It’s a gloriously sunny morning in June. I enter the churchyard and feel as if I‘ve discovered a hidden treasure. There is nobody around and I walk up the winding path, around the Church to the arched entrance. St. Michael’s Church is a late 10th early 11th century Anglo Saxon building. Based on the writings of Matthew Parris, Abbot Ulsinus built it along with the churches of St. Peter and St. Stephen at the entrances of the town in the year 948 to serve pilgrims coming to venerate the Abbey’s shrine of Saint Alban.

 The first thing I see as I enter is a 15th century baptismal font, I walk down the nave. The place is soundless and has a dream-like quality. I step towards the altar and to my left is an elaborately carved Elizabethan pulpit. Beside it, two lit candles are flickering on a stand along with a book of prayer requests. I stand in the stillness. The stained glass from the north transept casts pink light into the space. I feel lucky to have the place to myself and sit in quiet contemplation.

 I take in the beauty of this small church, seemingly simple, yet subtly complex with many architectural features characteristic of the period such as lancet stained glass windows, medieval paintings and a tympanum. In the Chancel is a seventeenth century marble statue of Sir Francis Bacon.

 I walk back down the nave and have a closer look at the windows in the north aisle. I’m always fascinated by how rays of light are depicted, the image of the annunciation catches my eye, luminous rays of the Holy Spirit, represented by a dove, pour onto Mary. The sheer artistic skill of this effect within such a quiet hidden church is as impressive as anything you might see in a grand European Cathedral.

 At the back is a stunning stained glass window installed in 1860. This features three of the Archangels, with Michael at its centre and Gabriel and Raphael on either side of him. Michael clutches his sword firmly poised in victory, having defeated the demon under his feet, indicating his role as a spiritual warrior; he also holds up the scales weighing up our souls at the hour of death.

 I emerge into the sunlight and walk along the path out in the Churchyard; huge cedar trees cast a protective canopy over the grounds. I sit on an old bench and think about Lord Grimthorpe’s insensitive restorations to this and other ancient buildings. He once commented: “The only architect I have never quarreled with is myself.” I take a sip of my water and smile; now there’s an historical figure that I would never dream of inviting to one of my dinner parties!