The Church of St Peter & St Paul, Watford Village, a Grade I Listed church that had its cornerstone laid on 1st January 1300.  However, there is historic evidence that a church, possibly of a different structure, lay at the present site for at least a previous century.

 

The church and certain lands within Watford were given to the   Abbey of St James near Northampton late in the 12th century, where they remained until the dissolution in the time of Henry VIII.  Oliver, sometime Bishop of Lincoln, dedicated the church of St Peter & St Paul at Watford in 1286 and an early member of the de-Watford family requested in his will of 1291 that he be buried at the church with his horse.

 

The current church was built in the early 14th and 15th centuries, in the

‘Perpendicular Period’ of Gothic architecture, where windows of simple

straight lines were built of vast size that allowed the light in and provided

scope for decorative glass. 

 

Entry to the church is via the south porch, which is dated from c1350, though

it was altered in the 17th or 18th century. In the gable of the porch is a sundial

that has marked the sunny hours since Tudor days, and on either side, there were

once great gargoyles.  Enter through an inner doorway of same date which has a

hollow-chamfered arch, the jambs rebuilt, anddouble ribbed plank door and you

will see whitewashed walls with 3-bay nave arcades, c.1300, with octagonal

piers, double chamfered arches, and hoods with large head stops. 

 

There is a 15th Century font on the left with a more recent version in front of it, plus on the wall there is a wooden plaque with a List of the vicars from 1250 Robertus to 1997 Clive R. Evans (although the latest Vicar from 2013 Graham Collingridge is not listed yet!). The restoration of the church in the mid 19th century brought with it handsome low box pews.

 

The Chancel has three sediliae (seats) for the priest and two assistants, although they can no longer function as such and a piscina, a shallow basin to allow the exit of water after the priest has washed his hands. There is also a piscina in the south aisle. The Chancel has cinque foiled arches and an early 14th-century tomb recess in the north wall which has an arch with deep hollow mouldings and short jamb shafts with leaf capitals.  

 

The 14th-century double-chamfered arch to west of this was a former opening to the very fine long north chapel which was later converted into a Vestry. The original opening was blocked and 19th-century doorway inserted, this must have been a family funerary chapel probably for the Burnaby family and you can see three tomb recesses in the wall. 

 

There are three magnificent stained-glass windows in the chancel by Heaton, Butler and Bayne. It is believed that the entrance and the staircase leading into the crypt is under the broken ledger stone memorial to George Clerke Esq to the left of the Altar, but it hasn’t been opened for many years and unfortunately there is no one still alive to confirm the whereabouts.

 

The church has always been at the centre of the community and prior to the existence of the village school in 1857, it had its own parish school held in the church itself. In 1702, Sarah, widow and second wife of George Clerke MP, caused at her own expense, a place to be taken out of the north aisle of the church as a school for the children of the village, for whose education she paid a Schoolmaster a yearly salary of £12. Additionally, she made an endowment of £400, which was invested in land to produce an annual return to fund the school "in perpetuum" (for all time). The Sarah Clerke charity has now ended however it supported school equipment, children’s outings and even football boots and hockey sticks for the children of the village for over three hundred years. 

   

The church has a number of memorials to some of the Lords of Watford Manor and Estate including the Burnaby, Clerk and Henley families and is the final resting place for several individuals of significant national importance  and some who played major roles in the shaping of England’s history including:

 

Gilbert ‘the cook’ (c1066 – c1100)– appointed by William the first (the conqueror) as Tennent-in-Chief of the region in 1086, and whose descendants can still be found living within Watford today as Landowners.

 

Susanna Eyton (1585-1631) Relic of the Knights of de Burnaby and whose wooden memorial is in a well preserved state considering it is now almost 400 years old and is the oldest monument in the Church. The inscription, written in both Latin and Old English, enlightens the reader to details of her life.

Sir George Clerke (1588 - 1648) Was created Knight in 1641 and was

one of the leading City Royalists, serving as sheriff of London in 1641-2.

He hosted parts of the Royalist Army at Watford in 1645 en-route to the

nearby Battle of Naseby.

Morton Frederick Eden, 1st Baron Henley (1752-1830) who held many

Minister posts to Bavaria, Dresden, Vienna, Madrid & many more

important posts.

Philip Constable Esq. (1765-1824) A previous Lord Mayor of Northampton and predominant Industrialist.

Honorable Anthony Morton Henley (1873-1925) A career Soldier and Officer and later appointed as secretary to the Secretary of State for War

Harriett Eleonora Peel (1803-1869) The younger sister of Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister also famed for introducing the first properly organized police force hence them being known as “Bobbies”, (or in Ireland “Peelers”).

A most notable area of historical interest results from the Rogers and Cosford families of Watford, who, for generations held their
marriages, baptisms and funeral services at the Church. Particular interest in

these families results from Thomas Rogers (1572-1621) who was one of the

Pilgrims who travelled to the ‘new world’ (now the United States of America)

upon the Mayflower in 1620.


Although Thomas died during the first winter sickness of 1621, his family lived

on to become uppermost landowners and persons of significance in the Plymouth

colony of New England. It is known that both families have ancestry at Watford

as well as relative descendants. 

 

A staggering 35 million people can now claim an ancestral lineage that

runs (sometimes through fifteen generations) to the original Pilgrim Fathers. This number represents 12 percent of the American population. With the modern day popularity in the tracing of ancestors genealogy this has seen the creation of organizations in the USA such as the ‘Thomas Rogers Society’ and the General Society of Mayflower Decedents who have large memberships throughout Canada and the United States.