St. Paul, Bedford
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
St. Paul's is a "hall church" in Perpendicular Gothic style and an intriguing mix of modern and medieval. Some of the church fabric originated with Newnham Abbey (c 1165). The spire is 18th century, replacing the original 14th-century structure, and sits atop a crenellated crossing tower.
A hall church is a church whose aisles rise to the same height as the nave, creating a long, wide, open interior space.
In the interior, the oldest features are the quatrefoil windows on the south arcade, which date to 1300. The north arcade is a sympathetic copy, though it dates only to 1884. Contemporary with the quatrefoil windows are the four columns which support the tower crossing.
The choir and sanctuary may also date to the 13th century, but the choir fittings are clever late Victorian restorations incorporating bits and pieces of older wood. The misericords and armrests are nicely carved.
Pride of place in the church interior must, however, go to the memorial for Simon de Beauchamp (1208), founder of Newnham Priory. The tomb lies just south of the altar. Look for the place where a funerary brass originally graced the tomb. It is gone now but had it remained in place it would have been the oldest in Britain.
On the south side of the choir are more notably monuments. That of Sir William Harpur (1573) shows the former Lord Mayor of London with his mayoral robes covering a suit of armour.
Both John Bunyan and John Wesley preached from the stone pulpit by the northwest tower arch. The rood screen is a wonderful piece of early 20th century carving in the Gothic style, and the font combines a medieval base with a Victorian basin.
About St. Paul, Bedford
Address: Saint Paul's Square, Bedford, Bedfordshire, England, MK40 1SQ
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Website: St. Paul, Bedford
OS: TL049 496
Photo Credit: Dave Kelly, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
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