Sunday, 28 April 2013

Holy Trinity, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire

Umm and err - locked no keyholder listed; is this a bad thing - I think probably not.

Neither boys covered it, so from its website:

The acquisition of a parcel of land, of ‘garden ground’, in 1852 marks the beginning of the history of Holy Trinity Church.  This ‘garden ground’ still provides the only green open space in the whole of the main street running north-south through Bishop’s Stortford.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, the ancient parish of St. Michael covered the whole town but the Rev’d Francis W. Rhodes, the Vicar, recognised the need for a new place of worship, not only in Hockerill, but also in the rapidly growing southern part of the parish.  The first building on the site was a school for infants only, begun in the autumn of 1852.  The very detailed description of the stone-laying ceremony appeared in the Hertfordshire Mercury of 20th November.  The first pupils arrived almost a year later.  The building still stands on the western part of the site and has been used, since the closure of the school in the 1920s, as Holy Trinity Parish Hall.  It was built for the education of 150 children and was licensed for divine worship, and services were held there on Sunday afternoons until the church was ready.

The plans for the church, now in Lambeth Palace Library, were drawn up by Joseph Clarke who designed a number of buildings in Bishop’s Stortford and in north London.  Holy Trinity was built of brick with Kentish ragstone cladding.  At first it consisted of a nave, chancel and sacristy, had a large east window and, on the west wall, two tall lancets with a quatrefoil above: these and all the other windows showed the simplicity of the Early English style.  It was intended that the building would accommodate 300 people, most of whom were poor.  This could only be possible by packing in benches for the children and pews for the adults.

‘The Church of Holy Trinity’ was consecrated on 27th April 1859 by the Bishop of Carlisle as the Diocesan, the Bishop of Rochester, was indisposed.  On 23rd January, in the following year, the District Chapelry of New Town by Order in Council became a parish.

At some time between the 1861 census and that of 1871 a tiny, very basic cottage was built to house the schoolmistress: it still stands.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century it was clear that the church needed extending and, with Sir Arthur Blomfield as architect, it was lengthened.  A narthex and choir vestry were also built at the west end.  The decision was made not to purchase chairs for the new seating but to provide pews, and five job lots of second hand pews, with ends of different shapes and sizes, some with solid backs, others open and some with very narrow seats were acquired.  None was of artistic merit.  In 1901, the east window received the stained glass seen today.

Various changes were made to the interior between 1901 and 1997 when a six-year major restoration programme began.  Rising damp had damaged walls and the wooden platforms on which the pews stood.  It was necessary to empty the nave and provide a new floor.  The opportunity was taken to install under floor heating and a floor of beautiful Purbeck stone.  The nave now has only moveable furniture, allowing people of all ages to have access to all parts of it.  At the same time the choir stalls were removed and original terra cotta and black embossed tiles in the chancel were cleaned and reset where necessary.  The decision to purchase chairs means that they can be arranged to suit all kinds of services.  The altar, free-standing from the north wall, the font and the lectern can be focal points with the congregation gathered around.  This is perhaps best seen on a summer’s day through the door from the south porch which now has wrought iron gates and grilles made by the Much Hadham blacksmith.  The chancel is now the natural place for most small services on weekdays, for private prayer and for personal ministry.
It was during the incumbency of Canon John Haynes that Holy Trinity was able to join in the bell-ringing to celebrate the Millennium.  The original bell, dated 1858, was cast by Mears Foundry, now the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, but had long been out of use: it weighs ¾ cwt (38 kg).  A second bell, in regular use since its acquisition, was cast by J. Warner and Son in 1873 and weighs ½ cwt (25 kg): it came from St. James’ Church, Watford in 1976 and was apparently installed by a T.V. aerial firm!  Both were refurbished and rung together for the first time thanks to the generous support of businesses in the parish.

Soon after the arrival of John Williams, the people of Holy Trinity were able to celebrate the completion of the major restoration programme and to accept the invitation of Don Vincenzo, the parish priest of the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Family (Santa Famiglia) at Fano on the Adriatic, to establish a link with them.  The ecumenically-minded parish already had links with Lutherans in Denmark and Orthodox in Romania and all three Anglican town parishes are now involved.  Gifts have been exchanged and visits made, one including a joint pilgrimage to Assisi where the group visited the church of San Damiano.  The generous gift of a copy of the San Damiano crucifix for the refurbished church is a constant reminder of the link.  Saint Francis of Assisi heard Christ on the cross speak to him and ask him to rebuild the church when he was praying in San Damiano.  It is encouraging to remember that the church is not the building, as Saint Francis at first thought, but the whole people of God, always in need of restoration and renewal.

Holy Trinity (2)

Bishop’s Stortford. The greatest thing it has done for the world was to give birth to Cecil Rhodes, and we may believe that the time will come when the house in which he was born will be a place of pilgrimage. Yet this small town had its place in history centuries before young Rhodes sat in the pews at St Michael’s listening to his father preach. In the public gardens is a mound on which it is believed a castle stood, Waytemore Castle, the fortress of Bishop Maurice of London, into whose hands the Conqueror entrusted this key position by the ford over the River Stort. The outer works and moats can be traced among the walks and flowerbeds.

The hilly streets of Bishop’s Stortford set off to advantage the fine old buildings among the new, many of them inns from the 16th to I7th centuries with overhanging storeys; the Boar’s Head and the timbered Black Lion still carrying on, the White Horse, with its plastered heraldic front of Italian work, an inn no longer.

Two fine churches, an old one and a new one, look to each other across the roofs of the town, both set on hills. The new church is All Saints, the old one is St Michael’s. The new one, looking out over the town from Hockerill, was designed by Mr Dykes Bower, and is one of the best modern churches we have seen. It has a magnificent rose window in the east with Christ in the centre surrounded by dazzling colours, rings of little suns, flames, and symbols. The west window has three great plain lancets in the tower. There are four high arches on each side of the nave, supported by round columns, the stone roof is spaced out in 125 compartments, and there is a charming oriel in the sanctuary. But the eye turns first and last in this town to the splendid 500 year-old church shooting up its pinnacled tower and spire from among the houses on the top of the other hill, summoning its worshippers with a peal often bells. The spire was added in 1812. They enter today by the very door people pushed open five centuries ago, and in one spandrel of the doorway is the same strange carving of the All-Seeing Eye, the Angel of the Resurrection sounding his trumpet in the opposite spandrel. The door opens on the six great bays of the spacious nave and aisles, where corbels of angels and apostles and medieval folk turn on us their stony gaze; we noticed a gardener, a cook, and a woodman among them. Save for a few changes and additions the church is wholly medieval, and has a Norman font which has been buried, having probably belonged to the church before this. There are 18 rich choir stalls, making a grand show with their traceried backs and panelled fronts, and misericords crowded with 15th-century faces and fancies, men and animals, one of them a rare early carving of a whale. The fine chancel screen is mainly 15th century, but the vaulting is new. The pulpit and a remarkable chest are Jacobean, the chest having an inside lock of 14 bolts which are as long as the lid. Both the north chapel and south vestry are Victorian. There is a tablet in this fine church to a man who made the River Stort navigable up to Bishop’s Stortford. He befriended Captain Cook, who showed his gratitude by making him known to navigators all over the world, naming after him Port Jackson in New South Wales and Point Jackson in New Zealand. The man whose name thus lives on the map was born George Jackson at Richmond in Yorkshire, but he died Sir George Duckett; here in the church is his memorial. We find no memorial to a butcher’s son born here in 1813, who did much to help photography by proving the use of collodion in developing films. He was Frederick Scott Archer, and his children were pensioned by the Crown because his invention brought him no profit but yielded vast profits for others. Much happier in his fortune was the famous physician who lies in the Quaker burial ground; he was Thomas Dimsdale, an Essex man who adopted Hertfordshire as his county, practised as a doctor in the county town, and sat in Parliament for it. He is remembered for his pioneering with inoculation for smallpox, and especially because Catherine of Russia invited him to her capital to inoculate herself and her son. It was in 1768, when the adventure was fraught with some peril, and the empress arranged for relays of horses from the capital to the border to aid the doctor’s escape in case of disaster. Happily all was well, and Dimsdale received £2000 for expenses, a fee of £10,000, and an allowance of £500 a year. He was laid in the burial ground of the Quakers here when he was 89 years old. One of the windows of St Michael’s is in memory of the old vicar Francis Rhodes, who was laid to rest here eight years after his delicate son had left for South Africa. He lived to hear the good news that his son had found health and strength and was working in the diamond digging, and he saw him home again entering on a graduate’s life at Oxford; but he died in 1878 before Cecil entered the Cape Parliament, and before he had formed his great plan of a British South Africa. In the birthplace we see his portrait looking down from the wall on the bed in which Cecil Rhodes was born. Bishop’s Stortford has been long in paying homage to its great son, but it has made amends, has bought the house he was born in and the house next door, and is developing both as a Cecil Rhodes Museum. The house is refurnished with pieces that either belonged to the family or belonged to the time, and it is an attractive place for any pilgrim interested in Rhodes of Rhodesia. In addition to the bed he was born in, one of eleven children, there is here the Bible his mother gave him, a fine old clock which was ticking in those days, a picturesque native drum used for communicating signals, a water colour he painted of a windjammer, and the uniforms he wore on ceremonial occasions - and never again. Cecil Rhodes’s birthplace has all the glamour and fascination that invests the homes of famous men, and it is gratifying to find how much this great empire-builder’s memory is honoured in his native town.


No comments:

Post a Comment