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Visitor information

location

Caldecote
Baldock
Hertfordshire
SG7 5LE

OS Reference

TL 238 384

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Closed for repairs

The earliest surviving fabric at St Mary Magdalene's dates from the Norman period - most notably the small round-headed window over the north door.

However, much of what you see today – font, pews and stoup – dates from the 15th century, presumably given in thanks by villagers for deliverance from the Black Death.

History

This diminutive church is a weather-beaten majesty incorporating embattled parapets, cinquefoil tracery and a rather regal south porch. All of these features hint at grandeur within…

Entering through the south porch, one is met with an extraordinary, floor-to- (almost) ceiling stoup! Dated to the 15th century the shaft is carved with rows of quatrefoils, while acanthus clambers up the canopy. The proportions are so great, that it feels very out of place. Step beyond this to see the font: an octagonal affair from the same century encrusted with cusped panels, heraldry and foliage. The simple moulded pews also date to the 1400s, as do the few fragments of stained glass

One might expect such expense and splendour in a church of a well-endowed village, but this church has just a manor house and six labourers’ cottages for company.

The most common case for the desertion of medieval villages is death, depopulation and harvest failure as a result of the Black Death. Indeed, the population of Caldecote declined heavily during the mid-fourteenth century; no subsidy was paid in 1428 indicating that by then there were less than ten householders in the village.

The village limped on until the end of the 16th century when it was all but abandoned…

St Mary Magdalene’s came into our care in 1982.

St Mary Magdalene's, Caldecote
St Mary Magdalene, Caldecote, Hertfordshire

Highlights

  • Small, blocked Norman window on the north elevation
  • 15th-century pews complete with carpenters’ marks
  • 15th-century font carved with the three crowns of Ely
  • Fragments of 14th-century stained glass in the south-westerly window
  • Rare example of transfer glass in a window in the south side of the nave
  • Heavily worn step from the south porch into the nave
  • Enormous carved stoup and canopy in the south porch
  • Pre- and post-Reformation graffiti including daisy-wheels, dates, and shoes
  • Patch exterior of Clunch, flint, brick, tile, and cement and lime render

Further reading

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