Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of CHURCH OF ST MARY MAGDALENE (C OF E)
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Hertfordshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 14533 26816


OFFLEY KINGS WALDEN ROAD TL 1426 (East side) Great Offley

13/99 Church of St Mary 27.5.68 Magdalene (C of E)


Parish church. Nave and aisles, and possibly S porch, early C13; C14 windows and doors, late C14 and C15 clearstorey and roofs, chancel remodelled externally and internally in 1751-9 and in 1770s for Salusbury family ('SS 1777' on rainwater heads for widow Sarah Salusbury), W tower rebuilt in brick 1800 (date on rainwater heads on E face). Restorations 1875, and 1904. The nave and aisles in flint rubble with stone dressings, the N aisle roughly plastered. Large S porch in coursed flints with stone dressings and exposed timbers in gable triangle. Red brick W tower with stone dressings. The chancel a cubical mass of Portland stone ashlar with droved plinth, crenellated parapet and fat pyramidal crocketed corner pinacles. Same stone ashlar facing to E end of N aisle. Roofs of nave, aisles, and tower with short spike in copper, steep old red tile roof to porch. Flat roof to chancel with lantern concealed by parapet. Buried boiler house on N side covered by York stone slabs. 5 wooden vertical spreaders at clearstorey level lead capped, associated with wrought iron tie-bars slung from nave tie-beams. The nave has 4 bay arcades to aisles, octagonal piers with moulded bases and stiff-leaf capitals and pointed arches in 2 chamfered orders with labels terminating in carved stops. 3 2-lights square headed C14 clearstorey windows on N side with ogee tracery to each light. 2 of 3 similar windows on S replaced by 3-lights Perp windows. Low pitched C15 open timber roof with ridge, 2 purlins, wall-post and heavy knee brace at E end on a broken corbel curved with a head. Floor of red tile with black bands. C15 buttressed oak pews in W part of church. N aisle has 3 square headed C15 2-light N windows, and late C14 N door. C18 lancet E window with painted glass similar to E window of chancel. Inscription on E jamb of N window nearest E, recording consecration in 1417 of a side altar. 2 groups of early C16 brasses, one to John Saurmel d.1529, on 2 slate slabs on wall with original slabs still in floor. Painted Royal Arms on canvas over N door dated 1800. Fragments of C14 stained glass in heads of middle window. Wall monument on W wall to William Chamber d.1728, by William Palmer. Grey marble with gadrooned base, cherubs head to apron, fluted Corinthian pilasters rising higher than round-arched tablet, with bellied cartouche and urn on segmental entablature over. Timber roof copied from S aisle roof. S aisle has C15 4-bays arch-braced timber roof with moulded central purlin and carved corbel heads. 3 2-light C15 S windows and E window. Stepped external buttresses. C15 S door with pointed arch and square head externally with quatrefoil spandrels and label. At E end of S wall a C15 piscina with cinquefoil head and shallow pointed arched recess over with 2 C14 tiles with reversed lettering and carved inscription over of 1777 that they were discovered then 'which proves that King Offa was buried here'. Elaborate standing monument at W end of aisle to Sir John Spencer d.1699 attributed to E Stanton or Nost. A reclining figure in Roman armour and a veiled kneeling woman. Tall back in grey marble with carved pair of putti on cloud with a crown and palms. Heraldic achievement and 2 urns on top entablature. Painted text in painted frame over S door. To W of door a richly carved octagonal C14 font with deep bowl carved in relief on each face with ogee-headed arch with varied tracery some Dec., some Perp. Square base with elaborate transition to short thick octagonal shaft and 8 minor shafts with moulded bases and octagonal shafts intersecting the moulded base to the bowl. Openwork wooden spire to flat oak early C17 cover. Large rectangular S porch with pointed entrance with roll mouldings in 3 orders. Brick floor and side benches. Clasped-purlin roof of 2 bays. Very thick walls with lancet window on E side with rear arch. Trefoil headed small hollow chamfered window on W with C13 inner frame with one remaining jamb shaft with base and cap and slightly pointed arch with roll moulding. Studded plank S door. W tower of 3 stages with clasping corner buttresses up to string at sill level of bell openings. Cornice below crenelated parapet. Vane to short spire. Wide stone framed chamfered bell opening on each face with Y-tracery and louvres. Similar stone window to middle stage on N, W, and S, with quatrefoil cusping set diagonally. Lozenge shaped border to clockface above quatrefoil window on W. Chamfered pointed stone surround to W door and to window at higher level on S side. The chancel is rectangular outside, but has an apsidal recess carried up in a half-dome at the E end inside pierced by its only window. It is otherwise a lofty rectangular space with plastered walls, black floor of tomb slabs, flat coffered ceiling, and central lantern. The chancel is approached up steps through the wide, tall, round-headed C18 chancel arch with niches in the deep jambs and plaster panelling on the soffit of the arch. The pavement bears the scars where the iron screen was removed, now a gate to the walled garden at Offley Place nearby (q.v.). Niches with busts at each end of the side walls but deep recess for organ at NW now containing War Memorial tablets. Tall standing monument in middle of each side flanked by lesser wall monuments. Arch of apse framed by a pointed plaster arch in low relief with quatrefoil tracery in head. The altar raised on steps in the apse has a canopy and side-drapes worked in plaster in high relief and there is a sunburst with hebrew inscription in the dome above. Altar steps and ironwork altar rail sweep out in oval projection in front of apse, carved angel corbels carry curved braces to 3-bay ceiling, middle 2 on N re-used. Painted glass E window with Old Testament figure of God in middle with 2 small framed painted scenes in outer border with other heraldic fragments. Monument central on N side to Sir Henry Penrice d.1752 and his son by Sir Robert Taylor (signed on drapery) with allegorical figure, arm upraised, and foot on an anchor, before a pink marble obelisk with portrait medallion. Central on S monument to Sir Thomas Salusbury d.1773 by Nollekens (made 1777) with draped standing figures of man and wife before a rough barked tree with drapery looped over it on a grey background with a black sarcophagus. Busts in niches also by Nollekens, Samuel Burroughs d.1761, Mrs. Elizabeth Maude d.1796 (in chancel arch) and William Offley d.1789 on S wall. Other monuments Sir Thomas Salusbury d.1835 by T. Smith, and 2 memorials by Saunders, 1847 and 1855. 2 stone coffins in churchyard against S aisle. (RCHM (1911)160-1: VCH (1912)42_3: Kelly (1914)192: Pevsner (1977)264-5: Ron Pigram A short account of the church of St Mary Magdalene, Offley 1980, available at church).

Listing NGR: TL1453326816


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Doubleday, A, The Victoria History of the County of Hertford, (1912), 42-3
Pevsner, N, Cherry, B, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire, (1977), 264-5
Pigram, R, A Short Account of the Church of St Mary Magdalene Offley, (1980)
'Kelly's Directory' in Kelly's Directory, (1914), 192
Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Hertfordshire, (1910)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

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Date: 26 Sep 2001
Reference: IOE01/04749/06
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Gary C. Churchman. Source Historic England Archive
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