The Norman church dedicated to St. Nicholas was built in the 12th century. Built by the De Montfort family, it is the parish church for Beaudesert, and sits at the foot of the hill known locally as The Mount.
The church has been substantially rebuilt over the years, with the north wall of the nave being rebuilt further south, the original roof of the nave lowered, and a tower added in the 15th century. Despite the alterations, it still contains excellent examples of Norman architecture including the chancel arch and south doorway. The church was originally much larger, but the nave was rebuilt to be narrower and lower, probably sometime in the 16th or 17th century, due to unstable foundations. The chancel was rib-vaulted in 1864 when major restoration took place.
The church is dedicated to St. Nicholas and is commemorated in a window and weathervane. In both cases, St. Nicholas is depicted with the three children that he is said to have resurrected from the dead.
The original rectory, a timber-framed house of four bays mentioned in 1616, stood directly behind the church. It was converted to labourers’ cottages before being taken down in 1868 and replaced with a new rectory. The covered lychgate was erected in 1894. After the benefices of Henley and Beaudesert were united in 1915, the churchyard needed to be enlarged and a portion of land to the east was gifted by Mr Cattell in 1919.
Richard Jago, poet and clergyman, was born in the rectory in 1715, the son of the rector of Beaudesert. He was encouraged in his poetry writing and in landscape gardening by William Shenstone and William Somerville, and composed the Roundelay for David Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee in 1769, whilst his longest and most ambitious work Edgehill describes the landscape and history of the area.
More information: www.henleychurch.co.uk