Holy Trinity, Penn, New Churchyard

New Churchyard, Burials & Ashes

Entrance: Jesus said ‘I am the door’

Churchyard Plaque


The new churchyard at Holy Trinity, Penn was established on land which had been part of the Vicar’s glebe – his vegetable garden – and earlier still was described as a vineyard. It is probable that the site was identified many years before a firm plan was made to develop the new churchyard.

In a Country Life article, “Harmony in a Country Churchyard“, in February 1969, The Revd. Oscar Muspratt wrote, “a plan that was started almost 20 years ago has been worked out with great care and considerable success”. Revd. Muspratt engaged the services of Sir Edward Maufe to design the new churchyard, following Sir Edward’s involvement in a number of other projects at Penn church, most notably the WW2 War Memorial plaque.

In a parish newsletter in October 1953, Revd. Muspratt reports: “work in the churchyard extension was being carried forward with work on levelling and sowing”. The new churchyard had been consecrated in 1952 and the first burial of Norman Thomson, in what is now plot 20, is dated 1952 and his wife Louisa, 1954, and in the adjacent plot 21, Hugh Nicholl in 1953.

In a parish newsletter c.1961, Revd Muspratt records that plans for the Churchyard extension had been worked out: “For over twelve months an immense amount of careful thought has been given to the intricate task of drafting the scheme for the permanent layout. Sir Edward Maufe has prepared a most attractive ground plan and the sketch of the central cross. These must now be submitted to the Dioscesan Advisory Committee.” The intention was to make provision for the next hundred years. By September 1963 not only had the Faculty been granted but the appeal for funds had been sufficiently successful to enable Darsie Rawlins, a Penn resident and member of the congregation, and a highly regarded sculptor, to start work on the cross that Edward Maufe specified was to be carved in Clipsham stone. Maufe’s attention to detail is illustrated by the fact that he personally selected the cherry trees that were planted as a central feature of the churchyard”. The churchyard cross was consecrated on Trinity Sunday 1964.

The memorial plaque inside the new churchyard, records the final completion date as 1978, some 30 years after the scheme was started.

Consecration of the Churchyard Cross, Trinity Sunday 1964

Harmony in a Country Churchyard’, by Oscar Muspratt,
Country Life article, 6th February 1969 by Revd. Oscar Muspratt,
describing the creation of the new churchyard.

New_Churchyard_Plan (PDF file, opens in new tab)

New_Churchyard_Burials (PDF file, opens in new tab)

(New_Churchyard_Ashes (PDF file, opens in new tab)

Notable Burials and memorials


Consecration of the Churchyard Cross

Trinity Sunday, 24th May, 1964

“Nine hundred years ago, when our forbears built the little church at Penn to the glory of God, the bishop of that day must have come riding on horseback along the quiet grassy tracks one Trinity Sunday to take part in the Consecration Service.

In 1964, the Bishop travels by car along the busy roads of his diocese, whose population probably approaches in numbers that of the whole of England in those far-off days. How­ever changed the times may be, I do not suppose that, in his golden robes and mitre, our Bishop looked so very different to his predecessor as he walked up the aisle of Holy Trinity Church, Penn, upon this very special day in its history.

The church itself, this Trinity Sunday, was beautiful with white flowers and splendidly full, with a congregation whose ages varied from eighty to three years old, who were all to be witnesses to the Dedication by the Bishop of the new Churchyard Cross. The voices and the organ rose to the roof with resounding fervour, the singing quite filling the ancient building, and the words of the prayers dropped quietly into the silences between. The Bishop’s address was simple, sincere, even loving. (It was William Temple who, as Bishop, told parish priests “You must love your people into holi­ness.”) He explained much that lies behind the traditions of Christian burial and stressed that the body, one of God’s many gifts to man, must be treated with reverence, even when its period of usefulness is over.

The recessional hymn took us all out into the churchyard. We went through the doorway marked “Jesus said, I am the Door” into the Churchyard extension beyond. Here, in this old walled garden already dotted with recent headstones bearing the names of our own dear friends, stood the Cross. Just as Sir Edward Maufe had designed and pictured it, so had Mr. Darsie Rawlins turned drawings into stone, and together they have given us this beautiful conception of Comfort from the Cross; for where we might expect to find the crucified Christ, we find instead the lovely figures of Mother and Child.

In a humble part of its history, this land had. been part of the Vicar’s glebe – his vegetable garden-and earlier still we find it described as a vineyard, perhaps to provide grapes for the Communion wine in the days when all communities had to be self-supporting. Twelve years ago, when this ground was consecrated because the churchyard was found to be full, there was born the germ of an idea for following mediaeval practice by having one central cross.. standing in benediction over all the graves.

The congregation stood grouped round this central cross, the centre of this churchyard, the centre of this service, and also at the centre of the new cruciform stone-flagged pathways, designed to be seen as a cross from the air. (What, I wonder, would our equestrian bishop of long ago thought of this fine gesture to the present age?) The Service of Dedication continued as Mr. Stanley Holloway read a beautifully appropriate piece from “Pilgrim’s Progress” ” … just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders and fell from his back … it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden … ‘.

Then came the moment of dedication when the Lord Bishop said, “In the faith of Jesus Christ we dedicate this Churchyard Cross to the Glory of God … ”

We had done what we could to give beauty and comfort in death and, when the service was over, we came away through the green countryside with a strong sense of the past and yet a great hope for the future that we may be given the strength to devote ourselves while we may to the tremendous task of living our lives to the Glory of God.”

Parish Newsletter, June 1964, B.S. (Probably Barbara Saunders)


Footnote: Parish Newsletter March 1964: Oscar Muspratt writes:
“After several years preparation, we launched the special appeal for Sir Edward Maufe’s scheme for the permanent layout of the walled garden now being used as our churchyard. The most generous gift of £500 by Mr W.Q. Henriques was followed by…..As the year ended we had passed the £2,000 mark and now need only several hundred pounds to complete the scheme for Trinity Sunday 1964 when the Bishop of Oxford will take the dedication service.  The actual work is well in hand.”

Wilfred Quixano Henriques, OBE, gave his ‘generous gift’ of £500 in 1963, and sadly his wife Victoria died in the Spring of 1964, around the time that the cross was consecrated on Trinity Sunday, 24th May.  Wilfred died 04/1975 and is buried with his wife in plot 64, a few yards from the central cross.


Harmony in a Country Churchyard

Country Life Magazine, 6th February 1969, Oscar Muspratt

THE OLD CHURCHYARD AT PENN, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE. “The importance of preserving the charm
and peace of the place was recognised when it was found that more space was needed for graves”

CHURCHYARD extensions are rarely things of beauty. The charm of an old churchyard, where the natural good taste of our ancestors is reflected in memorials that achieve harmony in spite of their dif­ferences, is too often marred by an anarchy of harsh mass-produced kerbs and crosses in incongruous materials on adjoining laud. Yet a churchyard extension can be made beautiful, as can be seen at Penn in Buckinghamshire, where a plan that was started almost 20 years ago has been worked out with great care and considerable success. Its example is one that might well be followed by others who are making plans for similar extensions.

The medieval church of Penn stands on a ridge with wide views of the Surrey Downs and the surrounding countryside, and the importance of preserving charm and peace of the place was recognised when it was found that more space was needed for graves. The appropriate site was at hand in an old walled garden on the downward slopes to the south, with access through a brick arch dated 1739, and Sir Edward Maufe was invited to be the architect of the scheme. He was asked to design a layout of the area so that its use for burials could be developed in ways that would show to the best advantage the unique character of the site.

The central feature of the architect’s plan was an axial path of rectangular York stone paving leading southward from the entrance, intersected midway by a similar path running east and west, and flanked on either side by a row of flowering cherry trees. Two further lateral paths parallel with the axis can be added when necessary, and the rest of the ground is lawn with flower borders along the walls. In accordance with the early traditions of Christian burial a central cross of Clipsham Stone, 12 ft. high, stands at the intersection of the paths presiding over the whole space. Its head is carved with a Madonna and Child at one side, and a dove at the other.

I myself had shared in the planning of several war cemeteries during my service as an army chaplain, and knew the value of careful alignment of graves in maintaining the dignity of a plan. To facilitate mowing, it was decided to have only headstones, with a removable metal flower-container sunk level with the turf in front of each. Although there are no rigid limits of size, the headstones have been kept as far as possible to a width of 2 ft. or less and a height of 3 ft. or less. This has made for a balanced appearance through­out, and the avoidance of kerbs and flower­beds on graves has not only allowed the free passage of the mower but has also prevented unsightly neglect when relatives have no longer been able to tend them.

In addition to the space for burials, of which about a quarter has now been used, provision has also been made for memorials after cremations. The paved paths consist of central slabs flanked by smaller paving stones, about I ft. 3 in. by 2 ft. in size. Caskets containing ashes can be buried beneath the turf on either side of the path, and a memorial inscribed on the adjacent stone. There have been about 12 crema­tions since the churchyard exten­sion was started. A sample inscription was provided by the architect so that there should be conformity in the size of lettering and arrangement of lines.

English churchyard memorials have tended to degenerate into ugly and commercialised reminders of death instead of providing worthy commemorations of people’s lives. Yet a churchyard needs an atmosphere of beauty and peace to reflect Christian belief in the life to come. Many of the head­stones at Penn are by a local designer-crafts­man named Darsie Rawlins, who has regained something of the spirit of the 18th-century carvers. With good lettering on English stone, human feeling has been brought to each work, and several memorials have been made more interesting by in­cluding a coat-of-arms or regi­mental badge in the carving. Such craftsmen are rare in these days; their contribution brings aesthetic relief in a field where good sculptors once flourished, but which has become a desert.

THE CHURCHYARD EXTENSION. “The plan, started almost 20 years ago,
has been worked out with considerable success”

All the details of the scheme, including the siting of future burial spaces have been defined on the the master plan drawn up by a surveyor under the architect’s direction, and approved by the diocesan court. Families are en­couraged to make adequate provision for the upkeep of their graves and the general main­tenance of the churchyard. To guide them, the parochial church council has adopted model churchyard rules, has created a churchyard guild and has established a trust deed for corporate endowment. Th.e parish council will also be urged to make a reasonable contribution from the rates towards maintenance.

Those who do not know Penn may find a visit rewarding. To enter the venerable church and to walk beyond it and see the view southward to the Surrey Downs is to discover a tranquillity worth preserving.

Oscar Muspratt, 6th February 1969.

Illustrations: Council for the Care of Churches.