An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Buckinghamshire, Volume 2, North. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1913.
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185. PRESTON BISSET.
(O.S. 6 in. (a)xviii. N.W. (b)xviii. S.W.)
a(1). Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, stands in the middle of the village. The walls are of squared and coursed limestone rubble; the roofs are covered with lead, except that of the porch, which is tiled. The present church was built apparently in the 14th century, but during restoration the heads of two windows and other fragments of stone, all of the 12th century, were found built into the walls of the clearstorey; the Nave possibly preserves the plan of a former nave, as the axis is a little S. of that of the Chancel, which was built c. 1325; the North and South Aisles were added in 1340–50. The West Tower was built early in the 15th century; the nave arcades, and possibly the chancel arch, were re-built apparently in the same century. The church was restored in the 19th century, and the South Porch is modern.
Architectural Description—The Chancel (28 ft. by 16 ft.) has windows all of c. 1325, but apparently re-set when the church was restored. The E. window is of three cinque-foiled lights with flowing tracery in a two-centred head; the external reveal is moulded and the chamfered label has head-stops. In the N. wall is a blocked doorway, apparently of the 15th century and formerly opening into a vestry, which has been destroyed; over the doorway is a window of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a pointed head, and between the window and doorway, outside, is the weathering of the roof of the former vestry; further W. is a small doorway of early 14th-century date, with moulded jambs and pointed head; in the W. end of the wall is a low-side window of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a pointed head. In the S. wall, at the E. end, is a window similar to the corresponding window in the N. wall, but having an ogee-shaped external label; near the W. end, set low in the wall, is a window of two trefoiled lights with tracery in a pointed head, and a transom. The chancel arch was possibly re-built in the 15th century, and is two-centred, of two chamfered orders, the inner order resting on corbels carved with grotesque crouching figures. Externally, at the apex of the gable, is a much weathered sanctus bell-cot, probably of the 15th century. The Nave (33½ ft. by 17½ ft.) has N. and S. arcades, each of three bays with two-centred arches of two chamfered orders, having 14th-century labels in the nave; the arches are probably of the 15th century; the columns are octagonal, and the responds have semi-octagonal pilasters, all with moulded capitals and bases; the capitals of the N. arcade are of crude profile, and were possibly re-cut in the 15th century; the detail of the S. arcade is somewhat better than that of the N. arcade. The clearstorey has modern windows. The Aisles are entirely of 1340–50. The North Aisle (8 ft. wide) has, in the E. wall, a window of three trefoiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head. At the E. end of the N. wall is a similar window, but of two lights: further W. is the N. doorway, now blocked; the jambs and pointed head are of two continuously moulded orders. In the W. wall is a window similar to that in the N. wall, but smaller. The South Aisle (7½ ft. wide) has, in the E. wall, a window of three trefoiled lights with tracery of simpler design than that of the corresponding window in the N. aisle; the head is two-centred. In the S. wall is a window of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head; the S. doorway has elaborately moulded jambs and two-centred head. In the W. wall is a window similar in design to that in the S. wall, but with a more elaborately moulded external reveal. The West Tower (11 ft. square) is of two stages with diagonal buttresses at the W. angles, and a plain parapet. The two-centred tower arch is of 14th-century material, re-used; it is very low, and of two chamfered orders, the inner order resting on crude corbels, the outer continuous. The bell-chamber has, in the E. wall, a square-headed light of uncertain date, and in the N. wall a single trefoiled light of the 15th century; the S. and W. walls have each a window of two trefoiled lights, also of the 15th century.
Fittings—Brasses and Indents. Indent: In chancel—of man in armour, inscription plate and four shields, c. 1500. Chests: In tower —two, plain, possibly 17th-century. Communion Table: with turned baluster legs and carved top rail, early 17th-century. Font: octagonal bowl and stem, 15th-century. Glass: In chancel—in tracery of N.W. window, and in N. aisle—in tracery of N. window, fragments with foliated patterns, and some diaper quarries, 14th and 15th-century. Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monument: In chancel— ridged stone with plain cross, much worn, probably early 14th-century. Floor-slab: illegible, date apparently 1684. Piscinae: In chancel—with plain chamfered head, 15th-century, bowl modern. In nave— in N. respond of chancel arch, with trefoiled head, no basin, 15th-century. In S. aisle—similar to that in nave, 15th-century. Sedilia: In chancel— two seats, with trefoiled heads, crocketed canopies having finials, head-stops, vaulted soffits, 14th-century, canopies have been altered and do not fit bases. Miscellanea: N. aisle—built into E. wall, outside, stone fragments, consisting of heads of two windows, semi-circular, with external rebate, piece of indented moulding, and part of large capital, all 12th-century. In tower—bier, with turned legs, folding handles, probably late 17th-century.
These buildings are all of two storeys, and nearly all were built early in the 17th century. The walls generally retain the original timber-framing and have modern brick filling; the roofs are thatched. All, except (2), are of rectangular plan.
Main road, E. side
a(2). House, about 90 yards S. of the church, was built probably late in the 16th century, and lengthened towards the S., probably late in the 17th century; a wing was added at the back in the 18th century, making the plan L-shaped. On the W. front the lower storey is of stone, covered with plaster, and has windows with old oak mullions, and stop-chamfered lintels; the overhanging upper storey retains the original brick filling, set in herring-bone pattern, and part of the original moulded fascia of the bressumer; the S. end of the original wall-plate projects and apparently was carved; the late 17th-century addition is of brick. At the S. end of the original building is a chimney stack of late 16th-century brick.
a(3). Cottage, at the S. end of the village, about 300 yards S. of the church, was built late in the 16th or early in the 17th century. The W. front is partly of modern brick; at the S. end the gabled upper storey retains the original brick filling set in herring-bone pattern; at the back some of the filling is of plaster. The roof is covered with slate. The ceilings have stop-chamfered beams.
a(4). Cottage, now two tenements, about 270 yards S. of the church, was lengthened towards the N. and partly re-fronted late in the 17th century. The E. front is divided into four bays by straight joints in the walling; the southernmost bay has original timber-framing with whitewashed brick filling, the next bay retains one post of the former timber-framing, but, with the other bays and the gabled N. end, is of red and black bricks. The back is partly of modern brick. The southernmost of the four chimney stacks is of early 17th-century brick, and the third, in the N. half of the building, is probably of late 17th-century brick. Interior:— Old ceiling-joists are visible, and one fireplace retains the original corner seats.
a(5). Cottage, now two tenements, about 250 yards S. of the church, facing S. At the W. end is an early 17th-century chimney stack of stone and brick, containing a large open fireplace.
a(6). Cottage, now two tenements, about 230 yards S. of the church. The walls are on stone foundations, and the filling is covered with whitewash. The central chimney stack is original, and at the S. end is a late 17th-century stack. Interior:—On the ground floor there are chamfered ceiling-beams with moulded stops, and a fireplace with corner seats.
a(7). House, now three tenements, about 100 yards E.S.E. of the church. The W. front has one window with an original leaded casement. The central chimney stack is of early 17th-century brick, and at the N. end is a stone chimney stack of later 17th-century date. Interior:—One fireplace has corner seats and the ceilings have stop-chamfered beams.
a(8). House, about 140 yards E. of the church, facing S. The original central chimney stack has three attached square shafts. The doorway in front and another at the back have each an oak over-door supported on shaped brackets, possibly of late 17th-century date; at the back two windows have old oak frames. Interior:—A large open fireplace has a stop-chamfered lintel and a moulded mantel-shelf.
b(9). Cowley Farm, now two tenements, about 11/8 miles S. of the church, is a house of two storeys, with an attic over part of it. The walls are covered with rough-cast, probably on timber-framing; the roofs are tiled. It was built in 1604, the date on a frieze inside the house. The plan was originally T-shaped; the central wing, extending towards the N. has been lengthened, and there are modern additions on the S. and E. The upper storey projects slightly on the E. and W. sides of the N. wing, and on the E. side is a projecting stone chimney stack with a shaft of modern brick; at the E. end of the S. front is another projecting stack probably of late 17th-century date.
Interior:—The lower rooms in the N. wing have moulded ceiling-beams, and in a passage in the S. wing is a post carved with arabesque ornament, supporting a moulded console, and a fluted frieze inscribed 'An~o Dom~ni 1604'.
Condition—Good, but part of the upper floor is considerably out of level.