Matching was one of the earliest churches I visited for Flickr in 2006 and since then I've had a lot more practice. Matching was long overdue for a revisit and I managed it during wildly variable weather - cold rain and hail alternating with bright warm sunshine.
The church of St Mary The Virgin, Matching, stands on a green in the centre of the parish, close to Matching Hall. It comprises a chancel with north organ chamber and vestry, south chapel, nave with north and south aisles, south porch, and west tower. The walls are of flint rubble with stone dressings; the porch is of brick and timber.
www.flickr.com/photos/barryslemmings/sets/72157629437584408/ to see the full set.
A church probably existed around 1150, when Hugh, dean of Matching, is recorded. Vicars are recorded from 1274, but the list is far from complete until 1368. Before the 17th century incumbencies were short. Between 1433 and 1553 there were at least 15 vicars, of whom 12 or more left by resignation. In the neighbouring parish of Hatfield Broad Oak, where the vicar's income was similar, there were only five vicars between 1423 and 1548, all of whom died in office. That suggests that it was not merely the poverty of the living that made Matching unattractive. Possibly the isolation of the parish was a more important factor. In the 15th and 16th centuries several vicars were pluralists. Robert Horne, vicar 1546–53, held Matching with a London rectory and the deanery of Durham. He was later bishop of Winchester.
A 12th century chancel remained until 1873, but the nave was rebuilt, with three-bay aisles, early in the 13th century. The south aisle was widened in the later 14th century, and the central window and south doorway, partly restored, survive from that period. In the 15th century a plain square tower of three stages and the south porch, of which an original tiebeam remains, were added. The church was renovated in 1730 and again in 1770, when the roof was repaired and ceiled.
The church was restored and enlarged in 1875 to designs by Sir Arthur Blomfield, at the cost of Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson. The nave was extended one bay eastwards, the north aisle, chancel, and south porch were rebuilt, and the north organ chamber and vestry and the south chapel were added. The roof timbers were renewed, but three 14th century corbels remain in the south aisle.
The church has six bells, the oldest of which date from 1615 and 1640; two others, of circa 1500, were recast in 1875. The font, which dates from the 15th century, has an octagonal bowl with shields of arms. The octagonal carved and pannelled pulpit was given in 1624 by Richard Glascock of Down Hall. The canopy was removed in 1875. Few monuments survived the 1875 restoration.
The Marriage Feast room, immediately west of the church, was built, probably in the later 15th century, for the entertainment of poor people on their wedding day. It was used as an almshouse in the 18th century, and as a school in the early 19th century. The building was restored in 1897 and was later used as a church hall. It is of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered. The main room, which occupies the whole of the upper floor, has a crown post roof of four bays. It is approached from the outside by an integral staircase in the north-west corner. The ground floor originally had one dividing wall but was later made into several smaller rooms.