St Peter, Lilley, Hertfordshire

Feature Sets (2)


Lilley is a village in North Hertfordshire, set in rolling farmland less than a mile from the Bedfordshire border. It is 3 miles NE of Luton (Beds) and 4 miles SW of Hitchin, on the N side of the A505. The village has a long high street running N-S with the church towards its southern end.

St Peter’s was rebuilt in 1870-72 in an Early English style by Thomas Jekyll, incorporating earlier material in the 13thc piscina, the 15thc font, some stones of similar date in the S doorway, and the 12thc chancel arch, reused as the arch for the organ chamber on the N side of the chancel and described below. Jekyll’s church is of uncoursed flint with ashlar dressings, and consists of a chancel with with a N vestry and organ chamber, and the tall Sowerby chapel on the S, approached by stairs from the SE corner of the nave. This is unaisled and has a tower porch at the SW corner. The tower itself has a parapet of chequerwork in stone and tile.


Lilley was held by Leodgifu from Earl Harold in 1066, and in 1086 the manor, assessed at 5 hides, was held by Geoffrey de Bec. 2 hides were in demesne, and the rest was held from him. The recorded population of 19 villans, 6 bordars, 4 cottars, 6 slaves and a priest suggests a total population of some 200 people, making Lilley a substantial settlement.

By the early 13thc the manor was in the tenure of William Malet of Gerardville, but in 1204 it was granted by King John to Matthew de Lilley.


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Arch on N side of chancel

On the N side of the chancel, now acting as the arch to the organ chamber, is the chancel arch of the medieval church. It is of brown tufa blocks, round headed and of two orders, installed on a 19thc plinth of red brick.

1st order

Flat pilaster jambs carry plain chamfered imposts and an unmoulded round arch

2nd order

Plain and continuous.


Oughtonhead Lane, 4 miles to the NE on the edge of Hitchin, is a geological SSI by reason of the Hoxnian interglacial tufa found there. This may be the source of the stone.


  • Historic England List Description (English Heritage Legacy ID) 163089.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire, Harmondsworth 1953, 155-56.

  • N. Pevsner and B. Cherry, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire, Harmondsworth 1977, 235.

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Hertfordshire, London 1910, 142.

  • Victoria County History: Hertfordshire vol. 3 (1912), 37-38.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TL 118 264 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Hertfordshire
now: Hertfordshire
now: St Albans
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: St Peter
medieval: St Peter (pre-Reformation)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
21 September 2017