Croxley Great Barn and Rickmansworth Walk – LAS

London Appreciation Society visit to the Croxley Great Barn, and a walk around Rickmansworth.

The walking route can be seen below. The route is marked in Red (not the Pinky-red of the “A” roads). Started from Richmansworth Station.

After leaving the station we headed through town, to get to Caravan Lane, but on the way we came across Saint Joan of Arc Catholic school.

Some interesting balconies on some newly constructed buildings.

Once we walked down Caravan Lane, and onto a woodland path, we came to an opening into some playing fields, at the back was the entrance to the Croxley Great Barn.

Croxley Great Barn is a hidden, almost forgotten, gem. The barn is located on private land within playing fields belonging to St Joan of Arc School and access to view the barn must be sought from the owner. Indeed, it is now very difficult to get a clear sight of the barn, the best point from which to view it in the splendour of its natural setting being the Ebury Way, the disused trackbed of the former LMS branch line from Watford to Rickmansworth. And yet here is a building with a long and significant history and of considerable architectural interest. Prior to the dissolution of the monasteries, the manor of Croxley, like so many other manors in south-west Hertfordshire, belonged to the Abbey of St Albans. The farm was allocated to the abbey’s cellarer and it supplied the abbey with grain for the monks’ food and drink, barley being used to make malt. This area of southwest Hertfordshire had very fertile land in those days and the farm was very profitable. Entries in the St Albans Abbey Chronicles give a few details about the building of the barn. Some time between 1396 and 1401, Abbot John Moote paid 100 marks (about £66) for making a very large barn and other buildings at Croxley. Given to the Monastery of St Albans by Offa, King of Mercia (757-796), at the Dissolution in the 1540s the Manor of Croxley became Crown land and was tenanted by William Baldwin under a 44-year lease. It was sold in 1557 to Dr Caius who was educated at Gonville College, Cambridge. He endowed and greatly enlarged the College, obtaining permission from Queen Mary (1553-1558) to be a co-founder and to change its name to Gonville and Caius College. The Manor and barn were owned by the College from that time until 1972 when the barn and part of the adjoining land were effectively donated to Hertfordshire County Council to form part of the enlarged St Joan of Arc School complex. The barn was by this time in very poor condition, the roof having collapsed by the early 1970s, and the County Council undertook extensive repairs to restore it to a good state before handing it over to the school in 1975.

After seeing the barn, it was a lunch stop in the Coach and Horses pub. After which we started the walk. To begin with we were shown the outside of Gable House (1847), which is now part of the Baptist Church next door.

Next stop, was the Rickmansworth Museum, called the Three Rivers Museum. Run by volunteerers, and located in Rickmansworth High Street, in Basing House (itself of historical significance as the former home of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania).

The Three Rivers Museum houses an interesting and varied collection of historical artefacts and old photographs of the Three Rivers area.  A range of permanent and temporary displays provides a visual history of the area – its development, buildings, personalities, transport, local businesses and industries – while our collection of memorabilia provides a wider perspective on bygone times.

After the museum, we walked around the back by the District Council Offices, to see the Rickmansworth Rose Garden. Here you will see the “Lion and Eagle” statue which was erected in 1921 as Rickmansworth’s war memorial. The statue was cast in bronze and erected on the corner of Ebury Road and Uxbridge Road. It was moved several times over the next seventy years until 1991, when it was placed in its present position.

Moving down to stand outside the library, you will see the Town Centre. Our talk was interrupted by a group of motor cyclists, so I figured, I’d take picture of them and the Town Centre in one go.

We then walked down Church Street,

And of course, as with any road called Church Street, there has to be a church… The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin.

There is no record of any church in Rickmansworth before the beginning of the 13th Century but since then it has had a chequered history.

The first recorded vicar was Richard de Chelveston in around 1270. Nothing remains of the earliest church building although it seems to have been about the same size and layout as the main building standing at present.

Some time between 1514 and 1529, with Protestantism on the increase in Rickmansworth, some of the parishioners, angry at ecclesiastical malpractices, broke into the church and caused much damage. The appeal for funds for the restoration of the church was successful for many wills of parishioners between 1530 and 1536 contain bequests for this purpose.

The years after the Reformation were full of difficulty and though the present Tower was added in 1630, ten years later the church was further damaged. The church was ‘beautified’ in 1677 and again in 1803.

By 1824 the condition of the church building had become so bad that it was pulled down (with the exception of the tower) and replaced by a new building to accommodate 2,000 people.

The new church was finished in 1826. It was a large, austere, rectangular brick structure, with side aisles which survive today, and a very small recess at the east end to accommodate the sanctuary. There were galleries round three sides of the church, with the organ and choir at the West end.

Some 62 years later the local church council decided that the church should be pulled down and replaced by a church building designed to harmonise with the tower, and to reproduce, as far as possible, the old church of 1825. The new church was built to a design of Sir Arthur Blomfield, a well-known church architect of the time, and is in essence that standing today.

The tower and vestry were extensively refitted in 1999-2001. In the case of the tower, this was partly as a fire precaution, and to open up a vista and improve the appearance of the ceremonial entrance to the church through the West door. It also provided accommodation for a crèche for young children during major services.

A Nave Platform, to accommodate the central Altar now used at Parish Communion, and a Lady Chapel for private prayer have since been added.

The Church Centre, a joint project with the Methodist Church which now share the buildings, linked to the church on the south side, was opened on Sunday 30th May 1982 by the Bishop of St Albans and the Chairman of the London NW Methodist District.

Heading round the back of the church, and onto Bury Lane, there is a large house called The Bury House. Originally one large house, but has since been used as a Health Centre, and has now been split up into multiple Town Houses. Some murals are contained in the houses, but have been covered up. The assumption was made that most people won’t want to see them. However, the covering up, with plasterboard was done in such a way to allow for them to be uncovered at some later stage, if desired, without causing any damage to them.

Continuing on Bury Lane, there are a group of Alms Houses. The Almshouses were bequeathed by John Beresford who made his fortune from dealing in gunpowder during the English Civil War between 1642 and 1651. This is not the original location of the almshouses, these replacement dwellings having been built here in Bury Lane in 1894. Chesswood Court is the modern residential building behind.

Just past the Alms Houses, there is “The Splash” which used to be a ford across the road from the Town Ditch. It has how had a small bridge created over the ditch, and is no longer a ford.

At the end of the road, we turned left back onto the High Street.

Rickmansworth’s first volunteer fire brigade was formed in 1869 by Dr Henderson, who lived at Basing House. A man named Thomas Fellowes, who was the manager of Salters Brewery, was First Captain.

The town’s first fire station opened in the High Street on September 2, 1981, with all the costs paid for by Dr Henderson. The building is now vacant, but looks as though it used to be a Pizza and Burger place to the left of the plaque, not sure what the door to the right is for, probably apartments in the upper floors.

Just beyond Marks and Spencer’s,  were some interesting looking town houses.

After this, we headed back to the station. The end of the walk.

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