Thursday, 1 September 2011

Great Munden, Hertfordshire

St Nicholas was firmly locked with no keyholder listed, probably explainable by Mee's opening paragraph.

Actually I've just discovered that it is privately owned and redundant(22.04.13).

ST NICHOLAS. Unbuttressed W tower of the C15 with spike. The body of the church with much restored walls and windows. The masonry goes back originally to the C12: see the simple Norman N doorway (an order of colonnettes, and roll moulding in the arch) and one small Norman N window in the chancel. At the E end of the S aisle one fine Dec three-light window, at the W end a similar one of two lights. The interior bears out the exterior impression. Of the Norman chancel arch the N side survives with one primitive volute or rather spiral capital and one with a face either with fingers pulling the mouth open or with sprays of foliage growing out of the mouth.* The S side of the Norman chancel arch was destroyed when the arch was widened in the C15. The S arcade is of three bays and has C14 detail, and there are besides in the aisle two ogee-headed recesses and a fine stone reredos at the S end, also with little ogee niches. The top is castellated. - PULPIT. Jacobean, with two tiers of the usual blank arcades. - CHANCEL STALLS with a few rather starved poppy-heads. - PLATE. Chalice of 1696.

* A Norman arch in the N side of the chancel was found at the restoration in 1865 but not left exposed.

St Nicholas (3)

St Nicholas (2)

Great Munden. It is little more than a farm, a duck pond, a cottage, and a church. The cottage is a frail looking wooden one yet it has lasted more than 300 years, as long as High Trees Farm, which has 17th-century stacks and a heavy screen carved in Cromwell’s day.

The church proclaims its Norman ancestry with a blocked doorway, a deep window, and a pillar with a carved capital left in the chancel arch, but succeeding generations have obliterated the rest of the Norman work and left their own windows, doorways, arches, and the four stone angels holding up the nave roof, two playing lutes. The aisle was added in the 14th century, and for years its small niched reredos was hidden beneath plaster. The worn tower with fantastic faces outside its windows was added in the 15th century, and in 1621 Robert Oldfield made for it four bells which are still ringing here. It is almost within living memory that one was rung as a gleaning bell each morning and evening during harvest time, to call the gleaners to the fields.

Two choir pews have poppyheads which have outlasted 15 generations of choirboys, and in the small arcaded Jacobean pulpit John Lightfoot, whom some consider the greatest Bible scholar of his day, preached his first sermon as rector here in 1544, and his last 31 years later. He was often to preach before Parliament during the Commonwealth, but when he wrote down the entry of the execution of Charles I in Great Munden’s register he added the word Murdered.

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