Pages 44-46

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.


In this section


(O.S. 6 in. vii. N.E.)


(1). Parish Church of St. Mary, in the centre of the town, is built of flint rubble with stone dressings; pieces of moulding and columns of an earlier building are used in the walls. The roofs are of lead with the exception of those of the N. chapel and N. aisle, which are of slate. The E. end of the Chancel is of the 13th century; the W. end of the chancel, the North Chapel, Nave, North and South Aisles, West Tower, and probably the lower part of the South Porch are of c. 1330; the South Chapel was begun in the 14th and completed in the 15th century; the clearstorey and the parvise were also built in the 15th century, and the church re-roofed. In the 19th century the whole building was repaired, the N. aisle and chapel re-roofed, and a North Porch built, and recently the bell-chamber of the tower has been restored.

The church is especially interesting as it belongs almost entirely to one period, and also on account of the examples of 14th and 15th-century carving in stone and wood, such as the niches, sedilia, piscinae and screens.

Architectural Description—The Chancel (50½ ft. by 22 ft.) has a modern E. window of five lights, and a S. window of three lights, with restored tracery: in the E. and N. walls, outside, are traces of windows, probably of early 13th-century date. Two bays of an unbroken arcade, continued from the nave, form the W. half of the chancel, and a break in the thickness of the N. wall marks the junction of the 13th with the 14th-century work. The arcades have two-centred arches of two chamfered orders, moulded labels on both sides with head stops at the junctions, and clustered shafts with moulded bases and capitals. The North Chapel (36 ft. by 22 ft.) has an E. window of five lights in modern stone and, in the N. wall, two 15th-century windows with repaired tracery, and 14th-century labels re-used inside; on the E. wall is a 14th-century string course, elaborately carved. The rood-loft staircase on the N.W. is replaced by a small modern porch, but the upper doorway, blocked, and part of the lower one remain in the aisle. In the South Chapel (28½ ft. by 19 ft.) the floor seems to have been lowered: the lower part of the walls is of the 14th, and the upper part is of the 15th century: the E. window of five lights, and the two S. windows of three lights have modern tracery. The Nave (71½ ft. by 22 ft.) is of six bays with 14th-century arcades continued from the chancel. They differ slightly in detail from the bays in the chancel, the first two being lower than the others. In the N. wall is another rood-loft doorway, now blocked. The 15th-century clearstorey windows are of two lights, and are continued in the chancel. The North Aisle (72 ft. by 22 ft.) has three 15th-century windows with restored tracery in the N. wall: the N. doorway is modern. The W. window is of modern stonework. The South Aisle (71½ ft. by 18 ft.) has windows resembling those of the N. aisle, a 14th-century S. doorway, and a 15th-century doorway to the parvise staircase. A break in the line of the S. wall indicates the probable junction of the aisle with an earlier transept. The West Tower (16½ ft. by 16 ft.) is of three stages, with an embattled parapet, and a lead spire on an octagonal drum, and is now coated with Roman cement. The 14th-century tower arch is two-centred, and of four moulded orders; the W. window of three lights with tracery is of the 14th century, but has been restored, and the tracery of the bell-chamber windows is repaired with cement. The South Porch has been restored: the turret in the N.W. angle and the parvise are of the 15th century; the parvise floor has been removed and the porch is now open to the roof. The Roofs of the chancel, nave, S. chapel and S. aisle are of the 15th century.

Fittings—Bracket: over the first pillar on N. side of S. chapel, carved, early 15th-century. Brasses and Indents: in the nave, at W. end, three-quarter figure of a nun, c. 1400, the name plate being replaced by an inscription to a Rector of Radwell, dated 1807: slab with indent for a floriated cross: in N. chapel, on N. wall, of a man and his wife, c. 1400; the man is in the dress of a forester; the lower part of his figure, the dog at his feet, and inscription are missing: also on N. wall, of a man and his wife, shrouded figures, c. 1520: on the floor, of a man and his wife, c. 1470: inscription to Margaret Benett, 1587: in S. aisle, indents of a man and his two wives, 15th-century. Communion Table: in N. chapel, 17th-century. Chests: near the pulpit, strong, iron-bound, mediæval: in the vestry, two, of carved oak, 17th-century. Door: to parvise staircase, oak, with scutcheon for ring, 15th-century. Font: octagonal bowl with beaded edges, and circular stem flanked by octagonal shafts with moulded bases, 13th-century. Glass: in E. window of N. chapel, fragments of coloured glass, probably early 15th-century. Monuments: near the doorway of N. aisle, slab with inscription in Gothic capitals, 14th-century: in N. chapel, Purbeck marble coffin lid with a cross in relief, 13th-century: in wall of N. aisle, outside, recess with ogee arch, 14th-century, jambs restored; in the recess, 14th-century coffin lid with cross in relief: in wall of S. aisle, outside, two recesses, probably 15th-century, with renewed stonework. Niches: in N.E. corner of N. chapel, 14th-century, elaborately carved, evidently moved to present position in the 15th century, when wider E. window was inserted and the N. wall recessed: under E. window of chancel, outside, trefoiled, with rebated edge and remains of iron hinges, 14th-century. Piscinae: in the chancel, double, 13th-century, with flat head, probably modern: in N. chapel, with ogee head, crockets and foliated finials, 14th-century; no bowl visible; modern slab at back: in S. chapel, double, 14th-century, much defaced. Plate: includes a cup and cover paten, 1629. Screens: between chancel and nave, and between chapels and aisles, three, in one line from N. to S. of the church, 15th-century, repaired, of traceried oak, with different designs; the central screen retains the original doors, those of N. screen are repaired, S. screen is designed without doors; central cornice is modern. Sedilia: under a window in S. chapel, two seats, forming group with the piscina, 14th-century, carving much defaced.

Condition—Good. The church has been thoroughly restored; much of the window tracery is of the 19th century.


High Street, W. side

(2). Wynne's Almshouses, S. of the church, built in 1621, a range of six red brick two-storeyed houses, each with a small porch, a mullioned window on the ground floor, and a dormer window in the tiled roof. Under the six dormers is the date:—AN—NO—DO—MI—NI —1621; and on a stone panel in the middle is the inscription:—"Theis almes howeses are the gieft of M. John Wynne cittezen and mercer of London latelye deceased who hath left a yearely stipend to everey poore of either howses to the worldes end September Anno Domine 1620." On a stone panel at the S. end are the arms:—Vair, and in chief a lion passant quartered with two roses; at the N. end are the arms of the Mercers' Company. The three original chimney stacks have modern shafts.


(3). House, about 200 yards S. of the church, is modern, but has a low S. wing with an overhanging upper storey carried on old, projecting timbers. A gateway in this wing has a pair of 15th-century large oak gates, said to have belonged to the Hospital of St. Mary Magdalene at Clothall; they were placed in their present position in the 19th century. Each gate is square-headed and panelled; the panels, both above and below a moulded transom, have trefoiled heads; the moulded cornice, similar in section to the transom, is finished at the ends with carved leaves; in the right gate is a modern wicket.

Condition—Fairly good.

Hitchin Street (S. side)

(4). House, E. of the church, is an early 17th-century building of two storeys, with timber-framed and plastered walls; the roof is tiled. The chimney stack is built of the thin bricks of the period, and in the overhanging upper storey are two original oriel windows with oak frames and gabled heads. A large covered gateway leads to the yard at the back, where, until recently, was a malting chimney. Inside the house is some 17th-century panelling.

Condition—Fairly good.

(5). Old Malthouse, a small two-storeyed building with a round malting chimney. The large gates are inscribed SDE 1632.

Condition—Fairly good.

Norton and Church Streets

(6). Small Houses and Cottages, almost all of the 17th century. One house at the S. end of Norton Street is of two storeys, and has overhanging flanking gables and wooden-framed windows; the roofs are tiled. On the opposite side are several cottages with dormered roofs. The 'Bull's Head' inn on the E. side is built of timber and plaster, and has a projecting upper storey. Near the church is a 17th-century house, partly re-built in the 18th century, with an overhanging upper storey, and a timber archway leading into a courtyard.

Condition—Most of the buildings are in good repair.

(7). House, at the corner of the Royston and Biggleswade roads, probably once an inn, but now divided into several cottages, was built early in the 17th century. It is timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. The projecting upper storey has curved brackets and a moulded sill; the large gateway in the S. front has been heightened, probably in the 18th century, to admit stage coaches, and now cuts into the first floor. Two original chimney stacks are built of the thin bricks of the period.

Condition—Fairly good.

(8). Houses, two, adjoining, now occupied by the post-master, on the S. side of White Horse Street. The westernmost house was built c. 1560, but has a modern brick front. The back of the building is of two storeys and an attic, and has red brick walls, the S. end being gabled; the roof is tiled. The plan is rectangular, and the central chimney stack is square and plain. A recently discovered window on the ground floor looks into an open passage-way on the W. side of the house; it is of three lights with chamfered brick jambs, mullions and lintel. Several of the original beams are visible in the ceilings, and in the attic is an original stone fireplace with a four-centred arch.

The other house, E. of the above, was built a little later, probably early in the 17th century, but has been much altered and repaired, and is also faced with modern brick. The back is timber-framed, and there is an original chimney stack. The wide fireplaces remain, though reduced for modern grates, and in the ceilings are a few old beams.

Condition—Of both houses, good.