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St John the Baptist, Great Gaddesden, Hertfordshire

(51°47′27″N, 0°30′34″W)
Great Gaddesden
TL 029 113
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Hertfordshire
now Hertfordshire
  • Ron Baxter
  • Ron Baxter
25 July 2023 (RB)

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Feature Sets

Great Gaddesden is a village in the Dacorum district of East Hertforshire, just outside the NE outskirts of Hemel Hempstead. It stands on the River Gade, a tributary of rhe Colne. The church consists of a chancel with a N chapel, a nave with 4-bay aisles, clerestorey and S porch, and a W tower. Nave and chancel are 12thc in origin. The chancel E wall is stilll of that date, although the windows are of 13thc and 15thc date, and the chancel arch is 13thc. The brick chapel was built in 1730 as a Halsey family memorial. In the nave, the 4-bay arcades date from c.1230 (the S) and the late-13thc (N). The clerestorey was added in the 15thc. The W tower, S porch and S doorway are 15thc. The tower was rebuilt with diagonal buttresses, battlements and a NE stair turret by William Slater in 1861-63. A further restoration of 1876-79 was begun by G. G. Scott junior and continued by Temple Moore. This included the opening of the chancel into the N chapel by a 2 bay arcade. Construction is of flint rubble, covered with plaster, except for the brick chapel and the W tower. Romanesque sculpture recorded here consists of reset stones in the S wall of the chapel.


The manor was bequeathed to the abbey of St Albans by Ethelgifu 942x946, and immediately before the Conquest it was held from the abbey by Wulfwynn. At her death it should have returned to the abbey, but King William gave it to the Sheriff of Wiltshire, Edward of Salisbury. It was assessed at 6 hides before the Conquest and 3 Hides in 1086. It passed to Edward's son, or grandson, Walter who was living in 1142 and left as heir his son Patrick of Salisbury, created Earl of either Salisbury or Wiltshire c.1149. At his death he was succeeded by his son William (d.1196), and at William's death the manor passed to his only daughter, Ela, who married William Longespee, the ilegitimate son of Henry II. He became Earl of Salisbury through his wife's title and died in 1226, while Ela founded Lacock Abbey in 1232, eventually becoming its abbess and dying there in 1261. The title passed on her death to her great grand-daughter Margaret, married to Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln. The overlordship of this manor thus passed to Alice, Henry de Lacy's daughter and heiress. It remained in this family until a later Earl of Lincoln. Henry Bolingbroke, usurped the crown in 1399.


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


Of the items in the bibliography, only the List Description notes the stones reset in the N chapel. They were presumably displayed there when the N chapel entrance was rebuilt in 1876-79. The stones are of two Romanesque periods: the billet and the chevron are early to mid 12thc forms, while the waterleaf capital probably dates from c.1170-90.


J. Bettley, N. Pevsner and B. Cherry, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire, New Haven and London 2019, 217-18.

Historic England Listed Building, English Heritage Legacy ID: 157878

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire, Harmondsworth 1953, 100.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Hertfordshire (London, 1910), 100-02.

Victoria County History: Hertfordshire vol. 2 (1908), 201-07.