Exploring the Exterior

Text taken from the guidebook by Roy Tricker 1994

It is well worth taking time to enjoy the outside of this fine building.  Its setting and the distant view of it are magnificent, as are the views over the Chiltern countryside from its churchyard.  The church sits atop its hill - sturdy and solid - as if it had grown naturally out of the landscape.  Its rugged walls are built of grey Totternhoe Stone, quarried some 2 miles away to the nort-east of Edlesborough.  This soft stone weathers badly and has been patched in places with flint, brick and 'Roman' cement.

Bold, buttressed and all-embattled, this venerable building has a fortress-like appearance, and its massive western tower, with distinctive pairs of belfry windows set well apart, has a staircase turret in the south-western corner, which rises above the parapet to a height of 70 feet.

Exterior view

The two-light windows in the aisles (with mostly renewed stonework) were fashioned around 1400, as were the windows in the nave clerestory above.  A little later in the 1400s the south aisle received its east window and the three triple windows were placed in the south wall of the chancel.  Look for the three carved faces which serve as corbels to support the hoodmoulds which frame their arches; the other three have weathered away.  Towards the end of the 1400s a three-light window, with transoms, was placed in the north aisle and the adjacent transept received its large five-light north window.  The great five-light east window in the chancel, however, has beautiful 'Geometrical' tracery of the late 1200s (the north chancel window is of similar date and both have been restored).  Originally the chancel had a taller and more steeply-pitched roof, as did also the nave, but these roofs were given their present shallow pitches in the 1400s.

Both porches are 15th century additions.  The south porch, by which we enter, shelters a 14th century doorway, the jambs (sides) of which have been scratched with graffiti of various vintages.

Exploring the Interior

Craftsmanship from different ages, spanning some 700 years, blends to create this noble interior, with its handsome proportions and pleasing vistas.  Standing by the west wall of the tower, we look down 110 feet to the great east window, and the total width across the nave and aisles is 41 feet.  We look upwards to the sturdy 15th century roofs, strengthened by massive tiebeams, which crown the nave and chancel.  Traceried spandrels link the wall-posts and tiebeams of the chancel roof, where two of the stone corbels supporting the wall-posts have carved mediaeval faces.  The north aisle and transept roofs are also 15th century, the south aisle roof having been renewed in 1867 - a copy of its mediaeval predecessor.  A careful look a the west wall, above the tower arch, reveals the marks of the former steeply- pitched roof which crowned the nave before the building of the present clerestory and roof in the 1400s.

Arcades of four bays separate the aisles from the nave.  These have octagonal piers, with moulded capitals and bases, and date probably from the late 1200sThe keen eye will detect traces of graffiti - some of considerable age - scratched at random into the surfaces of the piers.  The two westernmost bays are linked by a small stretch of wall with responds (half-piers) rather than a single pier, which makes us wonder whether this marked where the original Norman church ended before the extensions of the late 1200s.  It seems (from the abrupt ending of the arcades where they join the tower) that the nave and aisles were to extend further westwards, but were interrupted by the building of the tower in the early 1300s, which required the small amount of available space on this hill-top site.  Both aisles are additionally strengthened by transverse arches - and unusual feature, which may also be seen in Aylesbury church.

The tower arch is a fine piece of 14th century design, whilst the chancel arch, which may well be part of the 15th century re-ordering, has an immense span, reaching almost from wall to wall.

The nave and aisles are seated with benches of pine which replaced the old box-pews in 1867.