CHURCHES IN THE HORMEADS
The villages of Great Hormead and Little Hormead, together with the hamlet of Hare Street, are like the other churches in the benefice, situated in this rich cereal belt of the eastern part of the county. This was once an entirely agricultural community, with most of the residents, men, women and children, working on or about the land, apart from complementary traders in Hare Street. Now, most of the working population commutes to nearby towns or further afield to London.
At the time of Domesday, there was only one priest present in the vill later identified as Little Hormead where the first church, St Mary’s, was built on manorial land. Before a century had passed, a second church, St Nicholas, was erected just 520 yards away on another manor’s land. Both churches were situated very close to the manor houses, which was very convenient for the lords of the manors to attend services, but most inconvenient for clergy and villagers, most of whom lived at least a quarter of a mile away.
The two Hormeads became one benefice in 1886 and when Layston parish was dismantled in 1938, the whole of Hare Street was incorporated in The Hormeads.
ST. NICHOLAS, GREAT HORMEAD
The church was constructed in flint rubble with stone dressings over a period of years, beginning from about 1200 AD. It is now predominantly 19th century; the Victorians, by their major restoration, rescued a badly decaying building to create the fine facilities we use for worship today.
The nave is the oldest part of the building and was lengthened by a west bay in the first half of the 14th century. The nave clerestory was added in the late 14th century when the tower was built. Six carved head corbels – perhaps portraits of contemporary 13th century villagers or workmen – support wall posts of the former open timber roof, now sealed between tie-beams.
The font is late 12th century, a plain octagonal basin set on a thick circular stem encircled by eight circular shafts.
The original chancel was rebuilt during the second restoration from 1872 to 1874, and at the same time the organ chamber was built and the south porch added. In the chancel there is a white and grey marble wall monument to Lt-Col. Edward Stables who died at the Battle of Waterloo, 1815. He was Lord of the Manor of Hormead and his horse was brought back from Waterloo to end its days grazing the pastures by the Bury.
The 4-bay south aisle, added to the nave in the early 14th century, has some delightfully grotesque head corbels and a 15th century door. The late 13th century north aisle and arcade has a door, and four stained glass windows. The earliest memorial in the church is the brass plate inserted into the wall of the north aisle, put there by order of William Delawood, recording a bequest to the poor of Great Hormead in his will dated 1694.
Late in the 14th century the tower was built over the west bay of the lengthened nave and in the 15th century a top was added to the tower creating a three-stage tower. The top of the tower, added in the 15th century, was built with embattlements and a pyramid roof and diagonal buttresses. Robert Cage, who died in 1655, was Lord of Hormead Manor and ‘obtained a ring of six excellent Bells in this Church’. It was probably he who gave three bells to make up the ring of six.