St Mary’s Hemel Hempstead

St Mary’s Church, Hemel Hempstead┬áis the parish church of the town and its oldest place of worship.

Its construction was commenced in 1140 and was dedicated in 1150 although construction continued for another 30 years.

Old Town

It is cruciform in shape, with chancel, the first part to be built, nave south and north transepts, and a tower. A spire, one of the tallest in Europe was added in the 14th century with a total height of 200 feet. It is topped by a gilded weather vane. The church is built from the local clunch stone and flint with some addition of Roman bricks. The architecture is Norman throughout apart from porches added in the 14th and 15th centuries. A 19th century vestry was added on the north east corner.

In 1302 a cell to Ashridge Priory was founded in Hemel Hempstead and the church had collegiate status until the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1536. A door at the base of the tower allowed the monks access to the church and avoided them mixing with the townspeople.

It is not known why such a grand church was constructed in what at the time was a small hamlet.

The font is original Norman, although surrounded by 19th century decoration. Photo By Daniel taken from Elbows on the Table coffee shop (it does excellent sandwiches and salads). – http://www.elbowsoffthetable.co.uk/

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