Organ Pipes

A90Six

Joined June 2008

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Organ Pipes

The organ pipes in St Mary’s Church, Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex, England. The earliest recorded use of the placename of Harrow on the Hill is found in 1398 as Harrowe atte Hille. Etymology before then derives from Harrow, which is first recorded in 767 as Hergae. Hergae, Herga or Hearg translates from Old English as (heathen) ‘Temple’. The hill has historically been used as a place of pagan worship.

Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, began the construction of a church on this site in 1087. The new church building was consecrated by the new Archbishop, St Anselm, on 4^th^.January 1094 (a most appropriate date as, at the time, 25^th^ December was a more pagan festival and Christians kept the feast of the Epiphany, Little Christmas or Old Christmas day [6^th^ January] — as their principal feast of the birth of Christ). Consecration on the 4^th^ would have made the church ready for the Christmas Mass. The difference between the two Christmas dates is where we get our ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ from.

Little of the original building remains apart from the lower section of the tower. The Chancel, with its fine arch and lancet windows, had been constructed by the end of the 12^th^ century and this was followed by the rebuilding of the nave and the addition of the two transcepts.

The small room, still there at the top of the staircase, contains evidence of Norman work, traces of colour decoration on the roof beams and a carved niche. John Byrkhede, himself a master builder, was appointed Rector of St Mary’s in 1437, and died at Harrow in 1469. By 1450, the present clerestory windows, the nave and transcept roofs, in the chancel and the upper stages of the tower with its famous spire, had been constructed. The roofs of the nave and transcepts are reckoned to be the finest in Middlesex with over 300 carvings, while the spire is covered with 12 tons of lead.

400 years later, extensive restoration and renovation took place under Giles Gilbert Scott during the 1840s. A parapet was added to the nave and aisle roofs, the north wall of the chancel was pulled down to enlarge the building, the east walls were rebuilt, the church building faced with flint and a vestry added to the north side. This vestry was further enlarged about the turn of the present century.

A proposal in 1893 to build an organ at the south side of the chancel was abandoned when three Norman windows were uncovered, still showing decoration on the splays.

There are thirteen ancient brasses in the church, mostly badly mutilated. The cope, to be seen in the North transcept, was made for the 900th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone, and the embroidered designs on this were copied from the mutilated brass of John Byrkhede in the chancel.

The brass to John Lyon, founder of Harrow School, and his wife Joan, is to be found on the walls of the nave near his grave by the lectern. It has an interesting inscription in English. The gravestone on the floor, with a Latin inscription, was laid in 1875 .

Lord Byron was at Harrow School as a boy and his little daughter Allegra (by Clair Clairmont) is buried in an unmarked grave outside, very near to the south porch.

The old door into the north porch used to be on the south side and was moved to its present position by Gilbert Scott for better protection. The 800 year old font of Purbeck marble was almost completely lost when it was replaced in about 1800. The original resided in a local garden for nearly fifty years before being repaired and returned to its rightful home. The chest in the north transcept, like the door and the font have been in use since 1200 — or even earlier. The pulpit is Jacobean, c.1657. A parishioner, Mr Tanner Arnold, presented it to St. Mary’s in 1708. The pulpit is a good example of 17th century woodcarving.

Artwork Comments

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