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Church of St Mary Magdalene (C of E), Offley

Description: Church of St Mary Magdalene (C of E)

Grade: I
Date Listed: 27 May 1968
English Heritage Building ID: 163109

OS Grid Reference: TL1453326816
OS Grid Coordinates: 514533, 226816
Latitude/Longitude: 51.9281, -0.3357

Location: 3 King's Walden Road, Hitchin SG5 3DU

Locality: Offley
Local Authority: North Hertfordshire District Council
County: Hertfordshire
Country: England
Postcode: SG5 3DU

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Listing Text

TL 1426 (East side)
Great Offley

13/99 Church of St Mary
27.5.68 Magdalene (C of E)


Parish church. Nave and aisles, and possibly S porch, early C13; C14
windows and doors, late C14 and C15 clearstorey and roofs, chancel
remodelled externally and internally in 1751-9 and in 1770s for
Salusbury family ('SS 1777' on rainwater heads for widow
Sarah Salusbury), W tower rebuilt in brick 1800 (date on rainwater heads
on E face). Restorations 1875, and 1904. The nave and aisles in flint
rubble with stone dressings, the N aisle roughly plastered. Large S
porch in coursed flints with stone dressings and exposed timbers in
gable triangle. Red brick W tower with stone dressings. The chancel a
cubical mass of Portland stone ashlar with droved plinth, crenellated
parapet and fat pyramidal crocketed corner pinacles. Same stone ashlar
facing to E end of N aisle. Roofs of nave, aisles, and tower with short
spike in copper, steep old red tile roof to porch. Flat roof to chancel
with lantern concealed by parapet. Buried boiler house on N side covered
by York stone slabs. 5 wooden vertical spreaders at clearstorey level
lead capped, associated with wrought iron tie-bars slung from nave
tie-beams. The nave has 4 bay arcades to aisles, octagonal piers with
moulded bases and stiff-leaf capitals and pointed arches in 2 chamfered
orders with labels terminating in carved stops. 3 2-lights square headed
C14 clearstorey windows on N side with ogee tracery to each light. 2 of
3 similar windows on S replaced by 3-lights Perp windows. Low pitched
C15 open timber roof with ridge, 2 purlins, wall-post and heavy knee
brace at E end on a broken corbel curved with a head. Floor of red tile
with black bands. C15 buttressed oak pews in W part of church. N aisle
has 3 square headed C15 2-light N windows, and late C14 N door. C18
lancet E window with painted glass similar to E window of chancel.
Inscription on E jamb of N window nearest E, recording consecration in
1417 of a side altar. 2 groups of early C16 brasses, one to John Saurmel
d.1529, on 2 slate slabs on wall with original slabs still in floor.
Painted Royal Arms on canvas over N door dated 1800. Fragments of C14
stained glass in heads of middle window. Wall monument on W wall to
William Chamber d.1728, by William Palmer. Grey marble with gadrooned
base, cherubs head to apron, fluted Corinthian pilasters rising higher
than round-arched tablet, with bellied cartouche and urn on segmental
entablature over. Timber roof copied from S aisle roof. S aisle has C15
4-bays arch-braced timber roof with moulded central purlin and carved
corbel heads. 3 2-light C15 S windows and E window. Stepped external
buttresses. C15 S door with pointed arch and square head externally with
quatrefoil spandrels and label. At E end of S wall a C15 piscina with
cinquefoil head and shallow pointed arched recess over with 2 C14 tiles
with reversed lettering and carved inscription over of 1777 that they
were discovered then 'which proves that King Offa was buried here'.
Elaborate standing monument at W end of aisle to Sir John Spencer d.1699
attributed to E Stanton or Nost. A reclining figure in Roman armour and
a veiled kneeling woman. Tall back in grey marble with carved pair of
putti on cloud with a crown and palms. Heraldic achievement and 2 urns
on top entablature. Painted text in painted frame over S door. To W of
door a richly carved octagonal C14 font with deep bowl carved in relief
on each face with ogee-headed arch with varied tracery some Dec., some
Perp. Square base with elaborate transition to short thick octagonal
shaft and 8 minor shafts with moulded bases and octagonal shafts
intersecting the moulded base to the bowl. Openwork wooden spire to flat
oak early C17 cover. Large rectangular S porch with pointed entrance
with roll mouldings in 3 orders. Brick floor and side benches.
Clasped-purlin roof of 2 bays. Very thick walls with lancet window on E
side with rear arch. Trefoil headed small hollow chamfered window on W
with C13 inner frame with one remaining jamb shaft with base and cap and
slightly pointed arch with roll moulding. Studded plank S door. W tower
of 3 stages with clasping corner buttresses up to string at sill level
of bell openings. Cornice below crenelated parapet. Vane to short spire.
Wide stone framed chamfered bell opening on each face with Y-tracery and
louvres. Similar stone window to middle stage on N, W, and S, with
quatrefoil cusping set diagonally. Lozenge shaped border to clockface
above quatrefoil window on W. Chamfered pointed stone surround to W door
and to window at higher level on S side. The chancel is rectangular
outside, but has an apsidal recess carried up in a half-dome at the E
end inside pierced by its only window. It is otherwise a lofty
rectangular space with plastered walls, black floor of tomb slabs, flat
coffered ceiling, and central lantern. The chancel is approached up
steps through the wide, tall, round-headed C18 chancel arch with niches
in the deep jambs and plaster panelling on the soffit of the arch. The
pavement bears the scars where the iron screen was removed, now a gate
to the walled garden at Offley Place nearby (q.v.). Niches with busts
at each end of the side walls but deep recess for organ at NW now
containing War Memorial tablets. Tall standing monument in middle of
each side flanked by lesser wall monuments. Arch of apse framed by a
pointed plaster arch in low relief with quatrefoil tracery in head. The
altar raised on steps in the apse has a canopy and side-drapes worked in
plaster in high relief and there is a sunburst with hebrew inscription
in the dome above. Altar steps and ironwork altar rail sweep out in oval
projection in front of apse, carved angel corbels carry curved braces to
3-bay ceiling, middle 2 on N re-used. Painted glass E window with Old
Testament figure of God in middle with 2 small framed painted scenes in
outer border with other heraldic fragments. Monument central on N side
to Sir Henry Penrice d.1752 and his son by Sir Robert Taylor (signed on
drapery) with allegorical figure, arm upraised, and foot on an anchor,
before a pink marble obelisk with portrait medallion. Central on S
monument to Sir Thomas Salusbury d.1773 by Nollekens (made 1777) with
draped standing figures of man and wife before a rough barked tree with
drapery looped over it on a grey background with a black sarcophagus.
Busts in niches also by Nollekens, Samuel Burroughs d.1761,
Mrs. Elizabeth Maude d.1796 (in chancel arch) and William Offley d.1789
on S wall. Other monuments Sir Thomas Salusbury d.1835 by T. Smith, and
2 memorials by Saunders, 1847 and 1855. 2 stone coffins in churchyard
against S aisle. (RCHM (1911)160-1: VCH (1912)42_3: Kelly (1914)192:
Pevsner (1977)264-5: Ron Pigram A short account of the church of
St Mary Magdalene, Offley 1980, available at church).

Listing NGR: TL1453326816

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.