THE FRIENDS OF ST MARY'S
Founded in 1980, the Friends of St Mary’s was set up as a voluntary and charitable association of people wishing to preserve the beauty and usefulness of St Mary’s Church through the preservation and maintenance of the church building. A past president of the Friends of St Mary’s, Sir John Betjeman, said “St Mary’s is a creation of beauty by simple craftsmen of long ago. It must be restored to keep faith with their endeavour and labour”. It is the intention of the Friends to keep faith with these sentiments.
The Friends of St Mary’s is a registered charity No. 284457
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ST MARY'S CHURCH HEMEL HEMPSTEAD
St Mary's Church, standing in the heart of Hemel Hempstead's 'Old Town' in the valley of the River Gade, is an outstanding example of a large Norman parish church. It has remained essentially inaltered since it was completed in 1180, having taken some 40 years to build. The elegant and richly decorated tower carries the octagonal spire which has a height of 200 feet and is visible from many parts of Hemel Hempstead. It is one of the finest spires in Britian and one of the tallest leaded spires in Europe. It is constructed of oak and covered in lead arranged in a herringbone pattern. The spire was added in around 1340, some 160 years after completion of the main building.
St Mary's Church has a unique place in the cultural and spiritual heritage in the Dacorum area as a whole, and of Hemel Hempstead in particular. It has been the focus of Christian faith for over 850 years.
Recent works the Friends have contributed to
- 2012 - Paintwork/Aisles
- 2012 - Noth porch stonework
- 2018 - Spire clock faces
- 2019 - Window guards
- 2019 - Vestry Roof
- 2020 - Kitchen/Toilet
FRIENDS OF ST MARY'S BROCHURE - 2011
Below is an extract from the Friends of St Mary's brochure
Thanks to those who supported the production of the Friends of St Mary's brochure. Photo's supplied by David Clarke, Philip Russell and Jeff Wallis. Design by Jeff Wallis 2011.
PROJECT: THE SPIRE
The founding project for the Friends was the renovation of the church spire. Fundraising began in 1980, assisted by a loan from Dacorum Borough Council that ensured the achievement of this ambitious project to completely replace the lead cladding.
The final instalment to complete the repayment of this loan was made in 2002. Soaring almost 200ft, the 14th century fluted leaden spire now proudly stands as an iconic part of Hemel Hempstead that will be enjoyed for many generations.
Duration: 1984 – 1987 Cost: £237,000
PROJECT: THE WEST DOOR - REPAIRING THE RAVAGES OF TIME
The west door is the backdrop for many happy occasions at St Mary’s Church. This beautiful archway stonework, following its restoration, is in keeping with the stature of the building.
Stonework that was in a poor state was dressed back to good stone and the whole area cleaned and re-pointed as required.
The archway has also been cleaned, some cracked coatings to the carvings were made good and the whole area was given a lime wash slurry coating to preserve this unique feature of the church.
Date of Completion: 2008 Cost: £14,100
PROJECT THE TOWER – A PROJECT INCOMPLETE
Work on the renovation of the tower began in 1992 and a second stage commenced in 1999.
In 1992 a number of cracks were noticed near the corners of the north face and were carefully pointed as a temporary measure.
In 1999, at the beginning of the second phase, the stonemason starting work on the north east corner had barely touched it with his chisel when the whole corner collapsed, revealing that what were thought to be solid corner stones were just thin Victorian facings. 'Fears for the safety of the tower resulted in a substantial reduction in the amount of ringing and the largest two bells were not used.
The quoins have been replaced with good solid stones stitched deeply into the fabric but at vastly increased cost over the original budget.
Phases 1 and 2 completed Cost £54,100
Reconstruction of a belfry window arch during phase 1 of the tower renovation.
A newly carved capitol on a south side window arch.
PROJECT: THE GABLE CROSS - A LEGACY FROM A LEGACY
The gable cross over the west end of St Mary’s Church was significantly eroded after centuries of attack by weather and pollution.
The replacement came as a result of a bequest in a late member’s will, leaving a legacy for many to enjoy.
Date of completion: 2003 Cost: £800