has a rebate for an opening casement or shutter of a type found in early domestic windows, and one of the hooks for this shutter is still in place. Moreover, the position of this window, as much as 1ft. 6ins. out of centre with the axis of the tower, suggests that it was not intended originally to be seen from inside the church, but rather that it was so placed for convenience in a room built low down in the tower.

 

The Ringing Chamber

The lower portion of the ringing chamber has similar north, west, and south windows with shutter arrangements. These windows are placed at a convenient height from the floor for taking air and prospect. The thickness of the tower wall at this stage is reduced by one foot. This reduction occurs below the floor on the north and south sides, while it forms a seat on the west. The east wall of the tower is virtually of one thickness for its entire height. Above the three windows on this level there is one single-light window in the west wall that has no preparation for a shutter. Just below it in one corner of the tower wall there remains the end of an old floor beam, and it is thought that there was once a floor in the tower at a level between the windows in the west wall, which would have made a ceiling for quite a pleasant room below, as has been noted.

 

The Church Bells

The earliest known reference to the bells is in 1447 when John Whyte left the sum of 18d in his will for hanging bells in the belfry - an indication that the tower building had already been completed, or was near completion. In the census of bells taken in Edward VI's reign in 1552, "Poolles Walden" had the following: "Imprimis iiij Belles in the Steple the greatest weing by estimacion xiij c the next weing xj c the next weing ix c and the lest weing vij c."

In 1665, after the restoration of Charles II these were most probably cast into the five bells made by Anthony Chandler of Drayton Parslow (Bucks.), all inscribed CHANDLER MADE ME. Chauncy the historian recorded five bells hanging in 1700. The present tenor bell was cast by John Briant of Hertford in 1814 - a memorial for the defeat of the French and capture of Napoleon. One bell has no makers name or other inscription, and according to local legend it is supposed to belong to Stevenage church, having been substituted in error for one of the Chandler bells from St.Paul's Walden in the 1890's when it was sent for re-casting or tuning.

The ring continued at five bells until shortly after the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937, when in celebration a sixth bell was added, inscribed :

TO THE GREATER GLORY OF GOD.

 

The Nave Loft

There is considerable evidence that in medieval times there was a loft above the ceiling of the nave and below the roof. At the level of the ringing chamber in the tower is a 14th century door that opens from the church into the tower. It has an equilateral arched head with a chamfered arch and jambs with well-designed stops at the bases. On the east face of the tower, below the present nave ceiling, moreover, are still to be seen the remains of a steeply-pitched roof at an angle of about 50 degrees, while the north-east quoin of the tower also shows in the nave above the roof weathering.

The foregoing suggests that the tower must have been built up to the belfry stage before the south aisle was constructed. The door to the tower from the church, moreover, is located within the old roof space, and its sill is so placed that there would have been room for a floor over the beams of the old nave roof, that is, the floor of a loft over the nave with access to the tower. This loft may have been used as a storage space, or for accommodation for pilgrims to St.Albans Abbey or other shrines, or for travellers.

 

The Gallery

The gallery above the tower arch was erected in 1897. It replaced an earlier structure, probably 18th century, which formerly accommodated the church choir and band of instruments. About the middle of the 19th century, however, the latter was superseded by a hand-turned barrel organ. Mr. A.T. Robinson, a tailor of Whitwell, for many years choirmaster and church organist, published an interesting account of this organ in an article entitled "Reminiscences of an Old Church Organist". "After the construction of the organ at St. Paul's Church, Walden, in 1850, he wrote, "a difficulty arose as to who could play it, and to get over the difficulty a dumb-organist (a kind of barrel organ) was used. I remember a lad turning the handle. There were two barrels with various hymns and chants, and the mechanism was so arranged that the keys of the organ were pressed down just as if someone were playing it with their fingers. About 1855, however, an organist became available, and the dumb-organist was discarded. The peculiarity of the organ was that it had a sliding keyboard, which had to be drawn out when required, and on one occasion when I was ill, I asked a friend to take the services for me. When he arrived he could not find the keyboard, but as he remembered reading something about sliding keyboards, he opened the organ and drew out the keys, and the service proceeded."

 

The Present Organ

Set on a low wooden platform at the west end of the nave is the present organ, built by Nigel Church of Stamfordham, near Newcastle, dedicated by the Bishop of Hertford on All Saints' Day, 1974. This is the first pipe organ in the church since the Reformation. Noted for its fine tone, this organ is in part a memorial for Roger Wakefield, a former church warden.

 

Medieval Grave Slabs

Medieval grave slabs are rare survivals in Hertfordshire churches, and it is unfortunate that two of the three to survive at St. Paul's Walden are now covered by the organ platform. (The other is in the Hoo Chapel-see below). Rectangular and formerly with inscriptions around the edges the slabs, placed side by side in front of the tower arch' date probably from the 13th century. They have indents for small brasses shaped like shields of arms. These brasses have been lost, and the inscriptions largely obliterated when last seen in 1974. The Rev. Nathaniel Salmon, who visited the church shortly before 1728, found one inscription entirely gone and only a portion of the other still readable: "...ville... gist icy Dieu de Sa alme eit merci (...ville... lies here God have mercy on his soul) The identity and name of this man is unknown. The lettering of the inscription is in Lombardic style, that went out of use about 1350.

A bequest of 3s 4d for paving the church floor was made in 1450.

 

The Nave - North Wall

The north nave wall contains some of the oldest and thickest masonry in the church - except for the tower - averaging a little over 3ft.3ins. Most of the north wall is 12th century, but it is thought to incorporate Saxon work. Over the north door one may trace the inner face of a 12th century semicircular Norman arch.

North Doorway

The 14th century north doorway was built higher up in the wall than its 12th century predecessor because, it is thought, the level of the churchyard outside had risen through long use.

There is no evidence to suggest that the church ever had a north porch.

 

The Church Rooms

Since the building of the Church Rooms (1973-4) the north door has given access from the nave to a stone flagged connecting passage. This was built flush with the nave floor, the old stone steps up to the doorway removed and a new stone arch built to accommodate the new opening. The Church Rooms extension, now used for the Sunday School and other church activities, is a low, square building with a splayed brick plinth, rendered walls, and tripped roof, designed by the Hitchin firm of Priestman, Williams & Bennett, and built by Charles Smith of Kimpton. It was dedicated by the Bishop-of-Hertford on All Saints' Day 1974, as the plaque records,"provided by a parishioner" (The Hon. Lady Rachel Bowes Lyon) and "dedicated to the Glory of God and in memory of Pauline Spender Clay and Phyllis Nichols".

 

North Wall Windows

The three two-light windows in the north wall are early 14th century, but they now contain 19th century glass of little distinction.

 

Clerestory

These windows also belong to the 14th century. It is thought that, as late as the 15th century they gave light only to the loft above the nave, the floor of the loft having been built below the level of the clerestory windows.

 

Nave Roof and Ceiling

The nave ceiling is late 19th century, but some medieval timbers remain in the roof.

 

Corbels

The five wooden and painted corbels fixed at the east end of the nave ceiling are medieval. They are not, however, in their original positions.

 

Rood Loft Remains

The east wall of the nave retains some of the medieval fittings for the rood loft, taken down at the Reformation. The blocked-up rood loft doorway may still be seen south of the chancel arch (that is, behind the pulpit) while below the level of the capital of the east respond of the arcade there is a small bracket ornamented with a sculpted stone head.

 

The Pulpit

The pulpit was made in the parish in the late 19th century, but was well made to harmonise with the architectural style of the 18th century chancel.

 

The Angel Carving

Above the pulpit on the east wall is the most interesting medieval stone carving remaining in the church, a winged angel. Not in its original position, it probably functioned as a corbel or label stop, and was very possibly one of several angels, these being a common decorative motif in the interior ornamentation of medieval churches.

 

The Chancel Arch

Above the present 18th century chancel arch can be seen traces of the earlier 14th century arch.

 

The Chancel

The chancel as it stands today is the most unusual feature of the church, and the one that has provoked the most architectural controversy. The chancel walls are 13th century, no doubt an enlargement of the earlier 12th century sanctuary and probably this was the earliest alteration of the church.

The subject of debate is the chancel interior that dates from 1727. According to the inscription on the east side of the screen was then "first repaired and beautified by Edward Gilbert, Esq., "of St. Paul's Walden Bury. then lay Rector of this parish. The architect of Gilbert's chancel interior is unknown, although the names of some of the workmen employed by Mr Gilbert in the church, and on the alterations that he made to the Bury mansion house at about the same time, may be found in the parish registers. The identity of the architect has given rise to considerable, not to say wild, speculation. Among those most often mentioned are Gibbs, Campbell, Hawksmoor, Gold, John James, Kent, Ripley, and the elder Wood.

In 1972 the church was redecorated, and the chancel was given its present 18th-century colours. The work was carried out under the direction of the late Raymond Erith, R.A.,R.I.B.A.


 

Edward Gilbert Esq.

About Edward Gilbert Esq., most notable today as the first Bowes Lyon ancestor to live in this parish, little is known but that he died in 1762 and was a member of the Grocers' Company in London (see his gravestone in the Hoo chapel). Gilbert's daughter Mary married George Bowes Esq. of Gibside in County Durham, a man of immense wealth (coal mines & c.). It was their daughter, Eleanor, who married John Lyon, Earl of Strathmore of Glamis Castle in Scotland, who assumed the additional name of Bowes, and from them is directly descended Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. She was born in this parish at St. Paul's Walden Bury on August 4, 1900 (birth certificate), baptised in this church, and spent much of her youth here. She returned to the church at least once a year up until her death on  March 30th 2002.

 

 


 

The East Chancel Window

The east window in the chancel, designed and executed by Cmdr. Hugh Easton, was given in 1946 by the Queen Mother and her brothers and sisters in memory of their parents, Lord and Lady Strathmore.

Other chancel fittings, too, are modern. The stone altar's inscription proclaims its donor, G.M. Kindersley of The White House. The mahogany choir stalls were given by Michael Dewar Esq., of Stagenhoe Park in memory of his wife and son. The altar rails, erected in 1972, were given in memory of Arnold and Louise Brewer. They are the work of a local craftsman, Colin Wells, and the Ironcraft foundry at Stotfold.

 

Candelabra

Hanging before the chancel is a fine brass "branch", or candelabra, which is contemporary with the Gilbert work in the chancel. The other candelabra in the church, of a similar design but more recent date, were the gift of William Bailey Hawkins Esq., of Stagenhoe Park, at the time of the late 19th century Bodley restoration.

 

Medieval Chapel And Shrine Dedications

The present dedication of the church to All Saints - may well not have been the original one. Before the Reformation, besides the high altar to Our Lord, there were several other altars and shrines. What we know of these has been gleaned from surviving wills of parishioners in the 15th century. Bequests were left in 1428 to the shrines of St. Mary, St. John the Baptist, St. Catherine and St. Nicholas; in 1445 to St. Margaret; and in 1449 to the image of All Saints. Apart from the high altar, the location of only one of these shrines is known: St. Mary's, thought to have been at the east end of the early 14th century south aisle, and later moved to the east end of the Hoo chapel.

 

The Hoo (Lady Chapel)

The Hoo chapel, to the east of the south aisle, is Tudor in style, built in the early 16th century, and the only chapel remaining in the church. In 1519 Frement Chalkley, a prosperous yeoman of a family even then long settled in this parish (and, indeed, remaining resident here into the 20th century) left the sum of 13s4d and a tree in his will for building the "new chancel". The principal donors, however, from whom this chapel by custom has taken its name, were the Hoo family, ancient gentry, lords of the Hoo manor in this parish for centuries past. Chauncy the historian wrote in 1700: "There is a little chapel erected by the Hoo family (the roof) covered with lead".

 


The Hoo Family

Since medieval times the manor of the Hoo, lying mostly south and west of the river Mimram, has been much the largest in the parish. The great manor house, such as it became, with its fabled hundred bedrooms that overlooked the Mimram valley, however, was demolished after the Second World War, thus marking the end of Hoo family residence that may have lasted above a thousand years. It should be noted that the Hoo family also held lands in Kimpton parish, and were patrons of that living. Today the Hoos are represented by the Viscount Hampden and Lords Dacre, but the many off-shoots on female lines include the present writer.

What connection Eustace de Hoo that in 1190 successfully proved his claim of ownership to the Hoo manor had with Abbots Walden parish church is unknown. From the early part of the 13th century - if not earlier - however, the Hoo family were not regular attenders. Abbot William of St. Albans (1210-1230) granted Richard de Hoo licence to have an oratory at his manor for the celebration of Mass and the Hours, the chaplain to be obedient to the Archdeacon of St. Albans, and to swear fealty to the church of St.Albans and the Vicar of Walden, and the oblations were to go to Walden. Baptisms, marriages, and the Eucharist were not to be celebrated at the Hoo oratory except in cases of urgent necessity. For this licence Richard promised to give annually six candles for the High Altar at St.Albans Abbey - a large payment for the time.

When St. Albans Abbey passed to the Crown at the Reformation (1539) the arrangements for a chaplain at the Hoo would have become void. In any case, some years before the Hoo family had built a south chapel at Abbots Walden parish church, as we have seen, probably as a burial place. The one remaining medieval grave slab there, with no inscription or brasses, but showing indents for a small shield of arms and a transverse inscription, according to tradition commemorates a member of the Hoo family, very possibly the chapel founder.


The Stapleford Sculpted Monument

Set high up into the west wall of the Hoo chapel is the only sculpted monument in the church. Coloured, it shows two kneeling figures, Henry Stapleton (d.1631), and his wife Dorothy (1620), with their little girl holding a skull (a death symbol). Above are the Stapleton arms, a rare design, gyrony of ten, argent and sable. This monument

commemorates yet another functionary of the Royal Household connected with this parish, as the inscription, difficult to read from below, states: "Nigh to this place ly interred ye bodies of Henry Stapleford, Gent. and Dorothy his wife:The said Henry was servant to Qvnne Elizabeth, King James and King Charles until ye time of his death and departed this life ye xxxth of May Ano: Dni 1631 and aged 76 years. Dorothy his wife dyed ye 11th of February Ano:Dni: 1620 and aged 72 years. The said Henry and Dorothy having issue then and yet living. Dorothy married to Henry Henn Esq. who had issue Mary who dyed at ye age of VI months and lieth here interred by her grandmother. This monument was erected at ye charg of ye said Henry Henn".

 

The Austen Connection

Here on the floor of the Hoo chapel we also see the two floor memorial stones to Edward Gilbert Esq., of St.Paul's Walden Bury (d.27 May,1762, and his wife Mary (d.11 September, 1742). Nearby is the stone of Dame Elizabeth Hale of Stagenhoe Park (d. August 5,1673) who left an only daughter Rose. She married, as the stone says, Sir John Austen Bt. of Hall Place, Kent, eldest son of Sir Robert Austen of Bexley. Jane Austen, the novelist (1775-1817) was of this family, and she may have visited the church here on her undocumented trip to Hertfordshire.

 

Hoo Chapel Screen

Set in the 16th century archway leading from the south aisle to the Hoo chapel is a delicately wrought wood screen, which has been variously attributed to the 15th and 16th centuries Some authorities believe the screen was built for the chancel archway from which it was removed and cut down to its present size during the alterations made to the chancel by Gilbert in 1727. Others think that the screen dates from the construction of the Hoo chapel and remains in its original position. The screen has been much repaired, and it has a late 19th century cresting.

 

Hoo Chapel Arcade

The triple-arched arcade is 16th century. Before the alterations to the chancel in 1727, they opened directly into the chancel. This arcade was inserted into an earlier chancel wall, and care was taken to leave sufficient abutment both east and west to resist the thrust of the arches. The bases of the arcade are of small projection and well raised, and all the engaged shafts of the octagonal piers are stopped high up on a splay before reaching the base level. The moulded octagonal capitals to the shafts carry arches of two orders, with double ogee moulding, and on two of the capitals are well shaped shields of a late date, one of them charged with the crossed swords emblem of St. Albans.

 

Hoo Chapel Windows

The four square-headed Tudor style windows are 16th century. The south windows have lost their cusping, but the spandrels retain it on the exterior. The east window however, still has its cusping and carving in the spandrels. The stained glass in the windows was the gift of William Bailey Hawkins, Esq., of Stagenhoe Park in 1890. The work of repairing the three-light windows was executed in 1977 in memory of his daughter, Miss Dorothy Bailey Hawkins (1887-1975), remembered for her kind generosity, especially to children, and her many charitable activities in the parish.

 

Hoo Chapel Door

The south, or traditionally, the priest's door to the chapel is also 16th century, and has been described as wider than usual for such doors. It has a very slightly curved head with sharply rounded ends, and the double ogee moulding is continued round arch and jamb.

 


Thank you for visiting our site...should you wish to leave comments or suggestions please e-mail dj@parishmagazine.org.uk