The Church of St Mary consists of a Chancel 32ft-9in by 17ft-10in, with a modern Organ Chamber on the North; a Nave 60ft-9in by 26ft-3in; North and South aisles 11ft-3in and 8 ft wide respectively; a South Porch and a Western Tower. Up to the 1st Quarter of the 13th century, the Church consisted of a Chancel and an Aisleless Nave of the same width as at present, but some 10ft shorter. About 1220 North and South Aisles were added, and about 1300 the Nave and Aisles were lengthened by on 1-Bay, a Tower being probably begun at the same time. A little later, in the 14th century, the Chancel was rebuilt, and the Clearstory was a 15th-century addition. In modern times the Church has been drastically restored, few of the windows remaining untouched. The Clearstory and North Aisle were rebuilt, and the East responds of the Nave Arcades, which were of some depth, pierced with small Arches in continuation of the Arcades. In 1907 a new Tower and a tall Stone Spire were begun from the designs of Mr Oldrid Scott.
The East window of the Chancel is modern and of geometrical detail. In the North Wall is a much restored early 14th-century window of 2 un-cusped lights, with an un-cusped circle over and Shafts to the internal splay. West of this is the opening to the modern Organ Chamber. At the South-West of the Chancel is a trefoiled Piscina, circa 1330, with a shelf and a double drain. The 2 windows in the South Wall, of 14th-century style, and the door between them, are all much restored but in part Ancient. Below the Western window is a blocked low side window, with a square Head and plain chamfered Jambs and with its Iron Bars still in position. The Chancel Arch is modern and of late 13th-century style.
The Nave is of 7-Bays, and the 2 Arcades are practically identical, the Arches throughout being of 2 chamfered Orders. The 1st Arch on either side is modern, and also the 1st column, circular in plan and with moulded Capital and Base. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th columns and Arches, and the 6th Arch are of 13th-century date, the Columns being Octagonal and the Arches having plain chamfered Labels, with moulded Capitals and plain Bases. The 7th pair of arches, circa 1300, have a filleted roll Label, and the 6th columns and the Western Responds are of the same time and are of Quatrefoil plan, with moulded Capitals and Bases of the same form and date, but varying from each other in the details of moulding. The Tower Arch is modern and of early 14th-century design. The Clearstory has 5 modern 6-foil circles on either side and is shown by Lipscomb to have originally had 2-light windows in this position.
The North Aisle opens to the Organ Chamber by a modern Arch, and the North Wall of the Aisle has been completely rebuilt, but in the main with old materials. The windows are 4 in number, the 1st 2 of 3 trefoiled lights with Tracery over, the others of 2 Lights, and all with segmental Heads and of 14th-century detail. Some old Stones are set in their Jambs and Splays, but the Tracery in all cases is quite modern. The blocked North Door in the middle of this Aisle is of 14th-century date but very much restored, with continuously moulded Jambs and 2-centred Head of 2 Orders. There is no West window to either Aisle.
The South Aisle has a much-restored East window of 14th-century date, with 2 un-cusped Lights. The shafted Jambs, Mullion, and Splays are old and have circular moulded capitals and bases. In the south wall, at the east end, are a much-defaced Piscina and Sedile of 14th-century date, with the remains of elaborate projecting canopies with shafted Jambs; in the Piscina is a Stone shelf. Immediately West of this is a very remarkable 3-light window, which looks like 13th-century work reused and altered circa 1320. The Lights are uncusped and have a square inner reveal and stilted moulded rear Arches resting on freestanding Shafts with Octagonal moulded Capitals; there are engaged Shafts to the Tracery Orders also. Partly under this window is a 14th-century Tomb Recess with a sub-cusped cinque-foiled ogee Head, and another like it to the West; both are now empty. Close to the South Door is a small plain much restored Holy Water Recess, and from this point to the Sedile runs a Stringcourse on the level of the Sill to the window last described. The South door is of late 13th-century date, with a deeply-moulded 2-centred head and shafted Jambs with circular Bases and Capitals. West of the South Door is a window of 3 cinque-foiled lights, repaired, but of 14th-century date, and there is a contemporary moulded string-course forming its Sill and extending some distance on each side of it. Below are 2 Tomb Recesses similar to those already described, but having shafted Jambs.
The South Porch is modern and has a small Lancet on either side.
The new Western Tower is of 3 Stages, with a tall Stone Spire, and incorporates the Old Tower, which has been refaced.
The Font is modern, with a plain Octagonal Bowl. There are no Monuments of interest in the Church, and the Roofs and Seating are modern. There is, however, a 17th-century Oak Pulpit.
There is only one Bell, dated 1838, and a small ‘ting-tang,’ dated 1805.
The Church Plate consists of a Communion Cup of 1752, given by Thomas Penn, Rector; a plated Paten; and a Flagon of 1629, given by Miss Mary Chibnall.
The 1st Book of the Registers contains Baptisms and Marriages from 1561 to 1695 and Burials from 1561 to 1678. Burials are continued in a 2nd Book from 1678 to 1727, and Baptisms and Marriages in a 3rd from 1695 to 1721. A 4th Book contains Baptisms and Marriages from 1721 to 1754; a 5th and 6th Burials from 1721 to 1786 and from 1786 to 1812. Baptisms, after a gap, are continued from 1788 to 1812, and 3 Books containing Marriages with Banns run from 1754 to 1776, from 1776 to 1803, and from 1803 to 1812.
The Church of Princes Risborough was granted by Walter Giffard to Notley Abbey at its Foundation, with the Tithes of his Demesne lands there. A Vicarage, however, was not Ordained. In 1258 the Abbot obtained leave from the Pope that the Churches and Chapels belonging to his Abbey should be served by the Canons or other Priests, who should be answerable to the Abbot and Convent. This method of serving the Churches caused various complaints in the 14th & 15th centuries, but the privilege was confirmed by Boniface IX in 1402. The Rectory belonged to the Abbey of Notley at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was afterwards Granted by Henry VIII to the Dean and Chapter of Oxford and was held with the Abbot’s Manor till the 19th century. A Vicarage is mentioned in the Grants of Henry VIII and Edward VI, but this was probably a mistake. The Advowson of the Church was Granted with the Rectory to Thomas Crampton, and the Church was served by a Perpetual Curate appointed by the Impropriator of the Rectory. The Patronage was transferred to the Bishop of Oxford in 1860, and finally, the Benefice was declared a Rectory in 1868.
A Chapel of St John the Evangelist was built at Lacey Green early in the 19th century, the plan being mainly carried through by the exertions of the Rev Richard Meade, rector of Horsenden and Perpetual Curate of Princes Risborough. It was Consecrated by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1825.
The Hamlet, with Looseley Row and Speen, was, however, formed into an Ecclesiastical Parish in 1851; the Living is a Vicarage in the Gift of the Rector of Princes Risborough.
The Abbot of Notley, at the time of the Dissolution, was bound to distribute certain Charities to various poor persons at the Church of Princes Risborough, to the value of 20s a year, for the Benefit of the Souls of the Earl Walter Giffard and Countess Ermengarde. An acre of Land was also Granted to provide a Light at Princes Risborough, presumably within the Church.
A Baptist Chapel was built in 1707 in Bell Street, and a 2nd Chapel was opened at Looseley Row in 1862. There was a Branch of the Bell Street Chapel at Longwick, where there is also a Wesleyan Chapel. The Wesleyan Methodists have a Chapel in Princes Risborough, built in 1869. At Speen, there is a Baptist Chapel opened in 1813, and the Primitive Methodists have a Chapel at Lacey Green.
For many years there was an ancient custom at Princes Risborough by which the Impropriator gave a Bull and a Boar on Christmas Day for the use of his Parishioners. They were distributed ‘in large pieces, smoking hot from the Copper at 5 o’clock in the morning for Breakfast on Christmas Day.‘ Four bushels of wheat and 4 bushels of Malt were also made into Bread & Beer and given away. The Custom, however, was given up before 1847.
In 1615–16 William Smith by his Will left £40 for the use of the Poor. The Legacy was laid out in Land, in respect of which 3a 2r 36p in Near Side Field were allotted on the inclosure in 1820. The Land is let in Allotments, producing about £7 a year, which is applied in the distribution of money, 2s 6d to each recipient.
An annual payment of £32 a year is made by Lord Rothschild out of the Manor Farm, Tring, in respect of Joan Chibnall’s Charity, by Will, 1646, for providing Gowns, etc, for Poor Widows or Ancient Ladies of Princes Risborough, and other Parishes in this County & Oxford. In 1905 13 women of this Parish were provided with Gowns at a cost of £8 2s were given to 51 recipients and 10s paid to the Rector for a Sermon.
In 1684 Thomas Meade left £100 to be laid out in Land, the Rents & Profits to be applied in Apprenticing to Trades (except Husbandry). The Legacy was laid out in the purchase of Land, in respect of which at the inclosure in 1820, 3a 0r 10p in Near Side Field were allotted for the Poor. The land is let at £3 10s a year.
In 1713 Mrs Katherine Pye by Deed settled Lands in Towersey for Educational & Eleemosynary (alms) purposes in the Parishes of Bradenham, Towersey, Princes Risborough, Hughenden, & West Wycombe. The Land, known as Quash Farm (Lower Green), contains about 53 acres awarded under the Towersey Inclosure Act, 1822, producing a net income of about £60 a year. By an Order of the Charity Commissioners, dated 15th March 1904, made under the Board of Education Act, 1899, the part of the Endowment applicable for Educational purposes was determined to be an annual sum of £36 for Schooling certain children of the said Parishes, and an annual sum of £1 1s 8d for Books for such children leaving School. The yearly sum of £12 is payable under the Deed of Foundation to 6 Poor Widows, or Widows & Maids of Bradenham, Towersey, & West Wycombe, 40s to each; £5 to the Treasurer, and 40s for the Expenses of the Trustees, and the Surplusage, if any, in Apprenticing. The sum of £8 10s. is received as the Share of Princes Risborough, and applied to General School Expenses.
In 1772 Richard Stratton by Will bequeathed £500 to the Governors of Christ’s Hospital, to secure the Nomination of one Poor Boy belonging to Princes Risborough.
Elizabeth Eustace, by Deed 5 July 1784, gave certain lands for providing ‘lots of linen‘ for the Poor. On the Inclosure 1a 0r 27p. were allotted in respect thereof, which is let at £4 10s a year, of which the sum of £1 3s is paid to the Parish of Bledlow. In 1905 Linen to the value of 5s was given to each of 12 recipients and 1s was retained by each of the 5 Trustees in pursuance of the provisions of the Deed.
The Poor’s Land allotted on the Inclosure contains 39a 3r 11p, let to 15 Tenants at £30 a year. The net proceeds are distributed in Coal among the cottagers.
The Church Land consists of 32p at Longwick, Let at £1 1s a year, which is applied towards the Church Expenses.
The Baptist Chapel in Bell Street, erected in 1707, in addition to the Minister’s House, is possessed of a House at Parkfield, Let at £12 a year. By an Order of the Charity Commissioners, dated 11 March 1898, new Trustees of the Trust Property, including the Old & New Burial-ground, were appointed
Lacey-Green – a Chapelry, in the Parish of Prince’s Risborough, Union of Wycombe, Hundred of Aylesbury, County of Buckingham, 5 miles from Great Missenden; containing 926 inhabitants. The Chapelry consists of the Villages of Lacey-Green, Speen, & Looseley-Row, in the upper part of the Parish. The Living is a Perpetual Curacy, endowed with 18½ acres of land by John Grubb, Esq, and 8½ acres by Lord George Henry Cavendish; total income, £90; patron, the Incumbent of Prince’s-Risborough. The Chapel, dedicated to St John, was completed in 1825.