Great Stanmore: Church

Pages 105-107

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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In 1086 a priest held ½ hide at Great Stanmore. (fn. 1) A church, presumably the rectory and advowson, was among the possessions recovered by Richard, abbot of St. Albans (d. 1119) (fn. 2) and evidently was part of the property which William of Mortain had restored by 1106. (fn. 3) Although new sites were found for the building in the 17th and 19th centuries, (fn. 4) a single church has always served the whole parish.

The rights of St. Albans were confirmed by Pope Clement III in 1188, to provide vessels for the monks' refectory, (fn. 5) and by Honorius III in 1219. (fn. 6) Thereafter it seems that the abbots retained the advowson until the Dissolution, although by the mid 13th century they owned nothing else, save a portion which presumably was used on buying vessels. (fn. 7) The first recorded date of a presentation is 1322. (fn. 8) The Crown presented three times in 1349, when there was no abbot, and once in 1373, for reasons unknown. (fn. 9) In 1464 the next presentation to the rectory was granted to the Lord Chancellor George Neville, who, when archbishop of York, exercised his right six years later. (fn. 10) From 1539 it passed with the lordship of the manor to the Crown and afterwards, in turn, to Geoffrey Chamber, Sir Pedro de Gamboa, (fn. 11) successive lessees of the manor, and the families of Lake and Brydges. (fn. 12) James Brydges, duke of Chandos, by will dated 1742, left the advowson to trustees, who presumably sold it to Andrew Drummond, thereby separating it from the manor. William Hallett, the purchaser of Canons, claimed the advowson from Henry, duke of Chandos, (fn. 13) but Drummond presented in 1749 and his grandson in the 1780s. The marquess of Abercorn held both lordship and advowson, presenting in 1847 and 1848, but in 1857 presentation was by the Revd. Leopold John Bernays of Elstree (Herts.). The right has since remained with the Bernays family or its trustees, Mrs. N. Bernays being the patron in 1965. (fn. 14)

The church was said to be worth 6 marks in the mid 13th century, when the abbot of St. Albans took 2 marks from the profits, (fn. 15) and £2 in 1291, when the abbot received £1. (fn. 16) Great Stanmore was expressly excluded from the taxation on churches in 1428. (fn. 17) The rectory was valued at £13 6s. 8d. in 1535 (fn. 18) and at £10 in 1547. (fn. 19) Early in the 18th century the benefice was estimated to be worth £100, (fn. 20) as it was at the close, (fn. 21) and by 1835 the net income was £566. (fn. 22) In 1838 the rector was awarded a rent-charge of £444 in lieu of all tithes, a sum which was still payable in 1887. (fn. 23)

The glebe in 1680 amounted to more than 32 a.; 9 a. adjoined the parsonage house, 7 a. lay south of the old churchyard, and the rest was scattered in the common fields. (fn. 24) Under an Act of 1784 (fn. 25) some 12 a., worth £25 a year and including the old churchyard, were exchanged with George Drummond for nearly 20 a., worth £35. (fn. 26) There were 41 a. in 1838, some 6 a. lying next to the rectory house and the rest in two blocks to the south of Old Church Lane. The glebe was then worth £82 a year (fn. 27) but had shrunk to 23 a., worth £64 11s., by 1887, to 12 a. by 1926, and to 2 a. by 1940. (fn. 28)

It is not certain where the parsonage house stood before 1721, when George Hudson, rector 1715-49, built a new one to the south-east of the church, at the top of Old Church Lane. The duke of Chandos gave the timber and perhaps also paid the architect, Edward Shepherd, whom he often employed as a surveyor. The building was red-brick and threestoreyed, facing south across a pond. (fn. 29) A wing was added in 1850 but the house was divided in 1949 and pulled down in 1960, when the present Rectory was built a few yards to the north-west. (fn. 30)

Most early incumbents were probably pluralists or absentees, since Great Stanmore was not a rich living. John Nicholl exchanged it for West Angmering (Suss.) in 1423 (fn. 31) and John Cortell was licensed to hold it with one other benefice in 1476. (fn. 32) Alfonso de Salignas, presumably a nominee and fellow countryman of Sir Pedro de Gamboa, paid a priest to serve the cure in 1547. (fn. 33) After the building of the 18th-century rectory house, incumbents seem normally to have been resident. Arthur Chauvel, rector 1788-1847, was also a canon of St. Paul's and vicar of Chigwell (Essex) in 1835. (fn. 34)

All the parishioners, it was said, could conveniently attend the church in 1650. (fn. 35) The Presbyterian Samuel Stancliffe, later one of the first managers of the Common Fund, was rector from 1658 until his ejection in 1662. (fn. 36) A Sunday school, started by 1790, (fn. 37) was attended by between 30 and 40 children in 1819. (fn. 38) Services took place twice every Sunday at the end of the 18th century, when between 50 and 70 people received the sacraments four times a year. By 1810 the sacraments were administered 'nearly monthly'. (fn. 39) Two Sunday services were still held in 1851, attended by some 450 people in the morning and 400 in the afternoon, as well as about 80 children from the Sunday school. (fn. 40) There has usually been an assistant curate, paid £50 in 1782 and 1797, since the late 18th century. (fn. 41)

From c. 1300 until 1632 the parish church, probably dedicated to St. Mary, stood north of the moat (fn. 42) on what became the corner of Old Church Lane and Wolverton Road. (fn. 43) Possibly there had been earlier churches here, of which nothing is known. Fragments uncovered by builders in 1892 showed the medieval church to have measured no more than 81 ft. by 22 ft., with small transepts and a 15thcentury extension. (fn. 44) No trace survives, apart from the tomb of Baptist Willoughby, rector 1563-1610, later in the garden of Haslemere (no. 44 Old Church Lane), and the Burnell monument in the modern parish church. (fn. 45) In 1632 William Laud, as bishop of London, consecrated the church of St. John, whose ivy-clad ruins still stand at the western end of the churchyard. The building was paid for by Sir John Wolstenholme and so later denounced by the Puritans as a private chapel. (fn. 46) Its roofless walls and threestage battlemented tower are of brick with stone dressings; the body forms a plain rectangle with no separate chancel, although one 18th-century annexe to the north remains and there are traces of another. The south doorway, attributed to Nicholas Stone, and most of the windows are round-headed; the east window is venetian, an early occurrence of this feature. (fn. 47) The table-tomb of Sir John Wolstenholme, his father, and two grandsons, dated 1639, stands within the ruins, together with the ornate mausoleum of the Hollond family, dated 1866; there are several tablets of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, but most of the more elaborate monuments have been moved to the new church. (fn. 48)

After the Laudian church had been pronounced too small and unsafe, the foundation stone of ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST was laid in 1849 by Queen Adelaide at her last public appearance. (fn. 49) The church, consecrated in 1850, was built on near-by land given by Col. Tovey-Tennent of the Pynnacles, at a cost of £7,855, of which £3,000 was raised by a church-rate and a similar sum given by the earl of Aberdeen and his son, the Hon. Douglas Gordon, who was rector from 1848 until 1857. Henry Clutton, the architect, (fn. 50) used Kentish rag and Bath stone in the Decorated style to build a church comprising a wide chancel with a chapel to the south, nave, north and south aisles, and north-west tower. The organ was later moved to the chapel from near the south door. Vestries on the north side of the chancel were converted into the chapel of St. George by E. B. Glanfield in 1955, and a new vestry was built further north. Alterations to lighten the chancel and emphasize the altar were completed in 1961; they included whitening the walls, removing the brass communion rails and much woodwork, including the choirscreen, and lowering and re-tiling the sanctuary floor. The central light of Thomas Willement's east window, erected in memory of Queen Adelaide, was redesigned in 1950. Despite such changes there are many fittings, among them a font given by Queen Adelaide and a stained glass window in the south aisle attributable to William Morris & Co., (fn. 51) to recall the wealth of Victorian Stanmore.

The oldest fittings, which must have been in the two earlier churches, are a brass inscription to John Burnell (d. 1605) and, above it, a marble and alabaster wall monument erected by his widow Barbara, with kneeling figures of herself, her husband, and eight children; details of the Burnells' charities are inscribed, with the provisions, still observed, for the monument's maintenance by the Clothworkers' Company of London. Other pieces from the Laudian church include an octagonal font, bearing the Wolstenholmes' arms, of white marble on a grey marble baluster-stem, and a white marble recumbent effigy from the tomb of Sir John Wolstenholme (d. 1639), both of them by Nicholas Stone. A large stone monument, crammed beneath the tower and perhaps wrongly reassembled, depicts John Wolstenholme (d. 1669), his wife, and two children, lying in a heavily draped four-poster bed. A black marble and alabaster tablet commemorates the wife and three daughters of John Collins, dated 1670, (fn. 52) some memorials to the Dalton family include one to John Dalton by John Bacon the younger, dated 1791, (fn. 53) and there is an effigy by J. E. Boehm of George Hamilton-Gordon, earl of Aberdeen (d. 1860), former Prime Minister and father of the rector Douglas Gordon. A mid-17th-century record of the parish's charities hangs in the north aisle. The churchyard contains the unmarked grave of William Hart (d. 1683), son of Shakespeare's sister Joan, (fn. 54) table-tombs of 1705 and 1714, (fn. 55) and a winged figure over the grave of Sir William Gilbert (d. 1911); Lord Halsbury (d. 1921), three times Lord Chancellor, is also buried there. (fn. 56)

The tower has eight bells, six of them from the Laudian church: (i) and (ii) 1684, James Bartlett; (iii) 1632, Brian Eldridge; (iv) 1756, Lester and Pack; (v) 1632, Brian Eldridge (recast 1888); (vi) 1632, Brian Eldridge. (fn. 57) The plate includes a flagon of 1616, given by Barbara Burnell, paten covers of 1632 and 1637, and a stand-paten of 1709, all silvergilt. (fn. 58) Registers record baptisms, marriages, and deaths from 1599. (fn. 59)


  • 1. V.C.H. Mdx. i. 125.
  • 2. Thos. Walsingham, Gesta Abbatum (Rolls Ser.), ed. H. T. Riley, i. 68.
  • 3. See p. 96.
  • 4. See below, p. 106.
  • 5. Mat. Paris, Chron. Majora (Rolls Ser.), vi. 46.
  • 6. Cal. Papal Regs. i. 63.
  • 7. See below.
  • 8. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 406.
  • 9. Cal. Pat. 1348-50, 276, 329, 421; 1370-4, 346.
  • 10. Registrum Abbatiae Johannis Whethamstede (Rolls Ser.), ed. H.T. Riley, ii. 91.
  • 11. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xxi(2), p. 419.
  • 12. Hennessy, op. cit. 406.
  • 13. Baker, Chandos, 445, 466.
  • 14. Hennessy, op. cit. 406; Crockford (1896 and later edns.).
  • 15. Val. of Norw., ed. Lunt, 359.
  • 16. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 17, 20.
  • 17. Feud. Aids, iii. 380.
  • 18. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 433.
  • 19. E 301/34/172.
  • 20. Bodl. MS. Rawl. B 389b, f. 96v.
  • 21. Guildhall MS. 9557, f. 24.
  • 22. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, 672-3.
  • 23. Return of Tithes Commuted, H.C. 214, p. 123 (1887), lxiv.
  • 24. M.R.O., Acc. 262 (16).
  • 25. 24 Geo. III, c. 10 (Priv. Act).
  • 26. M.R.O., Acc. 398/11.
  • 27. M.R.O., TA/S'MORE Gt.; Return of Tithes Commuted, 123; Return of Glebe Lands, H.C. 307, p. 92 (1887), lxiv.
  • 28. Crockford (1926, 1940).
  • 29. Druett, Stanmores and Harrow Weald, 207-8 and pl. facing p. 96; Baker, Chandos, 280.
  • 30. Guide to ch. of St. John the Evangelist, Gt. Stanmore (1965), 19; photographs penes Harrow Cent. Ref. Libr.
  • 31. Cal. Pat. 1422-9, 141.
  • 32. Cal. Pap. Regs. xiii(2), 526.
  • 33. E 301/34/172.
  • 34. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, 673.
  • 35. Home Cnties. Mag. i. 319.
  • 36. Calamy Revised, ed. Matthews, 458.
  • 37. See p. 108.
  • 38. Educ. of Poor Digest, 555.
  • 39. Guildhall MSS. 9557, 9558.
  • 40. H.O. 129/135/2/1/1.
  • 41. Guildhall MSS. 9557, 9558; Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, 673; Crockford (1896 and later edns.).
  • 42. See p. 92.
  • 43. O.S. Map 1/2,500, TQ 1691 (1963 edn.).
  • 44. T.L.M.A.S. xiii. 219; Home Cnties. Mag. iii. 170.
  • 45. See p. 107.
  • 46. Robbins, Mdx. 331.
  • 47. See plate facing p. 81.
  • 48. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 114; Pevsner, Mdx. 145.
  • 49. Except where otherwise stated, the para. is based on Guide to ch. of St. John, 4-10 and plan facing p. 1.
  • 50. Two Hen. Cluttons practised c. 1848. The architect of Gt. Stanmore church was of no. 8 Whitehall Place, Westminster: M.R.O., D.R.O. 14/B2/23.
  • 51. Damaged c. 1974.
  • 52. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 114 and plates 12, 163, and 173.
  • 53. Pevsner, Mdx. 146.
  • 54. Ibid.; Guide to ch. of St. John, 6-7, 18.
  • 55. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 114.
  • 56. Guide to ch. of St. John, 19.
  • 57. T.L.M.A.S. xvii. 239.
  • 58. Freshfield, Communion Plate, 41.
  • 59. Guide to ch. 17. The registers from 1599 to 1934 are in M.R.O., D.R.O. 14/A1-16.