Harefield: Church

Pages 252-256

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



There was a priest in the manor of Harefield in 1086, (fn. 1) but nothing further is known concerning the church until the late 12th century. At that time Beatrice de Bollers, and her son, Geoffrey son of Baldwin, who seem to have owned Harefield manor, (fn. 2) gave the advowson to the Knights Hospitallers. (fn. 3) The gift was confirmed by the Bishop of London, and, probably between 1181 and 1185, he also granted the Hospitallers the right to exercise all episcopal powers in the benefice, and to enjoy all the fruits of it. (fn. 4) By virtue of this the peculiar jurisdiction of Harefield was established, which the Hospitallers continued to exercise until the Dissolution. The bishops of London thereafter began to intervene in the parish, and during the remainder of the 16th century there seemed to be some doubt whether Harefield formed a peculiar; the clergy usually appeared at the visitations. (fn. 5) During most of the 17th century Harefield disappears from the visitation records. (fn. 6) However, the matter was settled finally during a dispute lasting from 1679 to 1682 between Sir Richard Newdigate, the patron, and the curate, Roger Davies. Davies appealed to the bishop against the patron's authority, but by 1682 the bishop recognized that Newdigate lawfully exercised episcopal jurisdiction in the parish. (fn. 7) This was confirmed in 1691, when a jury declared that no bishop's writ had run in the parish for over 500 years, and that Newdigate was 'the undoubted ordinary'. (fn. 8) The rights of the peculiar continued to be exercised by the Newdigates until 1847, when all peculiar jurisdictions were transferred to the bishops. (fn. 9) In the 17th century the Newdigates appointed chancellors for the peculiar, (fn. 10) and several courts were held 'before the unhappy wars', at which the parishioners were answerable for their misdemeanours. (fn. 11)

When the church was appropriated to the Hospitallers by the grant of Bishop Foliot which has already been mentioned, the parson resigned and was re-appointed as perpetual vicar. (fn. 12) According to a confirmation of 1219, however, the Hospitallers had only to provide a chaplain, to whom they were to give sufficient maintenance. (fn. 13) A dispute in 1206 between the Hospitallers and the lord of Harefield manor resulted in the confirmation of the Hospitallers' rights. (fn. 14) At the time of the appropriation of the church the tithes of the demesne of Harefield seem to have belonged to Stoke by Clare Priory (Suff.), (fn. 15) which had been founded by the Clare family, in whose honor Harefield lay. In 1221 the priory granted these tithes to the Hospitallers, who then owned the whole rectory estate. (fn. 16) There is no record of any property except tithes: the virgate which belonged to the priest in 1086 (fn. 17) no doubt became absorbed in the manorial estate of the Hospitallers at an early date. In 1254 the rectory was valued at 15 marks and about a century later at 12 marks. (fn. 18) By the Dissolution the farmer of the manor held the rectory and appointed the chaplain. (fn. 19) After the Dissolution the rectory, church, and advowson were included in the grants of Moorhall manor, passed to the Newdigate family, and then followed the descent of the manor of Harefield. (fn. 20) The rectory was valued at £20 in 1547 (fn. 21) and at £140 in 1650, when it was said to consist of great and small tithes. (fn. 22) When George Pitt sold the manor of Harefield to Sir Richard Newdigate in 1675 the sale included the advowson, and the Newdigates were thereafter referred to as owners of the church, but the tithes were not included. (fn. 23) Between 1683 and 1686 Pitt sold much of them to various people, including members of the Ashby family. (fn. 24) Tithes were also included in the sale of Belhammonds to George Cooke in 1713, (fn. 25) and in 1835 Sir George Cooke of Belhammonds was said to be the lay impropriator. (fn. 26) The Newdigates probably owned the tithes on the Harefield Place estate, since these were held by the Truesdales in 1781. (fn. 27) In 1825 the greater part of the parish was said to be discharged from paying tithe. (fn. 28) Finally, in 1845 the tithes on 867½ acres were commuted for £139 16s. 4d. There were then 58 tithe-owners, the largest being the owners of the Harefield Park or Belhammonds estate, the Swakeleys and St. Thomas's Hospital estates, and the overseers of the poor, in respect of one of the parish charities. (fn. 29) The Newdigates retained the advowson after 1675, and in 1957 it belonged to the Hon. Mrs. L. FitzRoy Newdegate. (fn. 30)

After the single reference in the late 12th century, at the time of the appropriation, there is no mention of a vicarage, and it seems clear that the Hospitallers provided only a chaplain to serve the cure. Aline de Clare granted the Hospitallers the services of eight men in Harefield and two in another manor for the maintenance of the chaplain, who was always to be appointed within fifteen days of a vacancy occurring. (fn. 31) The only reference which has been found to a chaplain between then and the 16th century occurs in 1333. (fn. 32) In the early 16th century the farmer of the manor and rectory was responsible for finding a chaplain, who in 1547 was said to be paid £6 13s. 4d. a year. (fn. 33) The first endowment for the 'donative' or 'curacy', as it came to be called, (fn. 34) was given by Alice, Countess of Derby, who left a two-roomed house attached to her almshouses and £25 a year, charged on the manorial estate, to the curate, who was to read prayers to the almswomen. (fn. 35) During the Interregnum the impropriator, Lord Chandos, had to allow £100 a year to the maintenance of a minister, (fn. 36) and John Conant, later Rector of Exeter College, Oxford, who was Chandos's chaplain, is said to have been allowed £80 a year while he was at Harefield. (fn. 37) In 1679 the curate was being paid 8s. a week. (fn. 38) By 1736 the Newdigates were paying the curate £40 a year, possibly including Lady Derby's rent-charge. (fn. 39) In 1835 the income of the curate was £64, (fn. 40) and in 1843 the patron was said to have recently doubled the stipend. (fn. 41) In 1870 the living was given the status of a vicarage, (fn. 42) and in 1904 £24 was added to the endowment, partly from a bequest and partly from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. (fn. 43) By 1955 the net income of the benefice had risen to £561, though the endowment still amounted to only £86. (fn. 44) The dwelling attached to the almshouses does not seem to have often been used by the curates, and in 1852 a parsonage was erected, by the voluntary subscription of the parishioners, which was surrounded by 8½ acres of land. (fn. 45) By 1931 the land had been reduced to 2 acres. (fn. 46) On a vicar's retirement in 1927 this vicarage standing opposite Harefield House was sold, (fn. 47) and a new one was bought in 1931 with 2 acres of ground. (fn. 48) This was still in use in 1959.

Very few prominent clergymen have held the curacy, only two being noteworthy. One was John Conant, who has already been mentioned: he does not, however, appear in Newcourt's list of clergy. (fn. 49) The other was John Pritchett, later Bishop of Gloucester, who appears to have been ejected during the Interregnum, when a Mr. Hoare was the minister, but to have been reinstated at the Restoration. (fn. 50)

In the late 17th century the curates' position seems sometimes to have been rather precarious. About 1674 it was said that the benefice was served by the resident chaplain of the Newdigate's house; (fn. 51) a few years later Sir Richard Newdigate said that the then curate, Roger Davies, was hired at 8s. a week from Sunday to Sunday, to preach, read prayers, and teach the children. (fn. 52) After this man had been dismissed, the chaplains of Lady Newdigate's house served the cure, and after her death Sir Richard Newdigate's chaplain was responsible. (fn. 53) Davies's dismissal followed a dispute between him and the parish clerk, in which Davies asserted that the clerk had arranged with a neighbouring minister that he should take all 'weekly weddings' at a fee to the clerk of 5s. a wedding. (fn. 54) The villagers petitioned Newdigate to retain the parish clerk and to end the dispute which was encouraging the dissenters and causing a decline in the Anglican congregation. (fn. 55) Perhaps as a result of this quarrel in the village the manor court laid down in 1692 rules for the observance of Sundays, which required all people not dissenters to attend church once a fortnight, and to stay there during the service and during the sermon, if there was one; to send their servants and their children, who were forbidden to play in the street during the morning and afternoon services. The parish clerk was ordered to ring the 'sermon bell' for half an hour 'before he chimes all in'. There was a proviso that a husband and wife could take turns in attending church so that only one needed to appear every fortnight. (fn. 56) In 1691 the curate complained that his parishioners were remaining in the nave for communion as the lack of 'seats or desks' made the chancel too inconvenient. (fn. 57)

The patrons' rights over the parish church were extensive. They seem to have owned the chancel, and when they granted away the manor in 1586 they claimed to have reserved an aisle in the church for burial. (fn. 58) The extensive Newdigate monuments in the chancel are fairly reliable evidence that they owned rights over it, and by 1825 fees for making and opening vaults and putting tablets on the walls were claimed by the patron. (fn. 59) In 1841 Charles Newdigate Newdegate undertook the restoration of the whole church except for the part of the north aisle known as the Breakspear chapel, which was restored by Joseph Ashby Partridge at the same time. (fn. 60) On the sale of the Harefield Lodge estate in 1877 all stalls and seats in the chancel were reserved to the Newdigates, as well as liability for chancel repair and the curate's stipend. (fn. 61) The claim to fees was surrendered in 1887 by the patron, who held himself responsible for no charge beyond the chancel. (fn. 62) But even in 1914 Francis Newdegate was emphasizing that the whole church belonged to him and was his responsibility, except for the Breakspear Chapel, though he admitted that the right to use certain pews in the church had been sold by his ancestors. (fn. 63)

Nothing is known of the conduct of services in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The church was rarely used in the evenings in the late 19th century as lamps were not given to the parish until 1897. (fn. 64) During the First World War Harefield Park became an Australian hospital. An Australian cemetery was laid out in the churchyard, and every year since 1921 a commemoration service has been held on Anzac day. (fn. 65) The obelisk to the Australians was erected in 1921, (fn. 66) and the archway and gate in 1924. (fn. 67)

A Moorhall mission was set up in 1922 with a weekly mission service, Sunday school, and mothers' meeting, and in the same year the Moorhall chapel was repaired and refitted for the same purpose. (fn. 68) In 1927 the chapel was leased by the rural district council to the vicar and churchwardens for use as a mission room and Sunday school. This, however, did not last for long. (fn. 69) Another mission hut was opened in 1922 called the Mill Mission on some land given to the church by Bell's Asbestos Company down in the industrial part of Harefield. A weekly service was also held there as well as a Sunday school, (fn. 70) but this mission closed just before the Second World War. The hut was later re-erected elsewhere. (fn. 71) In 1959 there were 243 persons on the electoral roll of the church (fn. 72) and the principal services on Sundays were the 8 o'clock holy communion and choir offices, and matins at 11 o'clock.

The parish church of ST. MARY is noteworthy for its monuments, and consists of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, a north-east chapel, and a north-west tower. The nave and aisles are housed under separate gables of approximately the same height. The exterior is predominantly of flint rubble and brick with limestone dressings, and the tower, largely of flint rubble below, is finished and battlemented in brick; (fn. 73) the brickwork is of various dates. The north aisle and chancel are cement rendered externally, and the south aisle exterior is faced with flint and stone chequerwork. The oldest visible feature of the church is a blocked lancet window in the chancel which dates from the early 13th century, but the west wall of the nave may be of 12thcentury origin. The chancel and a north aisle were built in the 13th century, and the south aisle and arcade date from the 14th. (fn. 74) According to an early19th-century sketch, however, the south aisle then consisted of only the two eastern bays of the present aisle. (fn. 75) The present north aisle and arcade, including the chapel at its east end, were built in the early 16th century, (fn. 76) a bequest of 20s. towards the building being made in 1500. (fn. 77) The massive tower was built at the west end of the north aisle slightly later. (fn. 78) Repairs to the church were carried out in 1705-6, which included renewing the roof timbers and ceiling, and painting the royal arms 'at the end . . . towards the chancel'. (fn. 79) Extensive alterations were made in 1768-9 under the architect Henry Keene, who renewed the chancel arch, was responsible for the Gothic plasterwork of the chancel ceiling, and designed the altar. (fn. 80) It is probable that the whole arrangement of the chancel with its high floor level approached by five steps is the work of Keene, who was also consulted about the position and spacing of the monuments. (fn. 81) A former 'portico' at the west end of the original two-bayed south aisle may also have been an addition at this period. (fn. 82) These two eastern bays formed a chapel known as the Brackenbury chapel, so called because members of the Newdigate family were buried there both before the Dissolution and during the ninety years in which they owned only Brackenbury and not the manors of Harefield and Moorhall. Late in 1802 the Brackenbury chapel was restored, (fn. 83) and the whole church was restored in 1841, the cost being largely borne by Charles Newdigate Newdegate. The alterations of this date, which were made in the style of the 14th century, apparently included the westward extension of the south aisle by two bays, so as to bring it into line with the west wall of the nave. (fn. 84) The tower was restored in 1958 (fn. 85) and restoration work on the nave roof was in progress in 1959.

The fittings of the church are noteworthy. The much restored screen separating the north aisle from the north, or Breakspear, chapel is of early-16thcentury work, (fn. 86) but its position has been slightly altered since the early 19th century. The reredos and communion rails, which are semi-octagonal in plan and enclose the altar on three sides, are said to have come from Flanders, and are richly carved in wood with pendants of fruit and cherub-heads, and a scrollwork of carved acanthus leaves. This work is of the late 17th century, (fn. 87) and was probably installed as a result of the complaint in 1691 that the chancel was inconvenient for the celebration of the sacrament. (fn. 88) The reredos is surmounted by unusual frosted glass panels inscribed with the commandments. The three-decker pulpit dates from the 18th century, and several box pews of the same period survive. In the windows of the Breakspears chapel are a few pieces of 16th-century stained glass; funeral helms and gauntlets dating from the 15th to the 17th centuries hang on the chancel south wall, and Newdigate hatchments adorn the nave arcades.

The monuments in the church are its outstanding feature, especially those erected to the Newdigate family. On the south side of the altar is the large canopied tomb of Alice, successively Countess of Derby and wife of Sir Thomas Egerton. It is of painted stone, embodies an effigy, and has been ascribed to Maximilian Colt (see plate facing p. 258). (fn. 89) In the south wall of the chancel is a recessed tabletomb of early-16th-century date, with indents and brasses on the top, and a brass to John Newdigate and Anne (c. 1545) in the recess. (fn. 90) Above this are three uniform niches painted black which hold three almost identical white classical urns. The centre and left-hand urns, by Richard Hayward, (fn. 91) are to Elizabeth Newdigate (d. 1765), and Sophia (d. 1774), first wife of Sir Roger Newdigate; the right-hand one, by John Bacon the younger, is to Hester (d. 1800), his second wife. (fn. 92) The monument on the north side of the altar is by Grinling Gibbons to Mary (d. 1692) wife of Sir Richard Newdigate. (fn. 93) Gibbons later added a memorial to Sir Richard himself (d. 1710). Monuments on the north wall of the chancel include those to Edward Newdigate (d. 1734) and Sarah Newdigate (d. 1695), and also one with a portrait bust by Rysbrack to Sir Richard Newdigate (d. 1727). (fn. 94) In the south aisle, or the old Brackenbury chapel, are two table-tombs of mid-16th-century date, one to John Newdigate (d. 1528), the other to an unknown person, and several wall monuments of which one, to Sir John Newdigate (d. 1610) and his wife, by William White, embodies figures. (fn. 95) The monuments to Charles Parker the elder and younger, both by John Bacon the younger, (fn. 96) are also in the chancel. In the Breakspears chapel are the monuments to the Ashby and related families of Breakspears, which include two matching tablets on the south wall, and two wall-monuments, one to Ann Ashby (d. 1723) and the other to Sir Robert Ashby (d. 1617) and Sir Francis Ashby (d. 1623), including figures. In the nave is a wall monument to William Ashby (d. 1760), attributed to Sir Robert Taylor. (fn. 97) There are floor slabs and other monuments in the nave and aisles, including one to John Pritchett (d. 1681), Bishop of Gloucester and incumbent of Harefield. The brasses include those in the Breakspears chapel dating from 1474 to c. 1537, casts of the palimpsests being fitted to the organ loft in 1912. These have figures, inscriptions, and shields of arms. In the south aisle are two more brasses, dating from 1444 and 1533. (fn. 98)

In the late 19th century it was said that the font had been used as a water trough in the vicarage garden for about 50 years, but had been restored 'a few years ago'. (fn. 99) The plate includes a cup of 1561, a cup of c. 1630, and a 17th-century paten with the initials I.P. (fn. 100) The baptism and burial registers date from 1538 and the marriage register from 1546. There are three bells: (i) 1629 by Brian Eldridge; (ii) 1753; (iii) 1772 by Thomas Swain. There is also an undated sanctus bell. (fn. 101)


  • 1. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 130.
  • 2. See pp. 240, 243.
  • 3. B.M. Cott. MS. Nero E. vi (1), f. 84.
  • 4. Ibid. f. 84b.
  • 5. Guildhall MSS. 9537/4, 5, 8.
  • 6. Ibid. 12, 14, 18, 20.
  • 7. Warws. R.O., CR. 136/B 14/1117, 1118, 1122.
  • 8. M.R.O., CR. 136/Mx./M 68.
  • 9. Eccl. Jurisdiction Act, 10 & 11 Vic. c. 98.
  • 10. Warws. R.O., CR. 136/B 14/1116, 1139.
  • 11. Ibid. B 1191.
  • 12. B.M. Cott. MS. Nero E. vi (1), ff. 84b-85.
  • 13. Ibid. f. 84.
  • 14. Curia Regis R. iv. 265-6.
  • 15. Dugdale, Mon. i. 1101.
  • 16. B.M. Cott. MS. Nero E. vi (1), ff. 87b-88.
  • 17. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 130.
  • 18. Val. of Norw. ed. Lunt, 360; Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 200.
  • 19. S.C. 6/Hen. VIII 2402, m. 9.
  • 20. See p. 243.
  • 21. E 301/34, no. 130.
  • 22. Parl. survey of church livings in Home Cties. Mag. ii. 281.
  • 23. M.R.O., Acc. 312/157.
  • 24. Ibid. 335, 336, 340, 344, 346, 386, 452.
  • 25. C.P. 25(2)/946/12 Anne Mich.
  • 26. Rep. Com. on Eccl. Revenues, [67], pp. 648-9, H.C. (1835), xxii.
  • 27. C.P. 25(2)/1363/21 Geo. III East.
  • 28. 12th Rep. Com. Char. H.C. 348, pp. 127-8 (1825), x.
  • 29. M.R.O., Harefield Tithe Award. For the charity, see p. 257.
  • 30. Crockford (1957-8).
  • 31. B.M. Cott. MS. Nero E. vi (1), f. 85b.
  • 32. Larking, Knights Hospitallers in Eng. (Camd. Soc. lxv), 125.
  • 33. E 301/34, no. 130.
  • 34. Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 680.
  • 35. 12th Rep. Com. Char. 127.
  • 36. Home Cties. Mag. ii. 281.
  • 37. D.N.B.
  • 38. Warws. R.O., CR. 136/B 1158.
  • 39. M.R.O., CR. 136/Mx./EF. 12.
  • 40. Rep. Com. on Eccl. Revenues, 648-9.
  • 41. M.R.O., CR. 136/Mx./PEC. 12.
  • 42. Crockford (1871).
  • 43. Lond. Gaz. 22 July 1904.
  • 44. Crockford (1955-6).
  • 45. Par. Rec., Terrier, 1893.
  • 46. Par. Rec., Deed, 6 June 1931.
  • 47. Char. Com. files.
  • 48. Par. Rec., Deed, 6 June 1931.
  • 49. Repertorium, i. 631.
  • 50. Home Cties. Mag. ii. 281; monument in the church.
  • 51. M.R.O., CR. 136/Mx./EM. 5 b.
  • 52. Warws. R.O., CR. 136/B 1127, 1158.
  • 53. Ibid. B 1191.
  • 54. Ibid. 14/1118.
  • 55. Ibid. 1117.
  • 56. M.R.O., CR. 136/Mx./M 74.
  • 57. Warws. R.O., CR. 136/B 1179.
  • 58. Ibid. 14/1139.
  • 59. Par. Recs., List of fees, 1825.
  • 60. Inscription on buttress of south aisle.
  • 61. M.R.O., Hist. Notes, 12 Dec. 1956.
  • 62. Par. Rec., note on list of fees, 1889.
  • 63. Docs. penes Mr. F. H. M. FitzRoy Newdegate, Arbury Hall (Warws.).
  • 64. Uxbridge Gaz. 16 Jan. 1897.
  • 65. W. Goatman, Hist. of Harefield, 26.
  • 66. Par. Rec., Faculty.
  • 67. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1937).
  • 68. Uxbridge Gaz. 15 Feb. 1946.
  • 69. H. S. Cochran, Hist. of Moor Hall, 9-10.
  • 70. Par. Rec., Rep. of Parochial accts. (1923).
  • 71. Par. Rec., Letter, 3 Jan. 1949.
  • 72. Lond. Dioc. Bk. (1959).
  • 73. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 52.
  • 74. Ibid.
  • 75. M.R.O., CR. 136/Mx./PEC. 11.
  • 76. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 52.
  • 77. Col. Top. et Gen. v. 132.
  • 78. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 52.
  • 79. H. S. Cochran, More about Harefield church and par. (copy in B.M.), ii. 17.
  • 80. M.R.O., CR. 136/Mx./PEC. 2-9; Colvin, Dict. of Eng. Architects, 1660-1840, 336.
  • 81. Warws. R.O., CR. 136/Diary 1769.
  • 82. M.R.O., CR. 136/Mx./PEC. 11.
  • 83. Ibid. EF. 24.
  • 84. Inscription on SW. buttress of S. aisle.
  • 85. Ex inf. the vicar.
  • 86. Pevsner, Mdx. 89.
  • 87. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 54.
  • 88. See above.
  • 89. K. A. Esdaile, Eng. Church Monuments, 1510-1840, 18, 47.
  • 90. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 54.
  • 91. It is signed 'R. H.', and Gunnis (Dict. of Brit. Sculptors, 1660-1851, 194) ascribes it to him.
  • 92. Gunnis, op. cit. 29.
  • 93. Ibid. 168.
  • 94. Gunnis, op. cit. 335.
  • 95. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 55. The monument by White is signed and dated.
  • 96. Gunnis, Dict. of Brit. Sculptors, 29.
  • 97. Pevsner, Mdx. 91.
  • 98. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 53-55.
  • 99. M.R.O., PR. 17/19e. This is an unidentified newspaper cutting.
  • 100. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 53-54: possibly for John Pritchett.
  • 101. T.L.M.A.S. xviii (2), no. 199; Guide to St. Mary's Harefield (1926), 9.