Northolt: Churches

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4, Harmondsworth, Hayes, Norwood With Southall, Hillingdon With Uxbridge, Ickenham, Northolt, Perivale, Ruislip, Edgware, Harrow With Pinner. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1971.

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Diane K Bolton. H P F King. Gillian Wyld. D C Yaxley, 'Northolt: Churches', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4, Harmondsworth, Hayes, Norwood With Southall, Hillingdon With Uxbridge, Ickenham, Northolt, Perivale, Ruislip, Edgware, Harrow With Pinner, (London, 1971), pp. 119-121. British History Online [accessed 13 June 2024].

Diane K Bolton. H P F King. Gillian Wyld. D C Yaxley. "Northolt: Churches", in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4, Harmondsworth, Hayes, Norwood With Southall, Hillingdon With Uxbridge, Ickenham, Northolt, Perivale, Ruislip, Edgware, Harrow With Pinner, (London, 1971) 119-121. British History Online, accessed June 13, 2024,

Bolton, Diane K. King, H P F. Wyld, Gillian. Yaxley, D C. "Northolt: Churches", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4, Harmondsworth, Hayes, Norwood With Southall, Hillingdon With Uxbridge, Ickenham, Northolt, Perivale, Ruislip, Edgware, Harrow With Pinner, (London, 1971). 119-121. British History Online. Web. 13 June 2024,


There was a priest at Northolt in 1086. (fn. 1) A church is mentioned c. 1140, although the oldest parts of the present building have been assigned to the 13th century. (fn. 2) The church served the whole of the parish until 1954 when the new parish of St. Barnabas was formed from the north-east area of St. Mary's parish and part of the Greenford parish of Holy Cross. (fn. 3)

Northolt church formed part of the endowment of the priory of Walden in Essex, founded by Geoffrey de Mandeville about 1140. (fn. 4) Walden continued to exercise its rights to Northolt until some time between 1241 and 1251 (fn. 5) when the prior's claims were disputed by the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's. The matter was referred to Peter de Newport, Archdeacon of London, and it was agreed that a vicarage should be instituted and the patronage vested in the Bishop of London and his successors. Vicars of Northolt were to pay 12 marks annually towards the maintenance of St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's were to present to the living during vacancies of the London see. (fn. 6) About 1247 there was said to be no vicarage, (fn. 7) and the exact date of its ordination is unknown. According to an early-15th-century source the vicarage was ordained in 1388, (fn. 8) but since the first recorded vicars date from the late 13th century, (fn. 9) the document referred to is almost certainly the confirmation of an earlier ordinance. The Bishop of London continued to exercise the patronage of Northolt until 1864, in which year it was transferred to Brasenose College, Oxford. (fn. 10) The college still held the advowson in 1963.

The benefice of Northolt was valued at 12 marks in the mid 13th century. The Abbot of Walden received two marks from the profits of the benefice, and the Prior of Hurley in Berkshire half a mark. (fn. 11) In 1291 the church was valued at £5; the Prior of Hurley still received his annual pension, and no payment to the Abbot of Walden is recorded. (fn. 12) Presumably the vicar then enjoyed the rectorial estate. An agreement made in 1518 between the Bishop of London and the Vicar of Northolt confirmed the vicar's right to great and small tithes in consideration of £4 paid annually to this bishop. (fn. 13) In 1535 the living was valued at £15. (fn. 14) Twelve years later the 'parsonage' was worth £26 and the vicar held 31 a. in the common fields. There were then no charities, obits, or lights, and the vicar furnished the cure himself. (fn. 15) By 1610 the vicarage estate comprised a vicarage-house, with two barns, stable, orchard, and garden, three closes of meadow containing 20 a., lands in the Northolt common fields, and houses and land in Greenford parish. (fn. 16) The living, which then included 48 a. of glebe, was worth £205 in 1650 when the great and small tithes were valued together at £170. (fn. 17) During the early 18th century the amount of glebe seems to have remained fairly constant at about 50 a., and the income from tithes and glebe at approximately £250. (fn. 18) Under the 1835 inclosure award two closes called Hedges Meadow and Catherine Mead to the south and east of the vicarage-house were allotted to the vicar in lieu of common-field land, and the glebe then comprised 44 a. (fn. 19) After the Greenford inclosure award of 1816 the Vicar of Northolt's right to tithes payable on old common-field land in Greenford parish was disputed by the Rector of Greenford. In 1841 the Greenford tithes were redeemed, the whole of the rentcharge apportioned to the Rector of Greenford, and the tithes payable to Northolt extinguished. (fn. 20) The Northolt tithes were redeemed for £682 in 1842. (fn. 21) The net value of the living in 1835 was £539. (fn. 22) Most of the glebe was sold for building after 1920. (fn. 23)

A vicarage-house at Northolt is first mentioned in 1610. (fn. 24) Its location is uncertain. In 1692 the old house was demolished by Charles Alston, the incoming vicar, and a new vicarage built on a site off the modern Ealing Road. (fn. 25) This was described in 1715 as a brick-built house with seven principal rooms, kitchen, dairy, cellars, outbuildings, and walled garden. (fn. 26) Minor additions to the house were made during the 19th century, but after 1900 it was allowed to fall into disrepair. The house was demolished in 1928. (fn. 27) In 1963 the vicar was living in a semi-detached house in Church Road.

Little is known of the religious life of the parish before the 17th century. Some of the medieval and later incumbents seem to have been pluralists. (fn. 28) In 1302 the Vicar of Northolt was included in a list of Middlesex incumbents excommunicated for nonpayment of the papal tenth. (fn. 29) Changes during the Interregnum occasioned some dissatisfaction in the parish. George Palmer (vicar 1638-43) was sequestered in 1643 on the grounds that he spoke against Parliament, enjoyed incestuous relations with his sister-in-law, and had deserted his cure to join the Royalist Army. (fn. 30) Palmer seems to have enjoyed considerable popularity among the parishioners, who described his successor, Robert Malthus (vicar 1643-61), as 'a factious preacher'. Although the parishioners petitioned Cromwell for his removal, alleging that he was an unsatisfactory speaker, preached against the army in Scotland, and failed to observe national thanksgiving, Malthus retained the living until the Restoration. (fn. 31) The years after 1661 are marked by laxity in the administration of the cure and in the maintenance of the church fabric. William Brabourne (vicar 1661-84) was frequently absent from the parish. During his absence the cure was served by a curate whose office is first mentioned in 1617. (fn. 32) By 1664 parts of the church were falling into disrepair. There was no chalice, and the plate consisted of one silver cup and a pewter plate. The churchyard was unfenced, so that pigs entered. Little was done to remedy these defects until 1685, when it was ordered that adequate plate be provided and the churchyard new-railed. (fn. 33) The churchyard was still open to incursions by pigs and sheep in 1715, but the church was said to be in reasonable repair. Pews had recently been installed and a new gallery erected at the west end for the use of singers and servants. (fn. 34) Several 18th-century vicars were absentees and the cure was served by the curate. Goronwy Owen, the Welsh poet, served as curate from 1755 to 1758. (fn. 35) During this period services were held twice on Sundays, and there were between 5 and 7 Communions a year. By 1790 the annual number of Communions had fallen to 4, and there were only 10 communicants. (fn. 36) In 1965 evensong and Communion were celebrated daily, and there were four Sunday services, the chief of which was Parish Communion at 9 o'clock. (fn. 37)

The church of ST. MARY, standing on high ground east of the village green, dates in part from the early 14th century with early-16th-century additions. (fn. 38) The chancel is built of brick and the nave of flint and ironstone rubble with stone dressings, all now roughcast externally. The building consists of chancel, nave, bell turret, a south porch partly rebuilt in 1909, and a south vestry added in 1945. The nave dates substantially from the 14th century, but incorporates late-13th-century fragments. The chancel and nave roof were rebuilt in the early 16th century, and the square bell turret, which is weather-boarded and finished with a broach spire, dates from the same period. Buttresses, including the massive ones of brick at the west end, were added in the 18th century, and the church was restored in the 19th century. (fn. 39) The octagonal stone font dates from the 14th century. (fn. 40) The bowl is decorated with simple relief carving, and the wooden cover is dated 1624. There are four early17th-century bells, including a sanctus cast in 1626. A wooden gallery of three bays, supported on Doric columns and said to have been constructed in 1703, is built across the west end of the nave. Other fittings include an 18th-century painting of the Adoration of the Magi on the north wall of the chancel, and a 17th-century carving of the Stuart arms, executed in painted wood, on the east wall of the nave. There are brasses with figures to Henry Rowdell (d. 1452) and Isaiah Bures (vicar 1596- 1610). A 16th-century palimpsest brass commemorates the Gifford family. Wall tablets in the chancel and nave commemorate a number of 18th- and 19thcentury incumbents and successive members of the Shadwell family.

The plate consists of a silver paten and cup dated 1702, and an electroplate dish of 1839. (fn. 41) Permission to sell the plate was refused in 1919, and the plate was subsequently deposited in a Harrow bank. (fn. 42) The registers, which are complete, record baptisms from 1560, marriages from 1575, and burials from 1583.

Rapid increases in population during the 1930s and extensive council development after 1945 led to the formation of three daughter churches between 1940 and 1960. The church of ST. JOSEPH, serving the West End area, first met in 1942 in temporary premises off Watery Road. These were demolished in 1944 to make way for houses, and the congregation continued to meet in a variety of buildings. In 1957 services were being held in Arundell School and in the church-house in Hawtrey Avenue. The first permanent church, a brick-built dual-purpose hall behind the 'White Hart' in Ruislip Road, was dedicated in 1959. In 1963 land in Yeading Lane had been purchased for the erection of a new church.

From about 1948 occasional services were held in a builder's hut in south-east Northolt. A semipermanent hut at the junction of Kensington Road and Ruislip Road was dedicated in 1954 as the church of ST. HUGH. In 1963, although the future of the church was said to be uncertain, plans were published for a new church on the site.

In 1958 services were being held in a youth club hut on the Northolt Park housing estate. The hut was burnt down in 1959, and the congregation then met in Vincent School. A dual-purpose hall-church in Haydock Avenue was consecrated in 1960 as the church of ST. RICHARD. (fn. 43)

Work began on the church of ST. BARNABAS, the Fairway, in 1940. Building was suspended during the Second World War, and the church was not completed until 1954. During this period services were held in temporary premises. (fn. 44) The church, built of yellow stock-brick, is of simple design and consists of a nave, transept, and south porch. An open tower at the west end contains a single bell. The interior of the church is simply furnished and the texture of much of the structural material has been retained. The patron of the living is the Bishop of London. (fn. 45)


  • 1. V.C.H. Mdx. i. 126.
  • 2. B.M. Harl. MS. 3697, f. 1; cf. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 97.
  • 3. Ex inf. the vicar.
  • 4. B.M. Harl. MS. 3697, f. 1. The date of the foundation charter is discussed in V.C.H. Essex, ii. 111.
  • 5. Roger II, a party to the agreement, was Abbot of Walden 1241-51: Dugdale, Mon. iv. 134.
  • 6. Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 701; St. Paul's MSS. box 34/851; box 38/1297; Guildhall MS. 9531/11, f. 121.
  • 7. St. Paul's MS. W.D. 9, f. 83v.
  • 8. W.A.M., 425.
  • 9. Cal. Inq. Misc. 1219-1307, p. 246; Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 701.
  • 10. Lond. Gaz. 12 July 1864.
  • 11. St. Paul's MS. W.D. 9, f. 83v.
  • 12. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 17. Two marks, however, were paid to Ralph de Bohun.
  • 13. Guildhall MS. 9531/9, f. 138v.
  • 14. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 433.
  • 15. E 301/34/186.
  • 16. Guildhall MS. 9628.
  • 17. Home Cnties. Mag. iii. 32.
  • 18. Par. Recs., Accounts of the Tithe and Glebe; Guildhall MS. 9556.
  • 19. Par. Recs.; M.R.O., Northolt Incl. Award.
  • 20. Par. Recs.; M.R.O., Greenford Tithe Award; W.A.M., N. 125.
  • 21. M.R.O., Northolt Tithe Award.
  • 22. Rep. Com. Eccl. Rev. [67], H.C. (1835), xxii.
  • 23. Par. Recs.; ex inf. the vicar.
  • 24. Guildhall MS. 9628.
  • 25. Par. Recs., Register 1560-1700.
  • 26. Ibid. Dr. Cockburn's 'Register of the Par.'
  • 27. Ex inf. Mr. C. H. Keene.
  • 28. Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 701; Rep. Com. Eccl. Rev. 67], p. 664, H.C. (1835), xxii.
  • 29. W.A.M., 5810.
  • 30. Walker Revised, ed. Matthews, 261.
  • 31. Par. Recs., Register 1560-1700; Calamy Revised, ed. Matthews, 335; Lysons, Environs of Lond. iii. 313.
  • 32. Par. Recs.
  • 33. Guildhall MSS. 9628, 9537/20.
  • 34. Par. Recs., Dr. Cockburn's 'Register of the Par.'.
  • 35. See p. 113.
  • 36. Guildhall MSS. 9550, 9557, 9558.
  • 37. Lond. Dioc. Bk. (1965).
  • 38. It is fully described in Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 96-97 and illustrated in ibid. pl. 1.
  • 39. See plate facing p. 105.
  • 40. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. pl. 12.
  • 41. E. Freshfield, Communion Plate of Mdx. 41.
  • 42. Par Mag. Sept. 1919.
  • 43. Section based on inf. supplied by the Vicar of St. Mary's, Northolt, and Northolt Vanguard (par. mag.), passim.
  • 44. Ex inf. the vicar.
  • 45. Crockford (1961-2).