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St Nicholas, Stevenage, Hertfordshire

(51°55′13″N, 0°11′48″W)
TL 241 262
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Hertfordshire
now Hertfordshire
  • Ron Baxter
15 June 2018

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Stevenage was the first of the post-war New Towns built to relieve pressure on housing in London after the blitz. It was begin in 1946 in the face of much local pressure from the residents of what was then a town of 6000 inhabitants on the Great North Road, whose prosperity had historically been built on the stage coach service. The New Town was built in 6 neighbourhoods, mainly to the S and E of the Old Town (whose High Street still remains). The parish church of St Nicholas is in a village-like setting to the NE of the Old Town.

It consists of a nave and chancel in one, both aisled, separated by a screen and with no chancel arch. The chancel has 2-bay aisles to chapels on N and S; the S chapel converted for uses as an organ room and vestry. to the E of the S chapel is a small modern vestry. The 4-bay nave has clerestories, and there is a S porch at the W end of the aisle and a S transeptal chapel, extended to the E. The W tower is 12thc (of the plain lancets, all but the lower N window are replacements) and square in plan with diagonal buttresses added at the western angles. It has an embattled parapet and a leaded spire (releaded in 1899). The nave aisles were added in the 13thc, and their arches remodelled in the 15thc when the clerestories were added. The N chancel chapel has 14thc tracery in the windows, and both chancel arcades are of that date, while the S transept dates from 1841. The S porch appears modern. but may simply be heavily restored. Construction is of flint with ashlar dressings, but the S transept and the E wall of the chancel are rendered. The battllements of the S transept are of brick. Clunch piers in the nave and chancel arcades have been lavishly graffitied, apparently in the Middle Ages. The transept and its modern eastern extension are now given over to parish use as meeting rooms. The Romanesque features described here are the W tower doorway, the tower arch and the font.


Stevenage was granted to Westminster Abbey by Edward the Confessor, c.1042i, and remained in the abbot's possession in 1086. It was assessed at 8 hides of which half was in demesne. The manor remained with the abbey until January 1539/40 when it was surrendered to the crown. The advowson was with the abbey throughout this period.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches




The font described in VCH has a square bowl carved with foliage on a similar support to the present one except that is had moulded capitals. The same font is described in RCHME, and both ascribe an early 13thc date. Pevsaner (1953) notes a plain 13thc font. No signs of foliage are visible on the present font, which sits more happily in the 12thc, especially in view of its scallop capitals. The tower has been dated to the 1st half of the 12thc by VCH and RCHME, but it is worth noting that the windows are chamfered which, in combination with the flat-leaf capital on the W doorway, suggests c.1170 to this author. The N capital of the W doorway can be compared with one on the S doorway of Ickleford church. The tower arch is unremarkable except fpr the two heads; both surprisingly well preserved but thickly coated with whitewash. Stylistically they are certainly Romanesque, and so far as the current church authorities know, they are not recent additions. I am grateful to Neville Churchill for local comparisons with heads at Bengeo and Great Wymondley.


Historic England Listed Building, English Heritage Legacy ID: 158109

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire, Harmondsworth 1953, 241-42.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Hertfordshire (London, 1910), 212-15.

Victoria County History: Hertfordshire vol. 3 (1912), 139-48.