Knebworth Parish Church

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St Martin's Church
St Martin's Church, London Road, Knebworth
Click here to see a map of the location

St Martin's Church is located in the centre of (new) Knebworth on the corner of St Martin's Road and London Road.

Until the 19th Century St Mary’s was the only place of worship in the village. In 1880 the Church of England began operating in New Knebworth, when a Mission Room was built in Gun Lane, and a new church, St Martin’s, was opened in 1915.

Knebworth Parochial Church Council (PCC) are fortunate to be the custodians of such a remarkable church building. St Martin’s church was designed by the eminent architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens (1869 - 1944) and reflects his own idiosyncratic style. In the Hertfordshire volume (published in 1953) of his Penguin series on The Buildings of England, Professor Nicholas Pevsner calls St Martin’s ‘one of Lutyens’s most remarkable churches’.

In fact Lutyens designed very few religious buildings, fewer still were actually built and none of them was finished to his original designs. Best known are the two churches at Hampstead Garden Suburb (started c1909) and his aborted Liverpool Roman Catholic Cathedral. St Martin’s, Knebworth is chronologically between the Hampstead churches and Liverpool Cathedral and so has been seen as a part of the development process that led to the design of the Cathedral.

Work first began on St Martin’s church in April 1914 and it was consecrated by the Bishop of St Albans, Dr. Edgar Jacob, on November 12th, 1915. It was firmly laid down by the architect that only the best materials were to be used. Facing bricks and pantiles for the roof were to be specially made ‘at an approved yard’. Stonework was to be ‘of the best Portland stone’. Timber was to be ‘Memel, Dantzic or Riga sawn die square, sound and well seasoned, cut out perfectly ... Planks, deals and battens to be cut out or converted from yellow Christiana pine well seasoned’. The pillars are made from Portland stone, with the exception of the two Massive Doric columns that separate the transepts from the nave which have a brick core coated with cement which, like all the cement work in the building, was worked to resemble Portland stone.

Apart from the Font and the small Portland stone pillars, which came ready turned from the Portland quarry, all the stonework was cut on the spot by a group of local stonemasons.

The builder was Mr William Derby of Knebworth. The special bricks and pantiles were made in his brickyard at Rabley Heath. Local builders were responsible for cutting the great 12” x 18” tie beams of the roof from the round and for cutting and fitting all the woodwork in the church including the panels of the roof, the ambos, choir stalls and the altar.

View from the west end, of the altar   Font used for baptisms   One of two sets of organ pipes
View of the altar from front of church

Font area

One of two sets of organ pipes
Interior pictures of St Martin's Church, Knebworth
Lutyens’ original plan was for a much larger building and included a nave with three bays and an apse at the east end. The west end was to include a portico with steps; this was changed to a plain wall on a ‘temporary’ basis, though in fact the most unattractive plain brick wall persisted until 1963/4 when the church was completed to its present design by Sir Albert Richardson (1860 - 1964).

Richardson was a friend and admirer of Lutyens. He designed the western extension to the nave (17 feet long), a cupola for the bell, and the entrance lobby and ‘Rector’s Office’. The cupola was made by a Mr Mackinnon of Bedfordshire. The African mahogany has a grain suitable for circular cutting, and with the copper used, it weighs 3 tons.

St Martin’s has seen many changes since 1915 but it remains the much loved home of a thriving Christian community who gather regularly to celebrate their faith. But what is this Christian faith? To be a Christian is to have made a decision to put one’s trust in Jesus Christ. At baptism that decision is often expressed for us by others - our parents and godparents - but it is not until we take the decision for ourselves to live by trust in Jesus Christ that we can truly call ourselves Christians.

Have you made that decision?

At the heart of our Christian faith is the realisation that we are separated from God simply by the way we are. While few of us are as bad as we could be, none of us are as good as we should be! If we are honest with ourselves we will know that we hardly live up to our own standards, let alone God's perfect standard. The good news is that in Jesus, God has given us a way back to himself. On the cross Jesus died carrying our failings in his body. He took our imperfections on Himself so that we can come to God the Father in His perfection. In the Bible we read:

"God made him who had no sin (Jesus) to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God." [2 Corinthians 5:21]

The barrier between God and ourselves, created by our imperfection and failures, has been removed by Jesus Christ. Once the Truth of this finds its home in our hearts, we will want to respond to the love of God who reaches out to us through his Son Jesus Christ. If that is what He has done for me how can I give Him less than myself?


If you have any queries then please email The Secretary for more details.

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