Baldock seems like a sleepy little backwater town, outgrown by Letchworth and Hitchin and cut off by the A1. However, it was once one of the richest in the county and the size of it’s church – the second largest in Hertfordshire – shows this.
Baldock as a town was founded by the Knights Templar in the 1140s. The church seems to have been built around 60 years later, still under Templar construction. The remainder dates largely from the 1330s to the early 1400s. Only parts of the chancel exist from the earliest church.
The tower which dominates the church is very early dating to the first phase of rebuilding (around 1340), a good century before the majority of churches gained a tower. The sheer size of the church showing how Baldock was then prospering. The town was boosted by both its position as a coaching station on the Great North Road but also by its growing trade in malting and later brewing.
Much of the town itself is Georgian and it has one of the widest High Streets in the country. However, the Georgian buildings rather obscure the body of the church, meaning by and large what can be seen is the tower and the very hefty Hertfordshire Spike placed on top of it.
Some work was done in the 19th Century to the church, but as brewing slowly died out as a trade in England, so Baldock gradually became a quiet country town.
Most recently Baldock’s church has been cleaned and restored – the scaffolding finally coming off in 2011 – and it is once again a focal point for the town, although recent controversy has surrounded the volume of its church bells disturbing local residents, a sorry situation which only highlights how petty society has become.
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