In an earlier post I wrote about the tiny number of large houses that were ever built in Wolverton. Since then I have come across some new information about the manor house at Wolverton built by Sir Henry Longueville in 1586.
In the early part of the 18th Century, Sir Edward Longueville, faced with a mountain of debt, resolved to sell the Wolverton estate. We know that in 1713 he succeeded in this by completing a sale to Dr. John Radcliffe for £40,000. What I did not know was that there was earlier interest from the Duke of Newcastle and there are a number of documents now kept in the Nottinghamshire Archive which show that the Duke’s interest was serious as many details of the estate, the rents, the value of properties, potential taxes were set down together with a number of questions that needed an answer. In the end the Duke decided to offer £30,200 in the year 1710. This was unacceptable to Sr Edward and since the Duke died the following year in 1711, I imagine that negotiations did not continue.
The Wolverton historian can find a great deal of good information in these documents and here I am going to concentrate on what we can learn about the house.
Of the earlier buildings we know next to nothing. It is probable that the Longuevilles improved and enlarged the earlier medieval property during the 15th century. The only reference we have to the building is from the Tudor traveller and writer John Leland, who was passing through around 1540.
The Langevilles of later tymes hath lyen and bilded fairly at Wolverstun in Bukinghamshie (nere Stony Streatford).
We can only interpret “bilded fairly” as that the house was of sufficient size for Leland to take notice.
Later in the century Sir Henry Longueville decided to embark on his own building project at a cost of £12,000 – a very significant sum of money. This was in 1586. Once again we are short of any drawing or description until Thomas Hearne, writing in 1711 tells us this much:
It stood near a large mount, thrown up East of the Church, & it was a magnificent Edifice, being 145 Feet in length & built with good Free-stone. It had 9 large transome windows in the Front, of good polished Free-stone which was very regular; it had in the first Range a spacious lofty Kitchen, Buttery, Hall & Great Parlour, in which last room were painted in the large Escucheons (sic), the Arms of the Longueville Family with their matches quartered & impaled. There were also some arms in the windows of painted glass; particularly of Wolverton & Roche: the first of which bore, B. an Eagle displayed A determined by a Bendlet G. K. the other, viz. Roche, gave G. 3 Roaches A. This front part, as seems to me, built by Sir Hen Longueville in Queen Elizabeth’s time: and Sir Henry & his lady Elizabeth Cotton’s Arms, being placed there in 2 Shields, with this date, 1586, seems as if they were the builders, and that it was begun to be built then; it cost, as I have been informed, above 12 thousand pounds in those days. At each end were several Rooms of an antient tower structure, which were chiefly made use of, & particularly those on the south wing, by Sir Edward Longueville. I visited him in 1711: & several rooms in the new building were never finished, or properly furnished, as appeared to me.(Theses notes made by William Cole a century later.)
The document in the Nottinghamshire archive is able to offer us supporting detail.
The House is 60 yards in front with two Wings about 15 yards in lenght (sic). Built of Stone is very Strong & in perfect good repair. The Gallary which is a very noble one, the floore was never layed down, all offices that are necessary as Wash houses, Brew house, dary house, larders, Granarys, Wood Barns, Stables for 20 horse, Coach House with 20 Bay of Barning with a Worke House, two Duffcoates & several Houses very necessary for any use in good repair.
We can read from this that the house was stone built with a frontage of 180 feet (Hearne says 145) with two wings at each side of 45 feet. It is not clear which of the “offices” are included in the wings of the great house but it is probable, given the size of the stables and coach house, that this building and almost certainly the dovecotes are separate structures. From Hearne’s description we might infer that the kitchen and buttery (larder) made up one wing of the building. I am guessing that a second floor gallery was designed around either the hall or the “great parlour” but that this floor was never completed, although this phrase never layed down is open to different interpretations.
The photograph below is a survivor from that period of Elizabethan building. It was built in 1572 at Trerice in Cornwall and is considered a small house of its type. I am posting it here to offer some general idea of how the Longueville house may have appeared.
When Hearne talks of a south wing we might read into that an eastern or south-eastern frontage for the house, possibly parallel with the course of the Old Wolverton Road. The location of the house may have been that piece of level ground opposite the Rectory, in other words between the present Rectory and the old castle mound.
Hearne’s observations are probably accurate but his interpretations can be modified. the window with the date of 1586 is more likely to have been the completion date rather than the date building began; the windows are usually the last part of house building. His observation that the greater part of the building seemed unfurnished may have more to do with Sir Edward’s straitened circumstances than the fact that the building was not completed and that he had been selling off furniture to pay debts and was confining himself to one wing of the building. £12,000 was an enormous sum of money to spend on a house in Elizabethan times, and even if that sum had been exaggerated, there should have been plenty of money to complete the building to the satisfaction of Sir Henry and his wife.
We are told in the Nottingham Archive document that the building was strongly built, which doen’t quite square with the fate of the building in 1726. It is impossible to say who wrote this document. If it had been prepared by one of Sir Edward’s men as a prospectus then a certain amount of puffery might be expected. In any event, only a few years later, the Radcliffe trustees took a different view. In a letter dated 24th October 1715 William Bromley (one of the Trustees) wrote in a letter that the Great House was:
very ruinous, & since it is now never likes to be used as a Gentleman’s Seat you’l consider whether it may not be advisable that it be taken down, & the materials disposed of.
Many of the buildings on the estate were in poor state of repair and when it came time to rebuild the Rectory this course of action recommended itself to the Trustees. Parts of the old mansion can be found in the Rectory which is still standing today.
While the whole history of Wolverton has been (as far as we know) relatively peaceful, there have been times when settlements have moved. Archaeologists have discovered a Bronze Age settlement at Wolverton Turn in recent times and there was a discovery of a bronze Age hoard at Stonebridge House Farm earlier in the last century. The settlement at Wolverton Turn appears to have been a farming community of sorts.
At the time of the Romano-British period, 55-400 AD, there were farming settlements at Bancroft and in the Manor Farm area. The Bancroft villa was very prosperous but it does not appear to have survived the collapse of the Roman administration, although the archaeologists did discover signs of continued farming activity in the 5th century.
Historians, now having the benefit of the work of 20th century archaeologists, are revising the long-held view that the country was overrun by marauding Germanic invaders in the 5th century. What now appears to have happened is that there was at first small settlements of immigrant farmers in the early parts of the 5th century but that this increased to a flood by the end of the century. The pattern was probably closer to that of European settlement in North America. In the 16th and 17th centuries there were small groups of pioneer settlers living alongside the native population on the eastern seaboard. By the 19th century immigration was in full spate and the native populations were overwhelmed.
We can probably envisage something like this happening in Wolverton. The native British were probably still farming in and around Bancroft and Manor Farm and when the Anglian people came, possibly early in the 6th century, they were able to move onto vacant land, in this case at Wolverton Turn.
Archaeological work was undertaken here in the 1970s and in the 1990s. During the second dig the archaeologists unearthed strong evidence of an Anglian settlement in the 6th century. These dates fit into the general framework of the English settlements; they came in small numbers after 420AD to settle on the east coast and in increasing numbers as the century progressed. After 590 the migration became quite large and newcomers moved further inland.
We know that the land had been cleared in the Bronze Age and it was always assumed that once farming stopped the land would be reclaimed by woodland, but again modern archaeology has challenged that assumption. Land once cleared largely remains so with some loss to trees at the edges. Grassland can take hold and remain for centuries. In the light of this we can assume that the newcomers found this land, neglected and unused certainly, but with some work could be made productive. Thus we can imagine a situation whereby the English newcomers, who in no way appeared to threaten the livelihood of the natives, were allowed in without any kind of struggle. That peaceable adaptation, not glamourous but plausible, did not prevail in succeeding centuries as powerful individuals and tribes struggled for supremacy.
The settlement at Wolverton Turn was Wolverton’s first medieval village. Some time in the 9th century it moved to more arable field in the west. This became the site of Wolverton’s second village until it was depopulated by enclosure in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The excavations at Wolverton Turn in the 1990s added considerably to our knowledge of previous settlement. The Bronze Age settlement I described yesterday was confirmed but more revealing as there was substantial evidence for settlement in Anglo-Saxon times.
The archaeologists excavated the enclosure ditches and found evidence of a grubenhaus and a small rectangular post-built structure. Many pottery fragments were found and over half was dated to the 8th to 9th centuries. They also discovered many domestic animal bones, including a surprising number of horse bones, which led to some speculation that this may have been a horse breeding centre. There were some Roman period pottery sherd and some pre-historic.
The authors of the report are cautious about their findings. Although they found evidence of settlement at different periods, they cannot conclude that the site was continuously occupied for the entire period. The most active period of occupation was during the 8th and 9th centuries. It may be that after this time the villagers moved to a site lower down to the site where the medieval village was known to be. The reasons for this are completely unknown, although it is apparently not a phenomenon known only to Wolverton. It is possible that their pattern of agriculture changed. If these middle saxons were, as is suggested, engaged in horse breeding and animal husbandry, the location on higher ground may have made better sense. But if they switched their focus to arable farming, then the lower fields and meadows might have become more attractive.
Might this then be the location of Wulhere’s ing tun? Was this the enclosure and meeting place presided over by the chieftain Wulfhere who gave Wolverton its name? The question cannot be answered but it does open up the possibility that the motte and bailey castle built by Mainou le Breton overlooking the valley may have been a hitherto unoccupied site. And possibly the neighbouring church was not built on a saxon site at all. The earlier saxon church, whatever it might have been, may not have been in this location at all.
For a detailed article on this subject:
Bronze Age Occupation and Saxon Features at the Wolverton Turn Enclosure, Near Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes 1972-1994. Steve Preston and others. Records of Buckinghamshire Vol 47, Part 1 (2007)
The remarkable achievement of modern archaeology has been to show us a more distinct picture of how our ancestors lived during pre-history, that is before documents provided us with some evidence of life in earlier centuries. This is particularly true of the Milton Keynes area, where the planned development of a new city led to the creation of an Archaeology unit which would salvage what knowledge it could before the bulldozers destroyed the evidence forever.
So until quite recently all we could do is conjecture that people may have lived in the area in the very distant past and that the only insights into how they lived could be drawn from parallels with excavations in other parts of Britain. The Milton Keynes Archaeology Unit changed that and has left a useful legacy of information. The one I want to focus on today is evidence of Bronze Age settlement (3000 years ago) in the area now known as Wolverton Mill.
50 years ago these were still green fields. The only buildings were at Warren Farm and Wolverton Park by the Old Wolverton turn. The first buildings on these fields for the Radcliffe School and the Wolverton College of Further Education disturbed a lot of evidence and the subsequent levelling of the ground for playing fields probably destroyed any hope of useful excavation in this area, However in 1969 some aerial photographs identified a ring ditch and part of an enclosure at Wolverton Turn and the MKAU began an excavation on the site in 1972. 20 years later, in anticipation of the building program at Wolverton Mill, a second archaeological excavation was undertaken.
Taken together, the evidence of a ring ditch and post holes indicate some kind of settlement here during the Bronze Age. A few pottery sherds from the period and the discovery of an infant’s cremated ashes are pretty much the only physical evidence of a Bronze Age settlement. No precise dating is possible, as the author of a report ruefully remarks:
Given the paucity of dating evidence, it is dangerous to ascribe too positive an interpretation to these features, but the probability must be that most or all of them can be associated as a Bronze Age settlement. Even if some of the features represent no more than tree-clearance, it seems mainly to have been Bronze Age tree-clearance. The consistent patterning of post holes suggesting irregularly circular structures also points towards a Bronze Age date, and the lack of positive dating for such features is (unfortunately) fairly normal. The existence of the buried soil could also indicate agriculture. (S. Preston and others. Bronze Age Occupation and Saxon Features at the Wolverton Turn Enclosure.)
The cross country road from west to east has changed more times than we probably realise. Early travellers used high roads such as the one that follows Green lane in Wolverton, presumably because they could see potential danger from afar. As society settled valley roads were chosen because it was easier to move goods. The Portfield Way, as it was once called because it was a market road, (Port meaning market, followed a line from Calverton which led it past Horsefair Green, more-or less along its present line. However, opposite Warren farm it followed the present footpath up to Holy Trinity Church and then continued along the Old Wolverton Road, now to the north of the canal. This made perfect sense as the old medieval village was along this road before the enclosure clearances of 1654.
I can only assume that the detour was constructed when the canal was built. This left the church and its associated cottages isolated and may explain why the Wolverton Park Farm house had its access road at the back.
Slated Row, Rose Cottage and the Galleon and its cottages are all 19th century buildings and became what we bought of as “Old Wolverton” – but not so old after all.
Old Wolverton’s buildings obviously pre-date Wolverton, but, surprisingly perhaps, not by much. Wolverton House dates to 1783 and all the other surviving buildings come after that. here is the British Heritage list.
|View of the Warren Farm Development showing barn|
The Watling Street, or the London to Chester road is well known and although bypasses have been engineered over the past 50 years the line of this ancient road can still be followed. It served in Saxons times to divide the manors of Calverton and Wolverton, as well as the manors of Loughton and Shenley further south and the river crossing was instrumental in the formation of Stony Stratford.
But there are two other roads of significance that allowed travellers to cross the country from Oxford to Cambridge and to make pilgrimages to Walsingham in East Anglia. Both are ridgeways, that is they follow a line high above the valley. The northern ridgeway more-or-less follows the A422 past Buckingham and on the ridge to Old Stratford. From there, rather than ford the river, it goes to Cosgrove and Castlethorpe and along the high northern ridge down to a ford at Haversham. The southern ridgeway takes its line through Beachampton, through Calverton and crossing the Watling Street at Gib Lane, where there used to be a hanging tree (gibbet).This is at a point almost exactly 52 miles from London. This old track continued eastwards across the fields to reach Green Lane in Wolverton, which is now the only surviving part of this ancient road. Before the railway this tack was able to continue its line eastwards through Great Linford to reach Newport Pagnell.
A third road appears in medieval times and was probably a consequence of the development of a market at Stony Stratford. This one could take you from Calverton to the south of Horsefair Green and crossing the road to Old Wolverton. This part of the road has now been lost, except for a few surviving footpaths. The original line was probably closer to Vicarage Road, across the meadows to the north of Wolverton House, closer to the Mill, across Wolverton Park where the old medieval village used to be, skirting to the north east of Holy Trinity and the old castle and joining the Old Wolverton road somewhere near the present location of the Galleon. The canal, of course, was not cut until 1800. The road was known as Portfield Way, indicating that it was a market road. The word port, from the Latin meaning a gate, was commonly used to describe a market – hence Newport, which in its day was a New Market.
The presence of these roads had no small bearing upon the development of Stony Stratford and Wolverton. Road communications, rudimentary as they were up to the 18th century, were nonetheless used and brought trade and commerce to conveniently located settlements. These roads, together with the canal, were a factor in the decision to bring the railway works to Wolverton in 1838.
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.
EXTERIORIt 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 TowerThe 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 BellsThe 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 TranseptsInstead 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 ChancelThe 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.