Thursday, 8 September 2011

Weston, Hertfordshire

Holy Trinity is more render than original building material but we'll forgive it its poor restoration as this was once a cruciform church and the fine Norman arches survive. At some stage a south aisle was added and the south transept became a Lady chapel but the north transept is retained. Our friends the Victorians have left little of interest except for the arches and a fine collection of corbels in the nave.

HOLY TRINITY. The uncommon importance of the church is its Norman crossing with the four crossing arches and the lower part of the tower complete. In addition the N transept with two Norman windows is preserved and the blocked arch which opened no doubt into an apsidal chapel. The S transept also survives though entirely altered. Presumably the church had two apsidal transept chapels and an apsidal E end. Of the Norman nave one can say nothing. The Norman parts are of flint with stone dressings. The upper part of the tower was built in 1867. The crossing piers have capitals a little more complex than most such Norman arches in Herts, and abaci with a little billet or crescent decoration. The present nave and S aisle (octagonal piers, double-hollow-chamfered arches) with clerestory are Perp. The clerestory windows now look into the heightened aisle, The nave ceiling is divided into square panels; the beams rest on grotesque head corbels. The chancel was rebuilt in 1840 by Thomas Smith in the Norman style. It seems odd to us now to see how a hundred years ago such a brick chancel with such ornate Norman trim was considered a match for the austerity of the original work. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with quatrefoil panels. - STAINED GLASS. Chancel N and S windows still with what may well be glass of c. 1840. - PLATE. Chalice, 1638; Paten, 1661.

Corbel (10)

Corbel (15)

Corbel (27)

Weston. Two lanes climb from the Great North Road, one past a smock-mill with broken sails, the other through a delightful little beech wood, both to meet in this village scattered on the top of the gentle Weston Hills. The stone heads of medieval folk greet us from the church windows, but, from without, the central tower scarcely bears witness to its Norman ancestry, though inside we see its four beautiful rounded arches with simple Norman carvings on two of the piers. The small north transept is wholly Norman. The aisle porch and clerestory are 15th century and the chancel was rebuilt in 1840, the font is 15th century; the plaster-and-timber roof of the nave has handsome carved bosses; but it is the extraordinary stone heads on which the nave and aisle roofs rest that astonish us with their ancient distorted faces and arms. There are 30 in all, 500 years old, like strange creatures from a pagan masque, though two are said to represent Henry IV and his queen.

A century-old charity bequeaths 16 loaves of bread to “16 poor married men" every Sunday for ever, but the baker’s cart now takes them round on Saturday.

The church was given to the Knights Templars by Gilbert Strongbow, father of the Richard Strongbow who captured most of Ireland for Henry II. But it is another strong man of the bow who has pride of place here, a legendary fellow called Jack o’ Legs; any boy will point out his grave in the churchyard marked by two low stones 12 feet apart. This was a friendly giant, but he would turn highwayman on occasion, robbing travellers on Jack’s Hill, and snatching their morning’s batch from the Baldock bakers. At last Baldock rose against him, caught him, and bound him like another Samson. When he knew he was to die Jack made one request, that he might be buried where his arrow struck the ground, and the story goes that it flew through the air, glanced off the roof of this church, and fell between these two stones.

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