Our Church during the Middle Ages

No 13: South Aisle; Chancel

The Royal Commission on Historic  Monuments suggested that the south aisle was added in about the middle of the 14th century by breaking through the south wall of the nave with three pointed arches (probably made of clunch). The easternmost arch was widened in 1733. The middle (lower) external window of the south aisle is of the 14th century but the windows on each side were raised to semi-dormer level by Sir Edwin Maufe in the Revd. Oscar Muspratt’ s time.

The South aisle was probably started soon after Chalcombe Priory’s successful appeal to the Pope, in 1344, which put an end to all argument about ownership, and certainly before the successive epidemics of Black Death, between 1348 and 1370, drastically reduced both population and prosperity. Henry de Erdyngton, who was instituted as vicar of Penn in 1349, was appointed to ‘a newly ordained vicarage’ and I suggested in an earlier article (part 4) , that the dedication to the Holy Trinity may date from this time.

The South Chapel,- The R.C.H.M. suggest that it may possibly have also been built in the mid 14th century, but if so, it was not at the same time as the south aisle since it is on a noticeably different alignment. The chapel was pulled down after a serious fire in 1736, leaving only the first four feet of the medieval walls a base for the rebuilding.

The Chancel – was rebuilt in the same way after the fire of 1736, (the date is over the chancel door), and the medieval, pointed chancel arch was replaced by the present, much larger, roundheaded arch. The exterior flintwork of the first four feet of the wals, which are 2 feet 2 inches thick, does not appear to be similar to that of the nave, vvhich suggests that they were not built at the same time. Dr.Clive Rouse saw the steam cleaned interior walls in 1951 and concluded that the chancel had been extended in the first half of the 14th century. This view is supported by the flooring of the chancel which was in Penn tiles of exactly that period until 1918 when the Earl Howe of the time replaced them with the present black marble tiles.

© Miles Green, February 1998.

No 14: The Lady Chapel

The South Chapel or Lady Chapel as it was called in the will of William Grove in 1513, was probably added on to the south aisle in the mid – 14th century. it seems to have been used, to some extent at least, as a chantry chapel, a partlcuar feature of the 14th and 15th centuries, in which a priest was employed to sing (or rather ‘chant’) masses for the souls of the departed. William Grove left 2d towards its upkeep and Roger Playter, who died in 1549, left 4d to the priest to say ‘masse in the chapell for my soule at a tyme convenient’.

However, the chapel seems to have remained an integral part of the church since there is no record of a separate chantry licence being issued by the Bishop. Nor is there any record of the transfer of valuables and endowments to the King, as required by the Chantry Act of 1547, shortly after Henry VIII’s death, when the Protestant Reformation expressed the new disapproval of the Catholic doctrines of saying masses for the dead, by dissolving all the chantries.

Medieval man was extremely anxious about his prospects in the next world, and those who could afford it went to considerable expense to employ priests to pray for their souls, sometimes years after they had died. Richard de Wycombe, for instance, who was Rector of Penn in 1322, was licensed by the Bishop to leave the parish for an entire year in order to attend the obsequies of Sir John Segrave (who held Segrave Manor in Penn as a smaIl part of his very large estate).

© Miles Green, June 1998.


No 15: Chaplains at Penn

My previous article established that whilst the Lady Chapel of Penn Church was in active use during the Middle Ages, it was not licensed separately from the church itself. Thus, there would not have been a chaplain appointed specifically for the Lady Chapel.

However, there are several references to chaplains living in the parish in the Middle Ages. WaIter de Upton Waryn and then Thomas Freelond appear in the records between 1302 and 1337, and John Tagge was a party to a legal document involving the de la Pennes, in 1339. lt is likely that they were, all private chaplains to the de la Penne family, since a license for an oratory or private chapel was granted, in 1342, to John and Agatha de la Penne at their house in Penn.

The most dramatic reference to a medieval chaplain appears in the latest volume (29) of the Bucks Record Society concerning legal cases in the late 14th century, admirably researched and edited by Lesley Boatright, herself a descendent of Robert Rudrope, Vicar of Penn from 1596 to 1607. (Her favourite case was of a man who tried to throw a dog into the river Ouse, fell off the bridge and was drowned himself)

Having recently written a detailed history of Penn Wood, l was especially interested to read Lesley’s account of a chaplain called Wiliam Pullegos, described as ‘habitual robber’, who killed and robbed a man in Penn Wood on Ist September 1382. A party of local people went after him, but he refused to surrender and was killed after a fight in Penn Wood.

© Miles Green, August 1998

No 16: Early priests at Penn

We noted in Part 1, that our earliest recorded priest was Hugh, Clerk of Penn. In 1183, he was one of several witnesses to an agreement which was sworn in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and which resolved a dispute between Missenden Abbey and the de Turville family about the rights of patronage to the church at Weston Turville.   Geoffrey de Turville, who was one of the other witnesses, was also described as the Clerk of Taplow and since the de Turvilles also held Penn, and Hugh moved in the same superior social circles, it is not unlikely that he was also a member of the same family.

The next recorded Clerk was WaIter de la Penne who first appears as a witness to another Missenden Abbey charter in 1194. He was Clerk of Penn from about 1200 to 1225 and was also a landowner in his own right holding 1/5 of a knight’s fee, a small estate of about 90 acres, which seems to have been in what we now call Tylers Green,  including a third share in a water mill (windmills had not yet been introduced) on the river in the Wycombe valley below. He also held the patronage of Oulton church in Norfolk which had been held by his forbears ‘a conquestu Angliae’, from the Conquest of England.

It is quite possible that both Walter de la Penne and Hugh were younger sons of a branch of the Turville family who had adopted the name of their estate at Penn. This is exactly what happened in the case of the Puttenhams who, as the record clearly shows, were originally Turvilles who changed their name to that of the manor at Puttenham near Halton. They later came to live in Penn in a Turville property known, in 1200, as ‘Withiheg’ (hence Witheridge Lane which led to it – see Part 5).  Withiheg subsequently came to be called Puttenham Place after its owner/occupiers and has just been beautifully restored.

The present Earl Howe, who still holds the patronage of Penn Church, is a descendant of the de la Pennes and is therefore likely to be related in some way to WaIter de la Penne and quite possibly to Hugh as well.

© Miles Green, October 1998