The United Benefice of
St Mary's, Henlow, and St Andrew's, Langford

Exploring St Mary's, Part 2 - Outside

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St Mary's Church, Henlow
South Side (1) St Mary's Church, South Side
South Side (2) St Mary's Church, Henlow, East End
East End St Mary's Church, Henlow, North Side
North Side St Mary's Church, Henlow, West End
West End St Mary's Church, Henlow, The West Door
The West Door

Exploring St Mary's: Outside | Inside

This tour starts at the South Aisle and proceeds in an anti-clockwise direction around the building.


The older parts of the church are built from ironstone but from the 15th century onwards Totternhoe clunch is favoured.

The South Aisle

Notice on the west face how the extension to this aisle was simply butted up to the tower buttress. On the south elevation the raising of the roof line is clearly distinguishable by the use of large blocks of clunch. At the meeting of the aisle and chancel some displaced quoin blocks of the original aisle-less church can be seen.

The Chancel

On the south face careful study will reveal stonework of two different periods, that on the left being some of the oldest walling visible, having stood (if our theories are plausible) for over 900 years.

Notice high up where newer stone replaces one of the tiny unglazed windows. Past the small priest’s door, the square headed window contains Victorian tracery with sill and jambs of the 14th century.

The chancel has no buttresses, leading one to speculate that the original quoins were re-used when this part of the church was extended. The east window also contains Victorian tracery in the original opening.

The Vestry/Organ Chamber

Built of brick with an outer facing of ironstone to complement the chancel the vestry possesses an impressive stone chimney on its gable end.

On the north face light coloured octagonal stones show up, these being sections of old window mullion built into the newer work (for reasons unknown).

A little further to the right, past the plain rectangular vestry window, you have to look up to find a tiny blocked round-headed opening. This simple window, never glazed and constructed from only four stones, was moved from its original position in the north wall of the chancel when the vestry was built. Its present position exactly corresponds to its former and is mirrored by the altered stonework on the south side mentioned above. This is the sole surviving window from the original stone church.

Original Chancel window and old mullions built into the vestry wall.

The North Aisle

Largely rebuilt in clunch during the 15th century, some of the original ironstone can be seen at the base of the walls. The tall and elegant windows can be appreciated from the outside although the boiler house and chimney detract a little.

The battlements were removed during the 1956 repairs ‘in the interests of economy’.

The Tower | Tower Restoration

Notice on the east face how one of the ringing chamber windows was blocked up after the tower was struck by lightening in the 1880s. The stonework of the west door is somewhat decayed and patched but carved roses (the Rosa Mystica - a symbol of our Lady) can just be distinguished in the spandrels. Two Ordnance Survey bench marks can also be found on the buttresses at low level and indicate a height of 41.93m above mean sea level at Newlyn in Cornwall.

St Mary's Tower, Henlow

As part of the ongoing work of restoration much crumbling stonework has been replaced on the westernmost butresses. We are indebted to the generosity of individuals, groups and particularly our Pilgrims from across the Atlantic for their continuing financial assistance.

Looking up, notice the paired belfry windows set low in the upper stage and how the buttresses die out half way up this stage. Both of these details give the tower an appearance of immense stability and repose. Look back on this scene as you leave the church and be assured of the calm and unchanging love of God to whose glory this House of God was raised.

— James E. Burgess, 1998. Printed copies of this tour are available at St Mary's.

St Mary's, Henlow, and St Andrew's, Langford :: Diocese of St Albans :: Church of England

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