This list entry was subject to a minor enhancement to reformat the existing text and add information on subsidiary features on 3 May 2021.
TQ 19 NW ALDENHAM ALDENHAM
6/3 Church of
1.9.53 St. John the Baptist
Parish Church with C12 origins, an early C13 west tower, a C13 chancel and a south chapel lengthened c1300. In c1340 the nave and south aisle were rebuilt. There is a mid-C15 north aisle, late C15 alterations and in the early C16 the chancel was widened to the north and the north vestry was added. In 1847 chancel restored by Talbot Bury. In 1882 the whole church was restored by A Blomfield and in 1905 was altered by C J Blomfield.
Materials: knapped flint with ashlar Totternhoe dressings and Puddingstone in the tower. There are old red tiles to chancel roof and machine tiles elsewhere.
Plan: the building has a roughly rectangular plan, and the nave and chancel are not aligned.
Exterior: the nave and chancel have four bays each with aisles and chapels. The south aisle retains a restored C12 west window below a C14 quatrefoil. The C19 south porch is in timber and brick. To the south are three two-light windows of c1340.
The clerestorey is lit by four two-light square-headed C15 windows. The nave roof has a shallow pitch. The larger north aisle has a three-light C16 west window, a restored entrance to the north and three two-light C15 windows. The building has corner diagonal buttresses and straight buttresses. A lead plaque dated 1717 commemorates former church wardens in the entrance bay. Continuing from the north aisle is a C15 north chapel of two bays, with a blocked doorway and two- and three-light windows.
The chancel has a late-C19 east window with a coped gable-end
parapet. To the south is a lancet, and to the north a half blocked lancet with Y-tracery. It has a steeply pitched roof with ridge slightly above that of nave.
The south chapel has straight buttresses, and is lit by two C13 lancets to the south, a two-light window of c1300 in the eastwards extension, and a restored three-light window from c1300 to east. At the south-west angle adjoining the south aisle is a semi-octagonal turret for the rood stair built in 1905. There is a vestry added to the north-east and a square-headed two-light window and blocked doorway to the east. A 1970 extension links up to the church hall further north.
The west tower has three tall stages with a slightly taller semi-octagonal turret to the north-east, and diagonal buttresses to the west. The parapets are crenellated and the shingled needle spire, was restored in 1951. There is a C19 entrance and a C15 three-light window to the west, and C13 lancets to the north and south in the lower stage. The upper stages are a C15 rebuilding and have single lights in the second stage and paired openings in the belfry all with square heads. There is a C19 clock to the west in the second stage and a small blocked opening to the east of the belfry.
Interior: the chancel arch is C14, and has hollow moulded orders, and octagonal responds. The C15 tower arch is similar with circular shafts to the responds. The south arcade dates from c1340, and has octagonal piers to two chamfered orders in pointed arches with foliate paterae on the capitals. The north arcade is dated c1440 and is similar but with taller columns and flatter arches, with different ornamental detail. The doors to the rood stair date to the C14. The C13 pointed arch arcade to the south chapel has chamfered orders with octagonal piers and moulded capitals. It was originally two bays, lengthened to the east by one bay c1300. A small door from the chancel leads to the east end of the south chapel and a pointed arch dated c1300 is between the south aisle and the chapel. Above the blocked C13 piscina in the chancel south wall is a deeply splayed lancet window opening into the lengthened south chapel. There is a restored sedilia and piscina to the east end of chancel south wall.
The south chapel has a piscina dating from c1300 at the east end of the south wall. Beam ends are visible in the south wall, one with mouldings. There is a C15 double arcade to the north chapel from chancel, with flatter arches than that to the south, that to west abuts onto the east wall of the north aisle above a low C15 arch linking the north aisle and chapel. A four-centred arched door with a square head opens
from the north chapel to the vestry. The north and south aisles and chapels have simple C15 roofs with moulded tie beams and purlins, and there are arched braces in the smaller south aisle. The nave roof is probably slightly later: it has moulded and painted beams, with traceried spandrels to arched braces from stone angel corbels to tie beams with carved ornament. The ceiled chancel roof is C19 with carved and painted bosses and ornament.
The C13/C14 font in the west tower is of Purbeck marble, with a moulded square base and bowl, a circular stem and four corner shafts. A large oak chest in the west tower, possibly C14, has iron bands and hinges. The screen from the south aisle and chapel which retains some C15 timber and painted decoration, was restored by A Blomfield. The Rood screen in the chancel arch is by C J Blomfield. The pulpit, choir stalls, and screens to the chapel are by A Blomfield. The Bishop's chair in the chancel is by W Lethaby dated 1892. There is a C17 communion table with turned and fluted legs in the south chapel. Original oak shutters with strap hinges survive to the east and north in the vestry.
Monuments: in the south chapel on the south wall there are two chest tombs with effigies in contemporary dress, forming one composition to the wife and daughter-in-law of Sir W Crowmer, c1400. They have front panels with arms in quatrefoils and four-centred cusped heads to the canopies. The spandrels contain richly carved relief ornament and arms. Further east is a wall monument to Katherine Cade, who died 1615, depicting a painted praying figure in an alabaster and marble aedicule, with arms in a broken pediment. On the south aisle is a wall monument to Vice Admiral J Chambers White, who died 1845, within an elaborate Gothic aedicule. Further west is a large variously-coloured marble wall monument to Robert and Sarah Hucks, who died 1771, in the form of profile busts on a sarcophagus in an aedicular frame. In the north chapel on the north wall is a large double-effigy marble chest tomb of J Coghill and his wife, who died 1714, with figures informally disposed in contemporary dress, arms on the east side, and an inscription to the front.
Brasses: there are several small C16 figures in the chancel and the south chapel, and larger figures at the west end of the north aisle, and various floor slabs.
Glass: several windows are by Kempe 1891-1900. Other windows including the chancel north window with mosaics and mosaic chancel floor are by Heaton, Butler and Bayne 1890.
Subsiduary Features: in the churchyard, situated approximately 8m north of the church, is a monument to Midshipman Robert Smith, who died on 21 October 1805 in the Battle of Trafalgar. It is a rectangular stone slab bearing the inscription-
“(...) IN MEMORY OF ROBERT SMITH/ ELDER BROTHER OF PHILIP/ MIDSHIPMAN ON HMS VICTORY/KILLED AT TRAFALGAR/OCTOBER 21/1805 “
Robert Smith was born on 20 February 1786, and Christened in Aldenham church on 30 March that year. He served in the British Navy from 1802, aged 16, serving first on the “Mary” yacht, and from May 1803 aged 17, on HMS Victory. He was killed in the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, aged only 19.
An article in the Aldenham parish magazine in December 1905 (written to commemorate the centenary of Trafalgar), published the story of Robert Smith, including a full reproduction of a letter written by him on 20 October 1805, the eve of the Battle of Trafalgar.
“Victory, October 20th, off Cadiz, Sunday evening".
"My most dear and honor'd Parents,
As I expect to be in Action to-morrow morning with the Enemy of our Country, the idea of which I assure you gives me great pleasure, in case I shall fall in the noble cause have wrote these few last lines to assure you that I shall die with a clear conscience, pure heart and in peace with all men. Have only a few requests to make, first that you will have the goodness to thank and make my kind respects to all Friends (more particularly my very good friend Sir Thomas Thompson) for their kind attention to me. Secondly that you will not give way to any uneasiness on my account and further that you my dearest of Mothers will not give way to those low spirits which you are subject to, consider that your affectionate son could not die in a more glorious cause and that it is all the fortune of war. Have no doubt that had I survived the glorious day should have met with the reward due to my merit from worthy friends and a Good Country. Have requested every profit arising from my stock to be given you with my Desk as a small tribute of affection. Shall conclude this last with my kindest Duty to you my parents, love to Sister, Brothers, and praying the almighty to receive my soul. Remain your ever dutiful and affectionate Son.
PS - I must once more request you not to forget my second wish."
The article of 1905 goes on to state that it is recorded that both of Robert’s legs were shot off in the battle the next day, and that “he might have lived, but tore off the bandages and bled to death”.
It is thought unlikely that Robert Smith is interred here, as the practice was for hasty burial at sea (Nelson himself being one of the notable exceptions).
Listing NGR: TQ1398898463