Monday, 5 September 2011

Reed, Hertfordshire

St. Mary is described as an "isolated Saxon Church" and is one of the highest points in Hertfordshire. It sits apart from the main, scattered, housing in the village, but appears to have been on the same site since the early eleventh century, so presumably the original village died and the church remained.

There are two main reasons which give credence to this school of thought. Firstly, the stone quoins at the corners of the nave are particularly fine examples of late Saxon long and short work and secondly, the long since blocked North doorway, although appearing only as a round headed recess from within the Church, is from the outside preserved almost perfectly in its original late Saxon form.

The Tower was probably added in the fourteenth century. However, there is a suggestion that the Tower plinth or offset, which is to be found three feet above present ground level, might be of Saxon origin as it shows little sign of disturbance, and, like the nave quoins, is made from Northamptonshire Barnack limestone. Although the upper part of the Tower has at some point been repaired with brick, it does still retain its original fourteenth century window.

The Chancel too, dates back to the fourteenth Century, even though both the rendered East wall and Chancel arch date only as far back as the nineteenth century.

The apparent simplicity of Reed Church rather belies its architectural significance. It has been noted that apart from St Albans Abbey, no other church in Hertfordshire has a larger amount of visible Saxon work. This claim to fame must alone set it apart.

ST MARY. The sole importance of the church is the survival of Late Anglo-Saxon work in the nave. The angles of the nave have unmistakable long and short work, and addition there is the N doorway, though the shafts with their volute or spiral capitals and the roll-moulding of the arch might well be later than the Conquest. Unbuttressed C14 w tower; chancel CI4 (E end C19). - No aisles; the nave N Windows late Perp. - PLATE. Chalice, and Paten, 1806.

St Mary (4)

North door

Reed. It is one of those small places which send us dreaming down the corridors of time, for it has traces of six moats, some now little more than ponds, from the days when men sought security by surrounding their houses with water. Even today there is no friendly village street, but the houses are scattered with only winding lanes to link them together.

The church is apart in the fields, its nearest neighbour an old farm house with an overhanging storey. It is a miniature shrine to which about 30 generations of village folk have come, for the nave was built by the Saxons, and their long-and-short work is at all the four corners. They or the Normans made the small but perfect doorway now blocked up in the north wall, a sturdy and well-preserved structure. The chancel was rebuilt about 1350. We enter by a 14th century doorway, pushing open an ancient door four inches thick. The tower is 15th century, the three bells are all from Shakespeare’s day, and the altar table is Jacobean, with massive legs.


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