St Mary's Church, Hemel Hempstead

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St Mary's Church, Hemel Hempstead

St Mary's Church, Hemel Hempstead.
View, from the south east showing the chancel, south transept, tower and spire.
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Broad Church
Website www.stmaryshemel.org.uk
History
Dedication St. Mary
Administration
Parish St Mary & St Paul
Deanery Hemel Hempstead
Diocese St Albans
Province Canterbury
Clergy
Vicar(s) Rev Jenny Hill
Curate(s) Rev Diana Spink
Laity
Organist/Director of music Simon Pusey

St Mary's Church, Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, is the parish church of the town and its oldest place of worship.

Background[edit]

Its construction was commenced in 1140 and was dedicated in 1150 although construction continued for another 30 years.

It is cruciform in shape, with chancel, the first part to be built, nave south and north transepts, and a tower. A spire, one of the tallest in Europe was added in the 14th century with a total height of 200 feet. It is topped by a gilded weather vane. The church is built from the local clunch stone and flint with some addition of Roman bricks. The architecture is Norman throughout apart from porches added in the 14th and 15th centuries. A 19th century vestry was added on the north east corner.

In 1302 a cell to Ashridge Priory was founded in Hemel Hempstead and the church had collegiate status until the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1536. A door at the base of the tower allowed the monks access to the church and avoided them mixing with the townspeople.

It is not known why such a grand church was constructed in what at the time was a small hamlet.

The church contains a memorial to Sir Astley Paston Cooper. There is a Walker organ which was refurbished in 2008.

A ring of five bells was recorded in the reign of Edward VI. None of these remain and the present ring is of 8 bells dating from 1590 to 1767. In 1950, as part of the 800th anniversary, the bells were retuned by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon and rehung on steel frames with completely new fittings. The eight bells are inscribed as follows:

1. (Treble) Lester and Pack - 1758

2. Lester and Pack - 1758

3. Chandler made me - 1688

4. Praise the Lord - 1633

5. Lawdate Domini - undated

6. God save King James - 1604

7. Sana Manet Christi - 1617

8. (Tenor) Lester and Pack - 1767

The font is original Norman, although surrounded by 19th century decoration.

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Coordinates: 51°45′32″N 0°28′20″W / 51.75889°N 0.47222°W / 51.75889; -0.47222