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Repairs and Additions to Harrold Church

Harrold church panel on rood screen May 2008
Harrold church - panel on rood screen May 2008 

Much of the following information is taken from former County Archivist Chris Pickford's Bedfordshire Historical Record Society volume Bedfordshire Churches in the 19th Century: Parishes H-R. The first known work after the Middle Ages was in the late sixteenth century when the chancel was shortened - a window of that date being in the lower part of the east wall of the chancel until removed about 1890. Early in the seventeenth century the rood screen was repaired. A document of about 1630 [TW835] states that the body of the church was: "out of repair" and in 1674 it was noted that the church was: "not fully repaired" [CRT170/9/1/ page 5].

Harrold church interior looking east May 2008
Harrold church interior looking east

In 1717 a faculty [ABF3/112] allows a pew for John Bletsoe to be installed "where the reading desk lately stood". The church was flooded in 1795 and 1798 and clearing up is noted in churchwardens' accounts [P33/5/1] which also record the repair of the nave roof at the west end and removal of the porch around the west door in 1822 and repair of the steeple four years later.

Interior of Harrold church looking east about 1845
Interior of Harrold church looking east about 1845 [Z50/54/53]

The current seating in the church dates to the mid 1840s and a new organ was installed in 1869. A new clock was installed to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. The spire was again repaired and heating installed in 1888. The chancel, as noted above, was repaired around 1890 when: "some repairs…effected" [ABV3] and the bells re-hung in 1896.

Harrold church east window May 2008
Harrold church east widow May 2008

John Martin was librarian of Woburn Abbey and, either side of 1850, wrote a series of articles on bedfordshire churches for the Northampton Mercury. His articles are generally snide, pompous and splebetic by turns, Harrold, the article published 10th July 1847, fares better than some: "This is a fine church, and in very fair condition. The chancel has a timber roof which has not escaped the plasterer's brush. The original window has been replaced by one of the most paltry character, both as relates to size and glazing; the altar, and the railings which surround it, are in good order. Some square pews with lattice work had been allowed to trespass upon this part of the church. The chancel screen remains. the timber roof of the nave also remains, exhibiting by the high pitch its superiority over a lath-and -plaster ceiling, the delight of ignorant churchwarden restorers. The pulpit and reading desk are placed separately as in the last church; it would be a great step in the restoration of our churches if this practice was more generally carried out ... The sittings are open, but of modern construction, the backs much too high".

Harrold church - interior looking west May 2008
The interior looking west May 2008

"There is a gallery, but its ugliness is not allowed to exclude the light from the western window. The columns are all church-wardenized. A stove with its ugly tin chimney piercing the roof, detracts from the otherwise general good effect, when viewed externally, of this church. In the north aisle is a niche, totally deprived of its beauty by the usual nasty application [of whitewash]".

Harrold church - font May 2008
The font May 2008

"The font is in the wrong situation, it retains the leaden lining and drain, but a basin is used in preference ... Both the aisles have timber roofs, a portion of the south is appropriated as a vestry. The window here is as bad as that in the chancel, and the glazing of all is of the commonest quality. An ugly skylight is made in the roof; this hideous invention is caused most probably by blocking up one of the windows for the vestry and the gallery before mentioned; nothing can be more detestable than the contrivance. We had hoped that Maulden would have gloried in the unique possession of this invention, having never seen it until now in any other church. There is a day school for boys, and one for girls, on the eve of being opened, for which the parish is indebted to the exertions of the present incumbent".

Medieval gravestone in Harrold church porch May 2008
Medieval gravestone in Harrold church porch May 2008

In the 19th century medieval tombstones of a type that would have been used for nuns, were found in the grounds of the Hall. The Bedfordshire Mercury for 14th May 1887 relates: “A stone coffin, seven feet long and about three wide, has recently been found by some men employed by Mr.G.Osborne, contractor, while digging in a shrubbery at Harrold Hall; and Mr.R.C.Alston has taken charge of it”. A number of these coffin lids are now in the floor of entrance to the church beneath the west tower.

Harrold church chancel and north aisle seen from near pulpit May 2008
Harrold church chancel and north aisle seen from near the pulpit May 2008

The church underwent a thorough restoration in 1904 by Mallows & Grocock of Bedford. This included re-roofing of the south aisle (the church roof had been a cause for concern since at least 1873), new choir stalls, removal of galleries and alterations to the screen, pulpit, prayer desk and lectern [P33/2/2/1]. Further 20th century work included a new alter in 1912 [DSA2/1/168], roof repairs by A.Gilbert Scott in 1917 and restoration of tower and spire by William Weir between 1930 and 1931 [P33/2/2/3]