Little Stanmore: Church

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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'Little Stanmore: Church', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham, (London, 1976) pp. 122-124. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]


The church of St. Lawrence at Little Stanmore was given by Roger de Rames (fl. 1130) to St. Bartholomew's priory, (fn. 1) recorded as the appropriator c. 1244. There was a vicarage by that date (fn. 2) and 16th-century incumbents were described as vicars. (fn. 3) The living, however, first listed as a donative in 1708, (fn. 4) was considered from the 17th to early 19th centuries to be a perpetual curacy. (fn. 5) Incumbents during that period normally called themselves ministers, presumably in order to be distinguished from their salaried curates. Henry Poole styled himself rector from 1785, (fn. 6) although it was not until after the District Church Tithes Act of 1865 that Little Stanmore was raised to become a rectory, in 1868. (fn. 7) St. Lawrence's church served the whole parish, save during a brief period when the duke of Chandos maintained his chapel at Canons, (fn. 8) until 1932. The conventional district of All Saints, Queensbury, was then constituted out of the southern part of Little Stanmore and northern Kingsbury, becoming a separate parish in 1941. (fn. 9)

After the Reformation the church was impropriated by the lay lords of the manor, being acquired by Hugh Losse in 1552 (fn. 10) and passing from his grandson to the Lake family. (fn. 11) Although the profits were vested in trustees under the will of Sir Lancelot Lake, (fn. 12) the right of presentation was retained by his heirs and afterwards, at least until 1786, by the dukes of Chandos. (fn. 13) In 1810 the trust had been 'inefficient for some time' (fn. 14) and in 1811 the advowson was the subject of a Chancery suit, which perhaps stemmed from a claim that William Hallett had bought it after the first duke's death. (fn. 15) From 1811 until 1829 the rector of Great Stanmore acted as minister. (fn. 16) In 1832 trustees presented George Mutter, (fn. 17) who himself soon acquired the advowson (fn. 18) and all tithes on most of the parish, although those on some 127 a. became payable to Sarah Noyes and the Grand Junction Canal Co. (fn. 19) The right of presentation was exercised by Maria Mutter in 1844, by Thomas Murray Mackie in 1850, by Dorothy Norman in 1868, and by the retiring rector, John Burton Norman, in 1897. (fn. 20) It passed between 1907 and 1915 to Muriel, Countess De La Warr, (fn. 21) and was transferred in 1929 to the bishop of London. (fn. 22)

The church was valued at 30s. c. 1244-8 (fn. 23) and £2 in 1291. (fn. 24) The vicarage was said to be worth 3 marks c. 1244 (fn. 25) and the vicar was paid 46s. 8d. by St. Bartholomew's in 1535. (fn. 26) It was alleged in 1638 that the 'curate', apparently the incumbent, had for long received one penny out of every shilling for the yearly value of all unploughed and pasture lands but that Lady Lake would pay nothing for her many hundreds of acres, had forbidden other parishioners to pay, and had laid claim to his dwelling house. The council referred the complaint to the Attorney-General for prosecution and ordered that meanwhile the curate should enjoy his customary rights. (fn. 27) Lancelot Lake, as impropriator, received tithes worth about £50 a year and paid £40 to the minister in 1650; (fn. 28) in his will, proved in 1680, however, the profits were reckoned at £100. (fn. 29) After tithes had been demanded from the tenants of the free school lands, the vestry in 1792 forbade payment and resolved to meet the costs of any action which the incumbent might bring. (fn. 30) In 1835 the net income of the incumbent and chief tithe-owner, George Mutter, was £267. (fn. 31) A rent-charge of £415 10s. was awarded in 1838 to Mutter and a further £36 10s. to Sarah Noyes and the Grand Junction Canal Co., in lieu of all tithes. (fn. 32) Similar sums were payable in 1887, when there was no glebe. (fn. 33)

In 1638 it was stated that for about 40 years the curates had enjoyed a dwelling house near the church, where Lady Lake was ordered to leave the incumbent undisturbed. (fn. 34) A vicarage house, with its yard and great orchard and an orchard adjoining the churchyard on the north, was mentioned in 1666. (fn. 35) It may have been the house, 'fit for residence' in 1835, (fn. 36) which stood west of the church, with a garden on the south side of Whitchurch Lane. (fn. 37) The building was replaced in 1852 by one designed by Anthony Salvin, east of the church and on what is now the north-west side of St. Lawrence Close. (fn. 38) Salvin's rectory was pulled down in 1967 and a smaller house built in St. Lawrence Close in 1970. (fn. 39)

William Paris, by will dated 1271-2, left 5s. for the fabric of Little Stanmore church and 24 sheep to support a light there. (fn. 40) In 1547 there was a church house for which the tenant William Stile, perhaps a relative of the vicar John Stile, paid 5s. a year. (fn. 41) A church hall had been built in Whitchurch Lane, between Meads and Montgomery roads, by 1911. After fires in 1966 and 1970, a new one was opened in 1972. (fn. 42)

The curate Richard Davy, a former Carthusian, was denounced to Cromwell in 1538 by the curates of Kingsbury and Hendon for objecting to the suppression of images. (fn. 43) Davy presumably was a salaried curate, like the one paid by the vicar in 1547. (fn. 44) Lady Lake's hostility was said in 1638 to have endangered the service of God by threatening the incumbent with destitution (fn. 45) but his successor, Nicholas Holland, was a 'constant preaching minister' in 1650, when all the parishioners could conveniently attend the church. (fn. 46) The most distinguished incumbent was the Huguenot refugee John Theophilus Desaguliers, natural philosopher and inventor of the planetarium, who was nominated in 1714. (fn. 47) Offence was caused by his many distractions, which included superintending the water engineering for Canons, and Chandos himself pointed out that a corpse had lain three days in the church, since neither the incumbent nor his curate could be bothered to bury it. Desaguliers quarrelled with his patron in 1741 but retained the living until his death in a London coffee-house in 1744. (fn. 48)

Services were held once on Sundays in 1810, when the sacraments were administered four times a year to only ten communicants, (fn. 49) perhaps because most parishioners, who lived along the west side of Edgware Road, found it easier to reach Edgware parish church. Benjamin John Armstrong, incumbent from 1844 to 1850, prided himself on having sometimes doubled his congregation to 300, in spite of the church's isolation, and recalled hearing that c. 1835 a bell-ringer had locked up the building for want of any worshippers. (fn. 50) Two Sunday services were held in 1851, attended by some 170 people in the morning and 130 in the afternoon, as well as by about 30 children from Sunday school, when bad weather was blamed for keeping the numbers unusually low. (fn. 51) In 1835 the incumbent, George Mutter, was also rector of Chillenden (Kent) and perpetual curate of Broadway Chapel, St. Margaret's, Westminster; he often attended vestry meetings (fn. 52) but paid £80 a year to a curate. (fn. 53) Mutter's successor, Armstrong, described his own parish work in a diary (fn. 54) and wrote a popular book on the church. (fn. 55) Since 1961 the rector has normally been assisted by a curate. (fn. 56)

The church of ST. LAWRENCE stands on the north side of Whitchurch Lane, its churchyard and the south entrance to Canons Park forming a gap in a line of semi-detached houses of the 1930s. Nothing survives of the building recorded in 1272. The oldest part of the present fabric is the early-16th-century west tower, of red brick and flint rubble rendered with cement; it is battlemented and three-storeyed, with a north-east stair turret. (fn. 57) The remainder was rebuilt for the duke of Chandos (d. 1744), as an unaisled nave and retrochoir with, slightly later, a pantheon to the north. The work was largely carried out by John James in 1714, (fn. 58) although the rain-water heads are dated 1715, and is now the only architectural memorial to the duke's taste. The walls outside are simple, of purplish brick with plain stone-arched windows and broad Tuscan corner pilasters. (fn. 59) Inside the nave walls are panelled and painted in grisaille, probably by Francesco Sleter assisted by Gaetano Brunetti. (fn. 60) Together with the vaulted ceiling, painted by Louis Laguerre, they form a baroque monument unique in England. At the west end is a wooden gallery with the duke's box beneath a canopy painted by Belucci. At the east end there are wooden Corinthian columns on each side of the altar, making the organ, beyond, appear as if on a stage; both altar and organ are flanked by paintings attributed to Belucci (the Nativity and Pietà) and Laguerre. On the north the pantheon, designed for the Brydgeses' monuments (fn. 61) and later converted into a vestry, leads to a farther painted room, the Chandos mausoleum, completed by James Gibbs in 1735. Restorations were carried out to the whole fabric in 1854, to the mausoleum in 1936, to the tower by Sir Albert Richardson in 1951, and to the interior by a local artist, W. P. Starmer, in 1953. (fn. 62) In 1971, when the painted plaster along the north wall of the nave had been shored up for several years and after extensive damage to the mausoleum, a national appeal was launched to save the church.

Apart from Victorian glass in the south windows and a wooden altar-screen erected in 1900, (fn. 63) when the old one was moved to the entrance to the mausoleum, the interior has been little changed. The oak box-pews are original, as are the iron rings to which service books were chained, the wrought iron altar-rails, and the font. The pulpit, also 18thcentury, was altered in 1854. Several of the books are kept by the organ, together with a copy of the 'vinegar Bible' of 1716, presented by Chandos. The organ, built by Abraham Jordan and in a case perhaps by Grinling Gibbons, has been enlarged and much renovated. (fn. 64) It was played by Handel when the duke's household attended church, before the completion of the chapel at Canons; Handel, however, was not the regular organist nor need he have composed the Chandos anthems here, as stated on a brass plate. (fn. 65) An impressive white marble monument to James, duke of Chandos (d. 1744), stands against the east wall of the mausoleum; it is probably by Andrew Carpentier and depicts the duke, in Roman costume, between kneeling figures of his first two wives. (fn. 66) Against the south wall are the sarcophagi of his daughter-in-law Mary, marchioness of Carnarvon (d. 1738), by Sir Henry Cheere, and of Margaret, marchioness of Carnarvon (d. 1760). In the churchyard to the south is the table-tomb of John Franklin, with a recut inscription bearing the old-style date 1596. Another stone, erected in 1868, alleges that William Powell was the 'harmonious blacksmith' once thought to have inspired Handel; in reality Powell was the parish clerk and the blacksmith no more than an apprentice, William Lintern, who took up music and gave his own nickname to one of Handel's compositions. (fn. 67) In 1863 it was ordered that coffins beneath the monument rooms be reinterred and the vaults closed up and in 1864 that no new burials should normally be made in the eastern part of the churchyard. (fn. 68)

The church has one bell, cast in 1774 by Thomas Janaway. (fn. 69) A set of silver-gilt plate, dated 1715, was given by Chandos when he was earl of Carnarvon in 1716; it comprises a flagon, two large cups, two patens, and an alms-dish. (fn. 70) Registers record baptisms from 1559, marriages from 1552, and burials from 1556. (fn. 71)

When All Saints, Queensbury, was created a conventional district in 1932, worshippers first attended a hall in Dale Avenue, Little Stanmore. By 1938, however, services were held in Waltham Drive, close to the site of the existing church, which is in the old parish of Kingsbury. (fn. 72)


  • 1. Webb, Recs. of St. Barts. i. 349, 479-80.
  • 2. St. Paul's MS. W.D. 9, f. 85v.
  • 3. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 407; Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 406.
  • 4. Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 731.
  • 5. Ibid.; Rep. Cttee. Eccl. Revs. H.C. 67, p. 673 (1835), xxii.
  • 6. Vestry min. bk.
  • 7. 21st Rep. Eccl. Com. [4118], p. 122, H.C. (1868-9), xix(1).
  • 8. See pp. 115-16.
  • 9. See p. 86.
  • 10. Cal.Pat. 1550-3, 457.
  • 11. Home Cnties. Mag. i. 320.
  • 12. 9th Rep. Com. Char. H.C. 258, pp. 272-3 (1823), ix.
  • 13. John Ecton, Liber Regis (1786), 582.
  • 14. Guildhall MS. 9558, f. 478v.
  • 15. Lysons, Environs, iii. 411, suppl. 287.
  • 16. Vestry min. bk.
  • 17. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 406.
  • 18. Rep. Cttee. Eccl. Revs. 673.
  • 19. M.R.O., TA/S'MORE Lt.
  • 20. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 406-7.
  • 21. Crockford (1907 and later edns.).
  • 22. Par. recs. penes the Rectory, AS/1.
  • 23. St. Paul's MS. W.D. 9, f. 85v.
  • 24. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 17b.
  • 25. St. Paul's MS. W.D. 9, f. 85v.
  • 26. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 407.
  • 27. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1638-9, 62, 396.
  • 28. Home Cnties. Mag. i. 320.
  • 29. 9th Rep. Com. Char. 273.
  • 30. Vestry order bk.
  • 31. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, 673.
  • 32. M.R.O., TA/S'MORE Lt.
  • 33. Return of Tithes Commuted, H.C. 214, p. 123 (1887), lxiv; Return of Glebe Lands, H.C. 307, p. 92 (1887), lxiv.
  • 34. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1638-9, 62.
  • 35. Davenport MSS., marriage settlement for Thos., s. of Sir Lancelot Lake, and Rebecca Langham.
  • 36. Rep. Cttee. Eccl. Revs. 673.
  • 37. Ex inf. Mr. C. L. Holness (1970).
  • 38. Robbins, Mdx. 335; O.S. Map 6", Mdx. XI. NW. (1865 edn.).
  • 39. Harrow Observer, 14 Aug. 1970.
  • 40. Cat. Anct. D. ii, A 2296.
  • 41. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 406.
  • 42. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Mdx. VI. 13 (1914 edn.); Harrow Observer, 29 Dec. 1966, 7 Apr. 1970, 19 Apr. 1974.
  • 43. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xii(2), p. 142.
  • 44. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 406.
  • 45. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1638-9, 62.
  • 46. Home Cnties. Mag. i. 320.
  • 47. D.N.B.
  • 48. Baker, Chandos, 152, 429.
  • 49. Guildhall MS. 9558, f. 478v.
  • 50. T.L.M.A.S. xvii. 112.
  • 51. H.O. 129/135/2/2/2.
  • 52. Vestry min. bk.
  • 53. Rep. Cttee. Eccl. Revs. 673.
  • 54. Extracts relating to Armstrong's later years have been published as A Norfolk Diary, ed. H. B. J. Armstrong (1949).
  • 55. T.L.M.A.S. xvii. 105-12. The book was first pub. in 1849.
  • 56. Crockford (1961 and later edns.).
  • 57. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 114. Except where otherwise stated, the rest of the para, and the foll. para, are based on Pevsner, Mdx. 148-9, and Robbins, Mdx. 334-5.
  • 58. Baker, Chandos, 117, 119, 126.
  • 59. Robbins, Mdx. plate 23.
  • 60. Letter from Edw. Croft-Murray (1967) penes the rector. See frontispiece.
  • 61. Baker, Chandos, 416.
  • 62. T.L.M.A.S. xviii(2), no. 94.
  • 63. Architect, lxiii (1900), 64.
  • 64. C. L. Holness, Short Guide to par. ch. of Lt. Stanmore (1942 edn.), 8.
  • 65. R. A. Streatfield, Handel, Canons and the Duke of Chandos, 16-17, 19.
  • 66. Pevsner, Mdx. plate 28(b). The lengthy inscriptions are in Baker, Chandos, 420-2.
  • 67. W. H. Cummings, Handel, the Duke of Chandos, the Harmoniuous Blacksmith, 21.
  • 68. Lond. Gaz. 15 Sept. 1863, p. 4517; 4 Aug. 1864, p. 3872.
  • 69. T.L.M.A.S. xvii. 240.
  • 70. Freshfield, Communion Plate, 54.
  • 71. T.L.M.A.S. xviii(2), no. 94. In 1971 the registers were at the church.
  • 72. See p. 86.