Monday 6 May 2013

Redbourn Village - a visit in May

We visited Redbourn to meet up with some family university friends not seen for more than 30 years. A balmy day, we took a walk through the village before a splendid lunch. The village common was marked out for cricket and, emphasising the game's importance, the boundary line crossed the road (where else but in England).

Walking past Redbourn's common into Church End, some of the older houses featured decorative brickwork and the former Workhouse proudly displayed the painted inscription commemorating it being rebuilt in 1790.

Whilst the account of St Alban's Workhouses ( appears to represent a constructive image of life, food and occupations in a workhouse, the reality was that they were supposed to be harsh environments ( to ensure only the truly destitute would want to live there.

Perhaps rebuilding was a consequence of the innate nature of Redbourn residents to rebel, as exemplified in their long battles back in the 14th Century, resisting obedience and having to pay tax to two successive Abbots of the priory there (

Redbourn inhabitants do however have a cooperative nature when it comes to their church, St Mary's. In the 16th Century they held 'A neighbourly meeting or feast in the church house' at Whitsuntide, 'where they made merry together to the maintenance and increase of love and charity amongst them, and at the same time contributed liberally their money towards the reparation of the church and buying of necessaries for the church, and such like uses.' ( From the well tended church and grounds, efforts are obviously still in place to continue to maintain the church.

Entering Redbourn's St Mary's, which celebrated its 900yrs back in 2010, there were three different features that caught my attention.

The first was a century displayed in stained glass. The three window or lights are:

South Aisle – light dedicated to Reverend W. Seracold Wade, by his widow Isabella in 1896. This window depicts St Albans, St Mary and St Amphibalus.

The Chancel light, behind the alter, dedicated to William Seracold Wade and his wife Elizabeth, by children Mary, Alice, Margaret, Ellen, Elizabeth and Arthur Gregory Seracold. This light depicts Jesus appearing to the disciples after the resurrection. (Note that Isabella is a form of Elizabeth until recently becoming a separate name).

North Aisle – light dedicated to physician Jurin Totton, 1962. The light shows John the Baptist, Jesus and the Leper, St Luke.

The second feature was the rood screen. 

It's delicate tracery had survived the centuries from its origin in 1478, when the vicar of Redbourn left the grand sum of 20 shillings for “the work of the Holy Rood”. If you visit the church of St Mary in Redbourn yourself, there is a very informative sheet on the history of the rood, survival through the reformation and restorations through the ages.

The third feature was three coats of arms. 

The first, over the south door, was easily identified as that of King George III. Interestingly, George III had three different arms during his reign. This one is for George the III King of the United Kingdom and Elector of Hannover, used from 1801 to 1816. (

The other two arms had me stumped. Mediocria Firma is the motto of the Bacon family, including Nicholas Bacon and Francis Bacon. At one point there were three Baronetcies. Until 1755, there were two, the Baronets of Redgrave and the Baronets of Mildenhall. After that, the two were combined. 

Unfortunately, I could not find out online whose arms are depicted on the two different shields. If anyone wishes to take up the challenge – a good place to start is here

All too soon, it was time to return. The walk back took us through the common along the green avenue, towards a the sumptuous roast lunch awaiting us and an afternoon of catching up on our own histories.

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