Ayot St. Lawrence Old Church, Hertfordshire

Ayot St Lawrence is famous for the home of George Bernard Shaw, “Shaw’s Corner”, which stands on the edge of the village.

It is also the home of two churches with very different characters. This church, the “Old” church dates from around 1150 AD and was remodelled in the 13th Century with further editions in the 15th, culminating in the tower being added in the very late 15th or very early 16th Century.

This sat quite happily in the little village until the local squire, Sir Lionel Lyde, bought the manor. He, for some reason, hated the old church building and decided to replace it with what is now called the “New” church – a porticoed Greek revivalist building which stands next to his house.

Not content with replacing the church he then started to demolish the old church to turn it into a romantic ruin. This process continued throughout the 19th Century only finally ending in 1999 when the Ames family donated the land to the Ayot Old Church Preservation Trust and the destruction was halted.

Strangely enough, though, it is the destruction of the church which makes it stand out – otherwise it would be a fairly standard English parish church.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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