Essendon Church, Hertfordshire

St. Mary’s Church in Essendon seems to have a long history of slightly bad luck. A church has been here since the 12th Century, but virtually nothing of that has survived. The oldest part to still stand today is the tower – but this is a rebuild from around 1628 after the original is said to have collapsed. It was subsequently restored around 1883.

By the mid-1800s the church was in very poor condition and the decision was made by the architect William White to pull down everything save the tower and rebuild. The tower itself was also heavily altered. It certainly has the appearance of a Victorian church.

On 2nd September 1916 the largest Zeppelin air raid of World War I took place. 16 airships were headed towards London when they were intercepted by the Royal Flying Corps. The following night the SL-11 was over St. Albans heading for the City of London. It was picked up by search lights and shot down in flames, landing in a field at Cuffley. This was seen by the other Zeppelin commanders and they decided to try to escape from the light which was making them vulnerable to attack. To speed their ships many commanders jettisoned their bombs. Those of the L-16 dropped around Essendon and several hit the church, damaging it very badly, stopping the clock in the tower at 23 minutes past two.

Subsequently the church was rebuilt yet again, at which time the lych gate was added. All the restoration was paid for by insurance, unusually, and so it proceeded quickly, leaving us with an odd building that looks Victorian but is actually medieval and Victorian AND 20th Century!.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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