History of the Church
It has been recorded that Christians lived locally as early as 850AD. The present building dates back to 1470. The Chapel of Nettleden was known to have been flourishing in 1285 when it belonged to the parish church of Pitstone and it was a chapel of ease for distant parishioners.
Pitstone and Nettleden were both in Buckinghamshire in 1285 and most of the parishes were very long and narrow in shape. Nettleden men attended the manorial courts of both Pitstone and Ivinghoe and as Lord of the Manor, Sir John Neyrnut held the right to appoint the rectors of Pitstone Church who were also in charge of the chapel in Nettleden. This right continued until 1379 during which time several of the rectors were members of the Neyrnut family.
In 1379 however there was no male heir and so the rights passed to the Rector and brethren of the monastery at Ashridge detailing property “cum Capella de Nettleden”, (with the chapel of Nettleden). So it was that the chapel first came under the protection of the great name of Ashridge, a relationship which was to last almost unbroken for over 600 years.
Nettleden continued to be a hamlet church because of course the monastery had its own chapel. The monastery must have held this little church in great regard for a historian writing in 1710 recorded having seen in the church, an ancient Communion Table cover with crimson velvet richly embroidered with the arms of the Monastery of Ashridge which could only have been a gift from the monastery itself.
By the early 1400’s the churches of Pitstone and Nettleden were much in need of repair. Pitstone, which had a substantial Norman building, needed the nave to be rebuilt and a tower added between 1450 and 1470. Unfortunately the church in Nettleden was in such a bad state that it needed complete rebuilding and reconsecration was necessary. In 1470 an ecclesiastical licence for this was granted by the Bishop of Lincoln to John Hunden Bishop of Llandaff. He was Prior of the Friar Preachers at nearby Kings Langley.
An old description of the 1470 church says it was built of flints, walls supported by buttresses with doorcases and ornamental carved work of local Totternhoe stone. The windows were very large and “curious”. You used to access the church from the Old Roman Road south side. Much of the present building dates from this time.
This is an extract from A History of Nettleden Church written by Jean Simpson in 1984 and Jean has allowed us to quote from and refer to this history. A bound copy of the complete history as written by Jean is available from Victoria Shedd, Chair of the Friends of Nettleden Church for a small donation to the church funds. If you wish to become a Friend then a copy is part of your welcome pack. Membership is £20 per household.