Let There be Light

1960s MK light switch  Lavendon

The Monday Photo

This switch in the porch of Lavendon’s church of St Michael reminds me of my childhood home, but how?

After a rewire in the late 1960s we had the white versions of these switches installed everywhere in the house. The switches were made by the MK Company (nothing to do with Milton Keynes) and electricians liked them; they were good quality. They are plastic, not bakelite.

At one time you could see them everywhere, and if you look at films and television made on location from the 1960s to the 1990s you’ll often spot them in the background. They are easy to spot with their curved face design.

Our early 50s house must have been originally wired with square pattern switches, as the old back boxes in the wall were reused.

But when we moved there in 1964 we found lighting in our brick built sheds, with the older style of round pattern switches. I think they were installed by a previous householder, as the circuit included a 13 amp socket but was wired to the 5 amp house lighting circuit!

Using a shed as a darkroom one winter, I switched the electric fire to both bars and all the lights in the house went out. The fire was rated at 2,000 watts, more than eight amps, so I’m not at all surprised!

In my defence I was only 16 and this was a long time before I trained as an electrician. I know better now…

The cables to the switch in today’s photo have been replaced but with a different route; two of the old style metal cable clips are still visible; one near the switch and the other is on the far right of the photo.

Whoever rewired the circuit was expert enough to make a tidy job of it; they must have judged this old switch fit for further use.

But if you think about it, the switch has had a fairly easy life, being operated far less times than one in somebody’s living room or kitchen. So fair enough; I would have used it again, too.

The wall of the South aisle that the switch is fixed to is a good 750 years older than the switch; what would those Medieval masons thought of electric lights?

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Lavendon’s Saxon church

Saxon church towerThe tower with its small narrow windows is Saxon, apart from the added top stage with its larger reticulated windows; it’s probably 14th Century. Hard to see here, there is some herringbone stonework about halfway up the tower. The South porch (and also the North one) are 15th Century.

Not well known and tucked away at the top of North Bucks, St Michael’s church, Lavendon is one of the oldest in the county.

The bottom three quarters of the unbuttressed tower, parts of the nave walls, and half of the South wall of the chancel are Saxon.

St Michael's  LavendonThis 1920s plan of the church shows the font as being under the tower arch, but it’s since been moved to roughly where the letter H is in “South Aisle”. “Modern” on this plan means from 1859 to the mid 1920s.
Drawing courtesy of the British History Online website, where you can also find a 1920s description of the church and village.

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Window Theory

Blocked priest's door and lowside window  Lathbury church

The Monday Photo

The blocked up arch in the corner here is where a low side or “leper” window once was, but nobody knows what it was for.

This is the chancel of All Saints church, Lathbury, just North of Newport Pagnell. Low side windows were built into many, but not all churches, and almost always found in the South West corner of the chancel. They are not always blocked up as this one is.

Writing in the 1920s, Arthur Robert Green wrote about the 17 different theories he had found for why they were built.

Firstly, he says these were not windows, but had a shutter; the stone rebate for the wooden frame can often be seen. Others say not all of them originally had shutters. But here are a few of those many theories.

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Pray, Tell

Church handbill  Wingrave

The Monday Photo

I found this poster, or maybe it’s a hand bill, encouraging prayer in Wingrave’s church of St Peter and St Paul, and found it was printed by A. R. Mowbray & Co Ltd.

Mowbray’s were a firm that supplied ecclesiastical furnishings, stained glass windows, and printed works, incorporated (I think that means founded) in the mid 19th Century and lasting until the mid 1990s.

They were based in Oxford and London W1. The London address, 28 Margaret Street W1 is still there; it’s just off Regent Street.

Mowbray’s would be able to supply most of the specialised things a church needed that could not be sourced locally.

This hand bill (or poster) was part of a series, as at the bottom it says, “No. VIII”. If you’ve read my post on Roman numerals, you’ll know that means it was the eighth one in the set. I’d guess that it’s at least 100 years old. I’ve never seen another one.

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Nine Hundred Years of Baptism

12th Century font  Wingrave

The Monday Photo

Wingrave’s church font was made in the 12th Century. It seems to have been made in sections; the bowl is all in one piece, but the carved cable moulding around the bottom looks like it was made in four equal pieces.

You can see a couple of the joins in the photo, where the moulding has vertical breaks.

The base, according to the 1925 A History of the County of Buckingham, “is supported on a modern stem and base”.

Take that how you like, but they might mean the font was put on that (somewhat wonky) base when the church was restored in 1887-88. But that font has been in use for a long time. How many babies has there been?

St Peter and St Paul’s church is open every day. The church has some fine stone and wooden carvings.


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