Monday, February 28, 2011

Wolverton's Ecclesiastical History - IX Wolverton St Mary

In 1871 the population of Old Wolverton was 204 - hardly changed from the days before the arrival of the railway - and indeed it would not see any enlargement until 1965 when Wimpey built the Galleon Estate. However, there had been significant development at the eastern and western ends of the Wolverton Manor. Wolverton Station was now a town exceeding Stony Stratford in size and the expansion of the Carriage Works led to growth in Stony Stratford.
The Radcliffe Trust owned a number of cottages beside the London Road and Stony stratford was starting to expand to the east. In 1861, at the time that Wolverton itself was allowed to expand, the Vicar of Holy Trinity, Reverend William Pitt Trevelyan, approached the Trustees with a plan to build a school and chapel at the corner of the London Road. The Trustees agreed and land and money was granted in 1863 to build a chapel and residence. The chapel, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, was to be served by a curate under the direction of the Vicar of Wolverton. In 1869 a new ecclesiastical district was formed known as "Wolverton St. Mary". As this end of Stony Stratford grew with the development of Clarence Road, this district grew into a parish with a larger population than that of its Mother Church. The parish was known as Wolverton St. Mary until 1953.

From its inception the church had leanings towards the Anglican "High Church" in common with a significant trend in the 19th century, but in 1885 the Trustees made an appointment which pushed the high church tendency to its extreme. The new incumbent was Oliver Partridge Henty, very much the high churchman teetering on outright Roman Catholicism. A good part of his congregation became devoted followers, but another significant section were deeply opposed to his Roman practices. Matters eventually came to a head in 1905 when the Bishop of Oxford was forced to reprimand Henty and order him to change his ways. Henty ignored this. Subsequently he was summoned before a church court and formally disciplined. Henty once again continued as if nothing had happened and the bishop finally sacked him.

The next Sunday the Bishop himself came to conduct the service and the irrepressible Henty took his followers down the High Street to St Giles. In subsequent weeks Henty and his followers tried to reclaim their church against the competition, as they saw it, and eventually the locks had to be changed and the police called to keep Henty and his followers out of the church.

Eventually Henty gave up and left Stony Stratford. He converted to Roman Catholicism four years later.
Passions had been seriously inflamed by the events of 1905 and not a few grudges nursed for years to come. Feeling had run so high that, tragically, the long-serving Verger was unable to take it any more and drowned himself in a water butt.

The Church closed in 1968 and 8 years later was converted into a community centre.

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