A Photo a Week Challenge: Over 100 Years Old

I decided for Nancy’s challenge I’d pick one of our local buildings that has quite a bit of history although much of its fabric is Victorian or newer. This is the parish church of St.Mary-at-Finchley. The name itself implies antiquity. Here is a shot of the current exterior of the church…It’s actually quite a challenge to photograph it at all with all the surrounding trees. Here’s the tower with a clock that is hidden from most angles of view…It’s a tower now but apparently there was once a spire before the rebuild of the church in the Victorian period. Here’s the porch…You see what I mean about the clock! Lets talk history.

Reputedly a church was founded on this site as the Church of Our Ladye Saint Marye at Fynceslea by Bishop Erkenwald around AD675. It was to serve the workmen who felled the timber used in the construction of the second Saint Paul’s Cathedral replacing the first that had been destroyed by fire. The land which formed part of the Bishop’s estates was forested in those days. Fynceslea is Anglo-Saxon and translates as Finches Clearing – it’s tempting to think that the leader of the workforce cutting the trees for the new cathedral went by the name of Finch but it’s more probably a reference to local bird life. The church would also have served as a resting-place for the pilgrims on their way to the Shrine of Saint Alban at Verulamium. Sadly there is no current physical evidence for this first church.

The church was rebuilt in Norman times circa 1100AD and some archaeological evidence of this building exists. The font is a 12th century bowl that was found buried in the rectory garden and was restored on a modern plinth in 1891. During the Victorian restoration in 1872, a lancet window of about 1150, a piscina (recess with drain where the sacred vessels were washed), sedilia (stone seats for the clergy) and a fresco of St. George and the Dragon were also discovered. An aumbry (locker where the vessels were kept) was disclosed during the restoration of 1953.

The main body of the current church dates to the 15th century. The north side and the base of the tower date from this period – though the chantry chapel was already in existence having been built by the Lord of the Manor in 1334. There are many commemorative plates to be found along the north wall the oldest of which dates back to 1487 which in turn probably places the actual 15th century rebuild at circa 1460. The south aisle was added in 1872 and extended to its current state in 1932. Here is an interior view looking down the nave towards the altar…The toys scattered on the carpet by the altar are there for the resident play-group who were coming in as I was taking the photos. The altar end of the church was damaged by bombing in 1940 and was rebuilt in 1953 when the church was given its current makeover.

One outstanding memorial is mounted on the wall of the south aisle though it must have been mounted elsewhere originally as it predates the building of the aisle (probably on the original south wall). It is the memorial to Alexander Kinge who died in 1618 and is an excellent example of its type……though originally it may have had cherubs mounted on the plinths at the top on either side. If so they’ve been lost somewhere along the way as the church has grown. Alexander Kinge was an Auditor of the Exchequer and the Royal Mint for Queen Elizabeth I and he continued in royal service under King James I.

There are many old graves in the churchyard. Here’s one I picked at random that has withstood the British climate well for over 250 years…

I hope this slice of Finchley history was of interest 🙂


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