Wolverton’s Ecclesiastical History – XII A Conclusion of Sorts

Let me bring this twelve part trawl through Church history to some sort of conclusion.

The earliest inhabitants in the Wolverton area met their spiritual need s through various pagan rites – of which we know very little. Once Christian conversion was complete people followed a uniform code, worhsipping one God through one religion and through one rite – in this case the Roman church.

There were reform movements in the 14th century but it was not until the 16th century Reformation that a break from the Roman Church became possible – and then it was either-or; peaceful co-existence between Christian sects seemed not to be possible. Only in the relatively more tolerant 18th century would society allow different Christian sects to practise side-by-side. Even then there were difficulties. When the early Baptists built themselves a Chapel in Fenny Stratford in 1707, the Lord of the manor was mightily offened and had the chapel torn down, which he was legally entitled to do since he was the law.

Even so, apart from the odd practitioner of the Jewish faith, who might have appeared in Wolverton or Stony Stratford from time to time, Wolverton, like most other parts of England was almost universally Christian.

In the later part of the 20th century this began to change and practitioners of separate religions entirely began to populate the country. Wolverton was no exception and adherents to the Islamic faith have adapted the old General Post Office as a Mosque.

So it’s obviously not the end of the story and I assume there will be many changes in the future. What these will be we cannot know.

Wolverton’s Ecclesiastical History – XI The Non Conformist Churches

From the time of the Reformation there were those who wished to move further away from the Roman rites than the majority. The Church of England, with its Book of Common Prayer, became a compromise between the conservative Roman Catholic tendency and the reformers. There were those reformers who wanted to go further and many of these tensions came to the surface in the 17th Century Civil War. In the 18th century passions cooled and preachers such as ~John Wesley were able to gain adherents without being executed for treason. They were however known as Nonconformists and their activities were restricted. They were, for example, not allowed to perform legal marriages and all births and burials had to be entered in the Church of England Parish Register. Nor were prospective ministers allowed to study at either Oxford or Cambridge until 1850.
Nonconformism means that they did not conform to the mainstream churches in the UK, either the Church of England or its predecessor the Roman Catholic Church. It is essentially a negative description and in no way describes their attitude to worship. Sometimes they were called “dissenters” – another negative appellation.
Under this umbrella term came the various methodist groups, baptists, quakers and the Salvation Army. In essence, all of these groups, whatever their particular differences, believed that the individual could communicate directly with God without the intercession of a priest.
In Wolverton there were two Methodist Churches, a Congregational Church, and Emmanuel Hall, which may have been a Baptist Group. The Wesley brothers had great success with their preaching in North Bucks and the 19th century buildings for the wesleyans were amongst the first and largest. A chapel was built in Stony Stratford in 1844 on what is now Silver Street. The picture below shows the first Wesleyan Chapel on Church Street in Wolverton, minus spire I think.

The Methodists in Wolverton at first met in a colleagues home or went to Stony Stratford. Within a few years the Reading Room was converted for their use on Sunday and in 1870 a new church chapel was opened at the eastern end of Church Street. This was redevloped and enlarged in 1892 – the building you see here in this photograph.

This building is no longer used, but the twentieth century West End Methodist Chapel on Church Street at the corner of Anson Road is still in use.

History of Emmanuel Hall

Emmanuel HallThis description taken from the Emmanuel Hall website.

In 1922 a group of evangelical Christians, who had formed themselves into a church and who were meeting together in a rented upstairs room in the back way between Church Street and Stratford Road, decided to acquire a permanent place of worship. They purchased two adjacent properties in Church Street and built a meeting room across the rear gardens. This small meeting place, originally known as Emmanuel Chapel, was later referred to as a gospel hall rather than a chapel, but today it is called Emmanuel Hall.

This group had come together, having withdrawn their membership from the other free churches of the town whose doctrinal position was becoming increasingly influenced by liberal theology. These believers maintained an active gospel testimony in the years that followed and were supported both by The Mission Hall at New Bradwell (in Caledonian Road) and the Mission at Stony Stratford (linked to Fegan’s Homes).
Mainly due to the disruption caused by the outbreak of war, the fellowship disbanded and transferred its allegiance and trusteeship to the Bradwell Mission Hall. Emmanuel Hall was taken over by the Wolverton local authority for use as an employment exchange. Under the new city reorganisation, a job centre was established in the Agora centre in 1979 and Emmanuel Hall put on the market by its trustees.

Emmanuel Hall

Congregational Church

The Congregational Church came into being in 1878 but didn’t even make its centenary, being pulled down in 1970 as part of the authorized demolition of Wolverton landmarks post Milton Keynes. The church, in red brick held a commanding position at the top of the square. I belive the manse for this church was on Moon Street. the church was replaced by a supermarket with some provision for church activity in an upper room. In this photograph, dating from the 1950s, you can see the old Cenotaph, fenced off with a low wrought iron railing.

I have been conscious, while writing this section, how little I know about the Nonconformist churches. More surprising to me has been the difficulty of finding information on their history. If there is anyone who can enlighten me and add to the discussion, I would be grateful

Wolverton’s Ecclesiastical History – X Expanding Denominations

The Christian church history of the Wolverton Manor is plainly a long one – stretching back over 1,000 years. We know that a church was built on the site of Holy Trinity in the 14th century and that it must have replaced earlier structures. The church was completely rebuilt in the early 19th century, although the 14th century tower was retained. The dramatic expansion of Wolverton Station in the 1840s led to the construction of St George the Martyr, consecrated in 1844, and a further chapel at the “Wolverton End” of Stony Stratford in 1865. Technically the church of St Mary Magdalene, long abandoned of course, was on the Wolverton Manor, but that is more properly discussed under Stony Stratford churches. The other part of Wolverton’s ecclesiastical history is the Bradwell Priory, built on land owned by the Baron Meinfelin, but just outside the Wolverton Manor. I have described the history of the Priory here.

Christianity had a long run as a single denomination. Churches first of all owed their allegiance to Rome and after the Reformation of 1534 to the Church of England. In the 18th century the preaching of John Wesley led to the Methodist movement, which was popular in North Bucks and led to a number of chapels being established in Wolverton and Stony Stratford in the 19th century. I’ll discuss the Roman Catholic revival here and the protestant churches tomorrow.

St Francis De Sales

 Roman Catholics had been consigned to the fringes since the reformation but were enjoying some resurgence in the 19th century. The influx of new workers from Scotland, Ireland, Lancashire and the North East of England brought many of the Roman Catholic faith to Wolverton. From the early days of the railway the Roman Catholics at Wolverton Station were incorporated into the Parish of Aylesbury and their nearest mass was at Weston Underwood, nine miles away. Not an impossible walk for people in those days but a daunting one which meant trailing through Haversham, Little Linford and Gayhurst. After 1860 the Roman Catholic community successfully petitioned the Bishop of Northampton who agreed to establish a parish at Wolverton. Father Francis Cambours was sent there in 1864 and he succeeded in raising £1000 towards the cost of a church. A year later he was replaced by Father William Blackman who stayed there a number of years. He first lodged with the Sarah Dunn, recently a widow, at 425 Gas Street and I suspect that for a time it served as the Presbytery. 

The new church, built on its present site on the Stratford Road opened in 1867 and was built at a cost of £885. Four years later a Presbytery was built next door to the church and apparently Sarah Dunn contributed over £200, probably her life savings, to this building project. She moved in with Father Blackman to serve as his housekeeper until her death in 1884.  Pastoral care was administered from Aylesbury and Weedon under various arrangements for the first twenty five years and it was not until 1864 that a priest was assigned to the town. A year later Father William Blackman arrived and in 1867 the local congregation were able to open their new church, at that time on the western fringe of the town. The church remains today on the corner of Radcliffe Street and the Stratford Road.

Roman Catholics arrived from the earliest in noticeable numbers.  This was probably the first influx of catholics since the reformation who had probably been few in number in North Buckinghamshire, apart from those small pockets supported by the local ruling family. Wolverton and Stony Stratford were strongly protestant, and it is possibly for this reason (and I have no certain knowledge of this), that the founders of the church dedicated it to the 16th century Swiss divine, St. Francis de Sales, who had great success in restoring his Calvinist countrymen to the Roman Catholic Church.

It appears that the church was originally planned as a school. In the mid-1860s Wolverton had second generation catholics who were starting their families, and schooling may have been uppermost in their minds. It may have been the intent to have a school room which could double as a place for worship and later build a church on the remaining land. This may explain the architecture, which is more school-like than church-like, and the orientation, which is from north to south, rather than the traditional east to west. Needless to add, whatever plan was in the founders’ minds did not come to pass.

A second church, dedicated to St Mary Magdalene, was built in the 1970s.

Wolverton’s Ecclesiastical History – IX Wolverton St Mary

In 1871 the population of Old Wolverton was 204 – hardly changed from the days before the arrival of the railway – and indeed it would not see any enlargement until 1965 when Wimpey built the Galleon Estate. However, there had been significant development at the eastern and western ends of the Wolverton Manor. Wolverton Station was now a town exceeding Stony Stratford in size and the expansion of the Carriage Works led to growth in Stony Stratford.

The Radcliffe Trust owned a number of cottages beside the London Road and Stony stratford was starting to expand to the east. In 1861, at the time that Wolverton itself was allowed to expand, the Vicar of Holy Trinity, Reverend William Pitt Trevelyan, approached the Trustees with a plan to build a school and chapel at the corner of the London Road. The Trustees agreed and land and money was granted in 1863 to build a chapel and residence. The chapel, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, was to be served by a curate under the direction of the Vicar of Wolverton. In 1869 a new ecclesiastical district was formed known as “Wolverton St. Mary”. As this end of Stony Stratford grew with the development of Clarence Road, this district grew into a parish with a larger population than that of its Mother Church. The parish was known as Wolverton St. Mary until 1953.

From its inception the church had leanings towards the Anglican “High Church” in common with a significant trend in the 19th century, but in 1885 the Trustees made an appointment which pushed the high church tendency to its extreme. The new incumbent was Oliver Partridge Henty, very much the high churchman teetering on outright Roman Catholicism. A good part of his congregation became devoted followers, but another significant section were deeply opposed to his Roman practices. Matters eventually came to a head in 1905 when the Bishop of Oxford was forced to reprimand Henty and order him to change his ways. Henty ignored this. Subsequently he was summoned before a church court and formally disciplined. Henty once again continued as if nothing had happened and the bishop finally sacked him.

The next Sunday the Bishop himself came to conduct the service and the irrepressible Henty took his followers down the High Street to St Giles. In subsequent weeks Henty and his followers tried to reclaim their church against the competition, as they saw it, and eventually the locks had to be changed and the police called to keep Henty and his followers out of the church.

Eventually Henty gave up and left Stony Stratford. He converted to Roman Catholicism four years later.
Passions had been seriously inflamed by the events of 1905 and not a few grudges nursed for years to come. Feeling had run so high that, tragically, the long-serving Verger was unable to take it any more and drowned himself in a water butt.

The Church closed in 1968 and 8 years later was converted into a community centre.

Wolverton’s Ecclesiastical History – VIII St George the Martyr

The arrival of the railway in 1838 led to a rapid development of the new town at Wolverton Station where the population quickly outnumbered the inhabitants of the old manor and in a few years outstripped Stony Stratford. The old Wolverton Manor had only grown along the Stony Stratford strip. For the most part it had the same population as it had 1,000 years earlier.

The new a rapid influx of population in 1840 quickly led to a new church, and in time to a new parish.

I have already written several posts on St George’s which can be viewed here:

The need for new churches
The beginning
The consecration

The church was enlarged in the 1880s as the town expanded, and the westerley expansion of Wolverton in the early 20th century also swelled the congregation of Holy Trinity. Many households in Anson and Jersey Roads walked the half mile or so across the fields through Slated Row to the old church and there were those who preferred the older church to the newer St George’s.

Wolverton’s Ecclesiastical History – VII A New Church

When Henry Quartley arrived at Wolverton in 1794 the church was considered to be in a very poor state. By this time the building and tower was over 400 years old. Thomas Harrison, the Trustee’s agent, was asked to conduct a survey and estimate the cost of the work. However, Quartley’s view was that the Rectory, by that time about 70 years old, needed more urgent attention and in 1796 the Trust contributed £200 towards the cost of rectory repairs.

The church stayed off the agenda until 1802 when Harrison presented a plan for repairs. There was no action as one of the trustees, the Earl of Aylesford, was interested in a grander design. The idea took flight in 1807 when Aylesford, who came with experience of church building, was asked to develop plans for a new church. He found a young architect, the 36 year-old Henry Hakewill and brought him to a meeting of the Trustees on 27th May 1808. At this meeting the Trustees made a decision to procure plans and estimates and a year later Hakewill’s plan and estimated cost of £3,742 17s. was given the green light.

It is interesting that the new canal played a significant part in the building of the new church. Two quarries were used: one at Attleborough near Nuneaton and another at Bilston, near Northampton.  Although stone was transported considerable distances during the medieval building period, the new transportation system made the carriage so much easier and faster. This was also a new age of iron manufacture and the windows were made by a company in which Thomas Harrison had an interest and were delivered by canal to the Old Wolverton wharf.

The design of the church was quite distinctive, and proved to be even more distinctive in that few churches were built in this style after this. Hakewill settled on a neo-Norman style using rounded Romanesque arches, rather than the pointed gothic style which had dominated church building since the 13th century.  The style is also a deliberate reminder that this church is the oldest foundation on the Wolverton Manor and precedes by at least 200 years the development of Stony Stratford.

Hakewill’s plan involved pulling down the old nave and chancel, but retaining the structure of the tower. the tower now became the western entrance for the new church and was faced and decorated in the new style. The drawing above, dating from the 1840s, shows the new church in pristine condition. Below, is a plan drawing to show the siting of the 14th century church.

Construction was completed in 1815 and the final bill, almost double the first estimate, came in at £7,792 18s 7 1/2d. Some final touches included the landscaping of the grounds around the churcha and rectory, which unfortunately led to the filling of the ancient castle moat.

The stonework carries some history of the building. Some of the older stone from the earlier church has been used in the foundations and rubble walling. This rather poor quality limestone has been identified as coming from the local quarry at Cosgrove. Some ashlar ironstone came from a quarry at Towcester. Other limestones of better quality may have come from quarries in Northamptonshire at Weldon, Clipsham and Helmdon. Again these materials have been re-cycled from the earlier church and thus provides some historical continuity.

The new building is brick-built but faced with stone from the midland quarries. The tower was preserved in its limestone form but faced with cut stone from the Attleborough quarry.

What follows is a very full description of the design and features of the church from a monograoh written by John Brushe.


It is important when looking at Holy Trinity to bear in mind that it is a pioneering church, probably the first complete church in Britain built in the revived Norman or Romanesque style. Quite a few neo- Norman churches were built in the 1840s but Wolverton church was designed and built by 1815, well before the reign of Queen Victoria. Very little had been published on the Norman style at that time and its architect, Henry Hakewill, would have had to base his deSigns on per­sonal research. In this light Holy Trinity is a remarkable achievement, and a building of national importance.
The architectural display is concentrated on the west front of the tower, the entrance elevation. The door is impressively treated in the Norman style with three orders of shafts and, to the round arch, chevron or zigzag moulding framed by roll mouldings. The shafts bear capitals which are scalloped in the Norman style but the ornament above the trumpet scallops of fleur­de-Iys and circles in relief has no Norman precedent and shows an unfamiliarity with the style which results in a certain originality.
Above the door is a run of blank arcading with inter­secting round -arched heads between the big pilaster buttresses, whose angles are treated as shafts. This dec­oration of intersecting arches is used on the tower of the Norman church of Stewkley, not far away, as well as in many other Norman buildings. Repeated again on the corners of the tower parapet, this motif anticipates the decoration of many of the fittings within the church.
On the south side of the tower is a clock face which is unusual in only having a single hand, a feature asso­ciated with early clocks. The clock mechanism isunsigned and may well pre-date the rebuilding of the church. The cast-iron clock face is framed by a hood mould with a carved head either end: a young man’s head on the left and a rather comical old man’s head on the right, with a curious sort of head-dress. The young man’s head is framed by foliage and is clearly a version of the medieval carvings of the Green Man. There are more carved heads high up in the corbel table below the battlemented parapet of the tower.
Before it was wrapped in new stonework, the medieval tower had a projecting stair turret at the south -west cor­ner, rising above the original battlemented parapet as a polygonal turret. In the rebuilding the tower was height­ened and the stair turret hidden within the south-west buttress. Only the small round-headed windows light­ing the stairs signal its presence.
The windows lighting the nave and transepts, and the east window are all much larger in relation to the expanse of walling in which’ they are set than in eleventh or early twelfth century churches. They are closer in proportion to the windows in classical Georgian churches or the City churches designed by Wren. Again they manifest the underlying classical spir­it of the building. Not that it is designed to deceive, but is rather a building of its time whose style deliberately evokes an important moment in history. The window frames are of cast-iron specially designed for this church with three circles alluding to the Trinity.
Over the corners of the projecting transepts and the chancel rise tall, octagonal lantern turrets. They are fea­tures more characteristic of the greater Norman churches rather than parish churches. Their inspiration is indeed said to be the Romanesque turrets on the transepts and east end of Peterborough cathedral. As one of the most important surviving Norman buildings, Peterborough would have been an obvious source for details when Hakewill was making his designs. They have conical stone caps with ribs which terminate in wolves’ heads, a nice pun on Wolverton’s name, though you will need binoculars to appreciate it!
The tall gables to the chancel and transepts are large­ly decorative, rising well above the actual roofs which are, as has already been noted, quite low-pitched.
The great round window filling the eastern wall is the architect’s boldest stroke. Round windows were employed in Norman churches but never on so large a scale. Where a circular window appears in the East end it is high in the gable above a row of the more usual narrow round-headed Windows, as for instance at Barfreston, Kent. A closer parallel is with classical churches such as St Michael’s Cornhill in the City, of 1670-77, and St Mary’s Twickenham by John James, built 1714-15, which each have a single relatively large round East window. Holy Trinity’s is larger still. Why? A comparison between the East ends of these churches and Holy Trinity’s suggests the reason. At St Mary’s and St Michael’s the windows sit above large altar pieces. At Holy Trinity the round window is positioned almost directly above the altar, eliding an altar piece. As origi­nally completed the window held stained glass featuring the Sacred Monogram IHS in a sunburst, which often appears in 17th and 18th century altar pieces. In other words the round window at Holy Trinity is both window and altar piece.
The East end is best studied in winter when the trees around it have shed their leaves and the great east win­dow can be seen from the field beyond the churchyard boundary, startlingly large, the dominant feature of a building which is the masterpiece of its architect and perhaps the most powerful church of the early years of the nineteenth century before the Battle of Waterloo.


The Tower

            The lowest stage of the tower forms a porch to the -.l. church beyond. This was formerly the crossing of the medieval church. The floor was originally at least 3 feet lower than it is now. If you open one of the doors in the modern timber screens either side you will see the medieval stonework of the original central tower, hidden within the present west tower. The walls are of the local limestone rubble, framing the better quality stonework of a fourteenth century arch either side. These arches formerly led into the transept chapels which originally flanked the tower. They are the same either Side, of simple powerful design with a chamfered shouldered arch outermost framing two massive cham­fered arches which die into the piers.
            Low down on the right side of the arch in the north wall is a stone inscribed with an upside down cross within a lozenge partly cut offby the outer chamfer. This has been interpreted as a re-used stone bearing a pos­sible Saxon consecration cross. It could however refer to St Peter, who was crucified upside down.
            The medieval stonework was rediscovered under early nineteenth century plaster during the course of the 1907 repairs to the tower carried out under the supervision of Charles Harrison Townsend. Plaster still covers the east and west walls, hiding the stonework of the arches which originally opened into the nave on the west side, and the chancel to the east, instead of the present doorways. Part of one side of the chancel arch can be seen, however, inside the cupboard in the inner right hand corner hous­ing the clock weights. The arch was wider than the present doorway, but probably no higher. The door in the outer right hand corner by the entrance leads to the medieval stone spiral staircase up to the ringing cham­ber and the roof.
            The present floor of the tower is paved in Kingsthorpe stone, another of Northamptonshire’s many limestones. The fine oak cross-beamed ceiling may conceivably pre­date the early nineteenth century rebuilding. It bears stencilled decoration.
            If you get a chance to go up the tower you will use the original steep medieval stone spiral stair. It has 55 stone steps. At intervals there are blocked doorways to roof levels of the medieval church. At its head, built into the wall, is a carved stone head which may be Norman.

The Bells

The ringing chamber is directly above the porch. Its upper half was originally the bell chamber and at the top of the medieval tower. The top stage, the present bell chamber, was added in the early nineteenth century rebuilding. It houses a fine ring of six bells hung from an oak bell frame. They were cast in 1820 by John Briant of Hertford, a notable early nineteenth century bell founder. They are unusual in being hung in a “left-hand” ring.

The Nave and the Transepts

Instead of the small, relatively short medieval chan­cel, the tower now opens into a spacious nave. Nave and transepts form a single T-shaped space for the congregation. The cross­ing in front of the chancel is defined by tall corner shafts with deeply undercut foliage capitals.
            Between 1870 and the end of the nineteenth century the interior of the church was transformed under the supervision of the architect Edward Swinfen Harris. Daniel Bell, of the firm of Bell and Almond designed a complete scheme of painted decoration informed by the knowledge that the interiors of medieval churches were originally brightly painted. The scheme was carried out from 1870 onwards by Bell and Almond. This consisted chiefly of stencilled decoration but on the west wall of the nave, around the chancel arch and the east window, figurative work painted by Daniel Bell “with his own hand”.
            The walls of the nave and transepts were formerly entirely stencilled with diapered masonry patterns and decoration around the windows. This has unfortunately been largely painted over and now survives only round the transept windows.
            When looking at the west wall it should be borne in mind that the font originally stood nearby, to the left as you enter, on a square of decorative floor tiles which still exists below the present boarded floor. The prox­imity of the font explains the themes of the wall paintings which are related to baptism. Their source is the Order of Baptism in the Book of Common Prayer. The first prayer of that service alludes to the Flood and the Passage through the Red Sea, which prefigure the Christian rite of baptism. Noah is shown on the far left with his family giving thanks to God after the Flood, with the Ark in the background. On the far right are Moses and the Israelites at the Red Sea with the pillars of cloud which guided them out of Egypt. Either side of the tower arch the Old and New Testament practices are contrasted, with the scene on the left referring to the ancient Jewish rite of Circumcision, and on the right a Christian baptism. The priest carrying out the baptism may be a portrait of the Rev. John Wood, vicar from 1871 – 1895. Above the tower arch, stretching the full width of the nave, is a fine group showing Christ welcoming the children. The painted text below is taken from the Gospel according to Mark, Chapter 10, verse 14 the gospel reading in the Order of Baptism in the Book of Common Prayer. The wall painting repays close study. For instance, the architectural backgrounds to the scene in the Temple and the baptism show stencilled decoration of the kind Daniel Bell designed for the church. In the Red Sea a delightful fantastic fish can be seen. Moses and other figures have sumptuous patterned robes. This important Victorian wall painting awaits restoration when funds become available.
            The decoration of the east end of the nave, around the chancel arch, survives largely intact. Great angels in roundels flank the arch. The angel on the left holds a cross with a crown of thorns in one hand, and, sym­bolising the communion, a chalice with ears of wheat above it in the other. The angel on the right holds a palm branch of victory and the crown of glory.
            The beamed ceiling of the nave and transepts was probably deSigned by Edward SWinfen Harris. It retains its original painted decoration. A series of corbels supports the ceiling; the six over the chancel arch bear the coats of arms of the six Radcliffe Trustees in whose time the church was rebuilt. From the left, the arms are those of Sir William Dolben baronet, Wriothesley Digby esquire, the 4th Earl of Aylesford, Viscount Sidmouth, William Ralph Cartwright esquire and Sir Charles Mordaunt baronet. In the photograph of around 1900 a set of brass oil lamps can be seen hanging from the ceiling on long chains, from rings which are still there. The two fine brass chandeliers hanging in the centre of the nave at the east and west ends are Georgian, and may have come from the old church.
            The scheme of polychromatic decoration was comple­mented by a new set of stained glass windows. Those in the nave were probably designed by Daniel Bell and date from the 1870’s. The central figurative roundels depict, from the left as you enter, the Nativity, Christ in the carpenter’s shop, the Supper at Emmaus and the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The second window was set up at Christmas 1876 in memory of Mary Wilkinson by her husband George, a tenant on the Radcliffe estate for 56 years. The third window com­memorates Henry Snaith Trower of Wolverton Park, who died in 1878. His wife is remembered on the brass plate below; she died a few years short of her centenary in 1920. The fourth window commemorates another ten­ant, George Brooks Wilkinson, who died in 1879.
            The north transept window is an early work by Henry Holiday made by Powells’ and depicts Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan. The heads are a bit grim but the colours are very vivid. It commemorates a retired cler­gyman, the Rev. John Miles, who was vicar of Holy Trinity Paddington, a Victorian church now alas demolished and replaced by a block of flats.
            The south transept window, earlier in style than any of the others is probably the first of the set and rather naive. It shows the Resurrection, and commemorates Richard Harrison, agent to the Radcliffe Trustees for 53 years, who died in 1858 at the age of 97.  The present church was rebuilt in his time as agent. He lived at Wolverton House, which he rebuilt around the same time.
            The organ originally stood in the chancel and was removed here as part of the re-ordering of 1974.
            The font is in the Gothic style. It is mid 19th century and of Bath stone. Faint stencil patterns can still be made out on the stonework which was damaged when it was moved to its present position at the re-ordering. The towering font canopy is later and designed by Edward Swinfen Harris. The body of the gilded dove from which it is suspended hides a rise­-and-fall mechanism.
            The pulpit is also probably mid-nineteenth century and of Bath stone. Its painted decoration is later and well preserved. In the arches of the intersecting blank arcading which decorate it are pots of lilies and roses alternating with four early saints known as Fathers of the Church: St Gregory with a dove on his shoulders, St Jerome carrying a model church, St Ambrose with mitre and holding a pastoral staff, and St Augustine of Hippo. There is more intersecting round-headed arcad­ing in the lectern and prayer desk, and to the front of the blocks of pews in the transepts.
            The banners which hang at each corner of the cross­ing were presented in 1888.

The Chancel

The chancel is raised three steps above the nave and transepts over a vault which was made to replace that under the medieval chancel. The bottom step has been obscured by the general raising of the nave floor to the level of the raised platforms on which the pews sit.
            The handsome chancel arch is in the Norman style. The opening has semi -circular responds with stylised leaf ornament to cushion capitals, framed by thin shafts with attenuated foliage capitals. The round arch has two orders of roll moulding, painted zig-zag or chevron ornament and an outer moulding known as billet, a characteristic Norman moulding like alternating chopped sections of roll moulding.
            The chancel is square in plan and has a quadripar­tite vault with a large boss in the centre where the ribs meet. It is of plaster imitating stonework. The vault springs from four vaulting shafts at each corner of the chancel with foliage capitals.
            The stone floor is late seventeenth century and came from the old chancel as did the black and white mar­ble chequer pavement within the communion rail. In the middle of the stone floor are set five grey marble memorial slabs. The oldest is to the right of the centre and commemorates the Rev. Alexander Featherston, vicar of Holy Trinity from 1673 until his death in 1686. It was in his memory that his widow Catherine laid the stone and marble pavement, as the inscription records. Catherine Featherston is commemorated on the right.  She died in 1712 leaving the parish a substantial sum to found a charity which is still in existence, intended to provide clothing and blankets for poor parishioners regularly attending church. Her commemorative inscription in lower case script in contrast to the Roman capitals used on her husband’s memorial is rather beau­tiful and worth quoting:

Here Resteth the Body of Catherine Featherston Blessed with the Love of her Parents in the Time of Their short and vertuous Life A Longer Space happy in the Society of her dear Husband more joyfull in her hopes of Everlasting happiness by the memory of the holy Trinity.

To the left of centre the two memorial slabs com­memorate Rebecca Green, who died in 1750, and her husband Edmund Green, vicar of Holy Trinity for 34 years from 1720 until his death in 1754 aged 70. In the middle is the slab commemorating the Rev. Edmund Smith, the Rev. Green’s successor, who died in 1785. The superb monument against the north wall of the chancel also came from the chancel of the old church. Sir Thomas was Lord of the Manor and patron of the living (he appointed Alexander Featherston). The mon­ument is composed of two types of Italian marble: a fine veined grey marble for the structure and a pure white marble from Carrara known as statuary marble for the life-size semi-reclining figure of Sir Thomas. The figure is mounted on a high pedestal with a big gadrooned cor­nice. On the tall panel behind the figure is a long commemorative inscription in Latin praising the deceased in rather conventional terms, and mentioning his first wife, Mary, daughter and co-heir of Sir William Fenwick, knight, of Northumberland, their only son Edward who succeeded him, and his second wife Catherine, second daughter and heir of Sir Thomas Peyton, baronet of Kent. They had only been married a few months at the time of her husband’s death on June 25th 1685, aged 54. It was she who put up this fine monument to his memory. What the inscription does not say is that he was killed by a fall from his horse. His son, Edward, the third and last baronet, seems to have had a feckless and extravagant character. He sold his Wolverton estate to Dr. John Radcliffe in 1713. Curiously enough he died in the same way as his father, breaking his neck when he fell from his horse at Bicester races. The back panel of the memorial is sur­mounted by his father’s coat of arms and an urn with a flame finial. The figure of Sir Thomas shows him in the garb of an ancient Roman knight, or equites, gazing heavenward, with hand on heart.
            In the old chancel the monument stood on the oppo­site side against the south wall so that the figure of Sir Thomas faced the east window. This explains his pose, for he would have originally been looking towards the light of the rising sun. The east window was glazed with clear glass. On a fine summer morning the light would have played dramatically on the white marble figure of Sir Thomas evoking his resurrection at the Last Judgement.
            This outstanding monument is not signed but it is certainly by a leading London sculptor. There is a monument by the same hand in Loddon church near Norwich to a Lady Williamson who died in 1684, which also figures a semi-reclining life size figure of the deceased, but in contemporary dress. The sculp­tor may have been Thomas Stayner. He Signed a similar monument to Richard Winwood who died in 1689 in Quainton church and another in Steeple Bumpstead church, Essex, to Sir Henry Bendyshe, baronet, who died in 1717. All feature finely carved life­size semi -reclining figures of people who belonged to the same level of society.
            Quite apart from its artistic merit, which is considerable, the Longueville monument is virtually our sole tangible reminder of the Longueville family, for generations lords of the manor of Wolverton and successors of the barons of Wolverton.
            On the east wall of the chancel is a wall painting by Daniel Bell of around 1870 depicting the Worship of the Lamb, inspired by the Book of Revelation. The adoring angels either side of the window bear instruments of the Passion. The painting was cleaned and conserved in July 1995 by Tobit Curteis Associates.
The figurative wall painting was originally complement­ed by stencilled decoration on the walls and the vault, recorded in the photograph of around 1900. The pre­sent decoration of the vault, of angels on a green ground with wave patterns at the springing of the vaults and large angels on the side walls, all holding texts, dates from around 1907 when the church was restored by Charles Harrison Townsend. This decoration is in a very different spirit to Bell’s, with hints of Art Nouveau. The paintings are on canvas glued to the wall, a technique known as marouflage.
            The oak communion table with blank intersecting arcading to the front, is normally covered with one of a fine set of nineteenth century altar frontals. With the matching vestments they have been restored by Watts and Co. of Westminster.
            The brass altar cross is all that survives of the rere­dos designed by Edward Swinfen Harris. A detailed description of the new reredos was given in the contem­porary account of the work going on at Wolverton and Calverton churches in the Records of Buckinghamshire:

“This is divided by cusped arches into three compartments, with shafted pinnacles flanking the whole on either side. The central arch con tains a panel enriched with angels censing and adoring around the cross, which is of polished brass, raised upon a base of wood. The two side arches contain a representation of the AnnunCiation, St. Gabriel occupying the north panel, and the Blessed Virgin the south. These paintings are executed on slabs of very old mahogany on a ground of gold, which has been toned with a luminous brown colour, in the man ner of ancient work, and diapered down with appropriate patterns.”

The chancel, indeed the whole church, is dominated by the spectacular circular east window with eight lobes round a large central circle. It holds outstanding stained glass by Nathanial Westlake of 1888.Westlake’s signature, his initials, can be seen behind one of Eve’s feet. The diagram provides a key to the subject of each panel. This stained glass was the final element of the scheme of decoration carried out under Edward Swinfen Harris’ supervision from 1870 onwards. It forms a mag­nificent climax to the interior of Holy Trinity, unfailingly drawing the worshipper’s and visitor’s attention to the high altar above which it hovers like a great rising sun. 

Wolverton’s Ecclesiastical History – VI The Quartley Years

After the death of Samuel Hale in 1794 the Trustees appointed Henry Quartley, a nephew of their former land agent, as Vicar. Quartley was a man of some energy, although his approach to the ministry was closer to that of an 18th century squire rather than a 19th century churchman. He enjoyed hunting and sat on the bench as J.P., where he was fairly unforgiving in his sentencing of the miscreants brought before him.

He re-opened the case for the lost tithes in 1797 and put his case that the living had no glebe to produce income nor tithes. The Trustees were willing to listen but would not take the matter further until there was proper documentation. Accordingly they authorized the secretary to the Trust, Thomas Wall, to inspect the ancient documents held in the Radcliffe Library. As a goodwill gesture, they doubled the stipend to £100.

The tenant farmers on the estate were less happy. What they foresaw was the likelihood of any imposition of tithes for Quartley as an additional tax on their own earnings and accordingly, when the matter was considered by a court it was expressed as a complaint between Henry Quartley and the principal farm tenants, Thomas Battams, Thomas Gleed, Thomas Ratcliffe and William Wilkinson and the Trustees as lay rectors. The Trust, as far as was possible, tried to stay impartial. The case was eventually heard on August 20th 1805 before a panel of 24 jurymen. They decided against the complainant and ruled that Henry Quartley was not entitled to receive any tithes.

This was the end of the matter. For those interested in the detail of this case, Edmund Escourt. the solicitor for the Trust, prepared the following summary.

Dear Sirs,
Battams ats. QuartIey, Clk.
I have much pleasure in informing you that the Issue directed in this Cause by the Court of Exchequer came on for Trial on Tuesday last at Buck­ingham before the Lord Chief Baron and a full and very respectable Special Jury of the County, when after a Hearing of upwards of seven hours a verdict was given in favour of the Trustees by which theyr Right as Lay Impropri­ator to all Tythes arising within the parish of Wolverton is fully established.
From the manner in which this Cause was conducted the Chief Baron took occasion to observe that the Trustees had acted in the most candid, open and liberal way, as well as having produced an old Terriar of the date r639 which was found amongst their manuscripts in the Radcliffe Library (and which as far as it went was evidence against themselves), as also in admitting copies of antient Papers of the Claim set up by the Vicar, instead of putting him to the expense of producing the originals extracted from the proper custody. He also observed that it was a very extraordinary Circumstance that in the year 1805 they should be called upon by the Vicar to enforce an Endowment of 1209 (but which was in fact no endow­ment but a mere Memorandum found in an antient Book without date or title, and by whom made, on what occasion, or when did not appear), when the constant usage had run counter to that Endowment ever since the Dis­solution of the Monasteries, at least except in one or two instances at the beginning of the last century, at which time by the depositions taken in a suit instituted by the then Vicar it appeared that two old men had once paid some small tythes to a former vicar. The acquiescence of the predecessor of the present vicar to the perception and enjoyment of the tythes of hay, as well as of the small tythes within this extensive parish by the Lay Rector for such a length of time, if there was any pretence for the Vicar’s being entitled to them, he thought must appear also very extraordinary, when it was proved (as had been that day done by Mr Harrison) that the annual value of these tythes was considerably more than £200. He likewise com­mented on other parts of the evidence produced by the Vicar, observing that some documents contradicted others, and upon the whole he said he thought that upon such papers, such memorandums and such scraps as had been produced in this case, the Vicar had been rash or ill advised in commencing this suit, constant usage having been in the Lay Rector.
The Jury, when they delivered their verdict, said they very much lamen­ted that the Vicar had not made out a case, and as the stipendiary payment was so very small and insignificant they had unanimously agreed to express their most earnest wish that the Trustees would place him in such a situation as would enable him to support the character which he held in the church with that respect which belonged to it, and that they had thought it their duty to make this representation to His Lordship not doubting but that it would be communicated by him to the Trustees.
Mr Wilson (who led the cause for the Trustees) then informed His Lord­ship and the Jury that the Trustees were so well aware of the inadequacy of the stipend to the support of the Vicar that they had for several years past gratuitously made him an allowance of £100 per annum in addition to it, and that Mr Quartley was at that moment in the receipt of it, notwith­standing the pendency of the suit, but that he had abstained from making this observation to them before from motives of delicacy as well as from a wish that nothing should fall from him which could in the most remote degree interfere with the merits of the question to be decided by them. The Jury seemed very much pleased with this information, and the Chief Baron observed that the conduct of the Trustees and of those concerned for them in the management of their business deserved the highest encomions and that the Jury might rest perfectly satisfied from the high and dignified char­acters of the gentlemen in whom this property was vested, as well as from the specimen which they had had of the great liberality which had been already evinced by them (and particularly as the property so vested in them was for the benefit of an University) that they would do what was right and proper for the support of the Vicar and for the dignity of the church. I shall only add that I shall leave it to you to communicate the contents of this letter to the Trustees in such a manner as you shall think proper.
I remain, etc.
L.I.F. 24 July 1805

Beneath the delicacy of phrasing in this letter we can read that the Court was unimpressed with Quartley’s case and that he would have been better advised not to have wasted the court’s time. It is interesting to note that the Court felt that Quartley’s predecessors had been content with the arrangement, and when it had been raised a century before by Thomas Evans, all the evidence they could summon was that of two old men with dim recollections.

The episode tells us something about Quartley’s character which certainly contrasts with the meek and accommodating Edmund Green.

Quartley did, however, spearhead the building of the new church, about which, more in the next post.

In addition to the Wolverton post he was also Rector of Wicken and in 1832 became Rector of Stantonbury. The last-named parish was very under-populated but still had the church of St Peter at Stanton Low. Presumably this extra benefice brought additional income to the Reverend Quartley without too much extra work.

Wolverton’s Ecclesiastical History – V The Eighteenth Century

In 1712, the Wolverton Manor was sold to Dr John Radcliffe. He died a year later and all his interests, including Wolverton, were managed by a Trust. The Trust then entered into a very long period of ownership and, it has to be said, responsible management of the estate and there was a gradual improvement in the fortunes of the church.

When they took over, Thomas Evans was the incumbent and had been there since 1702. He was much aggrieved because he was paid £10 per annum less than his predecessor and he claimed that he had found a rent roll that proved that the tithes in the 17th century did indeed amount to £50. The Trustees were not unsympathetic but felt that the case should be presented in a proper legal context. Proceedings were instituted at Stony Stratford in 1718 and witnesses were heard who testified they they or their fathers paid tithes to the Vicar at one time. However, the case foundered because the Deed of Composition from  1656 could not be found. It had been lost and the case petered out. The unfortunate Evans died in 1720 – apparently destitute.

The trustees then appointed a young clergyman by the name of Edmund Green. He was of a more humble disposition and was prepared to accept the £30 without dispute – and there the matter rested for some years.

In the meantime,  the church and the rectory were in extremely poor condition and these matters had to be addressed. In 1724 he asked the Trustees to repair the chancel, to add rails round the communion table and seat for communicants. While he was doing this, the virtuous Reverend Green was trying to live with his family in a rectory that was liable to fall down. He tried to effect repairs out of his own meagre income but by 1727 the condition of the rectory was desperate and the Bishop’s Court declared it a ruin.

Green approached the Trustees for help, and they were sympathetic. The Longueville Manor had been partly demolished in 1720 but there were materials that could be used to build a new rectory. However, this was as much help as the unlucky Reverend Green got because the Trust at this time was committed to building the Radcliffe Library at Oxford and had no funds to spare. The poor man was obliged to build the new rectory out of his own resources. It cost him:

the full sum of £300 which was the whole fortune I had with my wife & which has obliged me to Preach at two place more to enable me to support myself and my Family with dignity as a clergyman.

It was only in 1750 that the Radcliffe Trust, free of its own projects, were able to help the Reverend Green. They paid £200 into the Queen Anne’s Bounty fund, which was matched by an equal figure by the Bounty. This enabled an improved income to Reverend Green in his last years, which were under four. He died on 11th April 1754.

The stipend limped along at this level until 1770 when the Trust raised the stipend to £50 per annum – the level at which it had been 110 years earlier.

Green was succeeded by Edward Smith, who benefited from Green’s efforts and self-denial. He was able to inhabit a newish rectory and enjoy an improved stipend. He died in 1782 and his successor was Samuel Hale. Their years, which took up the last half of the 18th century were quite uneventful. This 18th century placidity changed on the arrival of the thrusting Henry Quartley, whom I will discuss tomorrow.

Wolverton’s Ecclesiastical History – IV After the Dissolution

In 1155 Baron Meinfelin founded Bradwell priory in his will. He provided land to the south of Bradwell Brook in the area now known as Bradwell Abbey and the church at Wolverton was part of its endowments. This history of Bradwell Priory has been discussed in this post, and again here.

The fortunes of Holy Trinity Church were therefore tied to the priory until its dissolution and it has to be said that after the Black Death of 1349 the Priory went into a long decline which must have had its impact on the church. When the Priory was dissolved in 1526, the property and the church fell into the hands of Cardinal Wolsey, who gave the revenue to New College Oxford. A few years later, at the General dissolution of the monasteries, the Priory was acquired by Arthur Longueville and thus the church was reunited with the Wolverton Manor for the first time since the 12th century.

The Rectory, and the land associated with it,  had a different and slightly more intricate history of ownership. It came into crown ownership in 1531 and was leased to various parties. The rectory was granted to Sir John Spencer in 1599. His daughter and heir, Elizabeth, married William Compton who became Earl of Northampton. The Earls of Northampton owned an interest in this property until 1737, when it was sold to Brazenose College, Oxford. The lease of the property was sold to Henry Longueville in 1601 and this lease was conveyed to Dr John Radcliffe on the sale of the manor in 1712.

The 16th and 17th centuries may not have been prosperous ones for the vicars of Holy Trinity with revenues from the rectory and the church being siphoned off by other interests. Some attempt to simplify matters was agreed in 1656. The Earl of Northampton assigned his rights to the Lord of the Manor in return for a perpetual rent charge of £100 per annum. The Lord of the Manor allotted land to the value of £50 to the Vicar in exchange for his abandoning rights to the tithe. Six years later, the Longuevilles, in their continued zeal for land enclosure,  went back on the agreement and appropriated the land allotted to the Parson and paid him instead £40 per annum. The vicars were now entirely dependent for their income on the Lord of the Manor. This income was reduced to £30 when Thomas Evans became incumbent in 1702. In the meantime, the Lords of the Manor, the Longueville family, were busy enclosing land and depopulating Wolverton Manor.

You can also see the disruption of the 17th century Civil War in the dates of the vicars. In 1645 the incumbent was Robert Ladbroke, who was replaced in that year by Gilbert Newton. Newton, presumably, was acceptable to the Puritan regime, but not to the High Church Anglicans because he was replaced in 1660, the date of the Restoration, by Robert Bostock. He only lasted a year due to some unwise remarks about MPs before his succession by Robert Duncumbe, who had greater longevity.

The Longuevilles were Royalist supporters, but these dates suggest that they had to yield to puritan pressure during the Commonwealth years.

The 16th and 17th centuries may have been a low point in the long history of the church. The manor was largely depopulated through the enclosures of the Longuevilles, and as we have seen these enclosures even extended to the land attached to the church – the parson’s piece. The Priory was no longer close by to look after the interests of the church and the Bishop of Lincoln, under whose jurisdiction Wolverton came, was remote. Wolverton went into decline to become a very insignificant parish. The Longueville family appear to have maintained their ancient obligations at the lowest cost to themselves.

Wolverton’s Ecclesiastical History – II Early Norman History

Mainou was succeeded by Meinfelin who was probably able to consolidate the wealth of the barony. In his will of 1155 he founded Bradwell Priory and provided it with some land and gave the church to the priory. Thereafter, until the dissolution, the Church at Old Wolverton was under the control of the Priory.

We can infer from this that there was an existing church at Wolverton, presumably under the direct control of the lord until 1155 and thereafter administered by the priory. No permanent priest appears to have been in charge until 1240, or thereabouts, when a man called Alan was Vicar. (However, I have seen an early 13th century document that may indicate an earlier Vicar. More on this in tomorrow’s post.) I assume that various monks or chaplains were appointed before that but with no specified living associated with the church. It is probably worth bearing in mind that although there was a settlement in the field to the west of the church, there were probably families scattered across the manor. Stony Stratford did not emerge as a market until the end of the 12th century.

There is some record of the medieval church:

some notes by William Cole, rector of Bletchley, written 23rd April 1754;

a drawing in the British Library, dated 1807; 

and remains of the original building incorporated in the tower.

The drawing here shows the medieval church from the south.  Here is Cole’s description.

‘Passing thro’ this Parish in my way from the Archdeacon’s Visitation held at Stony Stratford, I called in to look at the Church; which is a small building with the Tower, Cathedral Fashion, between the Nave and the Chancel; the last of which is tiled and the Nave and South Aisle leaded. It has 4 bells. The Chancel is very elegantly paved thro’ out with black and white Marble. The Altar is railed in and stands on an elevation of 3 steps. On the North Side worked in the Wall is a very antique Altar Tomb of black marble but without arms or inscription to inform one to whom it appertains. The 2 Ends of the Arch and above it are adorned with very old-fashioned Carvings of Oak of Medallions of Men’s Heads and old Shields. On the opposite side of the Altar against the south Wall is erected a very noble Monument of white Marble, having the Figure of a Gentleman in a Roman warlike Habit reclining on his left side, with his Eyes looking up to Heaven, and his right Hand laid on his Breast.’

The medieval church that was pulled down in the 19th century dates from the reign of Edward III, and therefore of 14th century origin. It is probable that parts of the previous church were used to build the newer church. It looks as if the chancel formed the first church with a later addition of the tower. The nave was likely a later addition and finally the crenellated south aisle. The drawing below shows the plan of the present church and the medieval foundation in blue.