War Memorial
A Fresh Look

Church Break

St Thomas's church  Simpson in BucksOn the left is the North wall of the chancel. The crack following the edge of the blocked up window is quite clear; it runs right down to the ground in the corner.

My post last week on Simpson church had a look at the severe structural problems in the chancel, included a poster advertising an auction to raise money for repairs.

I’m pleased to tell you that the auction raised £602.50 towards the repair fund.

It’s only been a couple of months or so since these problems were found to be so bad, and with this auction the parishioners are already doing something about it. So it’s a good start, but the church is going to cost £1,000s to put right.

I donated a couple of photos to the auction; churches are part of our heritage and I think it’s important they are preserved.

What else could a North Bucks Wanderer do, especially after being asked by Iola the churchwarden who opened up the church specially for me? Fair enough!

There’s a couple of photos here you will not have seen before. I had to cut them from the photo session where I photographed the church for last week’s post, as the post was getting much too big.

Iola is going to keep me in the loop about the chancel repairs, so watch this space. For more about Simpson church, not just its chancel, just click on the link at the top of this post.

Simpson church bellringer's roomThis is the bellringing room, in the tower. On the right is a window that was blocked off when the church was rebuilt in the 14th Century. There are cracks in the top of the window reveal and they run up the wall, but I don’t know if they are anything to do with the problems in the chancel.

Simpson auction poster2The auction poster. I added the blue “LAST WEEK” text for this post.

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Hi Roger,
I have a church query your research may have info on.

Many years ago I recall seeing a tourist brochure about interesting places to visit around the Newport Pagnell area in which it stated that the Willen church design was based on a sketch by Christopher Wren when a student. In Marion Hill’s book – “Milton Keynes through time” at page 64 she states:
In 1680, Sir Robert Hooke..... designed Willen’s Church of St Mary Magdalene.

Perhaps both statements are correct?

Hi John,
I've had a look through all my county guides and other books, and they all say that the church was designed by Robert Hooke. Two of these books, one the oldest guide I have, the other a well recognised history book, gave me complete answers.

The Little Guide to Buckinghamshire, by E. S. Roscoe, revised by R. L. P. Jowitt, E. Clive Rouse (published 1904, revised edition 1950) says:
"...it has now been proved without doubt that the architect was Robert Hooke. His Diary is preserved in the Guildhall Library, and several entries therein refer to his work at Willen"

The History of Milton Keynes and District by Sir Frank Markham (first published 1973) says:
"It used to be assumed that he got his former pupil Sir Christopher Wren to design it, but recent research has shown that this ... (church) ... was the work of one Robert Hooke"
("he" was Dr. Richard Busby, who owned the manor of Willen and who commissioned the new church)

I can't find anything about a sketch, though the church is certainly built in the Classic Revival style which Wren is still famous for, and Wren and Hooke certainly knew each other well. Perhaps that's all there is to this tale.

That’s very interesting Roger, so there was early speculation (hope?) it might have been based on Wren's vision, and of course in promotional blurb, a link to the famous is a plus. Most would know of Wren, Hooke less so – my only reference to the name would be Hooke’s joint (in engineering), although I don’t know is it the same person?


Yep, it is the same man. For those who don't know, the Hooke joint is the universal joint found on the prop shafts of most cars, and, as it happens, on my shaft drive motorcycle too. I can see the old seized one I replaced a few years ago; it's here on the shelf next to my desk.

Another example of Wren being mentioned is for the building of Winslow Hall. It's known that he was involved in the construction, but there's no proof of him being the architect.


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