The Story of St Mary's Church

Saxon Times

            The village of Addington was founded in Saxon times, and no doubt there was a wooden church in which the village worshipped. 

The Mediaeval Period

             The Normans rebuilt the Saxon church in stone, and that stone church appears to form the core of the present church, although it has been so extensively added to over the years that hardly any Norman masonry is visible. First of all, aisles were added to the church, and then arches must have been cut in the nave walls to allow access. At about this time one of the Lords of the Manor became filled with enthusiasm for the crusading ideal, and gave the church to the Knights Hospitallers. 

            In the early 13th century a tower was built into the western bay of the nave, projecting out slightly beyond the west end, and the rough stones of this tower can still be seen inside the church. Next, proper arcades were inserted into the nave walls, starting from the tower, and the bases and cores of the pillars of these arcades still support the weight of the walls. In the late 13th century a new chancel arch allowed a better view of the miracle of the mass. 

            The 14th century saw first of all a rebuilding of the arcades. The piers were recut to a more slender section, and new arches constructed on top of them.  Above the walls a new clerestory was constructed, with large circular windows with decorated tracery, the tower arch was rebuilt to the same design as the nave arcades,  and the west front of the tower seems to have been reconstructed with new diagonal buttresses. New aisles with flatter roofs took the places of the old aisles, and the south aisle was given a new door and porch. 

            In the 15th century hagioscopes were cut into the walls at the east end of the nave to allow priests celebrating mass at the aisle altars to stagger their elevations of the Host, and a new belfry, west window, and west door were added to the tower. 

The Reformation

            The 16th century saw the break with Rome, and the dissolution by Henry VIII of the English province of the Hospitallers. The Protestant reformation must  have come as a shock to the people of Addington, who up to the last moment had continued both to bequeath money for candles to be placed before their favourite images and to endow masses for the departed. The stone altars were smashed and the statues torn down. In the reign of Elizabeth the church was re-ordered as a preaching house, with a prominent pulpit in the north aisle. By the early 17th century the universities were turning out puritan clergymen, and it was men of this sort who came to Addington as curates. 

The Laudian Revival, the Civil War, and the Restoration

            Archbishop Laud's attempts to re-establish the Church of England as a part of the universal catholic church reached Addington: his commissioners wanted the church reordered and objected to the wearing of hats in church by men. The civil war brought his efforts to nought, and the commandeering of Addington Manor as a base for 200 Parliamentary cavalrymen in 1644 cannot have improved things. With the restoration of Charles II, however, Addington under the leadership of the Busby family started to put itself back together, and Thomas Busby (rector 1693-1725) restored the church and rectory and much else beside. After his death Addington was governed first by his widow and then his by daughter Jane, who died in 1800, bequeathing the estate to the Connells. 

The Tractarian Revival

            Addington was bought in 1854 by a Tractarian businessman, J. G. Hubbard, who later became a prominent Chancellor of the Exchequer. Hubbard employed G. E. Street to restore the church: Street built a new chancel, rebuilt the aisles and clerestory using original materials where possible, and completely refurnished the interior of the church. In demolishing the old chancel, the workmen found a cache of books belonging to some Tudor rectors: these are now known as the Addington Books

Modern Times

            The Hubbards continued to oversee Addington until within living memory, and they encouraged Anglo-Catholic liturgical practice. The east end of the south aisle was converted by Sir Charles Nicholson into a Lady Chapel and War Memorial in 1926, and the chancel was reordered by him in 1930. Since then the parish has joined forces with Winslow and Great Horwood. Who knows what the future will bring?

    See also Olivia Burgess's History of St Mary's, Addington.

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