Monks Risborough Church


The Church of St Dunstan consists of a Chancel 36ft-6ins x 16ft-6ins with a modern Organ Chamber on the North; a Nave 47ft-7ins x 21ft-8 ins; a North Transept 16ft-8ins x 13ft-3ins; North & South Aisles respectively 9ft-10ins and 10ft-2ins wide; a South Porch and a Western Tower 10ft x 10ft-8ins, all measurements being internal. Owing to extensive rebuilding in the late 14th and in the 15thCs the early history of the Church is somewhat obscure, but the Tower is of fairly early 14thC date, and at the time of its building the Church consisted of a Nave of the same Plan as the present one, Roofed with a high-pitched Roof, the traces of which are clearly visible on the East Wall of the Tower, and presumably a Chancel within the lines of the present Chancel. There is nothing to show whether the Nave had Aisles at this time, but the North Transept evidently existed before the present North Arcade was built, and is possibly of 13thC date. Towards the end of the 14thC, a period of rebuilding & addition was entered on which lasted well into the 15thC.  The 1st work taken in hand was the North Aisle with its Arcade, the Eastern Bay of which is wider than the other 3, in order to suit the Plan of the North Transept. At the beginning of the 15thC the South Aisle was built, and a little later on the Chancel was rebuilt and the Chancel Arch inserted.  At the same time, or a little later, the South Porch was built, while the last work was undertaken, was the Clearstory & present Nave Roof.  In modern times the North Organ Chamber was added and a certain amount of restoration carried out, including the re-Roofing of the Chancel.


The East window of the Chancel is quite modern and of 3 trefoiled Lights with tracery of early 14thC detail.  In the North & South walls of the Chancel are 2-15thC windows of 3 cinquefoiled Lights with tracery over, with 4-centred Arches. Between the pair on the North is the modern opening to the Organ-chamber, and between the South windows is a small modern Priest’s Door.  The sill of the South-East Window is carried down to serve as a Seat.  The wide Chancel Arch is of 2 hollow-chamfered Orders which are continuous, being stopped on a large Broach Stop about 4ft above the floor.

15thC Handle on Church Door

The North Arcade of the Nave is of 4-Bays. The Arches are of 2 chamfered Orders, the inner of which is stopped with a cone-shaped Stop, the outer with a Broach Stop. The Columns are Octagonal with moulded Capitals & Bases.  There is no West respond but in its place a half-Capital upon a Corbel.  At the East end is the Upper Door to the Rood-loft, which was originally entered from the Transept. The South Arcade, of the same number of Bays as the North, has Arches identical with those on the North, but the detail of the Capitals & Bases is somewhat later in character.  The East Bay, as in the North Arcade, is wider than the rest; perhaps in this case in order to correspond to the North Arcade.  In both cases, it appears that the walls above the Arcades were rebuilt.  The Clearstory has 4-15thC windows a side, each of 3 cinquefoiled Lights under square heads, with deep hollow-moulded external reveals.


The North Transept has a very good 15thC East window of 3 cinque-foiled Lights with tracery under a 4-centred head. In the North wall is a similar window.  To the South of the East window is an Image Bracket of 15thC date with a carved head Corbel, and on the North a mutilated niche, also of 15thC date, with shafted Jambs, a foliated projecting Bracket, and the remains of a Crocketed Canopy.  The arch to the North Aisle is of the same detail as the North Arcade and rests on the South upon the 1st Pier of the latter and on the North on a corbelled half-Capital.

The North Aisle has 2 windows to the North, the 1st of 3 cinque-foiled Lights, like the windows of the Transept but of later detail & date, and with a straight-sided 4-centred head.  Following on this is the North Door of the same date as the Aisle, with an external label and continuously moulded Jambs.  West of the Door is a 15thC window of 3 cinque-foiled Lights under a square head.  The West window of the same date, or slightly later, is small, placed high in the wall and of 2 trefoiled Lights under a square head.

The South Aisle has a modern East window of 3 cinque-foiled Lights with uncusped spandrels, of early 14thC detail. In the South wall are two 2-light windows.  The 1st of these is of early 14thC detail, and having been apparently reset, is probably one of the old Nave windows moved out when the Aisle was built.  The internal Jambs are doubly shafted and have circular Capitals & Bases, while the Rear Arch is elaborately moulded.  There are both internal and external Labels, and the latter is finished with Mask Drips just above a string-Course in which are worked 2 Grotesque Heads forming secondary Drips.  The 2nd Window, also presumably re-used, is of later 14thC date & much restored; it is of 2 trefoiled Lights with 2 trefoils and a quatrefoil over. The South door, between these windows, is of early 15thC date, continuously moulded in 2 double-ogee orders with a hollow between.

The South Porch has in its North-East angle a mutilated Holy-Water Stone, with a rounded bowl upon a short square Stem.  There are small cinque-foiled Lights in the East & West walls, and the outer Archway is of 2 hollow-chamfered orders with sunk spandrels & an image niche over.

The Tower is of 3 Stages, with a Plain Parapet and a large square South-East Staircase Turret. The Tower Arch is of 3 continuous chamfered Orders, with an internal label which is continued as a String to the North & South Nave Walls. The external String between the 1st & 2nd Stages is carried around the East Wall of the Turret, which now Forms part of the West Wall of the South Aisle, showing that the Turret stood free at this height in the 1st instance. The Belfry openings are of 2 cinque-foiled Lights with sharp 2-centred heads.  Below the Parapet is a Corbel Table, which is carried around the Stair Turret which rises some feet above the Tower.  The West Door, of 14thC date, has a 2-centred head of 2 richly-moulded Orders, the inner of which is continuous, while the mouldings of the outer die out at the Springing.  The West window has modern tracery of the same detail as the South-West window of the South Aisle.StDunstansFont

The Font is of the local 12thC type, with a circular Scalloped Bowl, moulded Stem & square Base, ornamented with conventional Foliage.

The Chancel has a modern high-pitched Tiled Roof, while those of the Aisles, Transept, & Nave are of low pitch and Leaded. The last is of 15thC date with moulded principals, purlins, ridges, and wall brackets with cusped spandrel tracery, resting in some cases upon Grotesque Stone Corbels.  The Transept Roof is similar but perhaps earlier.  The Porch Roof is also of early 15thC date but is of steep-pitch, and a good deal of 15thC work is incorporated in the Aisle Roofs.  There is a much-restored Rood Screen in position, and on the Jambs of the Chancel Arch are faint traces of the coved Soffit of the Rood Loft.  The Screen itself is of 15thC date with 5 wide Arched Bays, from the heads of which the wooden Vaulting has been removed, the spandrels being filled in with modern tracery.  The lower panels are solid, and painted with figures of bearded Saints wearing ermine-trimmed Hats & Tippets; the drawing & colour can only be called barbarous, and they appear to be 18thC repaintings of earlier work.  It is quite impossible to identify any of the figures. There is a considerable quantity of 15thC work incorporated in the Seating of the Church, 4 bench-ends, in particular, having well-designed Finials carved with Figures standing or kneeling upon 2 faces, back to back, or in one case upon 2 Pelicans. The oldest Monument is the Brass Figure of Robert Blundele, Priest, 1431, in Mass Vestments, and there is another Brass of a Civilian and his Wife, c.1460, with 2 sons & 5 daughters. The children, however, do not belong to the same Monument as the 2 larger Figures.  In the Eastern window of the South Aisle are some fragments of 14th & 15thC Glass, the most perfect piece being a small figure of our Lady & Child. There is also some 15thC Glass in its original position in the upper Lights of one of the North windows of the Chancel.

The Tower contains 6 Bells, the Treble cast by Warner & Sons in 1885, the 2nd & 4th dated 1637, the 3rd, 5th, & Tenor dated 1636. They are all by Ellis Knight of Reading.

The Church Plate consists of a modern jewelled Chalice of Mediaeval design, Hall-marked for 1877; a Chalice inscribed as the Gift of William Quarles in 1726, Hall-marked for 1710, and a Salver, standing Paten and Flagon similarly inscribed, the 1st Hallmarked for 1697, the 2nd with no date-letter, and the 3rd with the date-letter for 1725.

The 1st Book of the Registers contains all entries from 1587 to 1802, except in the case of Marriages, which cease at 1754. There is also a recent & beautifully-made copy of this book.  Baptisms & Burials are continued in another Book from 1803 to 1812, and Marriages, after a gap, in a 3rd from 1778 to 1812.

StDunstanSculpture.jpgMaureen Margaret Coatman 1919-2005
Sculptress in various materials, born in Woking, Surrey. She attended Sherborne School for Girls and gained her Art Tuition privately with William Thomas Wood RAC and Sculpture with Enid Fenton Smith.  Another example of her work can be seen in Monks Risborough Church – of St Dunstan, himself a skilled Metal Worker (after whom the Church was named) and Taming the Devil. He became Archbishop of Canterbury in 960AD and was made a Saint in 1029. There is an old story that St Dunstan won a fight with the Devil, pinching his nose with a pair of Blacksmith’s Tongs. The Devil is Evil in the World & St Dunstan represents Good, so this fight is for Supremacy.  The Sculpture, mounted on the wall near the Porch is made from Lead & Fibreglass. It was made in 1971 by Artist & Sculptress Maureen M Coatman who lived in Askett.

St Dunstan, whose Feast is on the 19th May, is the Patron Saint of the Goldsmiths. He died (says Butler), Archbishop of Canterbury, in 988; and among the more popular of his miracles was that which he wrought upon the Devil. While engaged making a Golden Chalice one day, he felt so much annoyed at the presence of his Satanic Majesty, that “as the story goes –   
St Dunstan, as the story goes
He pull’d the devil by the nose
With red-hot tongs, which made him roar
That he was heard 3 miles or more!
Of this fabled encounter there was a magnificent Model made in gold & silver, &c., in 1687, by the Company of Goldsmiths in London, when one of their number, Sir John Shorter, was elected Lord Mayor,
St Dunstan, whose skill as a Smith is familiar to all, is known to have been Instrumental in Hanging, if not in Casting Bells; and as Archbishop at Canterbury, he gave careful directions for their correct use.


The Church of Monks Risborough was one of the 2 Benefices belonging to the Deanery of Risborough, within the Exempt Jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The Deanery was abolished in 1841 at the renewal of the Rural Deaneries, and the Church of Monks Risborough was assigned to Wendover (1st Division).  In 1865, however, it was again transferred and now belongs to the Rural Deanery of Aylesbury.  The Church does not seem to have been assigned with the Manor to the Monastery of Christchurch, Canterbury when the Division of Estates between the Archbishop and the Monks took place.  No Vicarage was ordained, and the Rectory was not amongst the possessions of the Monastery at its Dissolution.  The Archbishop Collated to the Living since during the Vacancy caused by Archbishop Morton’s death, the Crown instituted a new Rector in 1500.  His successors Collated to it until 1837, when with the rest of Buckinghamshire, the Ecclesiastical Parish of Monks Risborough was transferred to the Diocese of Oxford, and the Bishop of Oxford became Patron of the Living. 

StPetersChapelOwlswickA Chapel at Owlswick existed in the 14thC since in 1368 Robert Testyf was ‘Vicar of the Church of Olneswyk.‘  Tithes were set apart for the Chapel by John Wakeman, Rector of Monks Risborough, in the 15thC.  In 1631, and again during the Commonwealth, there were difficulties as to the payment of the Tithes to the Vicar of Owlswick.  The Rectory of Monks Risborough was sequestrated in 1646, and Nathaniel Anderson had thereupon been admitted to the Benefice and had undertaken to find a Curate for the Chapel to whom he was to allow about £30 a year, a Vicarage House, and certain Tithes.  Whether, under ordinary circumstances, the Curate of the Chapel was provided by the Vicar of the Parish Church or by the Patron does not appear, since the Chapel was destroyed during the Civil War. There is now a School Chapel in the Hamlet, built in 1866.

The Charities of the Rev Humphrey Hody, DD, and the Rev William Quarles, DD, for Apprenticing, are endowed with 14 acres, purchased with £100 left by Will of Dr Hody, 1706, and with £150 left by Will of Dr Quarles, 1727 and with 8 acres allotted in 1830 under the Inclosure Award.  The land is let at £12 a year, which is applied, as opportunity offers, in paying the premium on Apprenticing one Boy, selected from the Sunday School. In 1905 there was a balance in hand of £66.
The said Dr Quarles likewise devised his Close called Ives Heath to the Rector in Trust to pay 40s a year for the Instruction of Poor Boys in writing English and to read their Catechism. The Annuity is paid towards the support of the Sunday School.
The Poor’s Allotment consists of 27a 3r 36p, allotted under the Inclosure Act, 2 Geo. IV, cap. 17 (Private), to the Poor, in satisfaction of their right of cutting and taking Beech and other brushwood or fuel from the Waste called the Scrubbs, the rents & profits to be laid out in the purchase of fuel to be distributed among the poor. The Land is let at £50 a year, which is applied by the Parish Council in the distribution of Coal.
An Annual Sum of £1, issuing out of Land in Barnes Field, is paid by Mrs Jaques of Horsenden House, in respect of a Gift by a Donor unknown, which is applied by the Parish Council in the distribution of Stockings.

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