Tour of the Building (1)(2) 

 

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Welcome to this ancient church, dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, Our Lady of Willesden.

Although it is full of history, that is not its most beautiful feature. With Our Lady Mary as our Patron, like her this holy place is full of grace. The grace of God cannot be found on walls, neither can architecture or history contain it.

You will find it in the quietness of prayer and worship, the reason for which St. Mary's was built; maybe it is for that very reason that God called you here.

TOUR

The Parish was founded in AD 938. The church is officially listed as a Grade II* historical monument. It dates from the thirteenth century, though the font is Norman and formed part of an earlier church. The south door is carved to look like a church window, and this helps historians to fix its date at around 1315.

Font

On the left as you enter is the FONT which dates from 1150 and is made of Purbeck Marble. It is the oldest in any parish church in Middlesex. It has a square, downward tapering bowl and stands on a large central pillar with four corner pillars.

The small wooden ALTAR dates from the Reformation, the carved ANGELS are from the old high altar, and the large red weights are part of the tower clock. The grille protecting the Victorian clock weights is about five hundred years old and could have stood in front of the original statue of the Black Virgin.

TURN RIGHT UP CENTRE INTO CHANCEL

The chancel fell into disrepair about the time of the Black Death but had been completely rebuilt by the beginning of the fifteenth century. The hatchments over the chancel arch date from about 1650 and are connected with the Nicholl and Courtenay families. (The Courtenay family - the Earl of Devon - now lives at Powderham Castle near Exeter.)

The ledger-stone at the foot of the lectern marks the resting-place of Leonard Sparke, a benefactor of this church. It is a fine example of modern craftsmanship. The ledger-stone at the entrance to the chancel commemorating General Charles Otway is very typical of mid-eighteenth century work.

The ledger-stone of Sir William and Dame Sarah Roberts is second from the wall by the altar rail. It carries the sign of "The Bloody Hand of Ulster".

The memorial brasses vary in date from 1492-1609. That of Edmund Roberts was made in 1585 by Gerald Johnson, the father of the sculptor of Shakespeare's monument at Stratford.

The seats are a memorial to Henrietta Finch and date from 1872. The small shelf on the South Wall covers a medieval PISCINA used by the priest to perform the ablutions after the Eucharist.

The High Altar is modern and was designed by Andrew Carden in 1964. The lettering on it - and that on the Aumbry in the Sanctuary wall - is by Michael Murray of Coventry Cathedral fame. The two seats let into the wall are the SEDILLA originally for the clergy.

Also in the Chancel on the North wall is a gilded statue which was placed there in 1917. It was the first statue to be placed in St. Mary's since the Reformation when the original Pilgrimage Statue was burnt.

The two large monuments either side of the East Window are in memory of Richard Paine and Sir John Franklyn, who were great landowners in the area. Sir John Franklyn's memorial on the right was made by John Colt who carved the monument to Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey. The mural tablet on the left behind the altar dates from 1595. It was made by Cornelius Curé who made the monument of Mary Queen of Scots in Westminster Abbey.

The East Window is modern and replaces one blown out in an air raid during the Second World War.

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