Churches

Cracks in the Chancel

Chancel cracks  St Thomas  SimpsonThe vertical crack is on the edge of a blocked up North window. A supporting column for the tower arches is in the left foreground.

St Thomas’s church in Simpson, Milton Keynes, has a subsidence problem. Worrying cracks in the chancel walls have been monitored for some time, but on Thursday last week the problem was found to have got much worse.

The stability of the chancel is of such concern that nobody is allowed to enter, though the rest of the church is sound and a wedding last Saturday was allowed to go ahead.

Continue reading "Cracks in the Chancel" »

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave a comment below.
If you liked this post and want to find out more about the North Bucks area, please
Subscribe


Coronation Year

Coronation year motorcycle and church

The Monday Photo

1953 connects this classic motorcycle, the church behind it, and our late Queen.

You probably know that her late Majesty’s coronation was on 2nd June 1953, and just before Christmas that year this 500cc BSA was despatched from the factory to a dealer in Edinburgh.

I expect the bike was put together early in December, built from parts made by the factory in the first few months of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. I now own this machine, and there’s a huge difference between this bike and the motorcycles you can buy now, in performance and technology.

I often get people looking nostalgically at my obviously ancient bike, but in 1953 it was state of the art. It was easy to maintain, cheap to run basic transport; just what was needed in Britain, still coming out of wartime austerity.

Considered slow now, (I never cruise at more than 55mph) when first on the road it was faster than many cars. This model, an M33, was built to take a sidecar, an unusual sight now but very common in the years after World War 2. BSA even made their own sidecars, and in 1953 there was a choice of a family sidecar or a single seat de luxe tourer.

Behind the bike is the church of St Thomas the Apostle, in Simpson, Milton Keynes. Unusually, the central 13th Century tower is the oldest part of the church.

In the nave and above the tower arch is painted the royal arms of George II. This mural was carefully restored in coronation year, and on it GR2 for George Rex II was changed to ER2, of course for Elizabeth Regina II. There’d be uproar if this was done today!

And here we are in another coronation year. The death of Queen Elizabeth II was a shock, but not, I suppose, a surprise.

Long live the King.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave a comment below.
If you liked this post and want to find out more about the North Bucks area, please
Subscribe


A Bell, a Bell

Old treble bell in NaveThe old treble bell was cast just four miles away at Drayton Parslow in 1672. It still hangs from its late 19th Century elm headstock, made then by Whites of Appleton who also rehung all the bells this year. The wooden mallet below is there so visitors can give the bell a gentle blow; it takes quite a while for the ring to die away. It seems hard to believe, but this 29” diameter bells weighs 550 lbs.

Almost exactly in the middle of the North Bucks Wanderer’s patch is Little Horwood, and of course this is the village church.

St Nicholas’s is next to the Shoulder of Mutton pub and they share a boundary wall, so if looking round churches makes you thirsty, you won’t have too far to go for a drink.

The first thing I found when I went into the church was the old treble bell, now stood down and replaced by a new bell as it could not be retuned.

Little Horwood bellringersBefore the raised platform was installed in 1999, this small church had one of the longest bell pulls in the country.

Continue reading "A Bell, a Bell" »

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave a comment below.
If you liked this post and want to find out more about the North Bucks area, please
Subscribe


Consider the Lilies

Consider the Lilies  Granborough church chancelThe firm of Clayton & Bell were making stained glass for church windows between at least 1450 and 1920, but nobody knows how old this Clayton & Bell one is. It does seem to be Victorian, and as there is no named benefactor I would guess that the glass was installed when the church was restored in 1880.
“Consider the Lilies” is from The Sermon on the Mount.

The Monday Photo

This small window is set quite low down in the chancel of Granborough’s 14th Century St John the Baptist church. It’s probably as old as the Decorated period church and is a lowside window.

Lowside windows, introduced in the 13th Century, are a bit of a mystery. They are always in the chancel, and nearly always found in the South wall at the end nearest the nave. They are always at low level; this example’s lower edge is below waist height.

Originally lowside windows had some sort of opening shutter in the bottom half. The most popular theory is that the shutter was opened during the service so that the small sanctus bell could be rung at certain points in the ceremony. There is little evidence to suggest this, but at least it’s a possibility.

Other theories like the one that think they are “leper windows” to let the afflicted hear the service without being in the church, are mere supposition.

I wonder if these windows were placed there for reading and writing before the days of artificial lighting, but now I need to look at quite a few of them to gather evidence for or against my theory.

Why don’t you have a look at this one and maybe some others and see what you think?

This post's photo was taken with a Sony A6000 camera and lens.

I make a small percentage from sales through Amazon links, no matter what you buy while you visit their site from here. This helps me but costs you nothing, so if you make a purchase via the NBW, thank you.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave a comment below.
If you liked this post and want to find out more about the North Bucks area, please
Subscribe


Change of Use

Church toilet window

The Monday Photo

Over the centuries the way churches are used has changed, and one recent common change is to make them more suitable for general community use, alongside services and ceremonies for births, marrriages and deaths.

In this case a corner of Lavendon’s church of St Michael has been converted into a toilet, which is why we see a 13th Century window with some ordinary household items under it. I'm seeing toilets added to churches more and more now.

This facility also makes things a bit more comfortable for the more elderly members of the congregation. The diagonal pullcord on the left side of the photo is to summon help if somebody gets into difficulties, perhaps more likely to happen if some of the parishioners are becoming infirm.

There will be a full post on this church, which dates back to Saxon times, at some time in the future.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave a comment below.
If you liked this post and want to find out more about the North Bucks area, please
Subscribe


Zigging and Zagging at the Church

Stewkley church  Bucks

The Monday Photo

Chevrons are perhaps the most well recognised decoration in Norman buildings. This is St Michael’s church, Stewkley and it has many of them.

The church was built around 1150; masons, men not too different from us, built this church over 870 years ago. Chevrons or zig-zags are both the earliest and the most common decoration in Norman work, and there are two styles in this photo.

The horizontal string course has a double row of simple chevrons, with one row offset from the other. But around the windows there is just one row of more complex layered chevrons. These are very similar if not identical to mouldings on the West front of the church. 

There’s just the right amount of decoration in the church, somehow lightening the effect of the heavy masonry; imagine this scene with no mouldings. There’s another string course at the same height on the outside of the building.

This church, hardly altered over the centuries, shows an integrated design that gets lost when later alterations to churches (typically side aisles and larger windows) are made.

St Michael’s is one of just three Norman churches in this country that retain their original plan, in this case of a nave, a chancel under a central tower, (common on Norman churches) and beyond that a sanctuary.

This church is open every day between 9 am and 5 pm. If you'd like a foretaste, there's a more detailed post on St Michael’s church, Stewkley on the North Bucks Wanderer.

This post's photo was taken with a Pentax camera and lens.

I make a small percentage from sales through Amazon links like this one, no matter what you buy while you visit their site from here. This helps me but costs you nothing, so if you make a purchase via the NBW, thank you.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave a comment below.
If you liked this post and want to find out more about the North Bucks area, please
Subscribe