|Abbots Langley, Herts|
This minor oddity - probably very few spot it, or think it strange even if they do - is nothing compared to the surprise - almost shock - when you've walked around the exterior far enough to see the chancel (built in 1751-9 by the Salusbury family and updated in 1777). It is unusual in several ways. It's taller than the 13th century nave, which isn't unprecedented but is far from common. Together with the tower it sandwiches the nave, and, unlike the nave, which is mostly constructed of flint no doubt gathered from nearby fields, it is faced in expensive Portland stone brought from more than a hundred and fifty miles away. Most surprisingly, it seems to have no windows. (In fact it does have one small east window, but it's mostly lit by a glass cupola in the roof.) It doesn't seem to fit with the nave or tower; in fact it looks like some kind of vault or fortress. The feeble-looking battlements and squat pinnacles don't help much. Only the fact that the interior is glorious compensates for the uncompromising, almost aggressive starkness of the exterior.
Before moving into the chancel it's worth pausing to look at some corbels and brasses (see the bottom of the page), and in particular the window at the east end of the north aisle. This has two panels of 18th century painted glass. Before the Victorian Gothic Revival, when the medieval methods of making stained glass were revived, figurative glass was painted rather than stained. In stained glass the colours are in the glass itself, but painted glass consists of coloured enamels applied to plain white glass (and then fired in a kiln). The left panel depicts, I think, King Saul threatening to kill David (as he suspects him of trying to usurp his throne), and the right could be the Marriage at Cana, where Jesus turned water to wine. Above each scene are some random fragments of late medieval stained glass.
We've seen the forbidding chancel from the outside; now let's go in. It's entered through a tall classical chancel arch with a plaster panelled soffit, and round-headed niches containing busts in the jambs on each side. Surprisingly, and fortunately, despite the lack of windows visible from the outside, it is light, spacious and handsome. It is in effect a Georgian mausoleum to the Salusbury family.
The overall style is, as you'd expect, classical, but there are some interesting Gothic (or rather Gothick, i.e. medieval-style details included for their picturesque appeal) features. The east window (which, as Bettley/Pevsner point out, is ridiculously small) is pointed, and while the arch of the apse is round the super-arch above it is pointed and encloses a (correctly aligned) quatrefoil and two mouchettes.