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Battlesden Church Repairs and Additions

 Battlesden church and adjoining house seen from the A5 January 2008
Battlesden church and adjoining house seen from the A5 January 2008

Most of the notes on the structural history of the church can be found in Bedfordshire Historical Record Society Volume number 73 of 1994 Bedfordshire Churches in the Nineteenth Century: Part I: parishes A to G, put together by former County Archivist Chris Pickford from numerous sources some held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service and some held elsewhere or published.

Battlesden Church Interior
The interior looking from the south door towards the chancel January 2007

An inventory of 1553 noted "items in the steepull of the seid churche iij belles; item the church and chancell leaded and the porches and the steepull tyled" whilst in 1663 [HSA1663] it was described as "parish church of Battlesden ruinous - Charles Newport of Battlesden should repair". It seems likely that Charles Newport did not repair as in 1775 the suggestion was made that the building was so ruinous it should be pulled down. The church was said to be in very poor repair by the middle of the 19th century, though contemporary drawings by Thomas Fisher and George Shepherd show a much happier state of affairs and are, perhaps, idealised. These drawings show no sign of the steeple noted in 1553.

Battlesden Church East Window
East Window in January 2007 

At the beginning of the 19th century the main entrance was in the south wall of the nave, this door is now blocked and partly obscured by a buttress. Similarly two windows high in the south wall of the nave are now blocked.

The interior of the church looking west about 1820 [Z49/1053]
The interior of the church looking west about 1820 [Z49/1053]

John Martin was the librarian of Woburn Abbey. He was also an Anglo-Catholic obsessed with churches being ordered the way they were before the Reformation. He wrote a series of articles on Bedfordshire churches for the Northampton Mercury either side of 1850 under the pseudonym WA. These are usually pompous, snide and scerbic. His piece on Saint Peter's appeared on 5th December 1846: "We have scarcely seen any church exhibiting a more forlorn and neglected appearance than this. The chancel, more especially, displaying the greatest marks of inattention. The most charitable conclusion is, that the preferment is of so small an amount as to prevent the incumbent being at the expense of the necessary repairs. There is a wooden roof. The pews, which are few in number, are very ugly and very high. A few open benches remain. The interior is whitewashed, and so far, in this respect, tolerably clean. A dark gallery occupies the western end; but all traces of window or door there are entirely obliterated. And this is the case with all the architectural ornaments which this building must have once possessed, excepting two brackets in the chancel".

font January 2008
The font January 2008

"The font may be a very good one, but all attempts to decipher its decoration are useless, in consequence of the repeated coats of whitewash which have been inflicted upon it. The lead remains. It contains a very common wash-hand basin, which, we suppose, is used when the baptismal service is performed".

 interior looking west January 2008
The interior looking west January 2008

The roof of the chancel was renewed in 1868 when the nave was also restored and reseated. The chancel was restored in 1897-1898 by the Duke of Bedford with the architect being J.S.Lawrence of Leighton Buzzard, an embattled parapet was added to the name and the south door was blocked at this date when three large buttresses were added to that side of the nave.

Mary and John on chancel east window January 2008
Detail of Mary and John from the east window January 2008

The church was closed in 1928 but reopened and rehallowed for worship in 1949 following restoration work paid for by William Walter Merridale. The architect was Ampthill-based Sir Albert Richardson [P118/2/2/24]. In 1967 it was proposed to move two pews from the north-west corner of the church into the chancel for the use of the choir, the font was to be removed to the north-west corner and the organ resited at the west end [P118/2/2/9]. Electric light was installed in 1968 [P118/2/2/10].

different building materials Jan 2007
The north wall showing different building materials January 2007

A restoration was undertaken in the late 1960s and early 1970s [P118/2/2/14-16] including rearranging the pews as proposed in 1967, repairing the masonry of the tower, moving the organ and the font, rearranging the altar and repairing the bell-frame and mountings.