St Botolph

Design

It was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield and it must be said that the result is a disappointingly nondescript example of Victorian architecture of the period. There is evidence that Blomfield’s design was not fully adhered to, and there were resultant financial concerns which shook John Hodgson and this brother William. Fortunately, however, the family wealth did finally allow the work to be concluded. The medieval west tower was saved from destruction and its stonework was renewed. Some old materials were able to be reused. The new church consists of a chancel with north organ chamber, nave with a north porch and the old west tower. The walls are faced with flints and have stone dressings. The roof is tiled.

FURNISHINGS: The church may have little to commend it, but the furnishings, mostly salvaged from the old church, are of remarkable interest.

THE CHANCEL ARCH: The 13th century chancel arch is predominant. It consists of three orders of tall Purbeck marble shafts with moulded capitals and bases. Dr Nikolaus Pevsner, in his famous ‘Buildings of England’ series describes it thus: “An astonishingly ambitious piece of 13th century design as if for a cathedral”.

Monuments

The marble figure of the knight is described in the same series as “the very best in the county” (Hertfordshire). The effigy is in chain mail with a long surcoat and large shield. The legs are crossed. There has been much controversy about the identity of this knight as there is no inscription, but is now generally believed to commemorate Sir Richard de Tany who died in 1270. The epitaphs on the walls of the tower are of good quality and commemorate the Plumer family. Two of the best are of Mary (1700) which has three flanking columns, and of Water (1746) which is of such a standard that Pevsner opines that it could be the work of the master sculptor Rysbrack: it has delightful cherubs’ heads.

On the west wall is the brass of Joan Lee which dates from the late 16th century. The figure of her husband, who died in 1564, has long disappeared. Joan, who survived her husband by many years, is depicted in an Elizabethan dress. There is a heraldic shield and part of an inscription. The brass is palimpsest, that is, an earlier brass that has been re-used. A simple wooden cross commemorates Lionel Bowlby who lost his life in 1916 during the First World War. It originally marked his grave in Flanders.

Bells/Churchyard

BELLS: There are three bells: one, an ancient one, bears an English inscription but it is illegible; the second is inscribed ‘Vox Augustini sonnet in aure Dei’ (the voice of Augustine rings in the ear of God). There is no date. The third bell is dated 1601. The list of incumbents is reasonably intact from circa 1390.

CHURCHYARD: The large churchyard contains a fine collection of Georgian tombstones. A Georgian tomb chest, once possessing iron railings, commemorated William Frampton which died in 1789. He was a rich merchant who built a splendid house in the village. Two damaged slabs headed by a standing cross marks the burial place of the Hodgsons.