Hexton Church, Hertfordshire

The first view of Hexton Church nestling in a fold of the Chilterns heading west from Hitchin is impressive and quintessentially English. Unfortunately, this impression is not enhanced with a longer closer look as the church’s less exciting character comes to the fore.

There has been worship here since pre-Christian times. Nearby was Saint Faith’s Well which was a Holy site in Celtic times. The first church was built in the very early 12th Century and the buildings which are swamped under the current structure dates to the mid-13th. It was dedicated in 1254 by the Bishop of Rochester.

The Tower and an extension of the nave happened around 1633, at around the same time the Well was drained and levelled by Francis Taverner, the wife of the Lord of the Manor, who complained that the Well had far too much worship and attention compared to the Church. The irony is that once the Holy Well was gone, the Church in Hexton became an obscure parish church to a village almost entirely owned by the occupier of nearby Hexton Hall.

By 1824 the church was in need of rescue and Joseph Andrew de Lautour and his wife Caroling Young set about rebuilding it. They reduced the church in height, stripped out much of the interior and buried much of the medieval work under heavy restoration. Their work was obviously not done very well because the north west angle of the tower collapsed in 1947 and the west gallery had to be removed in 1955.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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