Old photographs of Holy Cross Church and Sarratt

Holy Cross is the oldest building in use in Sarratt.

The present Church was founded in 1194 during the rule of the crusading King Richard the Lionheart and the crusades must have influenced both the name and the design of the Church – a Greek Cross.

The Normans planned the nave and transepts. Though now their walls are patched with later work, the chancel is much as it was when it was lengthened in the 13th century – with its’ flower carved piscina, double sedilia, deep sunken windows and old roof beams. The chancel arch was made at the end of the 12th century and similar arches open into the transcepts.

At the West end stands the Bell Tower build in the 15th century with its remarkable saddle back roof, the only one in Hertfordshire. The arches opened into the aisles are new work carried out by Sir George Gilbert Scott between 1864-66 when the rest of the church was extensively but lovingly restored by him.

Despite these 19th century dramatic upheavals, some ancient and lovely artefacts remain.

Look for the original font up by the chancel in which the Normans had their babies baptised and the linenfold Jacobean Pulpit (1602) from which the radical 17th century puritan Richard Baxter, probably preached.

Perhaps he was heard by some of the family of William Kingsley, Lord of Rosehall whose elaborately sculptured memorial above the sedilia in the chancel also contains his wife, five sons and a daughter – though William, himself, a successful London lawyer and friend of Sir Thomas Moore would have kept well clear of him!

Look too for the assorted graffiti from medieval times onwards around the Bell Tower arch including a Nine Mens’ Morris game and a Mass sundial as well as the usual names and dates. The reredos panelling behind the altar was installed in 1926 in memory of the Sarratt fallen in the war of 1914-18.

The lovely little Church of the Holy Cross has stood on the hill above the River Chess for at least 824 years – a place of sanctuary, stability and hope.

Even today villagers returning to Sarratt by way of North Hill look across at one of the most beautiful views and see the Church tower embowered by trees and whether people of faith or non-believers, feel their hearts lift and joy to be coming home.

Long may it last!