Harmondsworth Church, Middlesex

Benedictine Priors

The village of Harmondsworth seems tranquil at first glance, however, spend a few moments here and you will soon become aware that Heathrow Airport is only a mile or so distant!

A church seems to have been here since Saxon times, the village standing as it does near the River Colne which forms the traditional border with Buckinghamshire. This church was given by William the Conqueror to the Benedictine Abbey of Rouen in 1069. The Abbey later rebuilt the church, with the oldest extant remains being mid-12th Century.

Around 1211 the Abbey turned the church into a Priory which became very unpopular very quickly with the local populace due to some harsh taxing policies. In 1281 the locals rebelled and burnt the Priory buildings down. Remodelling of the church followed this and in 1391 the Benedictines sold to Winchester College who were responsible for building the Great Barn which stands nearby.

Work continued on the church with the last major work being the addition of the tower built around 1500, although the distinctive cupola that tops it is from a later period. As ever, the Victorians did a bit of refurbishment, but not without merit in this instance.

A weird quirk of legal history informs the opinion that Heathrow Airport is legally responsible for the maintenance of the chancel. The Airport now owns land which used to be Heathrow village which, in 1819, was assigned in lieu of tithes to the church for maintaining the chancel.

All in all, Harmondsworth is one of the few parts of Middlesex that still feels a bit rural and not part of the overwhelming spread of the London suburbs.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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