Standon Church, Hertfordshire

Standon Church is one of the most impressive in Hertfordshire and the only one with a detached (or at least semi-detached) tower.

It stands at one end of Standon’s High Street with its fine rows of Georgian buildings. The ground here rises to the east and the church is very unusual in that its floor also rises to the east. This is a key feature in recognising the origins of the church – only churches built by the Order of the Knights of St. John have this uneven floor plan. The Order was bequeathed the land here in 1199 and they remained in possession until the Dissolution. The hospice they founded still stands nearby and remained the church school until 1974.

The church originally had a chequer-board pattern in its external brickwork – something more common in Bedfordshire – but this was lost when the church was heavily restored in the Victorian period. At the same time the gap between the detached tower and the main body of the church was filled up, leaving us with the rather odd semi-detached tower we have today.

Inside the church is a notable monument – the Tomb of Sir Ralph Sadleir which is a big solid chunk of marble showing the knight in full armour with a canopy above. Sir Ralph was a diplomat and ambassador under Henry VIII and fought at the Battle of Pinkie where captured the Royal Standard of Scotland – which still stands by his tomb. He died in 1587 and eighty years of age.

The church was heavily, and in places very clumsily, restored during the Victorian period and this whole ensemble is best seen from the steeply sloping churchyard behind the church with gives fine views of both the building and the land beyond.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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