June 18 – A trip to Bishop Stortford and Hertford Castle

Birchanger and Stansted Mountfitchet

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We decided to go to Bishop Stortford which is about a 45 min drive away to find the tombs of King Harold, Edith Swanneck and Harold’s two brothers. There was a claim made a few years ago so we wanted to look into it.

On the way, we stopped at Hertford as we saw two churches and a castle from the road. We found a convenient car park and went to visit St Andrews church. It was a lovely church inside but covered in scaffolding all around the outside. It has a wonderful domed area around the altar with some fantastic stained glass windows. The altar is the chapel had a lovely painted reredos while the main altar had a wonderful red quilted and embroidered altar frontal. Near the car park was Rigsby’s cafe which had a police box, some stocks and a Medieval knight in the garden. We also saw a statue of Samuel Stone who was a Puritan minister and co-founder of Hartford, Connecticut. There was also a lovely war memorial and a historic water fountain. We had seen signs to Hertford Castle but it was not open to the public as a castle but instead held the county council offices. The gardens do still have some of the original walls and the motte at the side of the Hertford river.

We headed off to continue our travels stopping at St Mary’s church in Standon. We drove past the cache but there were two ladies sitting on the cache so we visited the church first. The church was unusual in that it was on a slope. The nave sloped slightly up then you go up about 6 steps to the chancel and then another 6 steps to the sanctuary. There were two fantastic tombs in the sanctuary, a double tomb on the left to Thomas Sadleir who died in 1606 and his wife Gertrude Markham with their children, a boy and a girl on the front. The tomb on the right was to Thomas Cromwell with three sons and four daughters. When I walked back to the cache the two ladies were still there. There was a lovely bakery over the road so we grabbed some lunch and sat on another seat to eat it. We waited until the ladies moved on and quickly grabbed the cache before someone else got there. I wonder what they would think if they knew what was under their favourite seat. Inside the church, there was a lovely 13th-century octagonal font and several tombs. Another tomb was for Sir Ralph Sadleir who died in 1587. He was an English statesman who served Henry VIII as Privy Councillor, Secretary of State and ambassador to Scotland. There was also a very good monumental brass of John Feld and son from 1477 with seven children underneath.

Next, we went to St Cecilia’s church in Little Hadham. We collected the numbers for the multi but it was 400 metres away so I checked the logs and realised that the cache had been archived. We were glad that we checked before we walked all that way. The church was lovely with a moulded 15th-century oak chancel screen and a triple-decker pulpit with a tester dated 1633. It also had some lovely stained glass windows, a painted pipe organ and some monumental brasses on the wall including one of Thomas Baud who died in 1430 and his wife who died in 1422.

We finally arrived at St Michael’s church in Bishop Stortford and went to have a look around. We found no sign of the tombs or of the article in any of the histories of the church about Harold’s body being laid to rest here. However, it did have some lovely stained glass windows and 18 wonderful misericords. The list of vicars date from 1086 and there were some nice funerary hatchments. There was a really lovely bronze eagle lectern with detailed bronze work around the base as well. There was also a plaque in memory of Cecil John Rhodes who was a businessman and politician who founded Rhodesia. A gentleman that had something to do with the church came in and we asked him about the tombs but he was very unsure and confused claiming that Harold Harefoot was buried at Waltham Abbey while Harold II (of Battle of Hasting’s fame) was buried at their church. None of this seems accurate. We will have a dig a little deeper.

Before heading home we called into St Mary’s church in Birchanger but it was closed so we just found the church micro and then St Mary the Virgin at Stansted Mountfitchet. There we found some wonderful stained glass windows and a fantastic tomb of Hester Salusburge who died in 1614, daughter of Sir Richard Saltonstall and another to her husband Thomas Myddelton in the sanctuary. There was also a stone effigy of Roger de Lancaster from 1310 and a lovely alabaster altar and reredos.