Modernised in the Past
How Winslow has Grown

Church on High

Edlesborough church from the NorthThe church can be seen from the B440 when you approach the village from the North.

Edlesborough church was originally built by the Normans, but like many churches has been much enlarged and altered since then. The nave and aisles were lengthened by two bays in the mid 13th century, but shortened by one bay 90 years later.

St Mary the Virgin’s, Edlesborough sits on a steep knoll above the village; it’s a short but steep climb through the graveyard to the entrance in the south porch.

St Mary’s is redundant, the parish now merged with Eaton Bray. the church is now looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust, and is open every day except when booked for champing.

Champing? That’s church camping; like glamping but posher, and with more history. Up to eight people at a time can book the church for champing, the only one in Bucks that does this. If you champ at St Mary’s, it’s solely yours from 4 in the afternoon to 10 the next morning.

The shape of the knoll has influenced the building of St Mary the Virgin. The nave and aisles were shortened by one bay in the 14th Century, almost certainly to make room for the new tower.

Nave wall paintings  EdlesboroughThe column on the far right marks the original length of the Norman nave, which was later extended towards the camera position by two bays in the mid 13th Century. The North and South aisles were added around the same time. You can just see the top of the pulpit canopy on the left.

While most churches have a West to East axis with the chancel at the East end, at Edlesborough the axis is South West to North East, with the chancel at the North East end.

For simplicity I’ve still referred to the aisles as being North and South, though that’s not quite accurate. But still, here’s the timeline.

Norman (1066 to 1189)
The church is first built during this period. There’s probably a little bit of it left between the arches on either side of the nave. The chancel would most likely have been smaller than the present one.

Mid 13th Century
The Nave is extended at the rear by two bays, the North and South aisles are added. Unusually, there are some transverse arches in the aisles; Aylesbury also has these.

Medieval floor tiles  EdlesboroughPreserved Medieval floor tiles, at the front of the nave.

Around 1280
The chancel is rebuilt; most likely larger than the previous one.

Around 1330
New windows are inserted into the aisle walls.

Around 1340
The nave and aisles are shortened by one bay, most likely to make room on the knoll for the new tower, built at this time.

St Mary the Virgin tower arch  EdlesboroughThis fine arch is part of the tower which was built in about 1340. The window in the far wall was damaged fairly recently. You can just see on the far left where another arch has been cut off by the building of the tower; the earlier lengthening of the nave must have been by two bays, not the one that remains.

14th Century
The South door dates from this period.

15th Century
The clerestory and North and South porches are added. The chancel arch is rebuilt. New windows are inserted into the North aisle. The nave, aisles, and chancel all receive new roofs; the South aisle roof was renewed in the 1867 restoration, but we think it replaces a 15th Century one. The font, pulpit and canopy, rood screen and new stalls are installed.

15th Century MisericordCarving under the seat of one of the 15th Century misericords.

Late 15th Century
The North transept is added.

18th Century
A gallery is built at the West end of the nave. Box pews are installed.

Lecturn  Edlesborough  BucksThis lecturn was made from wood salvaged from the tower after the 1828 fire.

28th March 1828
Lightning struck the top of the lead covered spire around 3 or 4 o’clock that afternoon. The spire burst into flames.

The lead melted and poured down the steeple, setting fire to whatever it touched. Everything in the tower that could burn, did. The bells, made red hot by the fire, dropped through to the ground, destroying the floors as they fell and setting fire to the lower parts of the tower.

The fire burned until 5am the next day. Look now at the outside of the tower and you will see anchor plates (like pairs of letter Cs back to back) on the ends of the many iron wall ties, installed to brace the now weakened tower.

Later that year, the five bells are recast into a ring of six plus a call bell, and installed into a new frame in the tower.

Arcade and clerestoryThe clerestory and windows were added to the nave in the 15th Century; the window tracery renewed in the 20th. The wall painting is Victorian, from the 1867 restoration.

1867
The church is restored. The box pews are replaced by pine benches, the West gallery disposed of. The South aisle roof is renewed, in the style of the other 15th Century roofs in the church. The wall paintings are created.

1953
The bells are taken down, retuned, then remounted in the 1828 frame. The rest of the bell fittings are renewed.

1975
The church is made redundant. The Churches Conservation Trust now own it and a local group, The Friends of St Mary's, the Church on the Hill care for it. 

Edlesborough church towerThe church is on a chalk knoll, and the nave is orientated South West to North East, instead of the usual West to East. Quite a few wall anchor plates are visible.

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