St Mary's Church

Cheshunt's parish church

By Nicholas Blatchley

St Mary's Church, 1915
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies
Drawing of Cheshunt Church, 1806
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies
St Mary's Church nave, undated
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies

The 15th century Parish Church of Cheshunt is in Churchgate, at the centre of the conservation area. It’s surrounded by listed buildings, but the church itself is the only grade I building in the area.

From Domesday

It’s recorded in the Domesday Book, in 1086, that Cheshunt had a priest, and a church is mentioned in documents dating back to at least the 12th century. In 1331, a chapter of the Augustinian canons was held at “Cheshunt church”, apparently because the abbot of Waltham Abbey at the time was “rebellious”.  No record survives of its location, but the chances are that it was in the same general area, close to the old manor house.

The present church

The present church was built between 1418 and 1448, while Nicholas Dixon was the rector. Although it isn’t recorded why the rebuilding took place, it’s possible that the church, like many others, had fallen into neglect during the chaos following the Black Death. It may have been at this time that the dedication was changed from St John the Baptist, which appears in some early documents, to St Mary the Virgin.

There are many monuments and family vaults, both inside the church and in the churchyard surrounding it, including one for the Cromwell Family of Cheshunt Park, descendants of the Lord Protector, as well as memorials to various local families, including the Dewhursts, the Russells, the Dacres the Meux and the Dodsons. The church also contains a memorial to Nicholas Dixon.

St Mary’s today

St Mary’s Church is a fine example of gothic architecture, and its interior has an atmosphere fitting a medieval church. I well remember the annual carol concerts held there by my school (Cheshunt Grammar) in the 1960s and 70s. The beautiful, almost Dickensian location set up the right feeling, and the church’s splendid acoustics helped to make the choir, congregation, booming organ and brass ensemble as magnificent as any more prestigious event.

Whether or not you’re a worshipper, St Mary’s is well worth a visit, both to see a fine medieval church and to feel the atmosphere of a building used by nearly six hundred years of Cheshunt’s people.

This page was added on 03/01/2012.

Comments about this page

  • I also have lovely memories of St Mary’s Church Cheshunt.
    I attended St Mary’s all through the 1950s, I use to go with my uncle Ernie Picket two evenings a week to ring the bells.
    This I enjoyed very much.
    I was confirmed in St Mary’s in 1957.
    I now live in Cornwall and attend St Peter’s Church Coverack.
    It was lovely to go back and remember.
    Thank You.

    By Pauline Kirby (24/08/2018)
  • Why does the church clock no longer strike?

    By Gillian Norwood (25/07/2018)
  • I have just moved to Cheshunt and only 5min walk from this church I’m fascinated when I walk through the cemetery and see the dates I haven’t been Inside yet but I’m planning to

    By Alec Piacentini (18/04/2018)

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