Monday, 29 August 2011

Ardeley, Hertfordshire

Ardeley is lovely, end of. Unfortunately the church is kept locked (except at weekends) and of the two keyholders listed one was out and the other was running late for an appointment so felt he couldn't lend me the key since he would be out when I returned it! Fair enough I suppose.

Mee gives a good review of the church so I'll have to revisit which is irritating as the village is right on the limit, distance wise, of my self imposed radius.


St Lawrence (2)

Ardeley. From this village went out a Hertfordshire boy to be first President of Harvard University in 1656. Charles Chauncy and his brother Henry were born at Ardeley Bury, and though their Stuart home is now much altered it keeps its dry moat and some of the panelling of the rooms where Henry compiled his Antiquities of Hertfordshire. Perhaps he was out searching for information for this book when he heard of Jane Wenham of Walkern; he took sides with those who accused her of being a witch, and at his instigation the last trial for witchcraft was held in England in 1712, the case leading to the abolition of this superstition from the Statute Book. Not far off is the small hamlet of Cromer with one or two cottages and a farm, all 16th century, and a great postmill without sails. At Wood End are two more farms 300 years old.

Ardeley itself has a 17th-century vicarage, but its new houses and the new village hall in a horseshoe round the village green, all white-walled and thatched, are charming.

This is a church where great devotion has clearly striven to replace old glories that have gone. A screen with a canopy background to its coloured statues of Calvary, Mary, and John, is exquisite in grey-white oak, and compares in workmanship with the 12 angels spreading wide wings below the old roofs of the nave and the aisles; but the screen is new and the angels are 500 years old. Of the stone steps to the rood loft only one was left, but this has been copied and now a complete newel stair is here for the children to climb to the top of the screen and sing carols at Christmas.

The nave is 700 years old; the north aisle, some carving over a piscina, and a recess in the chancel are 13th century; the south aisle and the tower are 14th, and the clerestory and the north porch are 15th. The font is the oldest thing the church possesses, the rough work of some country mason long ago, with only two of its jutting-out heads left. A few 15th century pews still have their poppyheads, much worn. "The Lord’s Name be Praised" is written on the oldest bell, which may have sounded the news of Agincourt; and another, made later in the 15th century, says, My name is Mary.

Another Mary is remembered in this church, a young woman whose beautifully sculptured head and shoulders are framed in the wall by the roodscreen. She was Mary Markham, who lived at the 17th century farm of Wood End, and died there when she was 24. A fine brass of 1599 shows Thomas Shotbolt with his wife and six children, and a small brass portrait of Philip Metcalff, a 16th-century vicar, looks across to a 19th-century vicar who also has his portrait in brass, a striking likeness of a grand old man, William Malet. It was left to our own generation to put up a monument to Sir Henry Chauncy, and we may think he deserved something more interesting. The modern windows are more successful. One is crowded with little pictures showing the Seven Sacraments; another is beautiful with a blue-robed Madonna and Child sitting on a green throne.

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