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Victorian study of North Mymms

Chapter Six - Churches

Taken from "The Victoria History of Hertfordshire"
edited by W. Page - 1908.

St Mary's from the south-west.Photograph by Geo. Knott. 1896
St Mary's from the south-west. Photograph by Geo. Knott. 1896

The church of Our Lady, North Mimms, consists of a chancel 32 ft. 3in. by 18 ft. 4 in., with north vestry and north chapel 23 ft. 4 in. by 13 ft.; nave, 43 ft. 3 in. by 18 ft. 2 in., with north and south aisles 10 ft. 2 in. wide; south porch, and west tower.

The masonry of the walls is of flints, with a certain quantity of Totternhoe stone and brick, and a few blocks of pudding stone, the roofs of nave and chancel being red tiled, and those of the aisles of flat pitch, leaded.

The oldest part of the church is the chancel, which is the same width as the nave, and has a slight lean to the south.

The north chapel, which appears to have been built for a chantry founded in 1328 by Simon Swanlond, and had an alter of St. Katherine, follows the line of the chancel, and the chancel walls are doubtless older than the date of the building of the chapel.

About 1340 the nave and aisles were entirely rebuilt, though it is probable that the dimensions of the former nave were preserved; and a central tower, which would have taken up the western half of the existing chancel, was planned but never carried out.

The date of the stoppage is significant, and may be another instance of the effects of the Black Death of 1348-9, though the division of liability at this point between rector and parish must also be taken into account.

When building was again undertaken it was on a less ambitious scale, and the lack of a tower was supplied by the erection of the present west tower in the fifteenth century. In modern times (1860) the church has been repaired, and the north vestry and south porch are modern additions.

The chancel has a three-light east window, with net tracery, but only the arch and jambs are old. In the south wall are two windows, both with modern tracery, the eastern of the two, which has an ancient head and jambs, being of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil over, and the second having net tracery.

Between the windows is a plain pointed doorway, the external stonework being modern, and below the first window an arched recess for the sedilia, with a fourteenth-century cinquefoiled piscine to the east. No stonework in the windows or doorway appears to be older than the beginning of the fourteenth century, but the masonry of the walls may possibly be of somewhat earlier date.

At the east end of the north wall is the door to the vestry, made of white marble, and forming part of the basement of the large white marble monument of John, Lord Somers, 1716. The greater part of the north side of the chancel is taken up by an arcade of two bays in modern stonework, opening to the north chapel.

The chancel arch, which was intended to be the western arch of a central tower, is high and massive, of three chamfered orders springing from recessed and chamfered piers with moulded capitals and bases, and is abutted on north and south by smaller arches of like detail which would have opened from the aisles into the transepts, that on the south being blocked. Parts of the west jambs of the northern and southern arches of the tower also remain.

The north chapel, the east end of which is blocked by an organ, has two original windows on the north of two trefoiled lights with a flowing quatrefoil in the had, the lines of the inclosing arch following those of the tracery. The modern vestry is built against its east wall, and is lighted by a two-light east window, copied from those of the chapel.

The nave is of three bays with north and south arcades of two orders, the details being like those of the chancel arch, and the aisles are lighted by three light windows with net tracery, three on the north and one at the west of the north aisle, and two on the south and one at the west in the south aisle, the middle bay of the latter containing the south doorway with a continuous moulded outer arch having a hollow casement between two double ogees.

Externally the windows have moulded labels, and all the stonework in the nave, except where repaired, is of the date of the rebuilding, c. 1340. At the east end of the south aisle is the blocked arch already noticed, and the south-east buttress is of red brick with a stone sundial which appears to be dated 1584 and has a mutilated inscription.

The south-west buttress is of wrought stone and comparatively modern date. The tower has diagonal buttresses at all four angles, and has been built outside the west end of the nave, the junction being made by means of the eastern buttresses. It is tall, of three stages, with a plastered embattled parapet and a wooden spire covered with sheet copper. The belfry stage has windows of two cinquefoiled lights with flattened heads, and the stage below is blank except on the west, where there is a three-light window with net tracery, like those in the nave.

Below it is a fine fourtheenth-century doorway of three moulded orders with flowers in the hollows and jambs, with three engaged shafts and excellent foliate capitals. The labels over the arch and window are, however, of fifteenth-century section, though much patched with Roman cement, and it seems probable that both door and window were originally in the west wall of the nave, and have been reset here at the building of the tower. The wall on either side of the west door has bands of wrought stone, and in the lower part chequers of stone and flint. The east arch of the tower is of fifteenth-century date, with an engaged shaft and moulded capitals to the inner order, and at the south-west angle is a stone stair.

The pulpit, of early seventeenth-century date, is a good specimen of woodwork, hexagonal with panelled sides, and a deep band of carving above the panels, the base and cornice being modern. The alter-table is also of the seventeenth century, with baluster legs, but with these exceptions the church retains no old woodwork in roofs or fittings, though the stone corbels fo a former fifteenth-century nave roof remain. In the north chapel is some seventeenth-century heraldic glass with Coningsby alliances, and a few pieces of white and gold fifteenth-century glass with a well-preserved figure of a majesty. The font stands at the west end of the nave, and is modern.

The church is rich in monuments. On the north wall of the church is a beautiful fourteenth-century brass (probably Flemish, c. 1350), said to be that of Thomas de Horton, 1360. It shows the figure of a priest in mass vestments holding a chalice, which is covered by a paten, and standing under a cusped canopy on a bracket-shaped base on which are two lions seated back to back, having between them a shield charged with a saltire between four crosses crosslet fitchy. Beneath the priestís feet is a stag. Above the canopy is a row f arched panels, that in the middle containing a figure of our Lord holding the soul of the deceased, between censing angels; and on either side, in the jambs of the canopy, are figures of Sts. Peter, James, and Andrew on the right hand, and Paul, John Evangelist, and Bartholomew on the left.

On the south wall of the chancel, below the piscine, is a brass plate with an inscription to Thomas Hewet, 1587, and his wife Elizabeth, 1590; and east of the south door are the figures of a knight in plate armour with fluted tuilles and a mail hauberk, of a civilian and his wife with four sons and six daughters, and of Richard Butler and his wife, c. 1560. West of the south door is the figure of Elizabeth Knolles, 1458, and two sons, and an inscription below to her husband Robert Knolles, the date of his death being left blank. All these brasses were taken up from the floor in 1860.

In the north-east angle of the chancel is the large white marble monument of John, Lord Somers, 1716, with a seated figure of Justice. The marble door in the base of the monument has already been noticed. In the north chapel is a panelled altar tomb of early fifteenth-century style, said to be that of Elizabeth Coningsby; and below the north-west window of the north aisle a late sixteenth-century altar-tomb of alabaster with an incised figure of a woman on the slab, the lines being inlaid with a black composition. Round the edge of the slab is a much-worn inscription in raised black-letter, a fine and effective work. It commemorates a lady of the Barford family. Near it on the walls are several eighteenth-century marble monuments, the best being that the George Jarvis, 1718, with a white marble bust.

There are six bells, all by John Briant of Hertford, 1806, and a blank priestís bell.

The plate comprises a silver communion cup of c. 1570, the marks being obliterated, with two bands of strap-work round the bowl; a second cup, copied from it in 1849; a paten of 1717, and a flagon of 1707, both engraved with a lozenge containing six ostrich feathers; and a brass almsdish. Besides these there are two unusual and interesting pieces, a tall standing covered cup of Nuremberg make, c. 1610, of silver gilt, and a very remarkable amber tankard, silver-gilt mounted, with figures of the Virtues in low relief, German work of the seventeenth century. This latter is loaned for safety to the British Museum.

The earliest register preserved is a strip of parchment with entries of baptisms 1565-67, the book next in date containing all entries from 1656 to 1725, and five entries of baptisms between 1647 and 1655. The third book, 1679-1749, contains the burials in woollen, and the fourth has all entries 1725-55. The fifth has marriages 1754-1812, the sixth baptisms 1755-93, the seventh burials 1755-1810, the eighty baptisms 1793-1812, and the ninth burials 1810-12.

Christ Church, Little Heath, is a modern building in fourteenth-century style, erected in 1893, consisting of chancel, nave, and transepts. The register date from the year of erection.

Useful links
North Mymms - Parish and People by Dorothy Colville
North Mymms Church - 140 Years of History 1762-1901
A Short History of the Knolles and Frowick Families
North Mymms 'mass dial' found


Victorian study of North Mymms - Index
Chapter One - Mimmine
Chapter Two - Manors - North Mymms
Chapter Three - Manors - Potterells
Chapter Four - Manors - Brookmans
Chapter Five - Manors - More Hall and Leggatts
Chapter Six - Churches
Chapter Seven - Advowsons
Chapter Eight - Charities

Note: The text above has been taken from "The Victoria History of Hertfordshire", edited by W. Page in 1908. It has been broken down into chapters for ease of reading and download. In all chapters the text is reproduced exactly as it is in the original document. Where words are used which are no longer in common usage, a number appears to the right of the word and a definition is offered. However people using these pages for research might need to have their own dictionary on hand to help understand the text. North Mymms is spelt North Mimms throughout, a difference explained in a feature written by Bill Killick on this site click here.

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