St Mary the Virgin, Furneux Pelham

One ‘Peleham’ is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Its division into the three separate Pelham parishes appears to have taken place soon afterwards. The Anglo-Norman family Furnell were lords of the manor soon after the Conquest. The first documentary record of a church in Furneux Pelham dates to 1162, when it was given by the Bishop of London to the Treasurer of St Paul’s Cathedral, and was described as ‘the church at Pelham of Richard de Furnell’


The chancel is the oldest part of the church we see today, and is said to date from the late 1200s. The tower has been dated to the late 1300s. The original nave joining the two presumably fell between these dates. In the early 1400s, the aisles to the north and south of the nave were added. The chapel, dedicated to St Katharine, was added in the early 1500s.


The church has three fine brasses, one of William Newport and his wife Margery in the vestry (1417), another of Robert Newport and his wife in the north aisle (1518), and a heraldic shield on a tomb slab in the chapel, showing the ancestry of the Newport family.


A coat of arms over the vestry door is dated 1634 and 1660.


Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the Calvert family were lords of the manor. They were eminent London brewers. At least 27 of them are buried in a vault below the chapel, and it was they who commissioned the two chapel windows by the Pre-Raphaelites William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, in 1867 and 1874.


The nave roof is richly decorated with angels and other motifs, restored in 1963/4 by a local artist. Four of the angels hold stringed instruments, and are said to be labelled John, Paul George and Ringo on the back.


The clock bears an interesting inscription, ‘Time flies - Mind your business’. A recent hypothesis suggests that it reminds farmers and landowners to get on with the harvest, as the church bell was rung at 6pm, during the harvest, to allow gleaners into the fields to scavenge spilled corn. Despite local legend, there is no evidence – other than a drawing in the plasterwork of the house opposite – that it ever said ‘Mind your own business’.