St Mary's Church History
It is almost certain that the first church on the site of the present church of St Mary the Virgin was a wooden one built by the Saxons between 1035 and 1050. Unusually the church is mentioned in the Domesday book compiled in 1085.
The oldest existent parts of the church are the South Wall and part of the West wall having been part of the Norman building built around 1090. The South door has a Norman arch made from Roman brick from various Roman Villas that were in area. The Chancel was a 13th century addtition to the Norman building.
Worthy of note is the 14th century porch by the South door. During the same century the 3 light window in the south wall was added along with the single light window at the western end of this same wall. A bell was also installed, to "call the faithful to church". By 1712 there were an additional two bells and it was felt necessary to build a new bell turret complete with steeple and weathervane to house these. This was in almost the exact form that can be seen today.
Another area of interest is the small graveyard adjacent to St Mary's churchyard. This belongs to the Governors of Charterhouse and since 1929 has been designated as an area for the burial of all deceased brothers of Charterhouse if they or their families so wish. The reason for this being here is St Mary's connection with this society founded by Thomas Sutton, at that time "the richest commoner in England". He purchased the manor of Little Hallingbury in 1588. His intention was to found a school for boys and a hospital for "poverty stricken gentlemen soldiers or merchants ruined by piracy or shipwreck and who were good servants of the Queen".
These were to have been situated in Little Hallingbury but as a result of his wife dying he changed his mind and instead they were established at Howard House in London. The manor of Little Hallingbury, along with other properties belonging to him were used to support these institutions later to be known as Charterhouse. The Society of Charterhouse is the Patron of Little Hallingbury and since 1669 has had the right of appointing a Rector.
In the 19th century it was felt necessary to enlarge the capacity of the church because of an increased population. The North wall of the Nave and another porch on the North side were removed and a new aisle built on the north side of the church with a sloping roof. From plans only recently discovered, these alterations also included the dismantling of two galleries which were directly under the current bell turret. A new Chancel arch was created with the addition of a small vestry to the south of the Chancel and a Norman style font at the west end of the church. In 1885 a small organ was fitted using part of the vestry. Much of the internal furniture dates from this time.
In the 1990s plans were made and then fulfilled for the building of an extension to the then vestry. There is now a larger room in which small groups can meet for worship or other events, in which there is a small kitchen area for providing refreshments and in which there are toilet facilities.
More recently the floor has had to be replaced and the church re-ordered, and the vestry and kitchen are being refurbished in 2019.
The churchyard is home to a particularly stunning example of a Giant Redwood Tree (Sequoiadendron Giganteum) which is located in the North West part of the churchyard next to Wright's Green Lane. The tree was 28 metres in height and 5.8 metres in girth when last measured - in 2007.