|St Mary the Virgin Churchyard, Northolt||Ealing|
St Mary the Virgin Church dates from c.1300 although there may have been an earlier church of some sort. The parish originally consisted of 3 hamlets, Northolt Village, West End and Wood End, of which only Northolt recognisably survives. The church, set on top of a small hill overlooking Northolt Village Green, is reached by a lime tree walk from a gate at the bottom. In 1718 a pair of external buttresses were constructed on the west wall as it was feared the church was in danger of falling down the hill. The C14th font was given by Sir Nicholas Brembre or Brember, Lord of the Manor, who was executed at Tyburn under Richard II in 1388. His headless body reputedly haunted his old manor thenceforth on the anniversary of his death. Situated adjacent to the churchyard are notable earthworks of the moated medieval manor house, excavated in the 1950s and '60s.
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St Mary's Church in Northolt has been described as 'one of the best examples of the few remaining unspoilt Middlesex country churches' and dates from c.1300. It sits on a hilltop set back from a lane and is reached by a bridge across the stream that crosses Northolt Village Green (q.v.). Northolt was a rural parish that from 1231-1864 was the responsibility of the Bishops of London who were rectors and patrons of the church. In 1864 the patronage passed to Brazenose College Oxford. The parish originally consisted of three hamlets, Northolt Village, West End and Wood End, of which only Northolt recognisably survives; Western Avenue was built across the parish in the 1930s. It used to be known as Northall, complementing neighbouring Southall, and was agricultural until the Paddington Canal was built in 1801, although speculative building on the farmland did not begin until the 1920s. The canal stimulated excavation of brick-earth, the last brick works closing in 1939.
There appears to have been a church here of some sort since 1140; the early C14th building was aisleless and the chancel was added in 1521. The C14th church font was given by Sir Nicholas Brembre or Brember, the wealthy Lord of the Manor from 1374 until his execution at Tyburn under Richard II in 1388. His headless body, mounted on a white horse, reputedly appeared in Northolt church the day after his death to beg for a mass for the salvation of his soul, but the priest fled in terror. Thereafter on the anniversary of his death, the headless knight haunted his old manor in the ensuing centuries, and was held responsible for many grisly deaths on that night. This story is told by John Maplett, rector of St Mary's from 1576 until his death in 1592, who wrote a number of curious books, including his 'Diall of Destinie' to which 'Old Moore's Almanac' owes much. He was buried in the chancel of the church.
The church, now with white rendered walls, has a weather-boarded west turret and C16th bell tower. In 1718 a pair of buttresses were constructed on the exterior west wall as it was feared the church was in danger of falling down the hill. The church is reached by a C19th lime walk leading from the gate at the bottom, near which is a fine oak.
Situated adjacent to the churchyard are notable earthworks of the moated medieval manor house, excavated in the 1950s and '60s that provided evidence of Saxon occupation including pagan graves. It is thought that the manor's timber buildings were replaced by stone ones in the late C14th. Next to the church is now the memorial hall, built in 1868 as a National School. In 1936 land near St Mary's church was acquired by the MCC and local council for public open space, which is now Belvue Park.
LB Ealing Conservation Area Appraisal (April 1999); Middlesex County Times, 23/2/1929, 30/3/1957, 22/6/1957; Frances Hounsell, 'Greenford, Northolt and Perivale Past', (Historical Publications Ltd), 1999; Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed); Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993)