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St. Mary's Church

Mentmore Parish Council St. Mary's Church

Mentmore Parish Church

The residents of Mentmore, Ledburn and Crafton are rightly proud of our parish church. Karen Thomas who lives right next door has kindly put together some information about the building and its origins.

Brief History of Mentmore

The village of Mentmore and its surrounding hamlets of Ledburn and Crafton are situated in the Vale of Aylesbury, close to the Chilterns.  The nearest towns are Aylesbury (eight miles), Leighton Buzzard (four miles) and Tring (seven miles).

Very little is known of the village and its inhabitants before the eleventh century, but an entry in the Doomsday Book states that “Mentmore was being held by Robert for Hugh “Lupas”, Earl of Chester. The same entry states that prior to the Norman invasion, i.e. during the early to middle eleventh century, the manor of Mentmore was held by “Eddeva Pulchra” (Edith the fair).  The years following the Norman invasion saw many changes in the fortunes of the village and its “owners” until by the early 1800s there was no longer one single owner of the land and associated properties.

However, in the 1840s Baron Meyer Amschel de Rothschild began to purchase the land in and around Mentmore.  The purchases were the initial build up prior to his commissioning the building of Mentmore Towers in 1851 – 1855.  On his death the estate became the property of his only daughter and heir, Hannah.  It was under Hannah’s influence, and later, that of her husband, the Earl of Rosebery, that the estate grew and prospered during the Victorian era, becoming known as a “Model Village” of Victorian Times.

The fifth Earl of Rosebery was probably best known for becoming Prime Minister in 1894, a post he held for two years, and for his great interest in racing.  Both the fifth Earl and his son were great racing enthusiasts and their interest led to the establishment of two well renowned racing studs; one in Crafton and the other in Mentmore.  Between them the two stables produced, amongst others, five Derby winners; Ladas, Sir Visto and Cicero from Crafton and Ocean Swell and Blue Peter from Mentmore.

Mentmore and its associated hamlets remained part of the Rosebery Estate until the great sale of 1976 when, following the death of the sixth Earl of Rosebery his family sold the Mansion, i.e. Mentmore Towers, and the bulk of the estate.  The old estate buildings and workers cottages are now privately owned, with only one property within the parish remaining in the ownership of the Rosebery family. Mentmore Towers is also privately owned and has planning permission to turn it into a five/six star hotel.

St. Mary’s Church, Mentmore

Since the time of the Domesday Survey the church of St. Mary the Virgin has probably been the one fixed and stable feature of the village. According to the “Victoria County History of Buckinghamshire” there was a church on this site in the 12th century, probably built in the simple Norman style and consisting of a chancel and a nave.  It is known that one moiety (half-share) of the church was given to St. Bartholomew’s Priory, Smithfield, in 1202 and that by 1220 they were also in possession of the second half.

The north and south aisles were built, presumably under their direction, in 1220. The font is thought to be 13th century and is therefore contemporary to this early period of our church’s history.  The priory presented the first recorded Vicar, Geraldus Capellanus, in 1234 and the patronage remained in their possession until the dissolution.

A major phase of re-building, in the Perpendicular style, began in the second half of the fourteenth century when the north aisle was rebuilt, with the rebuilding of the south aisle following sometime during the fifteenth century.  By the end of the fifteenth century (1490) the Tower and Clerestory were being built and the nave arcades rebuilt using much of the original material.  The present five bells were installed in the tower in the late seventeenth century.  The original bell frame is still in place and, together with the bells, was made by the Chandler family between 1668 and 1669.

The church was altered yet again in 1858 when restoration work was carried out for Lord Rothschild under the supervision of George Stokes.  At this time the chancel and vestry were rebuilt, the north aisle altered and the first heating system probably installed.  Finally, the exterior of the building was re-clad using Ancaster stone in the early part of the twentieth century.

Recent Restoration and Repair

No further major restoration or rebuilding work was carried out on the church until the 1970s when the tower was strengthened to enable the bells to be rung (after a silence of over forty years) for the wedding of Lord Rosebery’s daughter.  Then in the mid 1990s the bells were completely refurbished and a mezzanine floor and glass screen added in the tower, all by local volunteers.

By 1995, nearly 140 years since the last major renovations, the church was once again found to be in need of major repairs and so started a new period of restoration and repair beginning with the renewal of the south aisle and nave lead roofs and the associated timberwork. Further renovation work was carried out in 2000/2001 at which time the south east chancel buttress was rebuilt, a French drain and new soak-aways were installed on the north side of the church, new guttering and downspouts were installed on both the vestry and chancel and the floors beneath two of the banks of pews were completely renewed.  In 2002 the chancel cross was removed for safety.  Then in early 2003 bad weather highlighted a major leak in the vestry roof – water was running down the interior walls of the vestry!!  Future renovation projects were put on hold so that the lead valley gutter and the south side of the vestry roof could be replaced as a matter of urgency before the following winter weather caused more problems.

The first Mentmore Arts Festival in 2008 was organised, in part, to help raise funds for the most recent extended phase of repairs to St. Mary’s which included renewing all the decayed timberwork and re-leading of both the west tower and north aisle roofs, together with re-pointing of stonework and replacement of damaged guttering and downspouts. All this work was completed, on time, in late 2009 and would not have been achieved so easily without the donations given by the Arts Festival committee, the fundraising by parishioners and the grants received from organisations such as WREN, the Bucks Historic Churches Trust, Francis Coales Charitable Foundation and Eranda.

Current Projects

The District Church Council have reviewed the situation with regard to the next phase of work and, having taken on board comments made by parishioners and visitors alike, have now raised the money that will enable them to carry out the internal redecoration of the church.

Following discussions with our architect the necessary approval and permissions have been obtained from the Diocese and the work is due to start on Monday July 9th 2012. This project involves the re-painting of the chancel, nave and south aisle and, although no major repairs will be carried out at this stage, it should give the interior of the church a huge face lift following all the recent exterior restoration projects. It is hoped that the work will be completed in three to four weeks and that any scheduled services can continue as planned.

However, don’t be lulled into thinking this is the end of any major work required to keep our lovely church in good running order. Apart from the obvious day to day running expenses there still remain several large scale projects to be carried out if we want this church to be a viable, long term place of worship and community for our parish.

St Mary’s Church – Contacts

Team Rector:      Reverend Howard Robson 01296 688593 email: [email protected]

Interim Vicar:      Reverend Dr Andrew Krauss  01296 660352  email [email protected]

Churchwarden:   Lin Knappitt  01296 668568

Treasurer:           Tracey Mundy   email:  [email protected]

Safeguarding Officer:  Julie Davis 01296 668940

Mentmore Church 200 Club    Tracey Mundy   email: [email protected]

Service Times: Holy Communion at St. Mary’s is held on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month at 9.00 am.

Bell Ringing

Ever been bored at home one evening? Nothing on TV? Or just fancy doing something different? Ever thought about change-ringing? ‘What, bellringing? That’s all old people in churches swinging from ropes isn’t it?’ Not entirely true. There are old people who ring bells, but one of the many beauties of ringing is that it is done by people of all ages. Come along and give it a go.  Take a look at The Bellringers of Cheddington, Mentmore and Marsworth Website for more details

Contact Richard Booth  email [email protected]