the Virgin Church, St Mary in the Marsh
TQ 0648 2799
DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994
LOCATION: On slightly raised mound at c. 10 feet
above OD, by road junction (+ isolated pub to SE), with Evenden's (Haffenden)
Farm a short distance to the north-west.
DESCRIPTION: The earliest visible remains in this church are of the
mid to later-12th century west tower. Various round headed windows can
be seen in the north and south faces of the tower - small ones in the
lowest stage, larger ones in the first stage (blocked on the north)
and smaller ones in the top (belfry) stage. The upper west face has
been largely rebuilt. The slightly-pointed tower arch has scalloped
capitals on half-round columns (all now rather obscured by the 1990
organ). There is as yet no real evidence for the west wall of the nave
being earlier than the tower, though Elliston Erwood has suggested
During the mid to later 13th century 3-bay aisles were
added to the nave, but only the arcades for these now survive (and the
eastern arch in the north aisle, and its respond were rebuilt in c.
1910). They have deeply moulded capitals with round pillars of Reigate
stone. The western arch of the north arcade ends in a fine carved head
(part of the capital), while its southern counterpart is a plain
Bathstone replacement (c. 1910). At the eastern end of this arcade is
a semi-octagonal capital/springer, possibly a 15th century
replacement. The arches themselves mostly have double hollow-chamfers,
and are of Reigate stone. However, in the southern arcade,
particularly where Caenstone voussoirs are used, there are quite a few
outer flat chamfers.
The chancel was rebuilt in the very late 13th century,
and has a fine 4-light early Decorated east window with a wide
2-centred rerearch on wall-shafts and capitals with an internal roll
beneath. The outer jambs of the window (largely unrestored) are of
Caenstone with Ragstone mullions and tracery. The east end of the
chancel also has quite large contemporary angle-buttresses with large
flat chamfered plinths and weatherings. On the south side of the
chancel are two contemporary late lancets with internal rerearches,
and (unusually) external rebates, which are presumably for wooden
window frames. There is also a small priests doorway with a mass-dial
on it. There is one wide northern lancet (with rerearch, but no
external rebate), and there are traces of a second to the east (now
completely blocked up). Inside the chancel is a fine sedilia with
double piscina to the east. These are also late 13th century, and like
most of the lancets have carved internal head stops. They also have
pyramid stops, and one unusual stop (between the sedilia and piscina)
which is both a bar and a pyramid stop. In the south-west corner of
the chancel is a wide niche of unexplained purpose, just beyond it the
probable 13th century chancel arch has been removed (perhaps in the
15th century). A pyramid stop at the bottom still survives on the
south, with a bar-stop on the north where it joints the arcade. The
jamb here had been repaired in c. 1910. The chancel roof is a simple
rafter and collar affair, which has racked to the west.
The west doorway into the tower is repaired but also has
a bar stop at its base. All around it much making good and heavy
buttressing of the western side of the tower has taken place - perhaps
in the late 13th or 14th century. As usual differential settlement was
a problem on the marsh.
Both aisles were completely rebuilt in the later medieval
period, again no doubt due to settlement problems. The south aisle was
rebuilt perhaps slightly earlier than the north one with the
buttresses having hollow chamfers on the plinth. The south porch
appears to be contemporary with the buttress it is part of on the
east, though the doorway inside it appears to be late 13th century
(with a bar stop). The windows in the south aisle were all built in
the late Middle Ages, but the tracery in them was perhaps renewed in
the 18th century (with round-heads) and then again recently.
The north aisle, also completely rebuilt in the 15th
century, has windows with Perpendicular heads and square hood-moulds.
There is also a 15th century north doorway with a rounded head, hollow
chamfer and pyramid stops.
The nave and both aisles were all given new roofs in the
15th century. Each is a separate 3-bay crown-post roof with moulded
wall-plates and tie-beams. (Some later tie-beams have been added in
the aisles.) The nave roof also has wall-posts on corbels and
At the top of the tower Perpendicular windows have been
added in the east and west faces, and a timber spire has been added on
top, all in the 15th century. The belfry contains there bells (one
cracked) of c. 1371-92 (2nd), c. 1400 (3rd) and c. 1450 (Treble). The
octagonal font bowl is perhaps 15th century, but has beneath it
rounded rough `capitals' for the tops of four angle-shafts.
There is the doorway into the rood-loft in the south-east
corner of the nave.
The main restoration was in 1910, but this was carefully
done. The high box-pews were replaced by plain pinewood ones at this
time (one box-pew is a cupboard in the vestry). The south wall of the
porch was also repaired with cement and pebble-dash, and a new pulpit
was put in.
BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The earliest (12th century) church is of Ragstone rubble with
Caenstone dressings. Reigate stone, as well as Caenstone is used in
the 13th century, with cut Ragstone being used in the later Middle
Bath stone was used in 1910.
Some Medieval floor tiles in the chancel (just possibly partly in
situ); many 18th century red tiles in the nave and aisles, with dates
on some and initials (eg. WD 1786, WP 1777 and WB 1807 in north
EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Two fine brasses of Matilda Jamys
(1499) and her son William Gregory (1502), now unfortunately hidden
beneath a blue carpet. Royal Arms of 1775 in north aisle.
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size & Shapes: )Raised irregular area around church with lanes to
SW and SE
Exceptional monuments: Some good tombstones around church. Hasted
mentions an `ancient tomb, in the churchyard, near the porch
south-east, coffin-shaped about a foot from the ground'.
Ecological potential: ? Yes
Late med. status: Rectory
Patron: The Archbishop
Other documentary sources: Hasted VIII (1799), 408-9 Test.Cant (E
Kent, 1907) 271-2, mention `the Altar of St Mary on the north side of
the church' (1461)
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: ? Good
Outside present church: ? Good
To structure: Much repointing has recently taken place, and an organ
has been inserted under the tower arch.
Quinquennial inspection (date\architect):
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
The church and churchyard: A fine church with c. 1170 west tower and
mid to late 13th century aisle arcades. Rebuilt late 13th century
chancel with very good east window and fine sedilia, double piscina
and lancets. The aisles were rebuilt in the 15th century with
buttresses and south porch. Also new crown-post roofs over nave and
both aisles, and a timber spire on west tower of similar date. Only a
subtle restoration in 1910.
REFERENCES: Brief notes made in 1923 by FC Elliston Erwood, Arch.
Cant. 37 (1925), 204-6 with plan.
Guide Book: Brief Leaflet by Anne Roper (1983)
Photographs: From south, during 1910 restoration (see Elliston Erwood,
DATE VISITED: 23rd June 1986, 19th February 1992, and 28th August
REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown