St Laurence Church

Postcard of the church and new churchyard

Church before 1883 restoration
This pen and ink drawing shows the church before restoration began in 1883

Winslow Church 1862
This photo from by C. May & E. Rolls, Churches and Mansions: Buckinghamshire (1862) is the earliest known one of the Church

Enquiry into the Rectory of Winslow, 1581

National Archives, E178/443 (original in Latin)

According to the Survey of 1556, John Boston held the Rectory of Winslow, i.e. the right to collect the great tithes (now separated from the ownership of the manor), from Lady Day 1544 for 40 years, paying £40 p.a., but he died in 1558. On 25 April 1581, the Exchequer ordered an enquiry into the Rectory of Winslow. The Rectory with all fruits and tenths of corn and hay in Winslow and Shipton, with a barn and close [as held by John Boston], had been leased (along with other crown property in London and elsewhere) to David de Leye, goldsmith, on 24 April 1573 for 21 years for £14 p.a., the lease beginning on Lady Day 1584 when John Boston's term expired (Calendar of Patent Rolls, Elizabeth I vol.6, no.70). He is not mentioned in the document, but the enquiry apparently resulted from a dispute over the terms of his lease. The commissioners were ordered to find out:

whether (the Rectory's) houses and buildings are in decay and ruin or not, whether any spoliation or waste have been committed or done in and around the aforesaid houses and buildings of the aforesaid Rectory or not. And if so, then who committed or did the same spoliation or waste, and which and what sort of repairs the Rectory or any part of it needs.  And who up to now has been accustomed to hold and maintain the same Rectory, and now and afterwards should hold and maintain it,

The enquiry was held on 20 May 1581 by Paul Dayrell, Michael Harcourte and George Throgmorton (Nicholas Beste, also included in the original commission, apparently did not participate). The following twelve men of Winslow were sworn in:

Robert Wyllyatt, gent.
John Cowper
Richard Pereson
John Hopper

Richard Capenhurste
Benedict Holland
John Pytkyn
John Stevenes

John Graunt
William Glenester
Robert Ellyott
Robert Brimpton

They say on their oath that the barn of the Rectory of Winslow specified in the aforesaid commission is in decay for lack of repairs to a value of £35. Then the aforesaid jurors say on their oath that spoliation and waste have been committed and left in and around the houses and buildings belonging to the aforesaid Rectory and barn, namely: two "bayes" of the houses and buildings have been wasted and taken away from the Rectory; a structure called "a leanto" is in decay; and that the spoliation and waste committed in the said bayes of the houses and buildings and the decay on the structure amount to a value of £5. And furthermore the aforesaid jurors say on their oath that all necessary repairs of every sort in and around the houses and buildings belonging to the Rectory are to be performed and undertaken by our lady the Queen and the tenant of the above equally and in equal shares.

Clear records the following further leases of the Rectory:

The lease to Henry Best is found in Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, 1595-7, CCLI 5(6), p.5: 25 Jan 1595

Lease in reversion to Henry Best for 31 years of Winslow parsonage, the site of Whaddon manor, the herbage of Whaddon Park called Queen's Park, woods in Prince's Risborough and South Stoke (Somerset). Total rent £25 5s 4d p.a. No fine, in recompense of pay due to the late Captain David Powell for service in France and the Low Countries, at the suit of his widow Jane.

Sequestration of the Rectory, 1658

National Archives, E367/2368

The estates of the 2nd Duke of Buckingham were confiscated in 1647. The commissioners named below (some of the most prominent Parliamentarians in Bucks, including Bulstrode Whitelocke) treated the rectory of Winslow, i.e. the right to collect the tithes, separately from the manor, and gave Joseph Seare a lease of it.

A Perticuler of the lands & tenements of George Duke of Buckingham, a Delinquent lyinge in the County of Buck
The Farme of the Rectory of Winslowe in the County of Buck nowe or late in the occupac(i)on of )
Joseph Seare or of his Assignes the cleere yearely value in all issued over and beyond reprizes   )  C li [£100]

Bee it remembered That this Perticuler made by an Inquisic(i)on indented taken at Aylesbury in the County aforesaid the nyne and twentieth day of Aprill in the yeare of our Lord 1658 before Samuel Bedford Christofer Egleton Christofer Henn and Henry Phillipps Esqs by virtue of a Com(m)ission from his Highness the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England &c to them and others directed whereby it is found by the oathes of Giles Child and other good and lawfull men of the Said County that George Duke of Buckingham heretofore Sequestred for his Delinquency and at the tyme of the takeing of the Said Inquisic(i)on was seized in his Demesne as of Fee of and in the Said Rectory And that the same was then or late in the occupac(i)on of the said Joseph Seare or his assignes and is of the yearely value above expressed
Bee it also remembered that by a Scedule to the said Com(m)ission and Inquisic(i)on annexed Symon Mayne Samuel Bedford and Christofer Henn Esquires three of the Com(m)issioners in the Said Com(m)ission named have certefied That by vertue of the Said Com(m)ission to the Said Scedule annexed to them and others directed, that they have seized the respective lands and estates found in  the Inquisic(i)on  to the Said Com(m)ission annexed And that they had made a Contract with the Said Joseph Seare for the Said Rectory for One hundred pounds per Annum cleere rent beyond reprizes for the tearme of one and twenty yeares payable halfe yearely by equall porcons to com(m)ence from Lady day then last past
Bee it also remembered That this Perticuler is made by virtue of an order from the Right Hono(ura)ble the Lordes Com(m)issioners of the Treasury made the nynth day June of 1658

xxjth day of October 1658  Exa(m)i(n)ed by Jo: Payne [signature]
                                                in absence of the Remembrancer

By the Com(sione)r of the Trea(su)ry
October 29th 1658
Lett a Lease be made of the premisses  or soe much thereof as is conteyned in the above menc(i)oned Contract and noe more unto the above named Joseph Seare, for and under the yearely Rent for the terme in the said Contract expressed and according to the forme of the Lease and the Covenants to be observed in cases of this nature. And this shalbe your Warrant.
B Whitelocke [signature]                                                                              Thos Widdington [signature]
To our loving freind Sr Henry Croke knt
Clerke of the pipe or his deputy

Grant of the Rectory, 1658

National Archives, E367/2553

The document recites the commissioners' findings and agreement above. Richard Cromwell, Lord Protector, grants the Rectory to Joseph Seare, his executors, administrators and assigns, to hold for 21 years from Lady Day last past for £100 p.a. payable to the Exchequer or the Receiver-General in Bucks "if the right and interest of the Duke of Buckingham shall soe longe continue". Seare and his heirs will "at their proper costs and charges (great timber to bee had and taken in and upon the premisses by the assignment of the said Receiver excepted) all and singuler the Chancell of the parish Church of Winslowe aforesaid, as all houses, buildings ... in, by and with all needfull and necessary reparations whatsoever well and sufficiently from time to time ... as neede shall require repaire, amend, susteine and keepe." Seare will "lay and imploy all the dunge and other manure whatsoever made ... upon the said premisses respectively and not upon any other lands whatsoever and shall in due and husbandly manner plowe and manure ... or shall suffer the same to lye fallowe and shall leave possession of fallow grounds sheepe pastures and meadowes unto us" in the March or April before the end of the term.

Signed: B. Whitelocke, Th. Widdington. 22 Nov 1658.

Description of the church, early 18th century

British Library, Add. MS 5840, f.202r

William Cole’s transcription of Browne Willis’s notes and papers.  This is apparently a letter to Willis from Rev. John Croft, who died in 1716.

Winslow Church 42 f.b. 62 long, consists of 3 Isles, rooft with good Timber & coverd with Lead throwout.  The 2 westermost Pillers are very massive supporting the Towre, which at the Bottom opens by 2 great Arches into the N. & S. Isles.  There are newly made 2 Vestries & in the N. Vestry a Chimney. A 3d great Arch in the Towre opens into the Nave, where over the Seats & middle Space from the Bellfrey, is a small neat Gallery for promiscuous Men, Boys &c.  The West End Wall under the Towre, which answers to the 2 great Pillars, supports a great strong Towre, rising from the Ground 64 Foot, cover’d with Lead & neatly embatteled; built since the Invention of Guns, as I conceive, by the Loop Holes in the Battlements, such as you see on the Towre of the W. Church in St: Stratford.  The Bells you know.  The Chancell is the Breadth of the Nave of the Church, near 20 Foot, & near twice the Length within the Walls.  Mr. Secretary Lowndes purchasing this Mannor, with the Impropriation, found this Chancell in the same Pickle Cornelius Holland left it: the ground of it level & arable, the Roof a Colender.  He new run & laid the Lead throwout, pav’d it with Bister Stones rubb’d & broad: at the East End sunk a Vault for a Dormitory, o’re which he raisd the Altar-Place, 2 handsom Steeps compast it with a neat Rail, pav’d with Danish Marble; gave a new elegant Communion Table, behind which his eldest son Robert Esqr set up a handsom Wainscot, having the Creed, Decalogue & Lord’s Prayer curiously wrot with Gold upon Black.  He new glaz’d the Windows throwout.  In the old Glass remain’d only of Paint, an old Gothiq M. & a Starr: The Romanists call the B. Virgin, Stella Maris Maria, which remain in the East Window, over Mr. Lowndes’s Coat of Arms, sett up the Commencement of this Century, as appears by the Date.

There remains in the N. Wall of the Chancell the Marks of a Door stopt up, which opened, as I guess, into a Vestry there: ‘twas either actually built, or intended.  The stones in the outside Wall were left toothing: but forasmuch as the Out-Wall of the Chancell, which was the Inside of the Vestry, as far as the toothing reach’d, is plaister’d with White-Lime, I know it must have been built.  A narrow Hole in the Wall, on the Chancell Side, opening wider & wider into the Vestry, like a Hatch, is nerely filled up.  From this, I conceive, the Deacons in the Vestry, administred to the officiating Priest Wafers, Wine, Water, Candles, &c.  Or perhaps it might be likewise an Oratory, abus’d to superstitious Uses: & so they that hated Idolls, lov’d the Sacriledg of it.

[The Hole in the Wall probably was for those in the Vestry to see the Officiating Priest thro’.  Wm. Cole]

The great Porch entring the S. Isle of the Church deserves Attention.  ‘Tis built after the Manner of Sir John Shorn’s Chancell of Cotsgrove: Stone rooft with Timber well moulded, is cover’d with Lead: ‘tis neatly embattel’d & pinnacled.  Over the Porch Door remains a small Niech, in which perhaps formerly stood St. Laurence, the Saint to whom the Church is dedicated: but He, I believe, fell down with the Reformation; & the Battlements & Pinnacle over his Head rued the Misery of his Neibourhood.

Antiquities that have escap’d your Knowledge are few.  Upon an old Herse Cloth, in a Circle about the Midle, since I came hither, I have seen written, Pray for the Souls of John & Jane Gadbury.  Here was likewise an old velvet Pulpit Cloath, with Abundance of Arms both in Escutcheon & Lozenge-wise: the same, self same, & in the same Posture they are placed on a Tomb Stone in Mursley Chancel.  Good Sir, perpetuate them for Winslow sake.  [v. p.184 W.C.]  The Fyges obtained the Pulpit Cloath of the Fortescues.  ‘Tis too long to write.  I’ll tell you the Reason why I think so.  One Mr. Tho: Lowndes, about 60 years since, gave a Communion Carpet: the widow Joan Ford a Chalice, & some Lands to be distributed in Doles; her maiden Name was Lowndes.  [Here seems to be an Hiatus. W.C.]

Description of the church in the 1840s

G. Lipscomb, History and Antiquities of the County of Buckingham, vol.3 (1847), p.548

The Church stands in a cemetery, enclosed by a low wall, which separates it from the public street or road, leading to Buckingham. The building consists of a square tower at the west end; a nave with two aisles, extending to the extremity or western face of the tower; and a chancel. On the south side is a handsome porch, and the whole of the walls of the tower, nave, aisles, chancel, and porch, are finished with perforated coped battlements. The principal doorway has a low pointed bracket arch, having foliated ornaments in the spandrils and quaterfoils, lozenges and other sculptured decorations. In the tympanum of the pediment, above the doorway, is an elegantly-shaped Gothic niche, with a groined canopy and rich tracery. At the east end of the chancel is a large window of five lights, in the basement story, divided by a cross mullion from smaller lights above, terminated in trefoils: the lower series having bracket arches with cinquefoils beneath them, and triangular, octagonal, and other perforations and ornaments. Sculptured heads of enormous size, with monstrously exaggerated features, project from under the battlements of the porch, which has a range of pinacles on its roof, each faced with a trefoil-headed pannel, crowned with a flowered pinnacle or finial.

The Church has been recently re-paved, painted, and has undergone a thorough repair. The old porch on the south, to which a Gothic door has been attached, is converted into a temporary Chapel.

In the tower, which is sixty-four feet high, hang six modern bells, recast out of five, in June 1668. Weight of the old bells: treble, 700 lb. 2d 1100 lb. 3rd 1300 4th 1800 lb. tenor, 2700 lb. total, 7500 lb. Weight of the new bells: treble, 600 lb. 2d 700 lb. 3rd 800 lb. 4th 1200 lb. 5th 1500 lb. tenor, 2000 lb. total, 6800 lb. It may be presumed that 700 lb was lost in the operation of recasting. Mr. Keene, of Woodstock, was the Founder.

Engraving of the church before restoration
Engraving from Lipscomb, p.548

The church in the 1960s
Similar view in the ?1960s

Replacement of the pews, 1836

Bucks Herald, 4 June 1836

To Builders.

THE Churchwardens are desirous of receiving Tenders for Pewing the Church, and erecting an additional Gallery, agreeably to the plan and specification, which may be inspected at the offices of Messrs. WILLIS and SON, solicitors in Winslow, on Wednesday, 8th June, or any subsequent day.

The Committee of management will meet at Church on Wednesday, 15th inst., at 11 o’clock, to open the Tenders, but they will not consider themselves pledged to accept the lowest offer.

Winslow, 2d June, 1836.

Arthur Clear: In 1885, a new Clock with Chimes, was fixed in the Church tower, and the Bells re-hung, in accordance with a bequest of the late D. T. Willis, Esq.

Installation of organ, 1851

Bucks Chronicle, 29 Nov 1851
We are happy to find that a very important addition has just been made to our church here – that of an organ.  No doubt it will be the means of increasing greatly the congregation, which was numerous before.   It may be justly said, taking into consideration the progressive improvement of the age, and the continually increasing number of the population of this town, that the time had arrived when this agreeable and useful instrument should be introduced into our principal place of worship   It is much to be regretted, however, that pew accommodation should be so short, and it is to be hoped that something will be done in this direction as well.

Meeting about church rate, 1854

Church rates were controversial because they were levied for the use of the parish church but everyone (including nonconformists) was legally obliged to pay. Rev. Attenborough and the deacons were Congregationalists.

Oxford Chronicle, 29 April 1854
The usual Easter meeting for the appointment of churchwardens was held on Friday, 21st instant.  Expecting a church rate would be proposed, the dissenters assembled in considerable strength, resolved to offer their most determined opposition, amongst whom were the Rev. T. B. Attenborough, the two deacons, Messrs. J. L.  French and J. Morgan, Mr. T. Lomath, Mr. Badrick, Mr. Rivett, &c.  So unusual an event in this parish evidently turned the current.  The accounts presented a balance of 39l. in hand, and with a certain prospect of a collision of parties, should a rate be proposed, the church-rate advocates showed that “discretion was the better part of valour,” and they, for the sake of peace and order, abandoned their purpose.  Messrs. Cross and Maydon were re-elected as churchwardens.

Memorial window, 1867

Bucks Herald, 29 June 1867
  MEMORIAL WINDOW.- A very handsome stained glass window has been put into our old parish church to the memory of the Rev. John Miles, B.D., late incumbent of the Holy Trinity Church, Paddington, in affectionate remembrance, by his widow.  The rev. gentleman’s first appearance in the pulpit was in Winslow church, as curate to the Rev. J. Preedy, vicar, since which he has laboured unremittingly in London.  He contributed a large sum towards the expense of erecting Holy Trinity Church, Paddington, to which he was nominated by the Bishop of London, and where he resided twenty years.  Under his will he bequeathed upwards of £15,000 to St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and to the British and Foreign Bible Society, besides other charitable legacies.  His remains now rest in Winslow churchyard.  The window beautifully illustrates the agony, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of our Saviour, and reflects considerable credit upon the talents of the artist, Mr. Wingrave [=Mingaye], of London.

John Miles' wife Elizabeth was the daughter of the Winslow lawyer James Burnham.

Letter about church services, 1872

Bucks Herald, 24 Feb 1872


  SIR,- Can you find room in your paper for the grumble of a stranger?  If so, here is my grumble, and I shall feel obliged if you will give it publicity.  I am a stranger in your county of Bucks, but in the course of my travels this week it occurred to me to have to spend a night at Winslow.  The Bell Inn is a comfortable little old-fashioned place, as, no doubt, all its friends know, but the evening was long, and dark, and dreary, and Sir, I was glad to be awakened from a reverie, into which I had fallen over the Tichborne case [a dispute about a claim to a baronetcy], by the chimes of a beautiful peal of bells.  Oh, thought I, then I shall be able to go to evensong at the church, and off I went, guided by the sound of the bells, towards the church, but when I came close to the sound, I was astonished to find that I could not see the church.  It was a very dark evening, it is true, but, Sir, I expected to find the church lighted for prayers; but, no, I could see no light!  Then, I thought, “No doubt there is a side chapel where daily prayers are said for the greater convenience of a less congregation,” so I groped my way round the large churchyard, but in vain, there was no light until I got to the west window in the belfry, and found several hobbledehoys, of course, making the noise customary among bellringers. “Is there no service to-night?” I feebly asked. “Oh yes, there be.” Stranger still, a gloomy affair I should think! “They do have it in the girls’ school,” my informant proceeded, and then he went on to explain to me about the bells and the clock, whose mighty tick, echoing in the tower, seemed to say that the pulse of life was still beating, though the body of the church lay apparently dead.  Now, Sir, I did not go to the girls’ school to prayers.  I don’t like prayers in schools when the church is at hand, and I cannot understand why they should be held anywhere but in the church, and I cannot believe that in the town of Winslow a faithful few are not to be found to offer up the evening sacrifices of the lifting up of their hands in prayer.  Even for a stranger such opportunities ought to be provided in every town, to say the least of it, if not in every parish.  But unless I am (and I hope I am) mistaken, Thursday evening is the only evening on which there is a service at all at Winslow.  I shall be glad to find I am misinformed on this point, and I will not inquire how often other services of the church are there performed, but I will venture merely to notice that, as I went towards the station the next morning, I saw as I passed by, not exactly an altar “to the unknown God,” I could have almost wished it were, but a tabernacle, a large building for preaching, I presume, and which, I am informed, has quite recently raised its head.  And it is ever so, we know that “while men slept” an enemy sowed tares among the wheat.  “Oh you did hear our chimes,” I was told; and sweet enough they are, I doubt not, but it is in vain, and worse than in vain, that the piety of our forefathers should have given bells to ring out the knell of parting day, if their solemn tones serve only to amuse or to please, and not to summon to the evening sacrifice.  I inclose my card, but desire to remain unknown, and to subscribe myself, your obedient servant,                                                 EXPECTANS EXPECTAVI.

Copyright 8 September, 2020