Luton, Bedfordshire

Luton Church, Bedfordshire

Poor old Luton Church, the largest in Bedfordshire and one of the most beautiful, is surrounded by some of the uglier excesses of Luton’s post-War town planners. The first church here was founded by King Athelstan in 931. The present building dates to 1121 when Robert, Earl of Gloucester endowed the land with a new structure.

The first Norman church had a central crossing tower and was cruciform, but within 100 years it was too small and so aisles were then added and the arches from the transepts are the earliest stonework surviving today.

In the 14th Century the Church was heavily rebuilt, the tower was moved to the west end of the Church and this appears to be when the distinctive chequerboard patterning was added to the walls, initially on the tower only. In the 15th Century another extensive rebuilding was undertaken and the tower was brought up to its current height. Inside the Someries Chapel was rebuilt and extended by Lord John Wenlock.

In the 1860s restoration work began and at this time the chequerboard stones were extended to other parts of the exterior. Extensions added in 1968 also had this pattern added to help them blend with the older work. The bells of the Church had been silent for some 28 years and were finally restored in time to chime the end of the Armistice Day silence in 1999.

One of the best views of St. Mary’s Church can be had from the rooftop car park of the adjacent shopping centre.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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