Church of St Giles
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St Giles Church History
There has been a church in Great Hallingbury since the 11th century. All that clearly remains from this date is the magnificent Chancel arch made entirely from Roman bricks and a small single late 11th century window light with a round head of Roman bricks at the western end of the south wall in the nave. The Chancel arch was lovingly restored when the whole church was enlarged and underwent complete restoration by John Archer Houblon in 1874.
The tower at the west end of the nave dates from the 14th century whilst the octagonal spire is a copy of a later addition destroyed by lightning in 1738. A peal of five bells are hung in the belfry, the oldest one having been cast in 1542, the others dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Prior to the restoration in 1874 there was a Rood Loft, an unusual feature in a small country church. The former entrance to this is represented by a modern door in the left arch of the Chancel arch. From this Rood Loft there also remains a Piscina which would have originally served the Rood Altar, this can be seen in the right of the Arch and has a triangular head of Roman brick and scalloped basin of Barnack stone.
The funeral helms on either side of the Arch probably date from the 16th century and were originally above the Morley tomb in the north wall of the Nave. The Morleys were Lords of the Manor from the early 14th century until the mid 17th century when the titles fell into abeyance, there being no issue. The family played a prominent part in English history, one having been Standard Bearer to Richard III and another playing a leading part in the breaking up of the Gun Powder plot.
The rebuilding of the church in 1874 almost doubled its size with the addition of the North Aisle and Porch. The reredos was a copy of that in Beverley Minster and John Archer Houblon and his wife travelled there to see the original. The reredos was completed in 1889 and the decoration on the East Wall surrounding it was commissioned in memory of John's wife, Georgina.
The Organ commissioned in 1874 was built by Foster and Andrew of Hull to the design of Professor Oakley, then Professor of Music at Edinburgh. At the Special Service to mark the re-opening of the church on 23rd December 1874 the organ was played by the professor's brother, a local resident. It is an extremely fine specimen of a two manual with tracker action organ and has survived over 100 years having given very little trouble.
Morley Cadaver Tomb
St Giles contains a fine example of the unusual "Cadaver" or "Memento Mori" tomb.
This term is used to describe a kind of gisant (recumbent effigy tomb) or other memorial monuments featuring an effigy in the macabre form of a decomposing corpse.
The Cadaver Tomb in St Giles, together with brass inscriptions, commemorates members of the Morley family. It was removed to a less obvious location in the church tower at the time of the 19th century restoration and re-ordering of the church. The effigy in the form of a decomposing body is an allegory of the brevity and transient nature of life, irrespective of a person’s earthly position.
As is mentioned above, the Morleys were Lords of the Manor until the mid 17th century. The family played a prominent part in English history, one having been Standard Bearer to Richard III and another playing a leading part in the breaking up of the Gun Powder plot.
The manor descended in the Morley family, with their title, until the death of Robert Morley, Lord Morley, in 1442. His daughter and coheir Eleanor married William Lovel, who became Lord Morley. Eleanor and William, both of whom died in 1476, were succeeded by their son Henry Lovel, Lord Morley (d. 1489), whose heir was his sister Alice (d. 1518), wife of Sir William Parker and later of Sir Edward Howard. She was succeeded by her son Henry Parker (d. 1556), for whom the Morley barony was revived.
Henry Parker, Lord Morley, was succeeded by his grandson Henry Parker, Lord Morley, who was implicated in the rising of the northern earls in 1570, and fled abroad. Great Hallingbury was then seized by the Crown, but after Henry's death in 1577 it was restored to his son Edward Parker, Lord Morley. Edward, who in 1586 was one of the judges of Mary, queen of Scots, in 1592 bought Hatfield forest. In 1666 the estate was sold to Sir Edward Turnor (d.1676) of Little Parndon, Speaker of the House of Commons.
After the death of Sir Edward's son, also Sir Edward Turnor, in 1721, the estate was vested in trustees to be sold to pay his debts. In 1729 the Hallingbury estate was bought by the executors of Sir Richard Houblon, to be settled on his kinsman Jacob Houblon (d. 1770). It passed in the direct line of the Houblons until the death of John Archer Houblon in 1891. The estate, comprising 3,140 acres, mainly in Great and Little Hallingbury and Hatfield Broad Oak, was put up for sale in 1923, and was broken up.
Rectors of St Giles
Rectors are recorded from the 13th century or earlier, but the list is far from complete before 1553. Between 1393 and 1490 there were at least 11, of whom 5 left by resignation. Thomas Horston, 1393–1410, was also a canon of St. Paul's, London. From the 16th century incumbencies grew longer: there were no more than 22 rectors between 1553 and 1954, including three who stayed for over 40 years.
Richard Amadas, rector 1585–1629, was denounced by Puritans as 'an unpreaching minister.'
Edward Thurman, rector from 1629, is said to have threatened to drive all Puritans out of the parish. His opponents charged him with parsimony, fornication, drunkenness, and neglect of duty, and he was sequestrated in 1643.
Henry M. Oswald, rector 1873–1903, was brother-in-law of the squire, John Archer Houblon. During his incumbency the church was restored and enlarged, and the Rectory was re-built.
Leonard Elliott-Binns, rector 1933–4, was a well known writer on theology and church history.
William Bedwell and the King James Bible
2011 marked the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible. This article sets out to explain how the Bible was translated and to focus closely on the life of one of the translators, William Bedwell of Great Hallingbury.
The King James Bible was a major co-operative endeavour that required the efforts of dozens of the day's leading scholars. Indeed it has been called the only classic ever to be written by a committee. In 1604 at the Hampton Court Conference, which King James had convened to enable churchmen of all shades of opinion to discuss the future of Christianity in this country, the King agreed to commission a new translation of the bible that was acceptable to all parties. Fifty four translators were appointed and divided into six groups, with each group given a run of consecutive books of the Bible on which to work. Two of the companies met at Westminster, two at Oxford, and two at Cambridge. They were presided over by the Dean of Westminster and by the two Hebrew Professors of the Universities. Three companies were commissioned to translate the Old Testament, two companies were commissioned to translate the New Testament and one company was commissioned to translate The Apocrypha.
The King James Bible was meant to preserve some of the best lines from the translations that people already knew, primarily the Bishops’ Bible of 1568. Forty large unbound Bishops’ Bibles were prepared for the translators to mark. One of these marked Bibles still survives and is kept in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. But because many of the translators were skilled in both Hebrew and Greek, they also drew on new Hebrew and Greek sources to produce an agreed text.
The preliminary translation work took four years. This was followed by nine months of review and revision, carried out by a committee of twelve: two translators from each of the six panels, based on a detailed set of guidelines that was established to ensure that the translators' personal eccentricities and political prejudices were not included in this new version.
The King James Bible was developed to be read out loud at church services, so in light of this, the translators gave diligent attention to rhythm and punctuation to give the text a fresh oral quality that no other translations to date could match. For much of 1610 the translators listened to the product of their labours, as verse by verse, the bible was read out aloud in Stationers’ Hall, next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, before the final version was approved. The language had to be clear and had to flow; and it did! Because its translators strove for accuracy, beauty, power, and literal faithfulness to the Greek and Hebrew texts, the King James Bible was the book, which more than any other shaped the English language and formed the English mind.
The men selected as translators “sought the truth rather their own praise”, as stated in the preface to their work and were chosen as the best biblical scholars and linguists of their day. William Bedwell of Great Hallingbury certainly met these job specifications. Bedwell was baptised in St. Giles’ Church on 2nd October 1563, one of at least four children of John Bedwell, a small landowner and his wife, Anne. As a scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, William showed interest in a wide range of subjects. He studied Mathematics, with the encouragement of his uncle, Thomas Bedwell, his father’s youngest brother. He was involved in a circle of scholars concerned with Biblical Studies and the study of Hebrew and he also began to concentrate on Arabic, a language little known in the west. At that time the connection between Mathematics and Arabic was very close and it was probably through Mathematics that Bedwell was first led to Arabic studies. As the most promising Arabist in England, he was occasionally employed as a translator of official documents and as an interpreter, meeting the Moroccan ambassadors to Queen Elizabeth who arrived in August 1600.
At Cambridge William Bedwell met Dr. Lancelot Andrewes, the great Anglican divine, with whom he was subsequently on terms of intimate friendship. On 8 December 1601 Bedwell was made rector of St Ethelburga, Bishopsgate, in London. In 1604 Andrewes, now Dean of Westminster Abbey, chose Bedwell as one of the translators of the Bible, and he served on the committee of ten which met at Westminster to translate the first twelve books of the Old Testament from Genesis to 2nd Kings. We know very little about how the members of the Westminster Committee carried out their work, except that they met in The Jerusalem Chamber, next to the Abbey.
In October 1607 Andrewes presented Bedwell with the vicarage of Tottenham High Cross in Middlesex, where he took up residence with his wife, Marsie (Mary) Chipperfield, whom he had married in the 1590s, and their four daughters, and officiated at the church of All Hallows. Bedwell's reputation was now at its height. Renowned as one of the few Arabists in northern Europe, he had become an object of pilgrimage for an international group of scholars. Towards the end of 1608 he was approached by a young Dutch scholar, Thomas Erpenius, who had just graduated at the University of Leiden and had decided to study Arabic. Bedwell gave him his first lessons. Erpenius was to be the finest Arabist of his generation and the first professor of Arabic at Leiden. Another of Bedwell’s pupils was Edward Pococke, whom he introduced to Archbishop William Laud. As a result of this introduction, the Archbishop appointed Pococke the first Laudian Professor of Arabic at Oxford. In 1612 Bedwell made his only recorded journey abroad, travelling to Leiden University in Holland to consult some Arabic manuscripts and to meet Arabic scholars.
Bedwell’s published and unpublished work demonstrates clearly the wide range of his intellectual interests. In 1612 he published an edition of the Epistles of St. John in Arabic and in 1615 he published a book about the Koran. He also left many Arabic manuscripts to the University of Cambridge, including the manuscripts of an Arabic Dictionary, on which he had been working for many years, and a font of type for printing them. Another manuscript for a Dictionary of Persian came to be in the possession of Archbishop William Laud and now resides at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Bedwell also published five books relating to Mathematics, including a book which explained the slide rule invented by his uncle, Thomas Bedwell (c.1547-1595). In 1631 Bedwell published his “Description of the Parish and Antiquities of Tottenham High Cross”. This was the first parish history to be printed and in consequence occupies an important place in English Local History studies.
William Bedwell seems to have been a modest and retiring man, who seemed happiest in the society of his family. King James had rewarded many of the translators of the 1611 King James’ Bible by bestowing good livings on them, as vacancies occurred, and by ecclesiastical promotion. Bedwell’s friendship with Andrewes and Laud and his own reputation would have enabled him to have had high preferment in the Anglican Church, had he wished. He surprised his contemporaries, however, by declining the opportunities for advancement and spending his life as a country vicar in Tottenham, caring for his parish and dedicating himself to scholarship. His son-in-law, John Clark, husband of his youngest daughter, Margaret, described Bedwell as “humble and void of pride, ever ready to impart his knowledge to others.”
William Bedwell died in his vicarage on 5th May 1632 at the age of 70 and was buried five days later alongside his mother in the chancel of Tottenham Church. Later his wife and daughters were buried there also. During the 1878 restoration of the church the inscribed stone covering his grave was removed and destroyed. The memorial to his daughter, Margaret, states that her father was “for the Eastern tongues, as learned a man as most lived in these modern times.” However the greatest memorial to Bedwell must be his published books, his manuscripts preserved at Cambridge University, but most of all his contribution to the King James Bible, a book born out of political and religious disagreement, and yet the world’s best selling book, a pillar of English culture and an instrument of faith for four hundred years.
Philip Hays (Organist St Giles)
How to find us:
St Giles Church,
Parking available opposite the Church, or follow signs for the main Church car park.