St Mary's, Northolt

This is one of the three ancient churches that adorn the northern part of the borough (the others being Holy Cross, Greenford and St. Mary's Perivale). The parishes they served were largely rural up until the 30s at least, and so were spared the demolitions, which were inflicted on many churches in the nineteenth century. When the populations in these districts exploded, new churches were erected, thus saving the older buildings. In fact, there was no other Anglican church serving Northolt until as recently as 1954.

The body of the church is small, only 13 by 8 metres, though it was large enough for the medieval and the nineteenth century population of the parish. It dates from about 1300, though there was a church hitherto, as a priest is mentioned as being resident in 1086. There have been some sixteenth century additions, though. It is made from brick and flint. The south porch was rebuilt and a vestry added in 1945. The roof and turret were rebuilt in the sixteenth century.

Inside there is a fourteenth century font, given by Nicholas Brembre, a lord of the Manor and Lord Mayor of London. There are also the Stuart coats of arms, probably dating from the restoration. There are also fifteenth and sixteenth century brasses, one of Henry Rowdell in a suit of armour, the other of John Gyfforde, his wife and 12 children.

One famous rector of Northolt was Nicholas Ridley, who was burnt at the stake for his faith in the sixteenth century, but it is probable that like many rectors of the time he never visited his parishes, leaving a curate to do the actual work.

Another controversial vicar was George Palmer, who was accused in 1643 by his enemies of speaking against parliament, incest and joining the King's army. In spite of this he was popular with his parishioners.

A Northolt clergyman who resided in the parish in the eighteenth century was Goronway Owen (1723-1769). He was born in Anglesey and came to Northolt in 1755. Owen was also a poet, composing odes in Welsh and was the secretary of the newly formed Cymrodarian Society of London. After two years in Northolt, during which time his son was baptised here, he left to take up a teaching post in the American colonies.


We would like to thank Dr Jonathan Oates, borough archivist and local history librarian, for the use of his information.