Saint Michael’s Church

Serving God and Bishop’s Stortford

Tour the church

The church is notable for the magnificence of its siting, crowning the hill above the fording place of the River Stort. It is unusually large, 52 metres long and with a spire 56 metres high, visible for miles around. The parish has been associated with the Bishops of London since before the Norman conquest and, until the nineteenth century reorganisation, the living belonged to the Precentor of St Paul's Cathedral in London. Although there was probably a Saxon, and later, a Norman church on the site, the only surviving fragment is the font. The church seems to have been completely rebuilt in the early fifteenth century and it was altered and restored in both the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.


Church Plan View


St Michael's Today
We welcome you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ to this church where worship has been offered to God for centuries. Today the church building is usually open for private prayer, and nearly every day there is corporate worship and activity of one sort or another within these walls.

We try to see that the family of St Michael's is welcoming and loving and this is expressed not only on Sunday, but on every day.


The Font1 The Font
The font is of Purbeck marble and dates from about 1150. It was found buried and reset on a new base in 1868

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2 The CorbelsThe Corbels
The Corbels in the North and South aisles repay a close examination. They represent angels and rustic characters, some with their tools and other with animal faces.

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3 The Nave Arcade
 The NaveThe Nave Arcade of 6 bays with multiple, octagonal piers was built in the early fifteenth century and the west end shows a slight irregularity where the tower joins. The roof is contemporary and is supported on corbels representing the twelve Apostles with angels, one carrying a shield and the other a rose. The Apostles are holding their emblems and they have scrolls on which would have been painted the Apostles' Creed.   Top


4 The Label StopsThe Label Stops
The Label Stops inside and outside the North door are figures representing the four Evangelists, the lion, the winged man, the ox and the eagle.

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 5 The North Porch
 The North PorchThe North Porch has the original roof and door. In the spandrels are carved figures of angels with a trumpet and censer, heralding the day of Resurrection.     Top

 

 

 


6 The TowerThe Tower
 The Tower had its lowest stage divided into three rooms in 1977. The medieval roof can be seen in the upper room. Above this is the ringing chamber and then the clock room which are in the old part of the tower. The belfry and spire were added in 1812.

 

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7 The Lady Chapel
The Lady ChapelThe Lady Chapel was furnished in 1928 using the extension of the North aisle built in the nineteenth century. The kneelers were worked to designs from heraldry in the church.

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8 The Rhodes MemorialRhodes
 The Rhodes Memorial on the wall of the North aisle records the life of Cecil Rhodes, son of a former Vicar of St Michael's, born in 1853.   Top

 


9 The Chancel
 ChancelThe Chancel was extended in the seventeenth century to accommodate the vault of the Denny family. The roof bears the date 1660 and the initials E.D.. The family descended from Sir Edward, son of Sir Anthony Denny who was a close friend of Henry VIII n his last years. Sir Edward married Margaret Edgecumbe, one of Queen Elizabeth's maids of honour. She died in 1648 and is represented in effigy on her husband's monument in Waltham Abbey, although she is buried, together with others of her family, in St Michael's. The floor of the chancel was raised, the arch recut and the roof lifted to accommodate the clerestory in the nineteenth century when the present East window was fitted and the former window moved to the South wall of the chancel. The altar fittings were designed by S.E. Dykes-Bower in a rearrangement of 1965.    Top


10 The Choir StallsChoir Stalls
The 18 Choir Stalls have carved misericord seats and poppy head ends. They are good work of the fifteenth century.

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11 The Screen
 The Screen (1)The screen is the original work of the fifteenth century, except for the vaulting on the top added by Blomfield in 1885. The rood which was above the screen was removed in the reforms of the mid sixteenth century and it is conjectured that part of the timber was used in the beam over the fireplace in the Boar's Head Inn opposite the church. The doorways leading to the rood loft can still be seen.    

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12 The PulpitThe Pulpit
The Pulpit was made for £5 in 1658 and it has a fold-down floor to raise up shorter preachers.

 

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13 The Maplesden Monument
The MaplesdenThe Maplesden Monument records the tragic loss of a whole family from smallpox in the 1680s.

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14 The HatchmentsThe hatchments
 The Hatchments hanging above the North and South doors belonged to the Denny family (S) and the Duckett family (N). Sir George Duckett was instrumental in the canalisation of the River Stort in the eighteenth century and is recorded in a tablet in the chancel and in a large box tomb outside the South door.   Top


The Glass
 No medieval glass survives, though the church did have some good stained glass windows. The West window is by Kempe, 1877, a memorial to Rev. and Mrs F. W. Rhodes, parents of Cecil Rhodes. It depicts the four Archangels and may be seen from the tower room. The east window of 1885 is by Blomfield and was the gift of the Precentor of St Paul's Cathedral. The South Chancel window is by Powell, 1853, the Lady Chapel window is by Christoper Webb and that in the South porch is by Miss Aldrich Rope.   Top


The Bells
 There are 10 bells which date from between 1730 and 1820. They were cast by John Waylett and John Briant. Bells existed in St Michael's since the fifteenth century at least and there are frequent records of peals to celebrate special occasions.     Top


The Records
 St Michael's registers and churchwardens' accounts provide a very good series of parish documents and are nearly complete from the 1430s to the present day. The originals are deposited in the County Record Office in Hertford, but a good transcription was made by Glasscock in the nineteenth century.           Top


The Organ
The organ stands in a large chamber on the south side of the chancel, speaking both into the choir and into the nave, thus assisting both choir and congregation. Its high, imposing case seen within the chancel and the smaller case facing the south aisle, enclose a comprehensive three manual instrument, which in its original form was built by Kirkland in about 1880.

The OrganThis organ was constructed with mechanical action and with an integral console, the player being seated behind the choir stalls.

A re-build in 1940 by J.S.Walker modernised and electrified the actions and provided a new detached console which first stood behind the north choir stalls in the Lady Chapel, being later provided with a mobile platform and moved to its present position near the chancel screen. Walkers also added some fine pipework, including the magnificent solo trumpet.

Subsequent organ firms who have tuned and maintained the instrument were Rushworth and Dreaper of Liverpool and Bishops of Ipswich, the latter of whom carried out a scheme which included replacement of worn parts, provision of two more stops and the addition of a solid state control system.

An overhaul undertaken by Nicholsons of Worcester in 1997 entailed restoration of the organ soundboards upon which the two thousand or so pipes stand, the slider valves which control these. together with the console mechanisms. Re-intonation of some pipework and the remodeling of the mixtures completed this scheme. returning the organ to its former level of excellence.

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The Plate
 
The Church has a good collection, the oldest items being a cup by John Frankman of 1597, a paten dated 1653 and two flagons of 1721 and 1731   Top


The Churchyard
 The Churchyard contains an interesting variety of memorials including some in the Rococo taste of the eighteenth century.             Top


Important Dates

c.650 Essex, including East Hertfordshire, becomes Christian.
673 Synod of Hertford; organisation of Dioceses; Stortford in Diocese of London.
c.1060 Edith the Fair sells Stortford to the Bishop of London.
1085 Doomsday Book records Bishop Maurice of London as holding Stortford.
c.1150 Font made for the Norman church.
1332 First recorded vicar, John de Stratherne.
c.1400 Existing church built; earlier building destroyed.
1431 Churchwardens' Accounts start; mention of music, organ, choir, banners, censers, gilded tabernacles, silk canopies and bells.
1547 Reforms of Edward VI; plate sold, walls whitened, rood removed.
1553 Restoration of Catholic liturgy under Mary Tudor; Mass books, surplices, incense, blue silk fringe bought.
1559 Altar replaced by a table under Elizabeth's orders; Book of Homilies and Erasmus's Paraphrases bought.
1660 Bells rung for the Coronation of Charles II; E.D. 1660 carved on chancel roof; Denny monuments.
1666-7 231 burials of Plague victims.
1684 Smallpox epidemic; Maplesden monument
1718 Ceilings installed to cover the timber roofs
1769 River Stort made navigable from London; expansion of malt trade in the town
1812 Tower raised and spire added and galleries built
1868-9 Alterations to Chancel, North Aisle extended and roofs opened up again, font discovered and replaced
1877 Stortford in the new diocese of St Alban's.
1885 Chancel arch made larger and vaulting added to the screen.
1928 Lady Chapel made in the North chancel aisle.
1965 Rearrangement of altar with new hangings, cross and candlesticks.

1977

Repairs to the tower and spire and building of rooms within the lower part.                                                            Top