Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Thundridge, Hertfordshire

Whilst researching the plainly Victorian St Mary I came across the story of the original village.

Thundridge was originally located about one-half mile to the east of the current Thundridge location, also adjacent to the River Rib. There are references to "Tonrich" in the Doomsday Book with land being held by the Bishop of Bayeaux and tenanted by Hugh de Grentmesnil, with the record indicating that there was a drop in the value of the land from 100 shillings to 40 shillings. There had however been civilised habitation in the area earlier than that, with both Roman and Saxon remains being found in the adjacent estate known as "Youngsbury" just a few hundred yards away from the old Thundridge location.

With the 1826 improvement of the London to Cambridge road (the A10) that runs on the west side of the current Thundridge village location - formerly it had run a more crooked path through "Ermine" or "Back Street" in the village - there was an increased populous migration to the "new" location of Thundridge, adjacent to the main road. All that now remains of the old Thundridge location are the 15th century church tower of the "Thundridge Old Church" of All Hallows and Little Saint Mary, and a few bricks from the chimney stack of the Manorial home of Thundridgebury.

Thundridgebury was built during the reign of Henry VIII, possibly by Henry Gardiner - the Gardiners being a family that became prominent in later years giving name to the nearby wood "Gardiner's Spring". The last inhabitants of Thundridgebury were the Hollingsworth family, they having bought it from Daniel Giles, who had in turn purchased it from the Gardiners. The house was dismantled in the early 19th century, as was subsequently the church in 1854, with only the chimney stack and tower remaining respectively. According to local legend, the chimney stack was left standing in order to allow the owners to continue to collect rent, but a later local legend (which was correct) was that it's presence allowed the owners to maintain a pew in the new Thundridge church - built in the "new" Thundridge location in 1851 and consecrated in 1854 - as technically the manorial land which had been absorbed into the Youngsbury estate when purchased by the Giles’, now fell under the parish of Standon - the church for which was some 5 miles distant. So long as the chimney stack remained however, the pew in the Thundridge church was kept available for the owners of the (now combined with Thundridgebury) property of Youngsbury.

Thundridgebury manorial site, Thundridgebury, near Ware. This site includes a very large dry D-shaped moated enclosure which measures about 195m x 200m, and contains the ruins of the 15th century church of St Mary and All Saints, and the remains of Thundridgebury House and its outbuildings. This building, first mentioned in 1535, may have succeeded an earlier manor house on the site, and its location is indicated by a series of brick foundations and part of a brick buttress. In 1811 the property was sold to Daniel Giles, the MP for St Albans, and he demolished the house except for a hearth and chimney stack. This apparent omission was in fact calculated, for the retention of the hearth meant he kept the right to a pew in the adjacent parish church, just west of the house. The church was demolished in 1853 and all that remains is the ruined west tower, which contains a re-used Norman doorway and a 14th century window - evidence that the 15th century building succeeded an earlier one on the site. The ruins are surrounded by the disused graveyard, which contains many burials dating to the medieval and later periods.

Of course had I read Mee's entry before the visit I wouldn't have to go back but I have a hankering to visit Waltham Cross and could just as easily go the longer route of the A10 which would probably be as quick as M11/M25.

Anyway back to St Mary - it's not very nice and it's locked with no keyholder listed.

Of the old PARISH CHURCH 1/2 m. to the E of the new, only the W tower survives, hidden by trees and covered by creepers. In it is a Norman doorway, not in its original position, with zigzag and dog-tooth decoration. To the N of the church even more immersed in the trees is one tall brick chimneystack of THUNDRIDGE BURY, the former manor house.

The new church ST MARY dates from 1853. It is by Benjamin Ferrey, rockfaced and with a tower alien to Herts in that it has no battlements but a stair-turret with a spirelet. - PLATE. Flagon, 1775 ; Chalice and Paten, 1837. - MONUMENTS. Caroline Hanbury d. 1863, by Theed. Relief of a meticulously carved monument under a weeping Willow. - R. C. Hanbury d. 1867, also by Theed, with a dull figure of Faith.

St Mary (4)

Update: I revisited last week and, after an initial error of chosen footpath, found the remains of St Mary & All Saints.

1st view
When I realised I was on the wrong footpath

2nd view
First sight from the right footpath

It's an odd place with a strange atmosphere, not haunted but sad, and the local yoof have taken it over as a hangout joint and, which I did not notice until I was in photoshop, have created an interesting twist to the Norman tower door.

St Mary & All Saints (1)

St Mary & All Saints (3)

Thundridge. Angels spread their wings round the tower of the new church on the hill, and the heads of a medieval king and queen look out from a window on the valley below, as if seeking the lost church from which they and the angels and the four old bells all came. There in the meadows of the Rib, lovely in summer, water-logged and desolate in winter, the 15th century tower of the vanished church stands sentinel among the graves. It has no roof to protect the memorials within it, but its sundial still counts the sunny hours, and a Norman arch built into it when the rest was demolished last century still flaunts its carvings, reward enough for a walk along this flowery valley.

As the tower marks the place of the old church, and a chimney stack marks the ruined manor house within a water-filled moat, so a little obelisk by the roadside at Wadesmill marks a milestone in endeavour. Here, it tells us, Thomas Clarkson resolved to devote his life to ending slavery. Clarkson has told us that in writing an Essay for his University he was excited by the deep interest and importance of his subject. In the daytime he was weary; in the night he had little rest. He sometimes never closed his eyes for grief. It became not so much a trial for academical reputation as a question of doing something for Africa. He slept with a candle in his room so that he could get up at any hour of the night to put down a thought that came to him. Then he sent in his Essay, and one day, as he came in sight of Wadesmill during a walk, he sat down disconsolate on the grass and was seized with the feeling that if his Essay was true it was time somebody should see that these calamities came to an end. It was summer time in 1785; in the autumn he had begun the work which never ceased till the slaves were free.

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