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St Mary, Luton, Bedfordshire

(51°52′43″N, 0°24′38″W)
TL 095 212
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Bedfordshire
now Bedfordshire
  • Hazel Gardiner

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Feature Sets

The church has a chancel with N chapel and sacristy, and an organ chamber on the S, N and S transepts, a nave with N and S aisles and N and S doorways with porches, and W tower. The original 12thc. church was cruciform with a central tower. The arch to the S aisle is late 12thc. and the chamfered jambs of the W crossing arch (N and S faces) may also be of this date. The arch to the N aisle is 13thc. The chancel was extended in the first half of the 13thc. and in the 14thc. the tower was built, the aisles were rebuilt,chapels were added to the transepts, and the S and N doorways and porches were built. In the 15thc. the chapel adjoining the N transept was enlarged.The church was completely restored by G. E. Street between 1865-85. 12thc. sculpture is found on a re-set head corbel, on a reset fragment in the S transept and on the arch to the S aisle from the S transept.


The Domesday Survey describes Luton as 'a household manor of the King's', and records that Luton church was held by William the Chamberlain.

Dallow manor, which included Luton church was held by William the Chamberlain of Robert Earl of Gloucester, who also held Luton Manor. Robert replaced William the Chamberlain with Gilbert de Cimmay. Robert later lost his lands and the manor was given to Robert de Wauderi. Gilbert de Cimmay continued to hold of Robert de Wauderi but eventually gave the church to the archdeacon of Bedford. When William of Gloucester was restored to his father's (Robert of Gloucester's) property he granted the church to St Albans. This was confirmed by Stephen in 1151 and 54, and also by Henry II.


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Interior Decoration


VCH records that there are 12thc. fragments on a shelf in the S wall of the tower, but there is no trace of these and no information about their current location. (VCH, 372)

Kuhlicke compares the corbel to one found at St Mary's church, Bedford, which has been dated to c.1160. The Luton example is less accomplished but there are general similarities. Smith suggests that the head corbel at St Mary, Luton, is Anglo-Saxon but this does not seem likely.

Domesday Book: Bedfordshire, Ed. J. Morris, Chichester, 1977, 1,2;1,5.
The Victoria County History: A History of the County of Bedford, London, 2: 348-74.
F. W. Kuhlicke, 'A twelfth-century carved head from St Mary's Church, Bedford', Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal, 7, 1972, 84-86.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Bedfordshire and the County of Huntingdon and Peterborough, London, 1968, 114-15.
T. P. Smith, 'The Anglo-Saxon Churches of Bedfordshire', Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal, 3, 1966, 14.