St John the Baptist, Aldbury, Hertfordshire - Monuments

Aldbury Parish Church, St John the Baptist, is of flint with stone dressings, with a fairly tall square tower, buttressed but unbattlemented, and a long, low body. The tower dates from the 14th Century, 15th Century higher up; most of the external walls of the whole Church would seem to be 19th Century or from extensive repairs in 1905. Inside, there are some remains from the 13th and 14th Century, but again, the overall effect is set by the more modern restorations. The Church is quite long, and feels quite narrow, the effect being heightened by the arcades along the nave and its height. One whole corner is enclosed by a stone screen – the Pendley Chapel, wherein is the Whittingham-Verney tomb, a grand monument taken from Ashridge (along with the screen) by a descendent, Edmund Verney, in the late 16th Century. For the rest, there is a good wall monument with a pair of busts, and several other interesting panels. We take them in date order, which conveniently starts us with the Whittinghams.

St John the Baptist, Aldbury Parish Church.

Whittingham monument

Sir Robert Whittingham, d.1471, and his wife. A huge monument, with the full length effigies of the couple lying recumbent on a bed-like structure, each with hands held in prayer. Sir Robert is in full plate armour – the plates allowing movement at elbow and knee are most spiky and well rendered – and rests his head on his helm. His head is unbearded, and his hair, somewhat restored or recut it seems, is short. He rests his feet against a Wildman, covered with leaves rather than hair, and clutching a cudgel. His unnamed wife has her head covered with a cloth, resting on a pillow, and wears a long mantle above a dress clasped above the waist; her sleeves are fur-trimmed, and her hands better preserved than those of her husband. Her feet rest on a rather worn animal, cloven hooved, most likely a deer rather than goat or sheep. Around the sides of the block below are panels, some heraldic, others with small figure sculpture. We see figures in vaguely Roman costume, almost miniature versions of Sir Robert, but with oversized heads that suggest they extreme youth. With equally oversized heads are the standing girls, with exotic head-dresses and otherwise in robes as per Lady Whittington. Around the whole tomb is a stone screen of Gothic tracery, open above, blind below. All of this was brought to Aldbury from Ashridge in 1575, by Edward Verney, of the family which were heir to the Whittingham inheritance.

Sir Robert Whittingham and wife: screen, effigies and small standing figures.

Other monuments

Also in the Church

Outside

The Church is surrounded with its churchyard, treed, grassed and with some atmosphere. There has been much thinning out of the headstones towards the front, and those that remain are unexceptional, though showing some of the typical designs. Most interesting and novel are a couple of iron headstones, each with a cross on top surrounded by foliage, seemingly identical casts, rusted and very hard to read.

Aldbury Churchyard, and iron headstones.

With many thanks to the Revd. Huw Bellis for kind permission to use pictures from inside the Church; see the Church website at http://www.tringteamparish.org.uk/aldbury-history/4589861525.

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Also in Hertfordshire: monuments in Tring Church, Wheathampstead Church, Broxbourne Church, Aldenham Church and Abbots Langley Church

Introduction to church monuments // Angel statues // Cherub sculpture

Sculpture in some towns in England

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