04 September 2022
The pretty Buckinghamshire village of Winslow is just half an hour from Stony Stratford, just south of Buckingham and half way between Stony Stratford and the county town of Aylesbury.
On a recent visit, I could hardly resist visiting Comerford Way, off Station Road.
At one time, I thought this modern housing development took its name from an area known as Great Comerford. But it transpires that Comerford Way is named after Denis Comerford, who lived at No 11 Station Road and who was the last railway signalman at Winslow Station.
Denis Comerford worked at Winslow station from 1937 until 1968, when the railway line and the station closed and he was made redundant.
The original station (1850-1968) in Winslow was on the historical Varsity Line between Cambridge and Oxford or Banbury Merton Street, where it was an important stop before the routes diverged.
Thomas Brassey employed 2,000 navvies in 1847 to build the Bletchley to Banbury railway line. He also set aside £200 for their religious education.
Winslow Station was opened by the Buckinghamshire Railway on 1 May 1850 as part of this line from Banbury to Bletchley. The line was later extended westwards to Islip, to a temporary station at Banbury Road and then to Oxford, opening throughout on 20 May 1851. There were four trains each way daily.
The London and North Western Railway (LNWR) absorbed the Buckinghamshire Railway in 1879.
Winslow Station was conveniently situated at the end of Station Road which branches off from the High Street, serving the village of Winslow, which then had 1,805 inhabitants. The coming of the railway had a significant impact on the village, resulting in its northward extension and the opening of a ‘Railway Inn.’
The station declined after World War II, and in 1963 Winslow station was listed for closure in the Beeching report, which called for the closure of all minor stations on the line.
Winslow closed to goods traffic on 22 May 1967 and to passengers on 1 January 1968; the signal box followed one month later. The closure was delayed because replacement bus services were not able to handle the projected extra traffic. The line between Oxford and Bletchley was closed to passengers and local goods services, and later singled in 1985.
Winslow station continued to be used during the 1980s for ‘Chiltern Shopper’ specials and British Rail handbills survive that show services calling at the station during November and December between 1984 and 1986.
The station building, by then in a very derelict state, survived long enough to see the first visit of a Class 43 on 13 February 1993, but was demolished shortly afterwards.
Now, a new station is planned for Winslow as part of the East-West Rail project to re-establish the route between Oxford and Cambridge.
A site for the new station has been bought at the junction of Buckingham Road with Horwood Road. Buckinghamshire County Council acquired the new site for £900,000, according to reports in 2016. Groundworks began in Summer 2021, and the construction of the station is due to be completed in summer 2023.
When the line opens, Winslow should have direct trains to Oxford, Milton Keynes Central and Bedford. The journey time from Winslow to Oxford is estimated at 27 minutes.
Denis Comerford lived at No 11 Station Road. Station Road was known as Railway Station Road until 1864. The road existed in 1838, although most of the houses on the north side were built in the mid-1800s.
No 63 Station Road was once the Station Inn, and Station Road became the second most populated street in Winslow.
Comerford Way, which keeps alive the memory of Denis Comerford, is a new housing development at the east end of Station Road in Winslow, at the junction with McLernon Way.
McLernon Way keeps alive the memory of H McLernon, another Signalman at Winslow Station. He was a colour sergeant during World War I, and his son, George McLernon, was Mayor of Winslow in the 1980s.
Another signalman is remembered in the name of Rolfe Close, off Verney Road, named after Jessie and Bert Rolfe. Jessie was the district nurse and midwife for 40 years, and delivered more than 1,000 babies.
They moved from Horn Street to a purpose-built house with a treatment room in Highfield Road. Bert was born in a small cottage on High Street in 1893; he was a signalman at Winslow Station and worked on the railways for 40 years.
Buckingham Palace is not in Buckingham, there is no castle on Castle Street in Buckingham, and, despite its name, the Bishop of Buckingham lives in Great Missenden, and Buckingham is not the county town of Buckinghamshire.
Although Saint Rumbold has given his name to wells, shrines and streets, the parish church is named after Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The parish church in Buckingham is only 250 years old – the oldest churches in the town are mediaeval chantry chapels that were later converted into schools or almshouses.
Buckingham is not on a mainline train route, and it often loses out to the attention given to its larger neighbours, Oxford and Milton Keynes. Despite its antiquity, few buildings in Buckingham date to before the 18th century because a large fire destroyed much of the town in 1725.
The parish church
on Castle Hill
The Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, known commonly as Buckingham Parish Church, is prominently located on Castle Hill in the centre of the old town of Buckingham. This was the site of Edward the Elder’s stronghold against the Danes in the 10th century, and later a Norman castle was built on the site.
There has been a church in Buckingham since Saxon Times, and the old church stood further down the hill, at the bottom of what is now called Church Street, in Prebend End.
The earlier church dated from before 1445, but there are no records before this date, apart from a reference to it in the Domesday Book of 1086.
The old church had a history of the tower and spire collapsing several times and they collapsed for the final time in 1776. Browne Willis (1682-1760), the MP for Buckingham and a noted antiquarian, wanted to restore the church to its former glory, but a new tower and spire were too ambitious.
A new site became available on Castle Hill and the decision was made to move the church. It is said that much of the fabric of the earlier church was reused in building the new church. Indeed, the story goes, Church Street was given its name because the ruins of the old church were carried up the street to be rebuilt on Castle Hill.
Richard Grenville-Temple (1711-1779), 2nd Earl Temple and William Pitt’s brother-in-law, undertook to build a new church and the site was donated Ralph Verney (1714-1791), 2nd Earl Verney, an Irish peer who had previously been known as Lord Fermanagh.
The foundation stone for the new church was laid in 1777, the church was completed by Lord Temple’s nephew, George Nugent-Temple-Grenville (1753-1813), 3rd Earl Temple and 1st Marquis of Buckingham, later Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1787-1789), and the new church was consecrated in 1780.
However, the foundations of the church were insufficient and several cracks began appearing. The present Victorian Gothic Revival church is the result of many 19th-century alterations by the local-born architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. He added buttresses to prop up the building and redesigned the church in the 1860s in a late 13th century geometrical style.
A Chantry Chapel
hospital and school
Because most of Buckingham’s town centre was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1725, the Chantry Chapel of Saint John the Baptist is the oldest surviving building in the town. The chantry chapel survived the fire, and is tucked away on Market Hill in a cosy corner off the Market Square.
The Chantry Chapel was built in the late 12th century as part of Saint John’s Hospital, and it became a chantry chapel in 1268, founded by Matthew de Stratton, Archdeacon of Buckingham.
The Royal Latin School was founded in the chapel in 1423, with the chantry priests probably serving as the first schoolmasters. A schoolmaster’s house was added to the north. The school was originally established to teach boys the Trivium: Latin grammar, logic and rhetoric.
The present building dates from the 15th century, when John Ruding, Archdeacon of Lincoln, undertook rebuilding work in 1471 and 1481, incorporating the Norman doorway. Ruding also gave the school its motto, ‘Alle May God Amende,’ in 1471.
The chantry chapel was dissolved, as were other chantries, at the Tudor Reformation, and it was known as the Royal Latin School from 1540. In 1548, King Edward VI granted a charter for the school, providing an endowment and trustees.
At several times in its history, the chapel has been near to decay. A major fire in 1696 destroyed the Master’s House which was rebuilt by Alexander Denton. The building was restored at the expense of Earl Temple of Stowe in 1776, and was twice restored in the 19th century under the direction of Sir George Gilbert Scott.
But by the 1890s, the old buildings were inadequate and unsuitable for modern educational needs, and the Royal Latin School moved from the Chantry Chapel to a new site on Chandos Road in 1907.
The Chantry Chapel retains the original Norman Romanesque doorway. It was bought by public subscription In 1912 and given to the National Trust. Since then, it has been both a café and second-hand bookshop, and a sign outside indicates the National Trust has plans to reopen it soon.
Two other former chantries or hospitals dating from the 13th to 15th centuries survived the Reformation and are now Barton’s Chantry and Hospital on Church Street and Christ’s Hospital on Market Hill.
The myths and mysteries
of Saint Rumbold
One of the Tudor-era houses to survive in Buckingham is the Manor House on Church Street, beside the old churchyard. The Manor House was built in the early 16th century and is now divided into two houses, the Manor House and Twisted Chimney House.
The building was the manor house of the Prebendal Manor of Sutton-cum-Buckingham, one of the best-endowed prebends in Lincoln Cathedral and in pre-Reformation in England, with properties across Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire.
On the façade of the Manor House, a plaque showing a cherubic-like infant recalls the extraordinary tale that has survived as local lore of Saint Rumbold.
There is also a Saint Rumbold’s Well in Buckingham, and Saint Rumbold’s Lane leads from Nelson Street to the junction of Church Street and Well Street.
According to local lore, Saint Rumbold was an Anglo-Saxon infant saint, who lived for only three days, and was born and died around the year 650. His mother was Cyneburga, a daughter of King Penda of Mercia; his father was Alchfrith, a son of the King of Northumbria. Rumbold’s parents were travelling north to meet King Penda, when the party stopped and camped in a field near King’s Sutton in Northamptonshire, 12 miles west of Buckingham. There Cyneburga gave birth to Rumbold.
From birth, Rumbold was a prodigy. On his first day, he cried out three times in a loud voice ‘I am a Christian,’ Christianus sum, Christianus sum, Christianus sum, and asked to be baptised.
On the following day, Rumbold further astounded everyone by professing faith in the Holy Trinity and the Athanasian Creed and, citing the Scriptures, he preached a sermon on the need for virtuous living. On the third day he said that he was going to die, seeking to be buried where he was born for one year, then at Brackley for two years, and finally, for all time, at the place that later became Buckingham.
Accounts of his miraculous life were popular in the Middle Ages and his tomb and shrine became a focus for pilgrimages. Several mediaeval Bishops of Lincoln attempted to suppress what were described as superstitious pilgrimages.
The pilgrimages to Buckingham were suppressed at the Reformation, Saint Rumbold’s shrine and tomb were demolished after the old parish church in Buckingham fell down in 1776, and nothing was transferred to the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul when it was built on Castle Hill.
An old goal that
looks like a castle
The castle has long disappeared from Castle Hill, and the building that looks like a castle on Market Hill is sometimes known as Lord Cobham’s Castle. But this is Buckingham Old Gaol, the former town prison, now the town museum and one of the most recognisable buildings in Buckingham.
The prison was built in 1748, looking like a Gothic-style castle. One of the prisoners jailed here was the Irish bare-knuckle prize fighter Simon Byrne (1806-1833), known as the ‘Emerald Gem.’ He was tried at the Buckingham Assizes in 1830 for the manslaughter of the Scottish prize fighter, Alexander McKay.
The rounded front of the building, added in 1839, was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott to provide accommodation for the gaoler and became known as the Keeper’s Lodge.
The Old Gaol has been a police station, a fire station and in the 1950s an antiques shop and café. It opened as a museum in 1993, together with a tourist information centre. The museum includes mementoes of Florence Nightingale and the collected works of Flora Thompson, author of Lark Rise to Candleford.
This two-page feature was originally written for the ‘Church Review’ (Dublin and Glendalough)
Today is the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, and is also marked as Creation Sunday. Later this morning, I plan to attend the Parish Eucharist in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles, Stony Stratford, and in the afternoon I hope go to the Parish Fete at All Saints’ Church, Calverton.
But, before today begins, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose music is celebrated throughout this year’s Proms season. In my prayer diary for these weeks I am reflecting in these ways:
1, One of the readings for the morning;
2, Reflecting on a hymn or another piece of music by Vaughan Williams, often drawing, admittedly, on previous postings on the composer;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’
Luke 14: 25-33 (NRSVA):
25 Now large crowds were travelling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.’
’Come down, O Love divine’ (‘Down Ampney’) by King’s College Choir, Cambridge/Thomas Williamson/Stephen Cleobury
Today’s reflection: ‘Come down, O love divine’
For my reflections and devotions each day these few weeks, I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).
This morning [4 September 2022], I invite you to join me in listening to the hymn ‘Come down, O love divine’ for which Vaughan Williams wrote the tune ‘Down Ampey.’ Thanks in particular to this setting by Vaughan Williams, this hymn is loved around the world.
He named the tune after the pretty Cotswold village of Down Ampney in Gloucestnershire, where he was born in the Vicarage on 12 October 1872. Down Ampney is off the A417 which runs between Cirencester and Faringdon in Oxfordshire on the A420, and about 5 km north of Cricklade, which is on the A419 running from Cirencester to Swindon, Wiltshire.
The parish church, All Saints’ Church, was founded by the Knights Templar in 1265, although much of its current shape is the result of a Victorian rebuilding. The spire dates from the 14th century, when the south porch was added.
The nave is supported on pointed arches decorated with a profusion of red flowers. One theory says the flowers are a reminder of the bubonic plague or Black Death, when red rash marked the victims’ skin. The Black Death is also said to explain why the church stands at a distance from the centre of the village.
When the order of Templars was suppressed by the crown in 1315, the living of Down Ampney passed to the Abbey of Cirencester. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries it passed to Christ Church, Oxford.
The church has excellent stained glass, much of it Victorian or modern, including a series of nautical parables given by Admiral Charles Talbot after his ship survived a storm off Sebastopol in 1854. Another window depicting the Resurrection Stone is dedicated to Vaughan Williams’s father. The interior is a symphony of woodwork, with intricately carved south transept screen and pulpit, and the Victorian north transept screen incorporates Jacobean panelling. The south transept has a pair of effigies, Sir Nicholas de Valers (or de Valery), a Templar knight associated with the founding of the church, and perhaps his wife, Margaret Bassett, who is shown in a pious pose.
The north transept or Hungerford Chapel is enclosed within a fine oak screen, part of which is made from the Musicians’ Gallery at Cirencester Abbey. The fragments were found in a yard in Down Ampney parish and moved into the church. The chapel is a grandiose memorial to Sir James Hungerford and his son Anthony, successive lords of the manor of Down Ampney. Their ornate, gilded monument dates to 1637 and shows father and son facing each other across a prayer desk.
The composer’s father, the Revd Arthur Charles Vaughan Williams (1834-1875), served in Bemerton, the same parish where the poet George Herbert had been Vicar around 300 years earlier — and at Halsall in Lancashire, before becoming the Vicar of Down Ampney in 1868. He died there on 9 February 1875, only three years after the birth of his son Ralph Vaughan-Williams. Soon after, Vaughan Williams was taken by his mother, Margaret Susan (née Wedgwood) (1842-1937), a daughter of Josiah Wedgwood III and the great-granddaughter of the potter Josiah Wedgwood, to live with her family at Leith Hill Place, a home in the North Downs in Surrey bought by the Wedgwood family in 1847.
The tune he composed for the mediaeval hymn ‘Come Down, O Love Divine’ (Discendi, Amor santo), written by Bianco da Siena (ca1350-1434), is named ‘Down Ampney’ with affection for and in honour of his birthplace.
‘Come down, O love divine,’ (New English Hymnal, No 137; Irish Church Hymnal, No 294) was originally written in Italian in the 14th or 15th century by Bianco da Siena. It was first translated into English in 1867 by the Revd Dr Richard Frederick Littledale (1833-1890), a Dublin-born Anglican priest who had been forced to give up his full-time parochial ministry due to ill-health.
The hymn was first published in 1906, when it was published in the English Hymnal, edited by Percy Dearmer and Vaughan Williams, set to this strong, eminently singable, tune specially composed for it by Vaughan Williams, with a unique metre. Indeed, many regard this as the most beautiful of all his hymn tunes.
Come down, O love divine,
Seek Thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with thine own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
Within my heart appear,
And kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.
O let it freely burn,
Till earthly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let thy glorious light
Shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
Let holy charity
Mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart,
Which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.
And so the yearning strong,
With which the soul will long,
Shall far outpass the power of human telling;
For none can guess its grace,
Till he become the place
Wherein the Holy Spirit makes his dwelling.
Today’s Prayer, Sunday 4 September 2022 (Trinity XII, Creation Sunday):
Almighty and everlasting God,
you are always more ready to hear than we to pray
and to give more than either we desire or deserve:
pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid
and giving us those good things
which we are not worthy to ask
but through the merits and mediation
of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The Post Communion Prayer:
God of all mercy,
in this eucharist you have set aside our sins
and given us your healing:
grant that we who are made whole in Christ
may bring that healing to this broken world,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
The theme in the USPG prayer diary this week is ‘Season of Creation,’ is introduced this morning by the Season of Creation Advisory Committee:
‘The Psalmist declares, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the Earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (Psalm 19: 1-4) Creation never ceases to proclaim, but do we listen?
‘During the Season of Creation, our common prayer and action can help us listen for the voices of those who are silenced. In prayer we lament the individuals, communities, species, and ecosystems who are lost, and those whose livelihoods are threatened by habitat loss and climate change. In prayer we centre the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.
‘Listening to the voice of creation offers members of the Christian family a rich entry point for interfaith and interdisciplinary dialogue and practice. By listening to the voice of all creation, humans from all cultures and sectors of life can be joined in our vocation to care for our common home.
The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:
‘O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and I rise up’. May we listen to God and follow the path he leads us along, for He has a plan for us.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org