A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1925.
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Wicherch (xi cent.); Witcherche, Hwitchirche (xii cent.); Whitechurch (xiv, xv cent.).
Whitchurch is a parish covering nearly 1,717 acres, including 336 acres of arable land, 1,267 acres of permanent grass, and only 6½ acres of woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The slope of the land falls from 513 ft. above the ordnance datum in the north-west of the parish to 291 ft. in the south-west. The soil is loam, the subsoil limestone and gravel. Rich pasture lands cover nearly two-thirds of the parish, which is well supplied with water from deep-seated springs. In 1862 a silk manufactory employed about thirty women, and others made straw-plait and pillow-lace, (fn. 2) but these local industries have since died out. The village, which is large, occupies a central position in the parish skirting the London main road between Aylesbury and Buckingham. The church stands a little back from the north side of this road on a hill known as the Church Headland. (fn. 3) South of the church is the vicarage, rebuilt in 1845, and beyond it is the Wesleyan voluntary school, the only day school in the parish. There are also two chapels in the village, one Wesleyan, built in 1844, and the other Primitive Methodist, rebuilt in 1889.
There still survive several 16th and 17th-century houses; the majority of them have the lower stories of brick and stone and the upper of timber framing, but they have all been much altered and restored. In the High Street, at the corner of Church Headland Lane, is a large house now divided into several tenements and called Lime Cottages. It is timber-framed and probably of 16th-century date. It has an overhanging upper story with two gables on the north side and a curvilinear brick gable on the south side. The walls are mostly covered with plaster and the old brick chimney stacks remain.
To the south of this house there is another called the Priory, probably of the same period, which has recently been enlarged. It is of timber framing with brick infilling, has an overhanging upper story, a large original stone and brick chimney stack and on the west front an apparently original oak door frame.
To the south of the church there is a house, probably of the 16th century, it was altered in the 17th century, while early in the 18th century most of the upper story was rebuilt and a wing added. The north side has an original stone gable with pigeon-holes and a large chimney stack finished with two diagonally set brick shafts. Further to the west, in the main street, are two 16th-century cottages of timber and brick with an original very small window, beneath which has been added a 17th-century brick panel of unusual design. Several other cottages in the village have small adornments of similar character and evidently by the same craftsman. On the west side of the High Street is Tudor House, lately the residence of Mr. G. W. Wilson. Over a 16-century fireplace in one of the rooms is a shield in stone containing a Tudor rose surmounted by a crown and below the shield are three moles and an arrow. The lintel of the fireplace has the same badges.
Perhaps the principal part of the town formerly lay around the old market-place, which evidently extended originally from the south side of Market Hill to the north side of the road to Oving, and has probably been encroached upon in mediaeval times by the island row of houses between these roads. Many of the houses and cottages in Market Hill and Castle Lane are half-timbered and of the 17th century, but have been much altered in the 18th century and later. In the road here, westward of the fork formed by the main road to Buckingham, is the old school-house, a 16th-century house, the lower part of stone with an overhanging upper story and an oriel window on the west side. Westward is Whitchurch House, the residence of Mr. John Rew, an interesting 17th-century house, also having the lower story of stone. Inside are the remains of the original open timber roof. Further on are two other 17th-century houses, while on the opposite side of the road is Bolebec House, a 17th-century house built of stone, the property of Mr. Thomas Durley, and the residence of Mr. T. J. N. Cannon. Its present name was given to it in 1903. (fn. 4)
A few scattered houses to the east of Dunn Mill are known as Little London. Holborn Hill Farm, part of the old rectorial estate, is in the west of the parish.
Dr. Lipscomb, author of the History of Buckinghamshire (1847), was resident doctor at Whitchurch and lived at the house now called 'The Sycamores.'
Whitchurch was inclosed in 1771. (fn. 5) Among the placenames found here are the following: Ruggewayhed (fn. 6) (xiv cent.); Gunmillfield (fn. 7) (xvii cent.); Gunhill (xviii cent.); and a capital messuage called Pigotts, (fn. 8) which was purchased from Francis Pigott at the end of the 16th century by Thomas Waterhouse (fn. 9); Dovehouse Close, (fn. 10) Carkside and Holywell (fn. 11) (Hollywell, Hollowell, xviii cent.), and Kempson's Close (fn. 12) (xvii cent.).
CASTLE and BARONY
The castle of Bolebec in Whitchurch, which stands on the south side of Market Hill, was the head of the Buckinghamshire barony of Bolebec. The barony comprised the lands which Hugh de Bolebec held in chief in 1086 in Missenden, Amersham, Chesham, Medmenham, Cheddington, Whaddon, Calverton, Great Linford, Hardmead and Wavendon, (fn. 13) and, in addition, those which he held of Walter Giffard in Hartwell, Great Kimble, Addingrove in Oakley, and in Whitchurch. (fn. 14) It included ten knights' fees in 1166. (fn. 15) In 1235 the Countess of Oxford held ten fees of the Earl Marshal (representing the honour of Giffard) in Buckinghamshire, of which Whitchurch was the head, (fn. 16) in addition to the fees which she held in chief. (fn. 17) In 1263 Whitchurch was the head of eighteen fees which the Earl of Oxford held of the heirs of the marshal. (fn. 18) These are not specified, but included some in Oxfordshire. (fn. 19) They became known as the honour of Whitchurch, of which the Earls of Oxford were seised in tail-male in 1633, when fifteen and a half fees are enumerated. (fn. 20)
The castle is of the mount and bailey type. Its earthworks may have been thrown up by Hugh de Bolebec during the 'anarchy' of Stephen's reign, for in 1147 Pope Eugenius specially referred to castle works which had been wrongfully exacted by Hugh, (fn. 21) of whose barony this castle was the head. Little is known of the buildings of the castle, but it had, apparently, a masonry keep, the foundations of which are said to exist. The ruins of the castle were, however, taken down at the end of the Civil War. (fn. 22) The sites of the draw-bridges can still be traced, and aged people at the end of the 18th century could remember the one which stood at the end of Weir Lane. (fn. 23) At the outer edge of the moat, in the field called the Lord's Garden, mentioned in 1774, (fn. 24) is a notable spring called 'Fair Alice,' flowing out from under the trunk of a large ash. The water remaining to the west of the site has been named the Weir Pond. The castle followed the descent of the manor until 1579, when Edward Earl of Oxford obtained a licence to alienate the site and demesne lands of Whitchurch Manor (still mentioned as Bolebec Castle in 1634 (fn. 25) and recently again called Bolebec) to his tenant Thomas Duncombe to hold in fee farm. (fn. 26) The transfer took place in the following year. (fn. 27) On his death in 1601 Thomas Duncombe was succeeded by his son John. (fn. 28) He married Mary daughter of Richard Saunders, (fn. 29) and appears to have sold the estate now called the farm to his father-in-law, who conveyed it in 1612 to Robert Lee. (fn. 30) He died in 1621, and his son and heir Robert (fn. 31) sold the property in 1638 to Edmund Matts (fn. 32) who died seised in 1643, leaving as heir his son Edmund, then a minor. (fn. 33) His nameoccurs in connexion with the property in 1648. (fn. 34) The holders are not specified in the transfers of the manor in 1663 and 1667, but only the yearly rent of £11 is mentioned. The farm was held by Edward Mayne, who died before 1728. (fn. 35) It remained in his family, and in 1771 Jane Mayne, widow, was granted an allotment in lieu of an ancient right to claim 5d. for each cow and 4d. for each heifer or steer pastured at certain times of the year in Great and Little Park. (fn. 36) Shortly afterwards she sold all her land in Whitchurch to James Dancie, (fn. 37) and in 1774 it was settled on his grandson James Dancie in tail-male. (fn. 38) In 1858 Bolebec was the property of Mr. Rhodes (fn. 39) and in 1862 of Mr. W. H. Chapman of London. (fn. 40) In 1876 it was purchased by Mr. J. H. Guy, who in 1896 sold the part called Lord's Garden to Mr. G. W. Wilson and the part called Castle Hill to Dr. Cheeseman of Buckingham, the present owner. (fn. 41)
The castle of the Bolebecs commanded the main road from Aylesbury to Buckingham, while branch ways led to Oving and Pitchcott on the west and Cublington on the east. At its gate and under the protection of its lord traders and artisans settled, and their houses, held by burgage tenure, may have clustered round a market-place near the fork of the northern and western roads. Of the history of the borough little is known, and probably its most prosperous period was over before the making of the earliest extant survey. The rise of the borough had been encouraged by the residence of a great feudal lord, and when this residence ceased it rapidly declined. In 1263 the assized rent of the burgesses was estimated at 40s. and the perquisites of the borough and market at half a mark. (fn. 42) In the later extents the burgesses are not differentiated from the other free tenants, and by 1331 it seems likely that, although the market still remained, the borough was practically merged in the manor. (fn. 43)
Before the Conquest two brothers, thegns of King Edward, held WHITCHURCH MANOR as two manors, with freedom of sale. (fn. 44) In 1085 it was assessed at 8 hides, and formed part of the lordship of Walter Giffard. (fn. 45) The overlordship of Whitchurch follows the same descent in the honour of Giffard as Great Kimble. (fn. 46) It passed by the second marriage in 1317 of Margaret, sister and co-heir of Gilbert de Clare, eighth Earl of Gloucester, to Hugh Lord Audley, who was created Earl of Gloucester in 1338. (fn. 47) A service of a pair of white gloves, price 1s., was paid to him from Whitchurch. (fn. 48) The last mention of this overlordship in connexion with Whitchurch occurs in 1620. (fn. 49)
Walter Giffard subinfeudated his land in Whitchurch to Hugh de Bolebec. (fn. 50) His heir and namesake (fn. 51) was succeeded about 1166 by a brother, Walter de Bolebec. (fn. 52) He died before 1185, when his heir in respect of Whitchurch was his daughter Isabel, ward of Aubrey de Vere, Earl of Oxford, (fn. 53) who married her to his son Robert. (fn. 54) In 1221, after her husband's death, she obtained seisin of the lands of her inheritance, (fn. 55) and was holding Whitchurch alone shortly afterwards. (fn. 56) On her death in 1245 it passed to her son Hugh, fourth Earl of Oxford, (fn. 57) who assumed the style of Baron de Bolebec (fn. 58) and died seised about 1263. (fn. 59) His son and heir Robert de Vere, (fn. 60) a supporter of Simon de Montfort, (fn. 61) leased Whitchurch Manor to his villeins there at an excessive fee farm for fifteen years. (fn. 62) In 1265 his lands were forfeited for rebellion and given to Sir Roger Mortimer, (fn. 63) who restored them to the Earl of Oxford in 1268 for 3,000 marks and a prospective marriage settlement, including Whitchurch Manor, on his daughter Margaret, when she should be of age to marry Robert, eldest son of the earl. (fn. 64) Robert had succeeded his father in 1296, (fn. 65) and died seised in 1331, when his heir was his nephew John, son of Alphonso de Vere, (fn. 66) on whom a settlement of Whitchurch had been made in 1330. (fn. 67) He settled Whitchurch Manor, excepting the advowson, in 1342 on his son John and his wife Elizabeth. (fn. 68) John the son died without issue (fn. 69) within a few years of his marriage, and his widow granted the manor for life to Elizabeth, then wife of Hugh de Courtenay, and afterwards of John Lord Mowbray of Axholme. (fn. 70) Mowbray surrendered his wife's interest in the manor to John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, (fn. 71) who granted it before 1359 (fn. 72) to Sir John de Sutton and others. (fn. 73) After the earl's death in 1360, (fn. 74) they settled it on his widow Maud. (fn. 75) Elizabeth Lady Mowbray, who by 1371 was the wife of Sir William de Cosington, (fn. 76) died about 1375. (fn. 77) Notwithstanding the quitclaim to the Earl of Oxford, Lady Mowbray was said to be seised of Whitchurch Manor, which then reverted to Elizabeth de Vere, (fn. 78) who in the meantime had married Sir Andrew Luterell. (fn. 79) She retained it (fn. 80) until her death in 1395, when the manor passed to Aubrey, tenth Earl of Oxford, (fn. 81) who, as Sir Aubrey de Vere, had established his claim in law in 1371. (fn. 82) He died seised in 1400, (fn. 83) and his widow Alice died in 1401 in the minority of their son Richard. (fn. 84) About 1412 he and his wife Alice enfeoffed Thomas Rolf and others, (fn. 85) who were seised at his death in 1417, (fn. 86) probably for a term of years covering the minority of the son and heir, John, then a child. (fn. 87) In 1462 the latter was put to death in the Tower as a Lancastrian, with his eldest son Aubrey, (fn. 88) whose widow was, however, granted estate in her dower-lands, including Whitchurch, in the same year. (fn. 89) This manor had reverted to John de Vere, Aurbrey's brother, who succeeded their father as Earl of Oxford (fn. 90) before his attainder (fn. 91) in 1474 for taking part in the restoration of Henry VI. (fn. 92) It was granted in 1475 to Richard Duke of Gloucester, (fn. 93) who was holding as king in 1484. (fn. 94) On the accession of Henry VII the Earl of Oxford regained his estates, (fn. 95) including Whitchurch, (fn. 96) of which he died seised in 1513. (fn. 97) His nephew, another John de Vere, succeeded, (fn. 98) and died without issue in 1526. (fn. 99) The earldom of Oxford passed to his cousin, also John de Vere. (fn. 100) His grandson Edward, the seventeenth earl, (fn. 101) owner of Whitchurch Manor in 1575, (fn. 102) sold it in 1581 to John Waterhouse, (fn. 103) with the exception of the site and demesne lands previously purchased by Thomas Duncombe. (fn. 104) John Waterhouse died seised in 1583, leaving the manor to his wife for life with certain exceptions, including the courts and a water-mill, to his son Thomas. (fn. 105) He attained his majority in the following year, (fn. 106) but he died before his mother, Anne Waterhouse, in 1600. (fn. 107) His son and heir John, a minor at his father's death, (fn. 108) was granted livery of the manor in 1615. (fn. 109) He settled it in 1618 on his wife Elizabeth and their heirs male with contingent remainder in tail-male to his uncles, John, Henry and Edward Waterhouse, successively. (fn. 110) He died in 1620, (fn. 111) when Whitchurch Manor passed to his uncle John, who held it (fn. 112) until his death in 1632. (fn. 113) He was succeeded by his brother Henry, (fn. 114) who in 1643 sold the manor to Richard Pawley; Robert Nutting and Elizabeth Holmes giving up certain interests in it (fn. 115) which they had previously acquired. (fn. 116) It was sold in 1656 by Paul Pawley, presumably Richard's son, to Edward Backwell, (fn. 117) who transferred it in 1663 (reserving a lease for seventy-five years of a messuage and certain lands made to Paul by Richard Pawley in 1647) to George and Edmund Goswold. (fn. 118) They sold this manor in 1667 to Sir Edward Smith (fn. 119) (or Smythe), Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He was buried in the church in 1682, and was succeeded by his son Edward, (fn. 120) who died in 1690. (fn. 121) His widow, Mary Smith, was lady of the manor in 1695. (fn. 122) Lipscomb says that shortly afterwards Whitchurch Manor was sold to John Reynolds, and that it was purchased from his son John about 1715 by Governor John Russell. (fn. 123) He conveyed it in 1728 to George Rowland, (fn. 124) who died in the same year. (fn. 125) His son and heir, the Rev. Thomas Harding Rowland, (fn. 126) died lord of this manor in 1741, (fn. 127) when it passed to his daughter and co-heir Rebecca, who afterwards married David Williams, (fn. 128) generally called Sir David Williams, bart. (fn. 129) He died in 1792, (fn. 130) when she retained the property (fn. 131) until her death in 1819. (fn. 132) Her son, Sir David Williams, bart., having predeceased her, (fn. 133) the manor was vested in trustees for the use of his daughter Sophia. (fn. 134) Before 1832 she married T. Tyrringham Bernard, (fn. 135) who in 1857 sold Whitchurch Manor to John Guy of Chearsley. (fn. 136) His son Mr. J. H. Guy sold it in 1867 to Mr. Joseph Parrott, whose widow held it from 1884 to 1904. (fn. 137) It then passed to his nephew Mr. Francis Hayward Parrott, the present owner. (fn. 138)
In 1245 a grant was made to Hugh de Vere, Earl of Oxford, of a weekly market on Mondays at Whitchurch, and a yearly fair on the vigil, feast, and morrow of St. John the Evangelist (fn. 141) (7, 8, 9 May). The market is named in the next century, (fn. 142) but no later mention of either market or fair has been found.
In 1263 one water-mill and one windmill (fn. 143) are mentioned as existing at Whitchurch, and in 1331 we hear of two windmills in bad repair. (fn. 144) There are several references to one windmill during the 17th century, (fn. 145) as well as to the water-mill (fn. 146) mentioned by name in 1667, (fn. 147) and still known as the Dunn Mill. The latter was bequeathed by John Waterhouse to his son Thomas, (fn. 148) who settled it in dower on his wife Mary. (fn. 149) A clause guarding the water rights was inserted in the Inclosure Act of 1771. (fn. 150)
A spurious manor of POWERS alias POWER'S PLACE appears in Whitchurch in the early 16th century. The Powers were a yeoman family resident at Whitchurch in the 14th and 15th centuries. (fn. 151) In 1497 John Power, then citizen of London, willed to be buried in his former parish church and left money for repairs to the fabric and for the erection of a new rood-loft. (fn. 152) In 1508 his brother and heir Robert Power, (fn. 153) described as late of Whitchurch, when summoned to answer for imprisoning and illtreating William Hayward, who claimed to be a free tenant of Whitchurch Manor, defended his action on the ground that Hayward was a villein and a descendant of villeins. (fn. 154) Part of the name of Robert Power is said in the middle 19th century to have been traceable in an ancient carved inscription in the chancel of Whitchurch Church. (fn. 155) He is mentioned in 1520 in a transfer of Powers Manor to John Vernon and others. (fn. 156) In 1526 this manor was conveyed by John and Anne Knight to Sir John Aleyn and his heirs with warranty against the Abbots of Westminster. (fn. 157) Anthony Cave died seised in 1558, leaving Powers to his daughters Anne and Martha. (fn. 158) The latter died in 1575, (fn. 159) and her husband, John Newdigate, in 1592, the moiety passing to their son and heir John. (fn. 160) No later trace of it has been found. The capital messuage of the Waterhouses in Whitchurch was built by John Waterhouse before his death in 1583 (see Whitchurch Manor) on land acquired from the elder John Newdigate. (fn. 161) Anne Cave married Griffith Hampden, (fn. 162) and their lands in Whitchurch were purchased in 1581 by John Waterhouse. (fn. 163)
The church of ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST consists of a chancel 38 ft. by 20 ft. 3 in., nave 52 ft. by 20 ft. 6 in., north aisle 67 ft. by 13 ft. 3 in., south aisle 67 ft. 6 in. by 10 ft. 6 in., west tower 13 ft. square, and a south porch.
The present building dates from the early 13th century, and then consisted of a small chancel and a nave of the present size. The chancel was rebuilt and the tower erected early in the next century. Later in the 14th century the aisles, which extend almost to the line of the west wall of the tower, were added; first that on the south with its nave arcade and then that on the north. In the 15th century the south arcade of the nave was probably repaired and the clearstory added, the walls of the chancel were raised and the whole building reroofed. The 15th century also saw the erection of the south porch, the renewal of some of the windows, and probably the rebuilding of the upper part of the tower. The porch was reroofed in 1657 and the roof of the south aisle restored in 1681. The church was extensively restored in 1911.
The walls are of roughly squared and coursed masonry, with ashlar dressings. Those of the chancel show the line of the 15th-century raising and have a modern parapet of brickwork. The nave has a plain parapet covered with Roman cement, and the dressings generally have been a good deal repaired with cement. The roofs, with the exception of that of the porch, which is tiled, are covered with lead.
The chancel has a 14th-century east window, which is pointed, and has three trefoiled lights with tracery and a moulded rear arch. The north and south walls each contain three windows of early 14th-century date, of two trefoiled lights with a sexfoil in a pointed head. The first and second windows on the north and the second and third on the south contain fragments of old glass. Between those in the north wall is a blocked 14th-century doorway with continuously moulded jambs and two-centred head; the segmental head externally seems to indicate that the door formerly opened into a vestry. Beneath the eastern window in the south wall is a fine example of a conjoined piscina and sedile of early 14th-century date. The piscina has a pointed arch, from which the former tracery is missing, and the sedile a stilted segmental arch, both elaborately moulded and springing from groups of shafts with heavily moulded capitals and bases. Between the first and second windows in this wall is a 14th-century doorway with continuously moulded jambs and head. The 14th-century chancel arch is pointed and of two chamfered orders, the outer continuous, the inner springing from semi-octagonal responds having moulded capitals, the abaci of which continue on either side as a string-course. The capitals and string on the nave side have been cut away for the insertion of the former rood-beam, a corbel for which remains on either side of the arch.
In the east wall of the nave, south of the chancel arch, is a 14th-century niche with a trefoiled ogee head. The north arcade is of four bays with two-centred arches of two chamfered orders. The arches spring from octagonal columns and a semi-octagonal east respond with moulded capitals and bases, but die into the wall of the tower at the west end. The columns and respond rest on large square plinths, and cut into the upper part of the respond is a niche with a flatsided pointed arch. This arcade, which is of early 14th-century date, has a considerable outward inclination from the vertical. The south arcade is like it in all respects except that the columns are circular and the east respond semicircular, the upper parts of the capitals being octagonal. It is apparently of a slightly earlier period than the north arcade. The clearstory has in each wall three 15th-century windows, each of two cinquefoiled lights in a square head.
At the east end of the north aisle is a window of three trefoiled lights with flowing tracery in a pointed head of 14th-century date. The first window from the east of the three windows in the north wall of this aisle is of 14th-century date and of three trefoiled lights with tracery in a pointed head; it contains a fragment of old glass representing a blazing star. The second window is of the same period and of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a pointed head. The third window is of three two-centred lights with two-centred heads. It is of uncertain date and made up of a number of fragments, the heads of the two eastern lights being part of a two-light window, and the adapted segmental external label possibly of 12th-century date. Between the last two windows is a 14th-century doorway with continuously moulded jambs and two-centred head and containing an old door. The west window is of the early 14th century and of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a pointed head. On the south wall above the columns of the nave arcade are the head corbels for the struts to the former lean-to roof.
The south wall of the south aisle has also three windows, but these belong to the late 15th century. The first and second windows from the east are of three cinquefoiled lights under flat heads and the third of three similar lights in a four-centred head. Between the second and third is a doorway of the same period with jambs and head continuously moulded, and an external label with head-stops and a head in the apex. Internally to the east of this doorway is the segmental head of a former stoup, and beneath the easternmost window a crudely-formed piscina and recess, the former having a semicircular and the latter a flat head; the western jamb of the recess is formed of an old window mullion. Further to the west, built into the wall, is a piece of masonry carved with a foliated cross. In the east wall of the south aisle is a blocked 14th-century circular window, the tracery of which is missing. The rear arch forms the head of a recess, on either side of which is a stone corbel. The window in the west wall, the masonry of which has been re-dressed, is a single lancet possibly of 13th-century date.
The tower is of two tall stages with an embattled parapet. The ground stage communicates with the nave and aisles by three pointed arches, those to the aisles being lower and narrower than that to the nave. The western angles have square buttresses to the top of the lower stages, surmounted by diagonal buttresses in the upper stage. Square buttresses project from the eastern angles into the nave and aisles and there is a stair-turret in the south-west angle entered from the west respond of the arch to the south aisle. The arch to the nave is pointed and of three chamfered orders, the outer two of which die into the walls; the inner order is now continuous, but formerly had carved capitals at the springing line which have been cut away, a small piece of that on the north side alone remaining. The arches to the aisles are also pointed and of three chamfered orders, the chamfers on the inner face of different size from those on the outer, with a small return chamfer and hollow between the two sets. All the orders of these arches die into the walls. The west doorway is a beautiful example of 13th-century workmanship reset here. It has a pointed arch of three elaborately moulded orders with a moulded label, the jambs being similarly recessed and having attached shafts, the capitals of which are moulded and carved with stiff-leaved foliage; the shafts and bases have been repaired with Roman cement, the mouldings of the latter being obliterated. The window above was originally of the 14th century, but the arch, the centre mullion, the heads of the two trefoiled lights, and the tracery are of 15th-century date. The splayed external jambs are original and each contains a niche, having in its head a projecting cinquefoiled canopy surmounted by carved grotesque animals. The label with head-stops and the splayed sill are also original, the latter having below the centre mullion a semi-octagonal corbel carved with four-leaved flowers and resting on a grotesque head. Above the window is a niche with a straight-sided trefoiled head and a sunk traceried spandrel. On the east face of the tower the weather course of the former steep-pitched roof of the nave still remains, and on the western side, in the upper part of the lower stage, is a window with a pointed arch in a square head. The bell chamber has in each face a 15th-century window of two trefoiled lights with sunk spandrels in a square head. On the west face is a modern clock dial, and on the south face a large flat stone sundial is inserted bearing the date 1828.
The 15th-century pointed outer arch of the porch is of two plain orders springing from chamfered responds with moulded stops, and has an external label, with head-stops and a carved face in the apex. There is a stone seat along each side wall, and above the door to the south aisle is a trefoiled and crudely crocketed niche of the 14th century. The weather course of the former roof of flatter pitch remains on the south wall of the aisle, and in the outer gable is a panel bearing the date 1657.
The modern roof of the chancel incorporates some old material. The 15th-century roof of the nave has been restored; it is of five bays with moulded tiebeams, principals, purlins, ridge and wall pieces and hollow-chamfered rafters. The curved struts, several of which have flat carving, rest on wooden brackets. The roofs of the aisles are also probably of 15th-century date and have moulded timbers. Some of those in the south aisle were replaced in 1681, two of the tie-beams bearing that date. The floor of the ringing chamber retains its original timbers.
The south aisle contains two small brass tablets, one to Thomas Scott of 'Crisloe' (Creslow), and the other to Hannah Scott, his daughter, both of whom died in 1699, while the nave has a third to Avis Scott, wife of Thomas, who died in 1707.
In the nave are three Purbeck marble slabs, one with the indent of the small figure of a priest; the second with indents of two figures, an inscription, groups of sons and daughters, scrolls, shields and corner pieces; and the third with indents of two figures, an inscription, a group of children and four shields. Cut into this slab are the initials G.C. and the date 1712. Another Purbeck marble slab in the north aisle contains the indent of a marginal inscription and probably of other brasses, but is much worn.
The chancel contains a tablet recording that the body of Ann Gaderen, who died in 1669, rests in the floor below. There are similar tablets to Bennett Gaudery (d. 1660) and Martha Gaudery (d. 1656), and other tablets of more modern date. In the north aisle is a tablet to John Westcar (d. 1833) and Mary his wife (d. 1781), with figures of the man, an ox, and three sheep.
In the nave are floor slabs to Lucius Smythe (d. 1694); a slab with a shield of arms to William Hedges (d. 1792), and Elizabeth his wife, the date of whose death is indecipherable; the fragment of another bears the date 1650. In the north aisle are floor slabs to Frances Bruloe, widow of Augustine Joseph Bruloe (d. 1700), and to Sir Edward Smythe (d. 1682), with a shield of his arms. A number of mediaeval tiles of various designs were found at the restoration, a few of which are now in the north aisle, but the majority have been used to form the platform for the communion table.
At the west end of the nave are some benches of about 1500, two of the standards having fleur de lis carved finials, and in the chancel are six bench ends of 16th-century date, with sunk panels and variously carved finials; on each is a shield with the initials 'RH,' probably those of Robert Hobbes, last Abbot of Woburn, who was a benefactor of the church.
The font has a small circular lead-lined stone bowl with the names of William Oliffe and Joseph Collett, churchwardens, and the date 1661; it is carried on a turned oak support, probably of the same date.
The 17th-century communion table has turned legs and a carved top rail, and the late 16th or early 17th-century pulpit is of oak and hexagonal, with panelled and carved sides and a book-rest supported on carved brackets. In the nave is a 17th-century poor box with a turned shaft and a solid hollowed-out top which has an iron lid with clasps and two locks. There is a chest in the tower of the same period with a panelled front and sides and a drawer below having three locks. The chancel contains a chair, the back of which is formed of a piece of elaborately carved 17th-century panelling, and two others, probably of 18th-century date, carved and with leather backs and seats. The west end of the north aisle, which is curtained off to form a vestry, contains a cupboard, probably of about 1700, the doors of which have moulded and painted panels.
On the centre column of the south arcade of the nave are a number of scratchings mostly in the form of crosses, and consisting of small circular sinkings joined by straight lines. Two of the buttresses on the south side of the chancel bear the remains of finger dials.
In the north aisle are two pieces of masonry with 13th-century carvings, possibly parts of an earlier font, and in the tower is a broken font cover, probably of the 17th century, and various pieces of panelling of this period.
There are six bells hung in an old bell frame, the treble of which is by Henry Bagley, 1680, inscribed 'Cantate Domino canticum novum'; the second by John Briant, 1797; the third and fourth by an unknown founder, 1619; the fifth, 1794, and the tenor, 1797, both by Thomas Mears. There is also a sanctus dated 1708.
The communion plate includes a cup of 1569; two large cups with cover patens of 1669; two large patens of 1668; and a large flagon of 1681, given by Sir Edward Smythe.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms and burials 1653 to 1688, marriages 1653 to 1692; (ii) baptisms 1689 to 1716, burials 1688 to 1704, marriages 1692 to 1745; (iii) baptisms 1717 to 1768, burials 1705 to 1768, marriages 1745 to 1755; (iv) baptisms and burials 1769 to 1812; (v) marriages 1755 to 1799; (vi) marriages from 1800 onwards.
An institution to Whitchurch rectory was made in 1189. (fn. 164) The church was valued at £13 6s. 8d. in 1291. (fn. 165) The descent of the advowson was the same as that of the manor (fn. 166) until the middle of the 14th century, when it was excepted from the grant to John de Vere and his wife Elizabeth. It continued with the Earls of Oxford, (fn. 167) presentations being made by the king during the minority of Robert de Vere, the ninth earl. (fn. 168) After his attainder in 1388 (fn. 169) the advowson passed into the hands of the king, who granted it to Woburn Abbey in 1397, (fn. 170) with licence to appropriate the rectory in mortmain (fn. 171) after the usual inquisition. (fn. 172) This licence was ratified by Henry IV in 1400 (fn. 173) on the death of the rector, and a vicarage was ordained. (fn. 174) The abbey retained the advowson until the Dissolution, (fn. 175) when it was worth £9. (fn. 176) It has since been held by the Crown, (fn. 177) and is in the gift of the Lord Chancellor.
Whitchurch rectory, valued at £14 yearly in 1535, (fn. 178) was taken into the king's hands at the dissolution of Woburn Abbey in 1538, (fn. 179) and leased in the following year to Ralph Harris for twenty-one years. (fn. 180) A similar grant from the expiration of this lease was made in 1568 to Ralph Staverton, (fn. 181) and cancelled in 1579 for a life grant in survivorship to Humphrey Staverton and his daughters Elizabeth and Margery. (fn. 182) On Elizabeth's death it was extended in 1591 for forty years from the death of the remaining life-holders. (fn. 183) The Staverton lease was alienated in 1607 to Sir John Fortescue and Richard Tomlins. (fn. 184) Robert Spicer and Robert Nutting conveyed their interests in the rectory (fn. 185) in 1624 to Bernard Periam and Isaac Fowler. (fn. 186) Later in the century members of the Rogers family laid claim to it for over sixty years. (fn. 187) In 1740 the rent from the rectory of Whitchurch was payable to Francis Lord Middleton and others. (fn. 188) In 1771 an allotment was made in lieu of the great tithes to Thomas Green as lay rector. (fn. 189) After his death his representatives sold the greater part of the rectorial estate to Richard Hopkins, (fn. 190) and his successor in the early 19th century was his nephew, Major-General Northey Hopkins. (fn. 191) The remainder was sold to the Rev. Thomas Dell and John Roberts. (fn. 192) In the middle of the 19th century the representatives of the Rev. John Dell (formerly rector of Weston Longville, Norfolk) and of William Nash were joint owners. (fn. 193) Shortly before 1862 Holborn Hill Farm, consisting of 206 acres, part of the rectorial estate, was purchased by Baron de Rothschild, (fn. 194) and his nephew, Mr. Leopold de Rothschild, (fn. 195) is the present owner. The remaining 54 acres chargeable with the chancel repairs belonged in 1862 to Mr. Josiah Wilson. (fn. 196) On his death in 1872 they passed to his son Mr. John Wilson, who died in 1900. Messrs. B. and J. Gadsden of Swanbourne then became the owners. (fn. 197)
In 1521 Anthony Careswall, vicar of Whitchurch, desired to be buried in the middle of the quire before the image of St. John the Evangelist, and gave 20s. to the repairs of the steeple or tower. (fn. 198) The lights of St. John the Evangelist, the Rood, St. John the Baptist, St. Katherine and St. Nicholas were mentioned in his will. (fn. 199)
In 1548 a rent of 21d. yearly from land in Whitchurch was used for the maintenance of a light. (fn. 200) In 1553 this land was described as half an acre lying in the West Field called Holdcroft, and was included in a grant to Sir Edward Bray, John Thornton, and John Danby. (fn. 201)
John Westcar, who died in 1833, by his will bequeathed £500, the interest to be distributed in clothes for the poor. The legacy is represented by £506 6s. 7d. consols, producing £12 13s. yearly, which is applied in the distribution of sheets and blankets to about forty poor people.
In 1873 Jane Tattam, by her will proved 25 August, bequeathed £100 consols, the income to be applied in painting, &c., the tomb of her father in the churchyard, in keeping in repair a memorial window in the church, and the residue in bread to the poor at Christmas.
The sums of stock are held by the official trustees.
It appears from an old terrier, dated in 1763, that certain tenements in this parish were inhabited rent free by poor widows and widowers. They are known as the church houses.