The Maid’s Church

St Edmunds  Maids Moreton

The Monday Photo

Why is this village, just North of Buckingham, known as Maids Moreton? It used to just be called Moreton, and it’s all to do with the church, completely rebuilt around the middle of the 15th Century.

Two sisters, the Maids, paid for the rebuilding work, and so the name of the village changed.

Some say the sisters were daughters of the Pevre family, but others say they could have been Alice and Edith de Moreton, who held part of the manor from 1393 to 1421.

The church was built in the perpendicular style, where advances in design meant that the windows could be made very large without compromising the strength of the walls. This means that St Edmund’s is a bright and airy church.

Another church built in this fine style is at Hillesden.

St Edmund’s was rebuilt around 1450, and I think this would be the completion date; it would have been a long process when everything was done by hand. It’s quite a large church for such a small village.

The chancel was first to be rebuilt, and we think this because there are clues in the way the stonework is jointed between the chancel and the nave.

The West doorway, at the bottom of the picture, is thought to be unique with its elaborate canopy supported by fan vaulting.

The big perpendicular window above has remnants of the original glass. Those long tall recesses with the louvres for the bells at the top are also unique.

This church is close to being unchanged since the 15th century. Perhaps that’s why although village churches are nearly all Grade 2 listed, this one is proudly listed Grade 1.

Shakespeare Slept Here

The Bard slept here

The Monday Photo

But it should say, Shakespeare had a few lunchtime pints and dozed off in the wooden porch that once sheltered this door, in Grendon Underwood church.

It’s said that he was found asleep there by the two village constables. The constables shook him awake and roughly turfed him out of the porch. One of them was the Rector’s son, a Mr. Josias Howe.

As Shakespeare stood there, both half sober and half awake, they accused him of stealing from the church, but our William took them inside and pointed to the wooden chest there. “Go and see”, he told them. They looked in the chest, but they could find nothing missing. “There!”, said Shakespeare, “Much ado about nothing!”

It all seems a bit of an unlikely tale, but it’s quite possible that Shakespeare was thinking of these village constables when he wrote the unflattering parts of those two fine men of the watch, Dogberry and Verges. Of course in his play Much Ado About Nothing.

Shakespeare stopped overnight at Grendon Underwood several times on his way to and from Stratford-Upon-Avon and London, and stayed in the half timbered inn The Ship, not far from the church. It’s now a private house.

In Shakespeare’s time this area was more heavily wooded, and the village lay on the forest tracks used by gypsies and strolling players. ‘Grendon Underwood’ means ‘Green Hill under the wood’.

The Miser’s Head

Miser's head

The Monday Photo

John Camden Neild was a recluse and a miser, and this less than complimentery carving is of his head. It’s on North Marston church. It’s a recent carving, made when the 15th Century tower was restored in 2004-2005.

John Camden Neild had lived in Chelsea, but when he died in 1852 he was buried in the chancel of the church; he had owned property in the village.

He left most of his fortune  of £500,000 (worth £29 million today) to Queen Victoria, even though he had never met her.

The Queen used the money first to see that Neild’s servants were taken care of, then had the chancel of North Marston church restored and had the new East window installed with its fine stained glass.

Then she bought the Balmoral estate in Scotland and had it remodelled, at a cost of £31,000.

This head is a label stop; it’s on the bottom edge of a label (or dripstone, or hood mould); a carved stone ridge above a church window that directs rainwater away from the glass.

When this Grade 1 listed church was inspected a few years ago, the tower was found to be in very poor condition. Some of the eight inch thick facing stones were down to two inches or less.

Specialist stonemasons Boden and Ward made a fine job of restoring the tower, (there's more about it at the link) and carved this head, and the one of John Schorne that’s on the other end of the label.

Just Stop

All the stops

The Monday Photo

Have you ever had to put all your efforts into something and said you were “Pulling out all the stops”? This phrase comes from church organs, and how they are played.

Those knobs with the curious names you’ll see on an organ are the stops. When you pull out a stop, it allows air through a certain set of organ pipes. The more stops you pull out, the more pipes come into play.

If you pull out all the stops, the organ is making the greatest noise; making the greatest effort. That’s where the phrase comes from.

These stops are on the organ of Adstock church. Some organs have great banks of stops, but at Adstock the organ is in a small church; it doesn’t need to be very big.

The church, dedicated to St. Cecilia, is Grade 1 listed.

All is Bright

Church of All Saints  HillesdenThe South face of All Saints church. The tower is 15th Century with geometric style windows, but the rest of the church was built later in the Perpendicular style. In the middle is the South Transept.

All Saints, Hillesden, is a Perpendicular church. This style is easy to recognise; the windows have strong vertical stone bars, or mullions, that mean the windows can be made very large to let in the maximum amount of light.

Makers of stained glass could use the great areas of glass to their best advantage, and a church like Hillesden, built in this style, is a light and airy place. 

Hillesden’s walls are thin compared to older churches, but buttresses between the windows makes the walls stiff and strong. The thin walls allow in yet more light. Because the windows are not deep set, sunlight can come in from almost any angle.

Much use is made of vertical lines in this style, as you can see from the pillars in the church.

Nave and South aisle  HillesdenAll these large windows make the church airy and bright. This is the nave, the south aisle and South Transept, and the original rood screen. Beyond it is the chancel, and in it but barely visible here, are rows of carved angels at the top of the side walls. I have a clearer shot of the chancel here, in my previous post.

Continue reading "All is Bright" »

Warmer Days are Ahead

The days are drawing out, and the warmer days are coming. We still have a couple of months to go, but here’s just a few photos to remind us of what to look forward to.

Cublington church  BucksCublington church was built in around 1400 A.D. and has been little altered or expanded since. The village, once further down the hill, had been abandoned for nearly sixty years after the climate changed. The original site had become too wet and muddy to be practical.

The new village grew around the church, which had been partly built with materials from the old one.

Soulbury  BucksBefore the new road was built, going to Aylesbury from Bletchley meant I cut through Soulbury to avoid Leighton Buzzard. At the bottom of the village I would take the right turn that took me into the back of Wing. I took this photo from the field next to the turn, one August.

Soulbury is well known for its stone, a piece of the Peak District left there 450,000 years ago by a retreating glacier.

Shipton Brook bridge  BucksShipton Brook bridge was built just South of Winslow for the new Aylesbury to Buckingham turnpike that opened in 1722. In 1937 a new bridge was built upstream and the bridge was bypassed. I used to come here to play in the 1960s.