Woodford Halse Archive

St Mary’s Church Graveyard
St Mary’s Church Graveyard

Woodford Buildings

St Mary’s

Four years later there was a sequel to this restoration, it is to be found in a newspaper report of the Bishop’s Visitation at Weedon, on Friday, 10th November 1882, as given in the Northampton Herald, of the 18th November, when the churchwardens of Woodford Halse complained to the Bishop, that a lay rector, a lady who had recently purchased Rectory Farm, had sent a carpenter to alter seats in the chancel. It appeared that he had been sent with instruction to make three square pews of the pews already there and was just going to saw one of them in two when he was discovered and stopped.

On the following Sunday morning the lay rector sent two labourers who removed two of the seats into the churchyard. The seats were eventually, put back. The Bishop said, “It could not be too clearly understood that the lay rector had no right to interfere with the ornaments, fittings or fabric of the chancel, except by way of faculty”. And he admonished the lay rector on no account to violate the law by removing, or altering, or interfering with any seat in the church, without a faculty.

In the 9th December issue of the paper, there appeared a letter from the Vicar, the Reverend H.H. Minchin, setting out the answers he had received from a counsel in London, in answer to questions he had put to him. The counsel gave as his opinion on the law concerning the rights of a lay rector over a chancel. From the replies, it appeared that the lay rector had a right to the chief seat in the chancel and to no other and that the duty of repairing the chancel was that of the lay rector.

In the paper next week there appeared a reply from the lay rector, who turned out to be Miss Caroline Hunt, who lived at the house now known as No. 10 Parsons Street and No. 1 Quinton Lane, then one house. There are one or two points of interest in the letter. She gives it as her opinion that both lay rectors had been grossly overcharged for their share of the cost of renovation and suggested that they be repaid £600 or £700. She said that she had paid Sir Henry Dryden £150 more than she would have done, had she known that she was not actually buying part of the chancel. She claimed that until Minchin came to Woodford that about 300 attended church and that there was a gallery. She also made some serious allegations against the vicar and churchwardens. In the paper the next week an unsigned letter appeared, which rebutted all the allegations.

Miss Hunt mentioned a gallery in the church, but there is no mention of one in the Vicar’s report on the work done in 1878. Accepting that Miss Hunt knew of a gallery being there, search was made for evidence and this was found in the Dryden collection at the Central Library in Northampton, where a water colour of the interior of the church in 1869 was found, which shows a gallery at the west end of the nave. A gallery in a church was fairly common at one time, why it was not mentioned in the account of the restoration may have been because it was demolished earlier, the north wall moving outwards may have made it unsafe.

Also, there is no mention of the old glass that was in the windows, probably because they were of plain glass, as in the churchwardens’ accounts for 1642 there is an item showing that 3/6d. was paid to Wm. Glenn for “new glassing the church windows when ye scandalous pictures were pulled down by Act of Parliament”. Scandalous then had rather a different meaning to today’s meaning of the word and probably the present stained glass windows would have been termed scandalous in those days when reforming zeal was rife.

By kind permission of Woodford Halse Archive