Hunsdon, St Dunstan

The Church

Dedicated to St Dunstan, England’s most important and popular saint in the Middle Ages before he was overshadowed by St Thomas à Becket, this large medieval Grade I listed church lies about 1 mile from the village of Hunsdon and has intriguing Tudor connections.

The little spire pokes above the trees surrounding Hunsdon House, a Tudor brick hunting lodge rebuilt by Henry VIII. It is claimed that four successive English sovereigns—Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I—worshipped at St Dunstan’s. The church houses a superb collection of historic monuments and memorials.

The C15th entrance doorway bears centuries of graffiti with, in the nave, the remains of frescos depicting the Seven Deadly Sins above it. Gluttony can be made out on the upper left hand side, holding a tankard.

The South Chapel contains the large standing alabaster wall monument to John Carey and his wife. Some of the family pews with their Jacobean decoration are still there. On the north side of the chancel is a standing wall monument to Sir Thomas Forster, who died in 1612, lying in his judges’ robes. The rails around the Forster tomb are identical to those around Mary Queen of Scot’s tomb in Westminster Abbey.

A rare and macabre brass engraving embedded in the north wall of the nave commemorates the death of James Gray, park warden in the Elizabethan era, who was killed while out hunting. Death stands between Gray and the stag he shot, holding arrows to transfix both deer and man.

The Bats

St Dunstan’s shelters several well-established bat colonies, including a maternity roost of pipistrelles and, probably, a maternity roost of brown long-eared bats. Droppings and urine staining are scattered throughout the church all year around, although the problem is particularly acute in the summer breeding season.

The Bats in Churches Project is providing help via cleaning workshops and equipment. The Hertfordshire and Middlesex Bat Group held a very successful bat talk to the local cub pack in April 2022. In conjunction with the bat group the church is also taking part in the National Bat Monitoring Programme in June 2022.

Upcoming events

If you’d like to contact or find out more about the church, visit their page on A Church Near You