St. Mary's Church - Ashwell

Village Churches

Ashwell United Reformed Church

Meets every Sunday morning at 10.45am with occasional afternoon services

Ashwell URC is one of eight churches within the North Herts Group of URCs, currently supported by one ordained Minister.

Protestant ‘dissenters’ first met in a room in a private house in Ashwell from 1672 until 1693, having heard the preaching of John Bunyan. The first building licensed for worship, however, was an old maltings that used to be located within the present chapel yard and this became the Independent Chapel in about 1793. The number of worshippers grew and a ‘proper’ church was built to replace it in 1829. However, this was very badly damaged in the Great Fire of Ashwell which consumed many homes and farms in this part of the village in 1850. Within two years, a new church had been erected with financial support from many people.

New stained glass windows, designed in the latest Art Nouveau tradition, were gifted by a local benefactor in about 1906 and other decorations were introduced at the same time, all of which create a unique and beautiful atmosphere in which to worship God on Sunday mornings.

Informal worship is led by local lay preachers who bring their Christian message in a variety of styles and our singing is accompanied by either a traditional pipe organ or by more modern piano. Visitors are warmly welcomed.

Secretary: Mrs Chris James, Tel:01462 742684 | Hall bookings: Mrs San Carswell Tel:01462 742757

Our Mission

We are here to worship God
And to show his love by:

  • Actively caring for God's creation
  • Seeking God's guidance in all that we do
  • Helping others in our community to find peace in God
  • Welcoming all to our church with love and friendship
  • Ensuring that we support justice for all people
  • Learning and teaching about God's love
  • Living our lives as Jesus taught us

Day by day,
Through the love of Jesus Christ,
With the help in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

St Mary's Church

The Church was built during the 14th century. No record exists of an earlier building but there has almost certainly been a Church on the site from early times and stones from the earlier building are probably incorporated in the present fabric. It is now one of the largest village churches in Hertfordshire and its most striking feature is in the tower.

Crenellations about half way up The Tower show its original height. The second half is said to have been added after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and the traditional Hertfordshire spike was added between 1415 and 1562. The Tower is the tallest in Hertfordshire and with its wood and leaden spike at the top, rises to 176 feet. Unusual features include a stone handrail in the spiral staircase and a passage in the thickness of the walls, themselves eight feet thick in places. The battlements, at the top of the Tower, were removed in 1771 leaving only the corner merlons.

There are six Bells in the Tower. The second and oldest was cast in 1694 by Charles Newman. The first, third, fourth and sixth were cast by John Brian of Hartford in 1791, 1817, 1787 and 1789 respectively. The fifth was cast by Robert Taylor of St.Neots in 1808. The heaviest bell weighs 18cwt 3qrts and 101lbs - nearly a ton! All still hang in their original 15th century oak frame.

The Clock was presented by Mr. J. Westrope in 1896 but it has only three faces. It is said that the side facing The Bury was left blank so that the Bury and Brewery workers should not be clock watchers!

The Church was built from "clunch" stone, which is chalk and would have been quarried locally. It is not very resistant to weathering and the increase of acid rain has acted on the alkaline of the chalk and created the problems we see on the Tower today.

The South Porch was added in the 15th century and is entered through an 18th century spiked gate. It has two storeys. The room above has a fireplace and may have been a priest's room or a schoolroom. The Porch ceiling was renewed in 1858. The seats and window spaces are, however, original.
The Main South Door is the original 14th century door. It still has the sanctuary ring and iron strapping. The small nails are the result of the door being used over the centuries as the village notice board.
The North Porch was added in the 15th century, as was its door and sanctuary ring. Both the North and South Porch would have had holy water stoups for those entering church who wished to bless themselves - a reminder of their baptism.
The Nave. At the back of the Nave the impression is one of great simplicity and light. Originally the windows were filled with stained glass and the walls covered with paintings. All were destroyed either at the Reformation or by the 17th century Puritans.

More information at

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