St Mary's Church, Bedfont - Monuments

Bedfont, known for being the first place in England to host a ready mixed concrete plant, or perhaps not so well known for this, is within Middlesex in the bleak vicinity of Heathrow, just to the south. The Church, St Mary, though most commented upon for its two large yew trees cut to the shape of peacocks, contains several modest panel monuments, including three 17th Century examples, and one later piece with a sculpture of a mourning girl, by the sculptor Richard Blore. Other plain tablets include pieces by the prolific Physick family of mason-sculptors, one by Tomlinson of Uxbridge, and another by Samuel Cundy of Pimlico.

The Church

A few words on the Church itself. It is ancient, retaining some Norman features, and the nave and chancel date from the 12th century, with an extension to the nave in the 13th Century. But in 1829, a ‘huge transeptal excrecescence’ was added by taking out the northern side of the nave. Later on there was a good Victorian restoration, which discovered 13th Century wall paintings (see end of page), and saw the replacement of the previous spire with construction of the short tower with its charming wooden belfry and spire; the clock, I believe, was added in Edwardian times as a memorial to Edward VII’s coronation.

From the outside, Bedfont Church is most attractive, on account of the short wooden spire with projecting clock. The yew trees obscure the view from the entrance, so the best view of the Church itself is a three-quarters one, showing the nave with its Gothic door and rose window above, and the short, stubby buttressed tower to advantage, as well as that spire. From the other side, the extension is rather flat and the tower is too short to show well.

Bedfont Church, St Mary.

Inside the Church is of small size and atmospheric, much being owed to the dark wooden roof, and the narrowness of the nave, which is separated from the Chancel by a small Norman chancel arch, which essentially makes it a separate area - two pictures are below right. There is a single wing opposite the porch, the 1829 addition which looks much better from the inside than outside, which is separated from the nave by two arches. The monumental panels are mostly dotted around the walls of nave and chancel, also helping the ambience.

Monuments

WW1 Pike monument, with crossed rifles.

Also in the Church

Myrander's World War 1 Memorial.

Outside the Church

Well, we have to mention those yew trees with the peacock topiary. The one bears the date 1704, and the other used to have the initials JH, JG and RT – the vicar of that time [John Goodwin, whose brass we noted above] and churchwardens [John Hatchet and Robert Tillyer]. Each tree was cut to the shape of a peacock at the top, in the ‘unnatural art of topiary’ – Thomas Hood wrote a fanciful poem about these trees, supposing them to relate to two unmarried and haughty sisters; it is readily findable online but has nothing helpfully descriptive of the Church or the monuments, or in fact the peacocks. The topiary was renewed or revived in 1865, and again since, most recently in 1990, which date is now on the second tree, replacing the initials.

Bedfont St Mary Churchyard: headstones and tomb chests.

So far as the Churchyard monuments go, they consist of several chest tombs, and a fair number of simple headstones, some of which have double heads, and a few with interesting variations on types of crosses – much more on the variety of crosses in churchyards on this page.

Alas, I did not notice the chest tomb to ‘John Stanley, King of the Gypsies’, erected at the cost of his subjects, which bore the familiar inscription ‘Readers all as you pass by // As you are now so once was I // As I now am so you must be // Prepare for death and follow me.’

With many thanks to the Revd Philip Smith for permission to show pictures of the monuments inside the Church; St Mary's website is at http://www.stmarysbedfont.org.uk/.

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Just north of Heathrow: Harmondsworth Church // and Harlington Church // Some other London Churches

Introduction to church monuments // London sculpture // Sculptors

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