TOUR of church building

Who's Who

This Week

Activities at Great St Mary's

Prayer and Thought

History and The Friends of Great St Mary's

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Welcome inside...

Ancient door           Close up of door showing lock 

You have just come in through a door that is over six hundred years old.  Its iron key is a foot long. The wood is solid oak, probably grown locally in Hatfield Forest, reinforced with wrought ironwork and hand made hinges attached by massive iron studs.

This is the house of God. Maybe on entering you would like to say a prayer.  If you need a bit of help please click here to see The Lord's Prayer.

The church is approximately cross shaped. The congregation sits in the central nave, facing towards the Chancel and the altar. Behind the altar at the extreme east end is this magnificent stained glass window, dated 1866:

Stained glass East window

Immediately between the nave and the Chancel is the rood screen, above which hangs a modern statue of Christ, by sculptor John Mills. This was donated by the Friends of Great St Mary's to mark the Millennium.

Modern sculture of Christ looking down on the congregation

Now let's go on a quick tour... 
The starting point of our tour is the font.

The font

The font is octagonal and dates from the 14th Century.  It's somewhat worn and patched together. This is the font where countless generations of local people have begun their Christian journeys through life. We can imagine the babies from the families of the Earls of Roden, or Viscount Jocylin or Sir William Hewyt or the Wisemans being baptised here and we can imagine the infants of ordinary farmers and shopkeepers too.

Nearby we see some more stained glass:


This window was installed in 1884 in memory of a Mrs Hiley of Hyde Hall and shows the feeding of the five thousand. The original medieval stained glass in all the windows was removed by the Puritans and replaced by plain glass. 

Below the window is a 17th Century oak chest. The story goes that it was used as a coal bunker for part of its life!

Oak chest

Now we come to the first of the stone monuments. It is big. About twelve foot tall.  It's a painted alabaster tomb of Sir John Leventhorpe, 1st Baronet 1560-1625, his wife Joan (d.1627) and their many children.

Leventhorpe tomb The children are along the bottom. From the left there is first the son who died in infancy, then five more sons and eight daughters. The son dressed in black is said to be the one who went into the priesthood.

Click here to see what the church looked like in 1824.

All this so far has been in the South aisle (the part of the church through the arch on the right of the picture below).

The nave The central part or nave, has walls that are 13th Century, the screen is 15th Century and some of the pews are early 16th century.  

The four panels over the rood screen, containing the Lord's Prayer, The Apostles' Creed and the Ten Commandments, were all made by the family of A. [Arthur] Wiseman, Vicar's Warden, and presented to the church in 1878. They were taken down and restored as part of the Millennium project in 2000.    

Behind us is the tower and the organ

Click here to hear the organ (160kB mp3)

The organ keyboard

Inside the organ loft with former Organist and Choirmaster Keith Hall, showing the range of pipe sizes:

organ showing small pipes Former organist standing next to largest pipes

Also at the back of the church there is some medieval graffiti:  

 Windmill graffiti    

The stained glass window in the north aisle was also placed there by A. Wiseman in 1882 before he went to Australia to live in a house called 'Sawbridgeworth'. 

North aisle stained glass window

The pews must have seemed  quite hard for the congregation when sermons were much longer than they are today. The pulpit is Jacobean oak..


Today's preachers have the bust of Robert, Viscount Jocelyn (1688-1756), Lord Chancellor of the Kingdom of Ireland, looking over their shoulders at them, complete in Chancellor's robes and wig.

Bust of Rober, Viscount Jocelyn (small) click on picture for an enlargement

Behind the lectern is the marble monument to Sir William Hewyt and his wife Elizabeth (d. 1646).

Bust of William Hewyt and his wife Elizabeth

Here are the arms of Thomas Hewett of Sayesbury (1635). If you click on them you can find out a lot more about the families who lived at Shingle Hall, Hyde Hall, Pishobury, Manor of Groves, Tednambury and Sayesbury....

Thomas Hewett's coat of arms with link to other arms Click

Great St Mary's has seven 'hatchments' (painted diamond shaped wooden armorial panels). It's most unusual to have that many. 

There were helmets too, like this one (now at Hertford Museum) :

Helmet Click here to see more

Did you know Great St Mary's has a crypt? Click here to find out more...

To the left of our viewpoint in the Chancel, is the 14th Century North Aisle with its 20th Century Memorial Altar dedicated to those who lost their lives in the world wars. There is another fine stained glass window:

Now we go to the Chancel, which is in front (to the East) of the nave.

It is originally 13th century but has been renewed over the years. The southern arch is twelfth century. The high altar is flanked by the battered tomb of Sir John Jocelyn and his wife 'Philip' - it was recorded by an historian in 1763 as already being 'mutilated'.   There is also a carved canopied tomb which is very similar to one in Westminster Abbey:

Tomb of Sir John Jocelyn

Sir Walter Myldemaye and his wife Marie (1605/6) and their son Tom kneel to say their prayers.

Myldemaye memorial

Next comes the huge monument to George, Viscount Hewyt of Gowram:

Statue of george, Viscount Hewyt

Nearby, on the floor, under a carpet to protect it, is the brass of Sir Jeffrey Jocelin (d. 1470) and his two wives, Katherine and Joan.

The Jocelin brass

Let's now go BRASS RUBBING....