The Friends of St Mary the Virgin Church Maulden

Registered Charity No 296924

History of the Church


The first known Church on the present site was built in 1252 by  monks from Dunstable. The first Rector was appointed in 1269, since when there have been 55 incumbents in Maulden.  The original Church was largely demolished in 1858 when the present building was erected , but the tower and part of the north wall were retained and can still be seen.


The ancient Church was smaller and rather different in shape .  It consisted of a nave with a very low roof, a chancel, probably added later, which had a slightly higher roof, a north aisle and a gallery.  This Church had several notorious features which made it extremely difficult to hear the preacher.  The roof was so low that when it rained the noise drowned him out, and since the gallery floor of the nave was only 2 feet  above the  tops of the pews  below , it was impossible to hear in the lower pews.  One wonders how often the congregation prayed for rain.  These ‘sleepy’ corners were said to have encouraged unseemly behaviour amongst some of the congregation and were one reason for the rebuilding in 1858

The main reason for the rebuilding was, however, the growing population of the village, which had reached 1,000 by 1858 and the Church was too small.  In addition, the pews were so close together that it was impossible to kneel and pray. The low roof and few windows combined  to make the Church very dark. There were only four windows, two being in the nave where they were partially obscured by the gallery.The rebuilt  Church cost a total of £2,163.00 excluding the interior furnishings.  The Church was consecrated by the Bishop of Ely on 11th October 1859.  


The walls of the new Church were decorated with inlaid Bible texts in the plaster and this “Sgraffito” work was expertly restored in 1997. 


The tower which dates back to the 14th century was modified in the rebuilt Church.  The ringing chamber was above ground where the clock mechanism is now and below this there was a gallery where the children used to sit.  This gallery was taken down in 1876 when it was decided at a vestry meeting that the children should sit at ground floor level and that the bell ropes be brought down to the bottom of the tower.  A hope was expressed that the ringers would regard the sanctity of the place and not bring beer or other spirituous drinks into the Church, making it unnecessary to erect a screen between the tower and the nave.  A screen was erected at a later date-hopefully not because of the bell ringers behaviour.


An interesting brass is preserved on the cover slab of a raised tomb in the south aisle, portraying the figures of Richard Faldo, 1576, his wife Amphyliss Chamberlain, and their four sons. 


One of the five bells in the tower is pre-Reformation and is inscribed with the mark of Roger London c.1450.  The other bells date from 1593 to 1831


Outside and on the north of the Church is the Ailesbury Mausoleum, which was originally connected to the Church by a passage.  This passage was demolished and the upper part of the mausoleum rebuilt with the Church in 1858.  Below the Mausoleum is a crypt used as a burial place by the Bruce family from 1652 to 1824. The Mausoleum is said to have been built by Thomas, Earl of Elgin in 1656 in memory of his second wife, Diana, Countess of Oxford and Elgin, though in fact the first burials in the crypt took place four years before the upper building was built. One theory is that the crypt is a very much older building and that it was used as a meeting place in pre-Reformation times. 


On the  south side of the Church, near the entrance, is the stump of an octagonal cross believed to date from the 13th Century. The base of the cross has now sunk below ground level. It is said to be the cross from which Maulden gets its name, which means The Cross on the Hill. 

It would seem from the records that the Church fabric has been a continuous cause for concern down the ages, a tower and chancel being added in the 14th century and the upper part of the tower rebuilt in the 16th century. The major part of the Church was rebuilt in the 1858/59 and even then this new building had to be extensively repaired in 1899 when the roof was found to be leaking badly. Since that date regular maintenance has been carried out and in recent years the chancel and north aisle have been reroofed and part of the tower and outside walls pointed. 

Records show that in 1291 the value of the Church was £4.13s.4d., this presumably being what it cost to build. Today it costs more that 300 times that amount just to insure the building each year.

Church running costs have also risen dramatically and are now at such a level that they are getting beyond the resources of the regular Church attendees alone.

The Parish Church is part of the history and architectural heritage of Maulden and as such belongs to all of us whatever our beliefs. In addition, it provides an almost irreplaceable service for most of the population of the village. Some value it for weekly worship, others for special occasions, and for baptism, marriages and burials.  Many villagers just like the comfort of the church sitting on the hill overlooking the village.


We are indebted to our forebears for preserving and maintaining the Church for our use. It is now our turn to ensure this part of our heritage is preserved for future generations.