The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin consists of a Chancel 58ft x 20ft, North Vestry, North Chancel Aisle 12ft. wide, South Chancel Aisle, North Transept 27ft 6in x 15ft, North Transeptal Aisle 11ft 6in wide, South Transept 28ft x 20ft, Nave 69ft 6in x 18ft, South Porch and West Tower. These measurements are all internal.
The existing Building appears to have been developed from a Cruciform Church of the 12th century with a Central Tower. The outer Jamb and head of a Doorway, now reset in the West wall of the North Transept, are the only details remaining of this date. The North Transept was enlarged and an Eastern Aisle added early in the 13th century; about a 100 years later a rebuilding of the Nave seems to have been undertaken, followed in a few years by the lengthening of the Chancel and the enlargement of the South Transept. A West Tower of red brick, subsequently encased in Flint and heightened as a Memorial to Canon Ridley, was added in 1721, the original Central Tower having been destroyed a few years previously. The 12th-century Doorway mentioned above may have been the original West Doorway of the Nave, the removal of which would have been necessitated by the building of the West Tower. In the 19th century, Aisles were added to the Chancel and the North Vestry and South Porch were built, the last from the Oak of the old West Gallery.
In the East wall of the Chancel is a 3-light window with a traceried 4-centred head. There were till recently 2 windows in each side wall, with old rear Arches and Labels, probably of the 14th century, but a window on the North side has lately been blocked. The Piscina, the Basin of which is modern, and the Sedilia, 3 in number, are good examples of mid-14th-century work with trefoiled ogee heads and crocketed and finialled Labels, all of Chalk. Beneath the East window, and visible only externally is a blocked square-headed window of 3 lights. A doorway to the Vestry and modern Arcades of 2-Bays opening to the Chancel Aisles occupy the Western portion of the Chancel. The Chancel Arch is also modern.
The 13th-century Arcade opening to the Eastern Aisle of the North Transept is of 2-Bays with 2-centred Arches of 2 chamfered Orders carried by a central circular Column and small semicircular Respond Shafts. The Transept is lighted by a modern window in the North wall and by an original 13th-century window of 2 lights under a 2-centred containing head, with a trefoiled piercing in the spandrel, at the North-West. The 12th-century shafted Jambs and roll-moulded semicircular Arch set beneath this window externally belong to the Doorway, the rear Arch and internal Jambs of which still remain in the Southern half of the same wall; they were removed here on the construction of the heating chamber in the angle made by the Transept with the Nave. The Northern half of the Eastern Aisle is lighted by 2 modern windows; the remaining portion now forms a part of the North Aisle of the Chancel. The windows of the South Transept are all modern, though some old work may be incorporated in the internal Jambs. In the East wall is a modern Arch communicating with the South Aisle of the Chancel.
The Nave communicates with the Transepts by modern Arched openings. In the North wall are 2 mid-14th-century windows, each of 2 cinquefoiled lights with sexfoiled tracery in a 2-centred head. At the West end of this wall is a small blocked doorway of the same date with chamfered Jambs and a 2-centred head. The 2 windows in the South wall are similar in date and design to those in the opposite wall. To the West of them is the South Doorway, which is also original work and of 3 Orders. Below the sills of the windows is a moulded string-course. The modern West Tower is of 2 Stages externally. The Nave Roof is modern, but one of the Tie-beams appears to be an old Timber from the original Roof re-used. The walling generally is of flint rubble with dressings of Stone and Chalk
The Font is of the 12th century and of Tub shape. Along the top is an indented moulding, and the sides are ornamented with large lozenges, each containing a floreated cross; the spandrels between the lozenges are filled with foliage approximating in type to the fleur de lis.
On the North wall of the Nave is a Brass to John Berde, who died in 1492, and on the West wall are the Brass Figures of a man in Civil dress and a Lady in the horned headdress of the 15th century, with a later inscription commemorating Robert Doyley, who died in 1617 and his wife Anne, who died in 1639. On the same wall are the Figures on one Brass of a man and his 2 wives, in the costume of the early 17th century. On the North wall of the North Transept, fixed on 2 boards, are portions of the early 16th-century Brass of Robert Scrope and his wife Katherine. The Inscription is in Latin and the date has not been completed. The fragments include the kneeling figure of a woman with a prayer inscribed in Latin upon a Scroll above her, which appears to have belonged to a 2nd figure facing her, 2 other inscribed Scrolls, and 4 Shields of Scrope Quartering Tiptoft with a Crescent for difference. In the North Transept are also Brasses to John Shipwash, who died in 1457, and his wife Joan, and to William Shipwash and Margery his wife undated but of late 15th century, and in the Tower are Brasses to John White and his wife Alice, 1497, Ralph Scrope, a former Rector, who died in 1516 and a Shield of Scrope Quartering Tiptoft, Badlesmere, Clare, Scrope of Masham, & Nevill. Set on the West wall is a Brass, with Figures, to George Scrope, who died in 1614.
In the North wall of the Chancel is a Table Tomb with a panelled front containing Quartered Shields of Sandys within a recess with a depressed 4-centred Arch under a Square inclosing moulding with Shields and foliage in the spandrels. The back of the recess and the soffit of the Arch are also panelled, the panels of the former containing painted Shields and an inscription which includes the following lines:—
‘I believe in the resurrection of life
To see you again at the last day;
And now farewell Elizabeth my wife
Teach my three children, God to obeye.’
It has been supposed that this is the Tomb of Henry son of the second Lord Sandys, who died about 1555, in his father’s lifetime, and left a Widow Elizabeth and 3 children. In the Tower, there is a Monument with Arms to Ralph Scrope, who died in 1572. On the North side of the North Aisle of the Chancel is an elaborate Monument commemorating Sir Cope Doyley, who died in 1633, and his wife Martha, who died in 1618. Their Effigies, with those of their 5 sons and 5 daughters, are represented in Alabaster. Above the Monument is a Crowning Cornice with 2 allegorical Figures. On the West wall of the North transept is a monument to John Green of Yewden Manor, who died in 1687 and to his son, who died in the following year. A recess in the North wall contains a Stone Coffin. On the North wall of the Nave is a Tablet to Francis Gregory, a former Rector, who died in 1682.
Some early 16th-century panelling traditionally said to have formed part of Cardinal Wolsey’s Bedstead, stands in the Tower. It is divided by richly moulded and carved shafts into 8 compartments, arranged in rows of 4, and bearing the Arms of Wolsey surmounted by a Cardinal’s Hat and the Royal Arms in the left-hand panel of the upper row, with those of Foxe, Bishop of Winchester, encircled by the Garter in the next panel to the right. In the left-hand Lower panel is an unidentified Shield; the remaining panels are richly carved, those of the Upper Row containing Medallion Heads.
There are 6 Bells: the Treble by R Phelps, 1724; the 2nd inscribed ‘Feare God 1634‘; the 3rd, ‘George Deane gave this Bell 1634‘; the 4th by John Warner & Sons, 1857; the 5th by Pack & Chapman, 1778; and the tenor inscribed in black letter with ornate initial letters, ‘Ora Mente Pia Pro Nobis Virgo Maria.‘ This Bell is of the early 15th century and is from the Wokingham Foundry. The 2nd and 3rd bells are by Ellis Knight of Reading.
The Plate includes a Cup of 1635 presented by Elizabeth Dowager Countess of Sunderland and a cover which is probably of the same year.
The Registers begin in 1566.
The Church of St John the Evangelist, Frieth, was built by Canon Ridley in 1848. It is of Flint with stone dressings and consists of Chancel, Nave, South Aisle added in 1872, North Porch, and Bellcote containing 1 Bell. It is a Chapel of Ease to St Mary.
The Church of All Saints, Skirmett, was built by the Rev C M Wetherall in 1886. It is of flint and brick and has a Belfry containing 1 Bell. It is also a Chapel of ease to St Mary.
Hambleden Church, which is a Rectory, was valued at £23 6s 8d in 1291. The Advowson appears to have belonged to the Lords of the Manor from the 1st. In 1314 the King withdrew a Presentation he had made in favour of one made by Bartholomew de Badlesmere pending an Inquiry. From this time the Descent of the Advowson corresponds with that of Hambleden Manor (qv) until 1790, when it was sold by Sir Robert Clayton, Bart, to Richard Troward and purchased from him by Jeremiah Smith in 1791, apparently as Agent for Benjamin Colborne of Bath, who died in 1793. It passed from his Trustees before 1840 to Lord Colborne, 2nd son of Sir Matthew White-Ridley, 2nd Baronet of that name, and of Sarah daughter of Benjamin Colborne, who died without surviving male issue in 1854. The Advowson of Hambleden passed to Canon W H Ridley, Rector from 1840 until his death in 1882. It was purchased from the next Owner, Mr H C Ridley, about 1899 by Viscount Hambleden, who was the recent Owner.
Before 1862 the Tithes had been commuted for £1, 210.
Edmund Earl of Cornwall founded a Chantry Chapel in Hambleden, which was newly built in 1296 without Licence from the Bishop. On this account he suspended it and also because superstitious things were Venerated, Miracles said to be performed and Pilgrimages made there under colour of Devotion. Later in the year, however, the Bishop withdrew the suspending Order and issued a Licence to the Earl of Cornwall. In the following year, the Earl obtained a Licence to alienate in Mortmain to Ashridge College, which he had founded in 1283, a Fee-Farm rent in Aldbury (Herts) for the maintenance of a Chaplain. The Chapel appears to be that which in 1579 under the name of the late Free Chapel called More Chapel in Hambleden was Granted to Edward Tomlinson & Anthony Page.
In 1493 Reginald Davy bequeathed [money for] the Rood Light and for the repair of the Fabric of the Church.
Charity of Agnes Lewyn, Founded by Will and comprised in Deed 11th June 1577, consists of a rent-charge of 40s yearly issuing out of a Farm at Rockwell End.
The Pit House Charity, comprised in Deeds 19th August 1634 and 2nd September 1654, consists of a House and 5 acres situate in Remenham (Berks.), let at £21 a year.
Unknown Donors’ Charities, mentioned in the Parliamentary returns of 1786 as Gifts of £20 & £50, are now represented by £74 15s 4d Consols with the Official Trustees, who also hold a sum of £100 Consols, arising from the sale of an acre of land called in the same Parliamentary returns the Church Acre, also given to the poor by an unknown Donor.
The Poor’s Piece, consisting of 6 acres or thereabouts in the Lord’s Field, purchased with the sum of £50 belonging to the Poor and conveyed to Trustees by Deed 28th August 1692, let for £3 10s a year.
The net income of these charities, amounting to about £26 a year, is applied in Doles varying from 5s to 15s to each recipient or in articles in kind of that value.
In 1864 Ann Hynd by Will bequeathed £1,000, now represented by £1,085 9s 8d Consols with the Official Trustees, for the benefit of the Parish Church Schools or the Poor of the Parish generally. In 1908 the Dividends amounted to £27 2s 8d. Previous to the Education Act of 1902 the income had been applied for the Benefit of Skirmett Infants’ School.
In 1733 Augustin Varnell by Will gave a rent-charge of £1 10s yearly out of his Estate in the Manor of Yewden for teaching 4 Poor children to read.
In 1762 the Rev William Fairfax, Curate of the Parish, by Will proved in the PCC 7th June, bequeathed £100, now represented by £110 Consols with the Official Trustees, for teaching poor children to read. The income of these charities was applied for the benefit of Hambleden & Frieth Schools.
The Church of England School, founded by the Rev H Ridley by Deed in 1806 and placed in Trust in hands of the Minister & Churchwardens by Deed of 19th December 1876, is now used as a Parish Room. Viscount Hambleden built a handsome new School in 1897 in Memory of his father and to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
The Clerk’s Piece consisted of a piece of Land given to the Parish by Lord Scrope, the Rent to be expended in strewing the Church with straw at Christmas and Grass at Easter. It is now used in part payment of the Clerk’s Salary. By an Order of the Charity Commissioners, 4th June 1913 the Rector & Churchwardens were appointed Trustees and the income directed to be applied in payment to the Parish Clerk, or, failing such, to the Sexton or other person performing the Duties of Parish Clerk. The Sale of the Land has been authorised.
In 1882 Miss Augusta Eliza Anna Murray, by her Will proved at London 18th February, bequeathed £1,333 6s 8d Stock, now a like sum of Consols with the Official Trustees, producing £33 6s 8d yearly, the Dividends to be applied as a Stipend for an additional Curate, if any such be appointed, otherwise the income to be invested in augmentation of the Principal Fund.
In 1887 John Keene by Will bequeathed £1,000 towards the Salary of the Minister of the Congregational Church at Pheasant’s Hill. The Legacy, less Duty, is represented by £900 2s 6d Consols, standing in the names of Charles D Keene & Alfred Keene, producing £22 10s. a year. The will contains a reverter clause in favour of certain of the legatees in the event of the Church being discontinued.