Archive: Book Review


Journal of the Potters Bar & District Historical Society No. 13:

• Surviving Sixteenth Century Stained Glass Windows at St. Giles South Mimms
• The Quakers at South Mimms
• Queen Wilhelmina at the Grange, South Mimms, in 1944

As the contents of this issue of the Potters Bar & District Historical Society Journal indicate, Issue No. 13 is devoted to South Mimms, and is well worth reading. The three articles have all been written by Brian Warren, President of the PBDHS, and until recently its archivist.

The first article, on the sixteenth century glass in St. Giles Church describes the building of the North Aisle, following the will of the last of the Frowyke family, Henry, made in 1523. The windows are dated to 1526. It is suggested that the Frowyke chantry chapel (originally built around 1446, by the will of Thomas Frowyke, who enlarged the church and built the tower around 1425, was rebuilt between 1523 and 1526, to include the magnificent tomb monument to Henry’s son, another Thomas, who predeceased him in 1525.

Originally there were five windows, but the eastern-most one was altered in the late eighteenth century, and now includes a nineteenth century representation of St. Giles, together with St. Paul and St. George. The windows all carried the names of their donors, who are represented in groups kneeling at prayer. The positions of the stained glass panes have been altered at least twice. Some time before the First World War the North wall of the church had subsided, and when the windows were replaced following repairs, they were placed in the bottom of each window, instead of half way up. They were also replaced in a different order, and later the order was changed again.

Most noticeably, one pane in the middle window of the north aisle was replaced back to front. Mr. Warren’s article reveals what it should have looked like, and what the dedication was: you will need to get hold of a copy to learn the answer! This happened in 1969, when the windows were repaired following vandalism. In fact the fourth window, in the Frowyke chantry, has also been repaired quite recently, following more recent vandalism, but fortunately that only affected the upper part of the glass not the historical fragments below. Also, the North Aisle and Frowyke chantry are once again suffering from subsidence. The church will have to deal with this in due course. Mr. Warren’s article will be extremely useful to future conservators and engineers.

The second article, on the Quakers at South Mimms, was written as a result of recent excavations in Blanche Lane, which revealed a burial ground, thereby identifying the location of the (demolished) Quaker Meeting House. In past centuries Quakers were excluded from burial in the Church of England graveyard, because they dissented from the creeds and articles of the church.

Mr. Warren describes the growth of Quakerism in north Middlesex: there were Meeting Houses at Winchmore Hill, Tottenham and South Mimms. George Fox, whose preaching initiated the movement, visited South Mimms in 1677 and 1678 but the date of construction of the Mimms Meeting House cannot be pinned down.

The article gives the names of a number of local characters, not all of good repute, and records that several of the village constables were sympathetic to local Quakers, turning a blind eye to their dissent from the established church.

The Meeting House closed in 1789, and the property was sold off in 1820, and became forgotten. A terrace of cottages was built over the land in Blanche Lane, and it was not until 2008, in the course of building works, that the burial ground was re-discovered. For the full story, you will need to read the article itself.

The last article describes the events in 1944 when Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, living in exile in England while her country was occupied by the Germans, moved from Maidenhead to South Mimms, to live in the Grange. However she had only been there for two weeks when two bombs fell from a German plane, presumably lightening its load on the way home. One fell close to the house killing two Dutch soldiers on guard duty. As a result the Queen decided to move yet again, to a substantial house on the Berkshire Hampshire border. Mr. Warren refers to Mortimer: it was in fact Laneswood House, Mortimer West End – my great aunts lived in a cottage on the lane that went round behind it. (As a possible correction, a note on Google of someone’s memories of Mortimer asserts that Queen Wilhelmina was at Laneswood from 1940, but that does not square with the details in this article). All in all, this is a fascinating vignette, a small part of the War, but a moment of high drama for South Mimms.

As I’ve indicated, this book is well worth getting hold of, as it covers briefly three fascinating topics, each with their points of mystery and uncertainty. As with all publications (including the Parish Paper!) there are odd typos, and I was disappointed that the cover picture repeats the view of the White Hart that has been used on other PBCHS publications – why not use a picture of one of the windows? But these are small criticisms. Mr. Warren has included brief references to his sources and for further reading, and the book has both line drawings, maps and colour photos.

Copies are available from Potters Bar Health Foods, 21 The Broadway, Darkes Lane, Potters Bar, for £2.00, or by post from Mrs. Mabel Hammett, 4 Heath Cottages, Heath Road, Potters Bar, EN6 1LS, £2.00 plus £1.00 p&p.

William Marsterson