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Old Church of St Mary

A Grade II* Listed Building in Hackney, London

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Latitude: 51.5614 / 51°33'40"N

Longitude: -0.0847 / 0°5'5"W

OS Eastings: 532860

OS Northings: 186460

OS Grid: TQ328864

Mapcode National: GBR HC.7BH

Mapcode Global: VHGQT.H02W

Entry Name: Old Church of St Mary

Listing Date: 1 September 1953

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1235419

English Heritage Legacy ID: 426109

Location: Hackney, London, N16

County: London

District: Hackney

Electoral Ward/Division: Clissold

Built-Up Area: Hackney

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Mary Stoke Newington

Church of England Diocese: London

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Listing Text

01-SEP-1953 (North side)


Parish church, 1563 with 1827-9 restoration by Charles Barry and mid-C20 spire and north aisle.
MATERIALS: Brick with stone window surrounds and porch which has been rendered in several places, most notably the tower. Good survival of C16 brickwork.
PLAN: Rectangular church with aisles, a north-east vestry and a west tower.

EXTERIOR: The tower has a single hooded Y-tracery window to each face, a battlemented parapet and corner pinnacles, and from this rises a steep spire. The base, to the west, has a two-light arched mullion window with early C20 stained glass. The south facade has a porch, with hood moulding and decorated spandrels with trefoils. Above this, a plaque reads '1563 Ab alto'. The south aisle displays more early fabric and has two C16 Y tracery windows in very fine C16 brickwork, part restored in the C19. The east front is dominated by its window, a post-war reconstruction of the plate tracery Tudor design using some of the original glass. The north facade is a rebuild of the post-war period.

INTERIOR: The small chancel has single C19 curvilinear clerestory windows to the N and S and a black and white diamond-patterned marble floor. There are four C19 curvilinear clerestory windows to the N and S sides of the nave. South arcade has three bays of low polygonal brick piers supporting four-centred chamfered arches. This aisle has a number of inexplicable blank arched recesses in the walls and two C16 windows with C19 stained glass. The north arcade is modern, yet sympathetic, and of three bays of pointed arches with tracery windows. The rear of the church (the base of the tower) contains two levels of gallery space (the second the bell-ringers loft). The roof is canted with tie-beams and from the C19.

All the seating is early-C19 box pews, apart from the C19 chancel pews and there are several monuments of note, including a 1580 tomb of John Dudley and one of 1793 by Thomas Banks for Jospeh Hurlock and his wife. The chancel is decorated with early-C19 fittings by Charles Barry which include painted panelling on three sides. The pulpit, lecturn, altar and altar railings are also from this date. There is a C18 clock in the gallery.

HISTORY: St Mary's Old Church has mediaeval origins, though the oldest fabric which remains today is from a rebuilding of the C16. The mediaeval church was of stone, flint, and pebbles and in 1500 it contained a chapel dedicated to St. Thomas and a rood in need of mending. In the 1560s, the local lord of the manor, William Patten, embarked on rebuilding, despite being in an era when church fabric was often neglected. William Patten added the west tower, south porch (which includes a C18 datestone recording the Tudor rebuilding), south aisle and south east vestry; this was tantamount to an entirely new church, though the north aisle may have been retained. In the south aisle was his private family chapel.

A second north aisle was added in 1716-17 and the chancel extended eastward in 1723. In 1728 new windows were put in at the west end, the walls on the south side were raised and coped with stone, and all the church, except the new north aisle, was roughcast. The church was repaired and 'beautified' in 1770, and the west end raised to the same height as the rest in 1785. In 1791 the church was thought to be too small and its replacement was considered.

A survey in 1827 revealed a rotten roof and bad drainage, with coffins floating under the floor. From 1827-9 the church was restored by Charles Barry and his work increased capacity from 499 to 700 sittings while succeeding in not detracting from the church's village-like proportions and Tudor style. During this building phase Barry extended the north aisle westward to a line with the tower, added a second north aisle and a clerestory to the nave, raised the floor and ceiling, removed the C18 parapets, and replaced the roof and wooden spire. The spire was rebuilt in 1928 and the south aisle render removed to reveal the early brickwork. Bomb damage in 1940 resulted in the construction of a new north aisle and north-east vestry after WWII.

The church was superceded as the main parish church of Stoke Newington when a much larger church was built just across the road in the C19 (by George Gilbert Scott and listed at grade II*). The new church, with capacity for 1,300 people, was opened in 1858 and there were suspicions that the rector intended to pull down the old one or use it for schoolrooms. Congregations of more than 300 continued to attend the old church but evening services were discontinued and communion was administered only at long intervals. The bishop at the time did, however, promise that although the title and endowments of the parish church were being transferred to the new church the old church was to continue as a chapel of ease. The church has continued as a place of worship to the present day, and shares a vicar with the new church.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: St Mary Old Church was built in 1563 and restored by Charles Barry in 1827-9. It has good survival of fabric from 1563, a period in which very few churches were built, and the C19 restoration work is sympathetic to the proportion and style of the Tudor church and, in the chancel, the very fine furnishings Barry inserted have enhanced the original building. Furthermore, the early-C19 box pews and tombs, ones from the C16 and C18 in particular, have strong claims to special interest as important in situ survivals. St Mary Old Church has considerable claims to group value, standing as it does opposite the new C19 St Mary's. The two make a memorable contrast and are a striking visual representation of the demographic changes from the C16 to the C19 in this area.

SOURCES: Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner 'Buildings of England. London 4: North' (1999) pp. 534-535.
Victoria County Hisotry 'Stoke Newington: Churches', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8: Islington and Stoke Newington parishes (1985), pp. 204-11.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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