St. Stephen (St. Albans)

Pages 195-196

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Hertfordshire. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1910.

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113. ST. STEPHEN (St. Albans).

(O.S. 6 in. (a)xxxiv. S.E. (b)xxxix. N.E. (c)xxxix. N.W.)


a(1). Parish Church of St. Stephen, stands on St. Stephen's Hill, about ¾ of a mile S.W. of the city of St. Albans. It is built of flint rubble with stone dressings and has Roman bricks in the oldest parts. The first church on this site was built by Wulsin, abbot of St. Albans, in the middle of the 10th century. Gilbert, bishop of Limerick, consecrated a church here between 1101 and 1118, and the W. wall and part of the masonry of the N. wall, and of the Nave, which was then without aisles, and probably part of the N. wall of the Chancel are of that date. Later in the 12th century a North Aisle was added. The South Chapel and the South Aisle were built in the 13th century. The two eastern bays of the S. arcade were re-built in the 14th century, and in the 15th century the chancel was re-modelled; probably in the same century the wooden Belfry over the W. bay of the nave was added, and the N. aisle was pulled down, except the W. wall. The whole building was repaired in 1861.

The church is of especial interest on account of its early history, which is in many respects the same as that of St. Michael's Church, but this building has been less restored. Among the fittings the 15th-century font and the 16th-century lectern are especially noticeable.

Architectural Description— The Chancel (35 ft. by 17½ ft.) has an E. window of three lights with modern tracery, and in the N. wall are two 15th-century windows of two lights, with a blocked doorway of the same date between them. In the S. wall is an arch, possibly of late 15th-century date, with a small squint on the E. side, opening into the chapel. There is no chancel arch, its place being taken by a wooden framework, of which the jambs may be of the 15th century, but the rest is modern. The South Chapel (34 ft. by 13 ft.) has two lancet windows of c. 1220 in the E. wall, with a modern circular light between them; in the S. wall is a similar lancet between two late 15th-century windows of two lights each, and below the easternmost window is a doorway of about the same date. The Nave (58 ft. by 25 ft.) has three N. windows, all modern; between the second and third windows is one bay of the 12th-century N. arcade, now blocked; it has a semi-circular arch of a single square order, and is of the same character as the arcades at St. Michael's Church; in it is built a 15th-century doorway, now also blocked; at the W. end of the wall a modern doorway leads to a small heating chamber, of which the W. wall is all that remains of the original North Aisle; in it is a small 13th-century lancet window. The S. arcade of the nave is of five unequally spaced bays, the two easternmost being of early 14th-century date, with octagonal pillars, moulded capitals and bases, and arches of two chamfered orders; the remaining three bays are of the 13th century and also have octagonal pillars and chamfered arches, but the details of the moulded capitals and bases are different. There is a twist in the arcade in the second bay from the W., as the W. respond and the first W. pillar are on the line of the outer part of the original S. wall, while the rest are approximately on the inner part. Over the W. bay of the nave is a wooden belfry, supported by three pairs of posts with arched braces under the cross beams. In the W. wall are two small lights with round heads, the only remaining details of the early 12th-century church; between them is a 15th-century doorway with a contemporary window of two cinque-foiled lights above it. The nave has a 15th-century clearstorey with two windows on each side, of two cinque-foiled lights under square heads. The South Aisle (10 ft. wide) has three S. windows of two lights, a single-light W. window and a S. doorway, all almost entirely of modern stonework. The South Porch is also modern. The Roofs of the chancel and S. chapel contain some 15th-century moulded timbers.

Fittings—Brasses: in the S. chapel, of man in armour (said to be William Robins, 1482), his wife and nine children, without inscription. Font: octagonal bowl carved with figures of angels between plain shields, octagonal stem with the figures of the Virgin and Child in one panel and a saint in each of the others, 15th-century. Lectern: latten, with eagle book rest, moulded stem, and three lions at the base, said to have come from the Chapel of Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, and bears the inscription, 'Georgius Creichtoun Episcopus Dunkeldensis'; between the words, two lions (referring to the arms of the bishop— argent a lion azure) and a mitre. George Crichton was bishop of Dunkeld 1524–43. It was found, in 1750, buried under the floor of the chancel. Locker: in the S. wall of the chapel, with framework of wood, divided into two square openings; in it are kept Roman remains, including glass burial urn, dug up near the church. Piscina: in S. wall of chapel, double, with moulded jambs and arches, 13th-century. Plate: includes a late 16th-century cup. Screen: at W. end of S. aisle, has some old framing re-used with modern work.



c(2). Homestead Moat, at Holt Farm, fragment.

b(3). Burston Farm, house and moat, about 1½ miles from the church, on the S.E. side of the road to Watford, is a two-storeyed house built in the 16th century; the front and part of the back are of timber, covered with modern weather-boarding, and the other walls are of brick; the roofs are tiled. The plan consists of a rectangular main block facing N. with two shallow wings projecting from the N.E. corner, facing N. and E. respectively, and at the W. end is a small projecting chamber. The garden wall which joins this chamber was apparently part of a former western extension. A modern wing projects on the S. side, and all the windows are modern. A doorway on the S. has an original door in a moulded frame, with a four-centred head. In one room is some 17th-century panelling and an overmantel with carved panels (separated by small columns and flanked by strap work pilasters), and a carved frieze, which is continued round the room; it is all now grained and varnished. In other rooms are old ceiling beams.

The house was originally surrounded by an oval-shaped moat, of which only a fragment remains.

Condition—Of house, good.

a(4). Tithe Barn, at St. Julian's Farm, about 500 yards S. of the church, is a mediæval building of timber on a base of flint, brick, and a little clunch, and is covered with weather-boarding, except part of the E. side, which has brick filling. The roof is partly of slate and partly tiled. The plan is rectangular, with a small wing at the S. end and two projecting entrances on the E. side.

Condition—Fairly good.