Monday, February 21, 2011

Wolverton's Ecclesiastical History - II Early Norman History

Mainou was succeeded by Meinfelin who was probably able to consolidate the wealth of the barony. In his will of 1155 he founded Bradwell Priory and provided it with some land and gave the church to the priory. Thereafter, until the dissolution, the Church at Old Wolverton was under the control of the Priory.

We can infer from this that there was an existing church at Wolverton, presumably under the direct control of the lord until 1155 and thereafter administered by the priory. No permanent priest appears to have been in charge until 1240, or thereabouts, when a man called Alan was Vicar. (However, I have seen an early 13th century document that may indicate an earlier Vicar. More on this in tomorrow's post.) I assume that various monks or chaplains were appointed before that but with no specified living associated with the church. It is probably worth bearing in mind that although there was a settlement in the field to the west of the church, there were probably families scattered across the manor. Stony Stratford did not emerge as a market until the end of the 12th century.

There is some record of the medieval church:
some notes by William Cole, rector of Bletchley, written 23rd April 1754;
a drawing in the British Library, dated 1807; 
and remains of the original building incorporated in the tower.

The drawing here shows the medieval church from the south.  Here is Cole's description.
'Passing thro' this Parish in my way from the Archdeacon's Visitation held at Stony Stratford, I called in to look at the Church; which is a small building with the Tower, Cathedral Fashion, between the Nave and the Chancel; the last of which is tiled and the Nave and South Aisle leaded. It has 4 bells. The Chancel is very elegantly paved thro' out with black and white Marble. The Altar is railed in and stands on an elevation of 3 steps. On the North Side worked in the Wall is a very antique Altar Tomb of black marble but without arms or inscription to inform one to whom it appertains. The 2 Ends of the Arch and above it are adorned with very old-fashioned Carvings of Oak of Medallions of Men's Heads and old Shields. On the opposite side of the Altar against the south Wall is erected a very noble Monument of white Marble, having the Figure of a Gentleman in a Roman warlike Habit reclining on his left side, with his Eyes looking up to Heaven, and his right Hand laid on his Breast.'
The medieval church that was pulled down in the 19th century dates from the reign of Edward III, and therefore of 14th century origin. It is probable that parts of the previous church were used to build the newer church. It looks as if the chancel formed the first church with a later addition of the tower. The nave was likely a later addition and finally the crenellated south aisle. The drawing below shows the plan of the present church and the medieval foundation in blue.


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