The Church of St Michael & All Angels consists of a Chancel 34ft 9in x 16ft 4in, a Nave 51ft-8in x 17ft-6in, North & South Aisles, 7ft-6in & 8ft-1in wide respectively, a West Tower 13ft-5in x 12ft-2 in, and North & South Porches. The Church probably consisted of an Aisleless Nave & Chancel up to the latter half of the 13thC. Towards the end of that Century the South Aisle, and about the middle of the 14thC the North Aisle, were added. It is impossible to say when the original Tower was built, for this part of the Church was completely rebuilt about 1800. The Chancel was also rebuilt in the 14thC, and at the same time and in the Century following windows were inserted at various points. The original Clearstory probably belonged to the latter date.
The East window of the Chancel is modern and of 3-trefoiled Lights with tracery of 14thC detail and elaborately shafted Jambs and moulded rear Arch. On either side of it are modern Niches with trefoiled Heads & finialed Canopies. In the North wall is a much-restored Niche of late 14thC work with a trefoiled Head and an elaborate finialed & crocketed Canopy on modern Corbels carved into Heads in mail hoods. This Niche, possibly an Easter Sepulchre, is engraved in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1796, p. 841 that is previous to its restoration, and is shown without the carved Corbels but with small side Buttresses surmounted by Figures. At the back of this, externally, is a small square recess, now glazed. West of this is a blocked 14thC Door continuously moulded on its internal Jambs, but not showing on the outer face of the Wall; it once led into a Vestry, which is now destroyed, and of which the Recess was one of the fittings. Between this Door & the West Wall are 2 mid-14thC windows with geometrical tracery of 2 trefoiled lights with 2 trefoils & a quatrefoil over, a moulded rear Arch and internal & external Labels. At the South-east of the Chancel are 3 beautiful mid-14thC Sedilia & a Piscina, divided from each other by small Buttresses with richly crocketed pinnacles. The Heads are cinquefoiled, in the case of the Sedilia sub-cusped, and of Ogee form with richly moulded crocketed & finialed Labels, while the backs of the Sedilia are concave, and there is a shelf to the Piscina. The Seats are at one level throughout. Above is a blocked 14thC window, and West of it a small Priest’s Door of 14thC date and 2-14thC windows similar in every respect to those on the North except that the Western one has its Western Light continued downwards to form a low side window, the sill of the window above forming a square transom Head. The Chancel Arch, belonging to the 1st half of the 14thC, is of 2 wave-moulded Orders, the Jambs having half-round Shafts with moulded Capitals.
The Nave is of 4-Bays. The North Arcade has 2-centred Arches of 2 wave-moulded Orders and an Ogee Label with carved drips. The East responds the 1st and the 3rd Columns are Octagonal, the 2nd Column & the West respond are Round, while all have moulded Capitals & Bases. The South Arcade, c.1280, has 2-centred Arches of 2 hollow-chamfered orders, broach stopped, and an undercut Label mitred over the Piers, with buckle drips over the responds. The columns & responds are round & octagonal, arranged in the same way as in the North Arcade, and have moulded Capitals of rather plain section & plain chamfered Bases. At the East end are Doors on either side to the Rood Loft. There are 3 much-restored Clearstory Lights on either hand; the 1st & 3rd are quatrefoils, the 2nd a circle with 8 cusps. The Tower Arch is modern and of the same detail as the North Arcade, but there are a few old Stones in the Jambs, which suggest a 14thC date for the Original Tower.
The North Aisle has an East window of 15thC date with 3 cinquefoiled Lights and cusped spandrels under a square Head, and with a moulded rear Arch and external Jambs of 2 moulded Orders. In the South wall are 3 x 2-light windows of the same date and of similar general design. All of these have external Labels and have been much restored. To the West are 2 modern trefoiled Lights in an old opening. The North Door, between the Western Pair of windows, is of 15thC date with a blunt 2-centred Head and spandrel sinkings. The Porch is modern.
The east window of the South Aisle is of 3 cinquefoiled lights with tracery and of early 15thC date, but is an insertion in an older Opening which it does not fit. At the East end of the South wall is a late 13thC Piscina with a moulded 2-centred Head and a curiously crude Label, which is carried completely around the Piscina, forming a sort of frame. There are 3 x 2-light windows to the South. All are very much restored, the Westernmost is almost entirely modern but the openings are old. The Lights are cinquefoiled, with cusped spandrel lights over under a square head, and are of 15thC style. Sufficient old Stone remains, particularly in the Easternmost, to make it appear probable that their Tracery is a faithful copy of former work. The Sill of the 1st window is carried down to form Sedilia, and both this and the one next it have Shafted Jambs, and all have moulded rear Arches & external Jambs with square Labels. The West window of the Aisle is also of 14thC date, with 2 trefoiled Lights & 2 quatrefoils over in a square Head. The South Door, between the Westernmost pair of windows, of late 14thC date though much restored, is of 2 double Ogee Orders separated by a deep hollow, and has an external Label.
The South Porch of 15thC date is of 2-Stages, but the upper part has been completely rebuilt in recent years with the use of a great deal of new material. In the North-West corner is the Door to the Staircase, and the Upper Storey is Lighted by a modern square-Headed South window. The Porch Entrance is of 2 Orders & much restored.
The Tower, which was completely rebuilt in 1800 and restored since then, is of 3-Stages, the Lower 2 of which are Roughcast, the Upper and the embattled Parapet being faced with Flint rubble. The Belfry openings are modern and of 2 cinquefoiled lights with a square Label. The West window is modern, of 14thC detail with 2 trefoiled Lights with Tracery over.
The Octagonal Font is modern and of early 15thC detail, but in the South Aisle is preserved the Basin of a 12thC Font of crude workmanship ornamented with alternate raised & sunk rosettes. The Chancel Roof is modern and of Steep Pitch. The Roofs of Nave & Aisles are of low pitch & modern.
There is little Woodwork of any interest, but a 17thC Table remains, and a couple of Chairs of the same date stand within the Sanctuary Rails.
The Tower contains 6-Bells cast by Thomas Mears & Sons 1806, and a Sanctus dated 1778.
The Church Plate consists of a modern Chalice, a standing Paten of 1715 & a Plated Flagon.
The 1st Book of the Registers contains marriages from 1560 to 1721, Baptisms from 1567 to 1722, and Burials from 1560 to 1722. The 2nd Book contains all entries from 1723, marriages running to 1754 & the rest to 1752. A 3rd Book contains all entries from 1754 to 1812.
The Church of St Leonard is a small plain plastered building with a Nave & Chancel of equal width, 16ft-3ins and without any Structural division, the Chancel being 24ft-3ins long and the Nave 25ft-3ins. The latter is continued 10ft further West to enclose a Bell Turret. There is a North Porch to the Chancel and a South-west Porch to the Nave. Little can be said of the History of the Church. The earliest remains are a Piscina & one Sedile in the Chancel which apparently dates from the middle of the 14thC and may not be in their original position, as there is evidence that a 2nd Seat adjoined the single one which remains. The Nave Roof looks like 15thC work, but can hardly be older than the repairs made by Cornelius Wood late in the 17thC. The windows are all modern or so much altered that their date is a matter for conjecture only, and the Chancel Roof & the Porches are modern.
The East Window of the Chancel is of 3 cinquefoiled Lights under a 4-centred Head, and on its sill is set an embattled Cornice, which is all that remains of a 15thC Reredos. On the North of the Chancel is a pointed Doorway which has been reset inside out and plastered so that its date is doubtful. At the East end of the South Wall of the Chancel is a cinquefoiled Piscina ranging with a single Sedile of the same detail, both having moulded Labels; the start of the Label of a 2nd Seat is to be seen. The Bowl of the Piscina projected from the Wall face, but has been cut back. West of this is a window of 2 cinquefoiled Lights under a 4-centred Head.
The Nave is lit by 3 windows, 2 on the North and one on the South. The latter, towards the East, is of 2 cinquefoiled Lights under a 4-centred Head and opposite to it in the North wall is a similar window. The 2nd North window is a single 3-centred uncusped light under a square Head. The South door, very plain, is modern of 14thC detail.
West of the Nave is the Bellcot around which a thin Wall in continuation of the Nave Walls has been built, the old West wall being destroyed and a modern window set in the new West Wall.
The fittings are modern including the Font which is Octagonal in form, with a slender stem & traceried Bowl. On the North wall of the Nave is a Marble Monument with a pilastered Entablature surmounted by a Skull set up in Memory of Mr Seth Wood & Elizabeth his wife by their eldest son Cornelius Wood in 1707; it bears a note to the effect that another son John Wood was Minister at St Leonard’s for 30-yrs. The arms of Wood are: crusilly 3 demi-woodhouses proper; Crest an Oak tree. On the South wall is a large florid Monument to Cornelius Wood, who died 1712 aged 75, and was Colonel of a Regiment of Horse & Lieutenant General in the Army of Queen Anne. On the Tomb is an Armed Bust surrounded by Warlike Trophies and flanked by Cherubs blowing Trumpets. Over it are hung a Funeral Helmet, Gauntlets & Crest. In the Chancel is a small Monument to Samuel Baldwin, 1760, and another to Mary Willis 1704, daughter of Joseph Willis, Minister, bearing the Arms: a Cheveron between 3 mullets.
The Bell-cot contains one Bell.
The Church Plate consists of a Communion Cup & cover Paten of 1612, a 2nd Cup of 1814, and a Standing Paten inscribed as the Gift of R Penn, Esq, and Hall-marked for 1775.
Only one Book of Registers exists, which contains Baptisms & Burials from 1738 and Marriages from 1739, all entries running to 1812. This Book contains a few sheets stamped for the 3d Duty imposed on entries in Registers from 1783 to 1794.
The Church of Aston Clinton is a Rectory, and till the 18thC the Advowson was presumably held by the Lords of the Chief Manor in Aston Clinton. It is not, however, mentioned in any document during the Clinton Tenure of the Manor, nor in the re-Grant made by Edward I to Simon de Montagu in 1290. His grandson William de Montagu, Earl of Salisbury, died Seised of the Advowson of the Church of Aston Clinton in 1397, but there seems to have been some question whether the Right of Presentation did not belong to the Crown. This may have arisen, however, after the forfeiture of the Lands of John, Earl of Salisbury, who opposed the accession of Henry IV to the Throne. Henry IV presented Thomas Tuttebury as if the Church was in his Gift, and on the resignation of Tuttebury he again in 1402 Presented to the Benefice.
On the Petition of Thomas de Montagu, Earl of Salisbury, however, the letter of Presentation was revoked, and the Advowson was recognised to be the Right of the Earl. After the Attainder of Edward Earl of Warwick, the Advowson, together with the Manor, came into the possession of the Crown, and Henry VIII Presented several Rectors to the Church. Edward VI Granted the Advowson to Lady Mary, and it afterwards passed with the Manor to the Barringtons & the Gerrards. In 1727 the Lakes sold it to the Principal & Fellows of Jesus College, Oxford, who are still the Patrons of the Living.
The Chapel of St Leonard is 1st mentioned in a Charter of Henry de Crokesley, Granting Land to the Abbey of Missenden, in which he excepted from the Gift of a 3rd part of his Demesne Lands at Dundridge, 13 acres of Land that he had Granted to the Chapel of St Leonard. Henry de Crokesley died before 1193 and probably Granted this Land to the Chapel during the Reign of Henry II. It was called in the 13thC the Chapel of St Leonard of Blakmere, and more Land does not then seem to have been attached to it. Another Account, by Lipscomb, gives 1278 as the date of the Foundation of the Chapel, when Bishop Gravesend of Lincoln, during a Visitation, Granted to William de Clinton, Patron of the Church of Aston, a Chapel within the same Parish. He apparently took a confirmation of an old Grant for the Foundation itself, since the Chapel was in existence many years before, and the last William de Clinton had been dead more than 50-yrs. The Montagus presented to the Chapel after they had obtained the Manor of Aston Clinton, the King Presenting in 1403, during the Minority of Thomas, Earl of Salisbury. It was served by a Stipendiary Priest, and at the time of the Dissolution of the Chantries the Messuage & Land attached to the Chapel were worth 23s a year. There were at that time about 35 ‘houseling’ people living in the Hamlet of St Leonards, about 3 or 4-miles away from the Parish Church, and the Chapel seems to have escaped Dissolution since it thus served as a Chapel of Ease. An Inquisition was taken in 1570 to show why the Land had been unlawfully detained from the hands of the Crown, but the Tenants of the House & Land, Henry & Silvester Baldwin, successfully brought forward the Plea that the Chapel was a necessity for the Hamlet. The Land was then worth 30s a year and this was used for the repair of the Chapel & the support of the Services there, and for the repair of the Highways. A Grant was made to William Tipper & Robert Dawe, the noted Fishing Grantees, of the Chapel & Chapel Farm. It is mentioned in 1640, but after the Civil War, the building was in ruins, only the bare Walls remaining. It was rebuilt by a Loyalist, Cornelius Wood, who endowed it with provision for a Minister exempt from the Jurisdiction of the Bishop & Archdeacon, and receiving his appointment solely from the Patron, without Institution or Induction. He placed the Chapel & Land in the hands of Trustees, who are also the Patrons of the Benefice. The Chapelry was formed in 1860 into a separate Ecclesiastical Parish, and the Living is a Vicarage in the Gift of the Trustees.
There is a Baptist Chapel, built in 1830 & rebuilt in 1846, & again in 1897.
The Poor’s Land, devised by Will of Mrs Turpin, Widow, an extract from whose Will was contained on a Tablet in the Church, came into the possession of the Parish in 1736. The Trust Property consists of Meadow Land containing 3 acres or thereabouts, let at £10-15s a year, and 13 plots of Garden Allotments producing £2-10s a year. The income is applied, in accordance with the Trust, in the distribution of loaves of Bread.
The Church Estate, which it is understood was originally derived under the Will of Sir Gilbert Gerrard, Bart, now consists of 7 acres 2 Roods 4 Poles. at Broughton near Aylesbury, known as Mepham’s Land, let at £16-16s a year, and a Moiety of a Field in College Road, Aston Clinton, let at £10-15s a year. The net Rents are carried to the Church expenses.
Ecclesiastical District of St Leonards. – The Parliamentary returns of 1786 mention that a Rent-charge of £1 per annum was given to the poor by an unknown Donor. The Annuity is regularly paid by the Owner of Dundridge Farm in this Parish and distributed in sums of 1s each to 20 Poor persons on St Thomas’s Day.
The Church Trust, founded by Thomas Plaistowe by Feoffment dated 1st September, 23 Henry VII, is regulated by a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 15th December 1896. The Real Estate consists of the Chapel Farm, containing 119 acres or thereabouts & 27 acres 3 rood 21 poles at Whitchurch (Bucks) let at £145 a year, 23 acres of Woodland at Mentmore (Bucks) in hand, and 3 Cottages at St Leonards, let at £12 a year. The Personal Estate (including a Legacy of £100 Bequeathed by Will of Robert Fox, proved in 1869) consists of £2,667-15s-6d. Canada 3½% Stock & £2,694-4s-1d. South Australian 3½% Stock, the Rents & Dividends making a Gross Income of £344 a year. The Stock is held by the Official Trustees. By the Scheme the net income is applicable in the Payment to the Churchwardens of any proper Charges for the maintenance & repair of the Fabric of the Church, and the Residue – subject to the Payment of £10 a year for any Public purpose for the Benefit of the Inhabitants, and £10 a year to the Official Trustees towards the Formation of a ‘Fabric Fund‘ of not less than £200 consols – is received by the Incumbent.