An active church steeped in history and tradition
We have a beautiful mediæval parish church where London meets the rolling fields of Hertfordshire. A church has stood on this site since the twelfth century where it served a peasant farming community very different from our own today.
Its present structure was established in the fifteenth century, not long after the Battle of Barnet. Over the years many alterations were made to the building, especially on the inside. Galleries were erected in 1776 and taken down less than a hundred years later. Redecoration was undertaken with the aim of ensuring that the building was fit for purpose in each generation, while preserving its medieval beauty and charm. Like a relay runner each generation is only temporarily responsible for the church – its building and its worship.
In 1307, there was a small chapel, understood to be the size of the present chancel. It had slit windows and lighting inside from tallow dipped bulrushes, still growing around the pond on the common. The present building dates from the last years of the fifteenth century; the date 1494 is marked over the west door in Arabic numerals.
The style of the building is late perpendicular and the nave, chancel and transepts are built from flint stone. The tower was added to the original structure in the early sixteenth century, with a stair turret constructed of ironstone and a cresset, or fire beacon, on top which is still lit on special occasions.
The church was restored significantly during 1848 – 1850 by the architect G. E. Street. Floors and walls were raised and extended thus altering the original proportions of the fifteenth century building. In particular, the area of the choir and sanctuary was raised and the retaining step down to the chancel, removed.
There were then two chapels, dedicated to St Anne on the north side and on the south side to St Catherine. The latter has remained in use since it was restored in 1958. It is a place for prayer, especially mid-week.
St Anne’s Chapel has become the north transept, which now houses the fine Forster and Andrews organ, installed and restored in 1992. The original organ had been in the church in a slightly different location, since 1850.
The vestry was added in 1888 in the north-east corner of the church, in the angle formed by the nave and north transept.
Electric lighting was installed in 1931, up to which time the church had been lit only by wax candles. In 1977, further restoration work was undertaken. This included lighting being updated, stone work repaired and replaced, gas heating installed and redecoration.