Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Sandon, Hertfordshire

All Saints' tower has pretty much the biggest buttresses I've ever encountered, apparently in the mid 18th Century, probably as a result of the very dry summer, which led to the shrinking of the clay sub soil, the Tower was found to be tilted to the West, and it is still out of line, these huge brick buttresses were built. The date 1763 can be found on the brick-work.

Special attention should be paid to the brasses before the Chancel steps. These are memorials to John FitzGeoffrey and his wife, Elizabeth who were Lord and Ladye of Daniels (Danyellsl. He died in 1480 and is shown in armour - no date is given for his wife, who wears a butterfly head-dress, and has a pomander hanging from her chatelaine. There is a small brass showing their six daughters - two called Elizabeth. The brass showing the two sons was stolen, and has never been recovered. The monument to Elizabeth Moryson on the South Wall of the chancel has a poignant epitaph, and is worth reading.

In ancient times, Sandon was on the edge of the "Danelaw" and many of the tales passed down by word of mouth - such as the fiaying alive of a boy at Fleshers Green (Woodcoates)or the burning of Killogs and the murdering of its inhabitants, probably originate from the raids made by Vikings in the 6th century. Hence the many "Dane Ends" in the neighbourhood.

ALL SAINTS. Chiefly later C14. W tower originally unbuttressed but later propped up by big sloping brick buttresses without any off-sets. S porch tall with two-light windows. Nave with four-bay arcades to the aisles. Moulded capitals, double-chamfered arches. Chancel arch similar, but with double-hollow-chamfered arches. The chancel windows are Early Perp, that is also later C14: still steep, two-centred arches, but panel tracery. The tiny Easter Sepulchre inside the chancel (only 2 ft long) has a depressed arch and little crocketed ogee gable above it, and Sedilia and Piscina are also ogee-crocketed, which would indicate a slightly earlier date. - Indeed a contract exists between the Chapter of St Paul’s in London and Thomas Rykelyng, stone mason, to pull down the old chancel at Sandon and rebuild it, and that contract is dated 1348. - PULPIT. Jacobean with much incised ornamentation. - SCREEN. C15, of simple design. - BENCHES. C15, complete with seats and backs, not only ends. - STAINED GLASS. Many higgledy-piggledy bits of pre-Reformation glass in the heads of aisle windows. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, 1688. - MONUMENTS. Brasses to John Fitzjeffery d. 1480 and wife; fine, slightly mannered figures; he in the spiky armour of the moment; c. 30 in. long. - Nicholas F. Miller d. 1747, exceedingly good big epitaph with bust of the fashionable young man in elaborate surround of varied marbles. Who is the sculptor?

All Saints (1)

Poppyhead (4)

John & Elizabeth FitzGeoffrey 1480 (7)

Glass (2)

Sandon. We can turn our backs on the new world of the distant masts of the wireless station near Baldock, and look instead at the old - at the church with the overhanging house like a long beehive beside it, some of its windows like photograph frames; or at the 17th-century farmhouse of Sandon Bury next door, with its gabled barns and its square pigeon house, still with hundreds of nesting places. Beyond Sandon’s wide common and scattered cottages is Hyde Hall, another old farm, with a 17th century wing tacked on to the new and a 16th-century barn roofed with splendid oak beams.

The 600-year-old church is much restored, and its tower propped up with great brick buttresses. It has a fine brass of 1480 showing the young squire, John FitzGeffrey, with his wife and six daughters, a bull at his feet and a pet dog at hers. Nicholas Miller, an only son aged 18, has his bust in an elaborate memorial of 1747. A man sticks out his tongue among the faces on the poppyheads of some 500-year-old seats. The simple screen is 15th century; the carved pulpit is Jacobean; and there is dainty 14th-century stonework over an arched recess and behind the sedilia. The heavy kingposts of the chancel roof have also survived 600 years.

Something of the 14th century was found in a great mound behind the church. It was thought to be a prehistoric tumulus, but when the headmaster of Sandon led his pupils in as excavators, so much broken pottery was found that it seemed to have been a kind of rubbish heap of the Middle Ages. Then they came on two oak beams, 16 feet long, which proved to be the foundations of a 14th-century post windmill - England’s earliest known windmill, 200 years older than the oldest located up till then (at Bourn in Cambridgeshire).


  1. For more info and pictures of the monumental brasses in Sandon Church, see Mary Rensten's book Hertfordshire Brasses, available on Amazon and in some Herts bookshops