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English Church Architecture.


MUCH HADHAM, St. Andrew  (TL 431 197),


(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk.)


A large, impressive church at the northern end of a long, extended village.

This is a large building with a complicated history although its appearance is entirely in keeping with this area of the county for it is constructed principally of flint rubble with limestone dressings externally and clunch within, and formed of a chancel with a N. vestry and organ chamber, an aisled nave with a S. porch, and a W. tower surmounted by a characteristic Hertfordshire spike.  Its most impressive feature, perhaps, is a chancel fully the same height as the nave.



St. Andrew’s is a rare example of a church most profitably examined inside first, for a fundamental part of its story of construction is revealed first and foremost in the form of the aisle arcades.  These are five bays long, yet the N. arcade might more properly be regarded as four bays plus one, since the easternmost arch is divided from the others by the shortest possible of wall pieces, which nevertheless renders the pier in this position into what is more accurately, two responds back to back.   The eastern arch (seen on the left in the photograph above left) is of similar design to the S. arcade opposite:  both are thirteenth century (Early English) in style, composed of arches bearing a flat outer chamfer and a strange, ugly, cut-away section on the inner order (possibly a later modification and, if so, not a very happy one), springing from octagonal piers with broaches at the base of the flat chamfers.  However, a slight difference between the two western arches of the S. arcade and the other three, is apparent from the way the latter bear nothing more than a deep hollow on their inner order and have somewhat shallower capitals that are slightly differently shaped.  The junction between these two sections of the S. arcade is marked by a large corbel head facing the nave - the only one on this side.  These discrepancies might indicate a short pause in the work after the three eastern bays had been completed (it was common practice in the Middle Ages for churches and cathedrals to be constructed from east to west), or that a different mason assumed responsibility at this point, or both.  The eastern arch on the N. side suggests the church was provided with a N. transept at this time, and if so, the decision to absorb it into a new N. aisle seems to have followed between fifty and seventy-five years later, for the four western bays are Decorated:  the piers are still octagonal but the capitals are subtly different and adorned with fleurons around their neck and finely carved label stops on both sides (i.e. facing the nave and the N. aisle).  (An example is illustrated above right.)  Nevertheless, the date of this work is more blatantly advertised by the windows, which have rich double-cusped reticulated tracery above double-trefoil-cusped lights, and carved label stops beneath the rere-arches.  (The aisle W. window is shown below. Two other Decorated windows inserted in the church, but now renewed, are the two-light steeply pointed ones on either side of the porch.  As for the chancel, one would expect the basic fabric to be contemporary with the thirteenth century S. arcade and eastern arch of the N. arcade, and indeed, a blocked lancet in the N. wall of the sanctuary, visible inside, does, indeed, confirm this, yet the chancel arch fits the Decorated style better, with its hollow-chamfered inner order springing from semicircular shafts with capitals, set within an uninterrupted flat chamfer.  Immediately east, recesses on either side in the chancel walls, suggest there were small chapels here once, but if that was so, they must have been swept away by the fifteenth century for a two-light supermullioned window of that date pierces the wall inside the N. recess and now looks through to the organ chamber.  Other features in the chancel include the blank ogee arch further east in the N. wall, that must once held an effigy, and further east again, in the sanctuary, a large doorway into the vestry in Decorated style, bearing two ogee mouldings running all the way round without intervening capitals.  The left-hand side of the blocked lancet mentioned above has been cut into by this doorway, which Pevsner believed to hold a re-hung door which he identified from its thirteenth century ironwork.  The S. wall of the sanctuary houses a recessed double-piscina beneath little trefoil-cusped arches, commensurate with c. 1300, and rather strangely, an additional single piscina beyond, also trefoil-cusped, set in a  square surround.


The principal contribution made to the building around the close of the fourteenth century was that of the W. tower, which rises in three stages, supported by diagonal buttresses to the lower two.  The bell-openings have restored straightened reticulated tracery, often indicative of c. 1370-1400 in eastern counties and, indeed, the church guide (Richard Haslam, A Guide to the Parish Church of St. Andrew, Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, 1997, Much Hadham Parochial Church Council, p. 9) records that the arms of Bishop Robert de Braybrooke, whose episcopacy ran from 1381 to 1404, were formerly displayed above the W. door (until they crumbled away).  The W. doorway displays traceried spandrels beneath a label (rectangular dripstone) rising from head label stops, and the renewed W. window has a transom, strong mullions, supermullioned tracery, and intersecting subarcuations of the lights in pairs.  The tower is embattled - a feature it shares with the aisles, rood stair turret and porch - and the narrow leaded spike behind is deeply recessed.  Inside the church, the top of the tower arch is hidden by a gallery but the sides are composed of semi-octagonal responds adjoining jambs bearing a hollow, a roll and a wave.   The S. porch is two bays deep (i.e. from north to south) and lit by two renewed cinquefoil-cusped Y-traceried windows on either side, which extend below the sills within to form blank panels.  The outer doorway carries a wave on the inner order, now barely supported on a very eroded pair of shafts, and the inner doorway has traceried spandrels beneath a very heavy square surround.  The wall posts of the roof rise from large worn corbels.


Other Perpendicular features of the church include the vestry (but not the organ chamber, which is modern), the nave clerestory (which is synchronised with the roof but not the aisle arcades), various two- and three-light segmental and segmental-pointed windows throughout the building, with supermullioned tracery and flattened quatrefoils in the heads (including one in the E. end of the N. aisle, now looking through to the organ chamber), and the very large, five-light chancel E. window (above right) with strong mullions and a castellated supertransom, all of which have been restored, although they appear to retain their well-carved mediaeval label stops.  The rood stair was entered from the southeast corner of the N. aisle and emerged in the nave, in the easternmost spandrel of the N. arcade.  There  are unresolved complications here, however, for to the left of the lower doorway, there is a recessed trefoil-headed piscina in the N. wall of the aisle, and above it to the right, cut into by the head of the doorway, there is another trefoiled arch head of no very obvious function. (See the photograph, below left.)



The large monument set diagonally across the southeast angle of the sanctuary, now featuring a headless figure facing northeast, flanked by two black alabaster columns with Ionic capitals supporting an open pediment and an achievement, commemorates Judith Aylmer (d. 1618), mother of Theophilus Aylmer, rector here from 1589 to 1625 (A Guide to the Parish Church of St. Andrew, p. 13).  Cartouches in the church include one on the S. wall of the chancel dedicated to the memory of Mary Stanley (d. 1758) and one on the N. wall, to Edward Shiers (d.  1683) with an inscription in Latin. 


Church furnishings include two high-backed mediaeval wooden chairs, and the very tall rood screen, which is original but not particularly special. Also mediaeval in a sense is the octagonal pulpit standing on its slender stem (shown above right), which the church guide considers to have been constructed from a former rood loft.  The octagonal font has shields in quatrefoils on the faces of the bowl and blank trefoiled arches on the sides of the stem.   The nave roof of couple type appears to have been partially renewed but to retain its original arched braces beneath the tie beams and its tall wall posts, which rise from a set of exceptionally lively, carved corbel heads.  (See the three examples below.