United Reformed Church, Hatfield Heath


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Chelmsford Road, Hatfield Heath, Bishop's Stortford, CM22 7BH


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Statutory Address:
Chelmsford Road, Hatfield Heath, Bishop's Stortford, CM22 7BH

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

Uttlesford (District Authority)
Hatfield Heath
National Grid Reference:


A United Reformed Church, designed by the architect Thomas Lewis Banks as a Congregational Church in 1875.

Reasons for Designation

Hatfield Heath United Reformed Church, constructed in 1875, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* for its harmonious and symmetrical, Gothic style exterior with its imposing street-facing frontage, and skilled use of materials including knapped flint;

* for the unusual survival of its complete church interior with high quality fixtures and fittings including the gallery, pews, internal doors, organ, clock, dais and raised pulpit with flanking stairs;

* for the design, decoration and craftsmanship inside and out which provide an important illustration of the skilled work of the architect Thomas Lewis Banks a highly-regarded architect who went on to design other churches for the Congregationalists, some of which are listed.

Historic interest:

* as a valuable illustration of the important social role played by Nonconformist churches, and of the expansion of their congregation in the C19.


The original Congregational Church at Hatfield Heath was founded in 1665 by John Warren. It is reported that the building became dilapidated and in 1725 the congregation leased a building on the site of the present church.  The freehold of the new meeting house was bought in 1730, and a manse was built soon after. The church declined in the mid-C18, but was revived by Samuel Gaffee, pastor 1780-1809, who enlarged the building around 1788. During the ministry of Cornelius Berry, 1811-1864, a British school was opened. The church, again enlarged in 1829, had a congregation of about 500 in 1851.

The current church was built in 1875, designed by Thomas Lewis Banks (1842-1920), who became a nationally renowned architect. Among his works he went on to design other successful buildings for the Congregationalists in Yeovil, Somerset, in 1878, (NHLE 1056477, listed at Grade II) Newham, East London, in 1880 (NHLE1293483, listed at Grade II), and most notably St James in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1882-1884 (NHLE1024820, listed at Grade II*).

The United Reformed Church was first formed in 1972, by a union of the Presbyterian Church of England and the majority of churches in the Congregational Church in England and Wales. It was joined later by the Re-formed Association of the Churches of Christ in 1981, and the Congregational Union of Scotland in 2000. Hatfield Heath joined the United Reformed Church when it was formed in 1972.

The current church building has been in continuous use since it was opened in 1875. At an unknown date after 1910, a small spire was replaced with a fleche. In 1984-1985 a hall was added at the south-east side.


A United Reformed Church, designed by the architect Thomas Lewis Banks as a Congregational Church in 1875.


Knapped flint with brick and ashlar dressings, and slate roofs.


Rectangular with offset towers at the north-west and north-east corners. The ridge to the main roof runs north to south. At the south end it is linked to a two-storey gabled range with the roof ridge running east to west.

The late-C20 attached Church room and linking building, forming an L-shape to the east, is not included in the listing.


The church is in the Gothic Revival style.

The principal (north) elevation, which faces Chelmsford Road, comprises a gable end flanked by angle buttresses with flushwork, topped by slender pinnacles. The façade is given added width and grandeur by the flanking two-storey towers which have two-light pointed arch windows with tracery to the ground floor, and paired, lancet windows to the upper storey and on the returns. The centrally placed double-leaf wooden door with decorative strapwork is set within a pointed arch opening under a shallow gabled canopy with flushwork jambs. To either side are arcaded pairs of gothic windows with a slender central pier. Above the entrance is a large, five-light stained glass window with geometric tracery. Near the apex is an arrangement of three breathers (ventilation openings). Behind the gabled façade, rises an octagonal fleche (a spire rising directly from the roof without a supporting tower). The roof is punctuated by a series of regular, tiny gablets, probably for ventilation.

The side elevations of the church have four regular bays, with the fifth bay to the south end being slightly offset. Gothic detailing is applied to all the fenestration, but the window surrounds are of stock brick, rather than ashlar. Each bay is lit by a pair of pointed arch windows two storeys high, with stone banding midway up, expressing the position of the gallery internally. There is a buttress between each pair of windows.

At the south end is a two-storey Sunday School building, part of the original symmetrical design as can be seen on an architect’s original drawing owned by the congregation. It has its own gabled roof at right angles to the main building, and can be accessed through the main church at both ground and upper floor levels.

To the south-east is a late-C20, single-storey church room extension, in stock brick, with plain tiled roof. This is joined to the main building by a small flat-roofed link with large timber and glass doors.


The front door opens into a lobby with four-centred arch double doors to left and right, providing access to the stair towers. These lead to the main worship space through a four-centred arch door, and also to the gallery level by way of a stone, turning staircase, with iron balusters formed in the shape of gothic arches, topped with wooden handrails. The gallery is reached through another four-centred arch door.

Fittings in the church are consistently of a warm coloured timber, including the gallery, pews and pulpit. The ground floor contains a full set of pews, believed to be original to the building, arranged in three groups. At the south end is a dais, surmounted by an imposing panelled pulpit, reached by flanking staircases. Behind the pulpit the organ covers most of the south wall, and to either side doors lead into the vestry and Sunday School.

The gallery is supported on slender, cast-iron Corinthian columns. It surrounds three sides, becoming an organ loft on the fourth side (at the south end). It contains original pews, and a clock in front of the organ with a broken-pedimented timber surround. The gallery is enclosed by timber panelling with marquetry, quatrefoils and decorative open carving. Two doors in the south end give access to the upper floor of the Sunday School building.

The church has a timber-clad ceiling and an open vaulted hammer beam roof, the spandrels pierced by trefoils and quatrefoils, with decorative hanging finials.

The interior of the Sunday School building is less decorative than the main worship space. It has painted panelling below a dado rail, and timber beams springing from scroll-shaped stone corbels. The doors are late-C20 fire doors. The gothic-arched windows in the upper floor were removed due to a dry rot outbreak, and the openings were boarded up at the time of assessment (January 2021).


Books and journals
Bettley, J, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Essex, (2007), 480
A Brief History of the United Reformed Church, accessed 3 August 2020 from https://moodle.urc.org.uk/pluginfile.php/5300/mod_resource/content/2/Intro%20Course%202016%20History.pdf
BBC religions website, accessed 3 August 2020 from https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/subdivisions/unitedreformed.shtml#:~:text=The%20United%20Reformed%20Church%20was,Union%20of%20Scotland%20in%202000.
Hatfield Heath URC website, accessed 3 August 2020 from https://www.haebea.org/churches/haebea/hatfield-heath-urc.html
History in Pictures website, accessed 16 February 2021 from http://www.history-in-pictures.co.uk/store/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=6923
The A to Z of Yeovil’s History, accessed 18 November 2020 from http://www.yeovilhistory.info/congregational.htm


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

The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building but not coloured blue on the map, are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act. However, any works to these structures which have the potential to affect the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest may still require Listed Building Consent (LBC) and this is a matter for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to determine.

End of official listing

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