Building the Pilgrim’s Chapel

Gable end of chapel  Bradwell AbbeyThe West end of the chapel. Nothing quite lines up, though the overall effect is good, with nice proportions. The buttresses do not match each other, so may have come from two different buildings.
The three light reticulated window is well carved and still in good condition.

The Pilgrim's Chapel
Part Two

This is part 2 of 3 of a short series on the Grade 1 listed St Mary’s chapel, at Bradwell Abbey, Milton Keynes. In part 1 Our Lady of Bradwell we looked at the detailed timeline and saw how the chapel survived when the other priory buildings didn’t.

Next week we shall take a good look at the paintings that gave the chapel its Grade 1 listing, but today we shall see how the 14th Century chapel was designed, constructed and changed.

Once again, many thanks to Peter Martin of the Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre for getting me access.

The chapel was built to enclose a statue of the Virgin Mary, that had been set in a niche on the end of the priory church. Pilgrims would then pay to enter and pray to St. Mary.

The strong cult of St. Mary in England meant the chapel would be a popular pilgrim destination. It would bring much needed revenue to the priory, which had been in decline for over twenty years.

I think that means that the chapel was built on a budget, out of whatever materials were to hand. That meant reusing materials from other parts of the priory, probably from ruined buildings, and that the monks themselves built the chapel.

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A Manor With No Village

 

Foscote manor

The Monday Photo

There are manor houses all over England, and we have our fair share of them in North Bucks. One of them is Foscott Manor, near Maids Moreton.

There was a fine house here in 1333, but the present house dates from the 17th Century. It may have replaced that 14th Century house or perhaps an even later one.

I don’t think we’ll ever find out now but what we do know is that an Edward Grenville acquired the property in 1639.

He’s said to have had the present house built in 1656, however there’s an original staircase which the Grade II listing says was built in about 1640. This sort of thing is why we say things like “mid 17th Century”.

The house was very much enlarged and also restored in 1868 and 1908, though this front and the North East front round the corner to our right are from the original build.

Service
The service wing we can see just to the right of the main house is, I think, also 17th Century. To its right and some distance further away is the stable block and coach-house, built in the late 19th Century. It has its own Grade II listing.

Foscott, Foscote or Foxcote, however you might spell it, is just a hamlet now. It’s the site of a lost village which was enclosed after 1625. The narrow, cattle gridded lane through the hamlet joins the Buckingham to Old Stratford road and there's a gate house, "The Lodge" at the junction.

There’s a few earthworks, though there may have been more evidence of settlement in what’s now the heavily landscaped parts of the Manor garden. It’s not unknown though for gardens like this to have paths and roads that partly follow the old village lanes.

It was a never a big village, and the clue is that the church, now a house, is quite small. I featured it in last week’s Monday Photo.

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Our Lady of Bradwell

St Mary's chapel  Bradwell AbbeyThe East wall of the chapel is all that remains of the main body of the church. The respond or half column on this wall with the base of an arch above it shows the end of an arcade between the nave and aisle; this would have been on the inside of the church.

The Pilgrim's Chapel
Part One
Over six hundred and fifty years ago the monks of Bradwell Priory built a small chapel against the West wall of their church. That church and the rest of the priory buildings are long gone, but the small chapel survives.

The chapel is kept locked, but I managed to get rare access to the interior with my camera and had a good long look; there’s lots to discover. Many thanks to Peter Martin of the Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre for giving me access.

This week I’m going to tell you the story of the chapel, in part 1 of 3.

Next week we shall be looking at the way the chapel was designed and built, and on the week after in part 3, the unique wall paintings that gave it a Grade I listing.

Here’s the timeline.

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Church Life

St Leonard's church  Foscote

The Monday Photo

St Leonard’s church became a house in the late 1970s, gaining an inserted floor above the nave and dormer windows in the roof. The chancel is now a living room.

This is the hamlet of Foscote, near Maids Moreton. You might find it spelt Foscott, or Foxcote. You might have guessed it means fox cottage/hut/shelter/den.

Old photographs show the graveyard in good order in 1945, albeit with the West wall covered in ivy. But by 1973 it was overgrown. The captions to photos taken in 1976 describe the church as derelict.

You can see these and other photos including interior shots at the link above, which takes you to Buckinghamshire County Council’s online collection of historic photos. Pick Foscott from the drop-down list.

Simple
This simple church was built in the 12th Century with just a nave and chancel. The chancel was extended in the 14th Century; the present chancel arch is from the same period, probably built at the same time. It’s a small narrow arch, most likely because the original arch was small and narrow too.

The porch is Tudor which makes it 15th Century; the outer doorway has that typical arch shape seen so often with Tudor work. The inner doorway is transitional; that is, built when styles were changing from the Norman to the Early English.

The church listing (it’s Grade II*) describes it:

“C12 S. (South) doorway has round moulded arch with nailhead ornament to outer moulding, carved impost blocks and stoup to right.”

Imposts are the blocks at the base of an arch. Stoups held holy water, and on entering or leaving the church a worshipper would dip the fingers of their right hand and make the sign of the cross.

Lancets
As usual there’s a variety of window styles, many inserted after the original construction. There are several wide lancets which may well be the same age as the church; from the road and without going inside I cannot say for sure.

Of course, it’s a private house now so I doubt I ever will see the inside for myself. Oh well.

You may be concerned that this is not a functioning church any more, but there’s over 200 towns, villages and hamlets in North Bucks and most of them have a church; so I shouldn’t worry; at least it’s being looked after.

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Once a Castle, Now a Farm

Original castle entrance  Lavendon(1) Entering the main bailey through the original entrance, this is the end of Castle Farm’s modern drive that goes down to the Harrold road. The brick building top right is also visible in the photo of the bailey edge.

Lavendon is right on the edge of North Bucks, and just to the North of the village you can find the earthworks of quite a big 12th Century castle.

The castle had a motte for the keep and three attached baileys, though one of them isn’t really a defensive earthwork.

The main bailey still has its original entrance on the South East side, and there’s another entrance on the North West side which leads to the big, non defensive bailey.

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How Winslow has Grown

Winslow development since 1950Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The Monday Photo

Not a photo this week, but a map. But it does give you a picture of how much things have changed in the town I grew up in, since this map was published in the early 50s. It also shows you the centre of the North Bucks area, on the right side of the map, about half way up.

I’ve shaded areas where land was developed since the map was printed, and I’ve outlined in red areas that had been built as far as I know, by the time I came to Winslow a few years later. Here's a key to the numbers on the map.

(1)
I moved to the town as a baby (with much help from Mum and Dad) in 1959. We lived in Church Street until not long after I started at the now closed primary school (6) in Sheep Street.

(2)
The Winslow County Secondary School opened in the same year we moved to Winslow. It would be a long time, as the oldest of three boys, before I was even aware of it.

(3)
We moved to Demoram Close. I wasn’t impressed, as this meant it was too far away from the school for me to come home for lunch. But the house did have a fine big garden.

This part of the map dates the its surveying to 1950 or 51; the houses on the West side of Demoram Close are shown, but the ones on the East side, including the house we lived in hadn’t been built by then. By the way, some of my uncles were bricklayers employed on the building of the close.

I’m not sure when the bungalows nearby at Tinkers End were built, but I remember them as a boy so I’ve outlined them in red, too.

(4)
The Elmfields Estate was established by 1965.

(5)
The railway station closed on 30th December 1967. I do remember it, but only after it was closed. The new station is now being constructed in the shaded area just to the North of the railway.

(6)
My primary school closed in the 1980s, with a new school being built on the Magpie Farm estate, between (4) and (5) on this map.

When it's helpful I’ll be showing you a few more maps like this, including some older ones, from now on.

 

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