Holy Trinity Penn Street

The Origins of Penn Street

An  ‘ancient ‘ charter was produced as evidence for an inquiry, in 1665, into rights of common on the 4,000 acre Wycombe Heath, which covered parts of seven parishes, including the northern quarter of Penn.    The charter was a forgery, but it included the traditional bounds of the heath that are judged to be authentic.  The bounds define the heath after a large rectangular bite (see map) had been taken out of it, presumably to allow room for the de la Penne family to move from their first cramped manor house at Penbury, near Penn Church. This is likely to have been soon after a Statute of 1285 first allowed a lord to enclose part of a shared common, provided he left enough pasture for the commoners.

Field names around Penn House, Ashmoor, Shinglemoor, Culvermoor and Horsemoor, confirm that it stands on former heathland.  The names Great and Little Readings tell us that trees have been cleared around it (map).  As late as 1829, Lady Howe paid a quit rent to the manor court for building part of Penn House on the manorial waste of Segraves Manor.

The part of the bounds relating to Penn Street goes, ‘and so the way leadeth to woods heeves lyeing and beinge towards the Gatestakes of Pennbury the Manor of Sir Roger Atte Penn Knight’.

‘Woods heeves’ i.e., the eaves or edge of the wood, seems to have  been an earlier name for the hamlet that grew up outside the gates to service the new manor house, now Penn House.  17th C property deeds show that Wood Eves was a place name in Penn Street.  The ‘Gatestakes of Pennbury’ are the gates to Penn House opposite Penn Street Farm.

Wood Eves was probably restricted to the same side of the road as Penn House, but closer to Penn Wood.   The other side of the road and on towards what is now the church, i.e. at the side of the main road or straet as it was called by the Saxons, meaning a road used by the Romans, was still part of the heath in 1285.  Its development, which was to give Penn Street its name, is likely to have been by later, and illegal, encroachments, driven by rising population pressure, up to the Black Death of 1348.  The earliest known reference to the name Penn Street is in the parish register for 1592.

There was a Roman villa and iron smelting and smithing industry near Shardeloes, about 1½ miles north of Penn Street and the route connecting them with a main Roman road running just south of Beaconsfield is marked to this day by the surviving road names of Penn Street, Clay Street and Old Street (now part of the B474 at Knotty Green).

The 1285 Statute also required that a 200 foot wide (i.e. a bowshot) strip of land was kept clear of trees between a highway and woodland, in order to remove any cover for highwaymen, who were then a serious problem.  The Penn Street gates to Penn House today are 200 feet from the road and the common is exactly 200 feet wide with the same open width up to the wood boundary running all the way down, past the school, to the main Wycombe-Amersham road.

There were two ponds on what is now Penn Street Common and one or both were called St George’s, named after an edible spring mushroom called agaricus georgii, which still makes its appearance by the pond around St George’s Day on 23 April. The name of the mushroom and the pond could date back as far as 1222, when 23 April was made St George’s feast day by the Church.  He became the patron saint of England in the 14th C.

(For a fuller discussion  see ‘Wycombe Heath and its ‘charter’, by John Chenevix Trench and Miles Green, Records of Bucks, Vol. 36 (1994), pp.144-59, in public libraries).

Miles Green, 22nd July 2002

More detail, in the book ‘Wycombe Heath 1,000 years ago’,
Miles Green (Dec 2018)

 


A History of Holy Trinity, Penn Street

(The author of this summary history, which was given to the present Earl Howe, is unknown. It must have been written c.1950) 

The Parish Church of Holy Trinity, Penn Street, is situated in a hollow on the fringe of Penn Wood. It was built in 1849 by the first Earl Howe to the design of the Architect Benjamin Ferrey, and is tastefully executed in flint and stone. A simple cruciform building after the decorated style, it comprises a nave, South Porch, North and South Transepts, Chancel and a Priest’s Vestry on the north side of the Chancel. An octagonal tower rises above the Transept crossing, complete with shingle covered spire, from which the rain water is thrown by means of eight gargoyles. There are 300 sittings.

The church was built as a Chapel-of-Ease to Holy Trinity Church, Penn, but on 11th January 1850 a new ecclesiastical parish was formed out of the ecclesiastical parishes of Penn and Little Missenden, containing the villages of Penn Street, Holmer Green Beamond End, Mop End and part of Winchmore Hill.  Christ Church, Holmer Green, was built as a daughter Church in 1894.

Holy Trinity, Penn Street, early 20C. Probably 1901 after the church restoration.

The Church was restored in 1901 by the fourth Earl Howe in memory of his father, at a cost of over £1,000, and the interior by the parish at a further cost of £150. The Church was re-opened on 12th December 1901 by the Bishop of Oxford. In November 1908 a new organ was dedicated to the memory of the third Earl Howe. It incorporated some of the pipework of its predecessor and was situated at the west end of the Nave choir. Both choir and organ were later moved to their present position in the South Transept. In 1921 the simple open screen, with a frieze of foliage in dark oak, together with some panelling in the Church, was presented in memory of Lady Evelyn Eyre and Frederick Graham Curzon by their brother, the fourth Earl Howe.

The plain glass rose windows in the North and South walls of the Chancel were presented in 1922 by the 4th Earl Howe in memory of his mother, Isabella, Countess Howe. the oak panelling of the walls of the Nave and of the North and South Transepts were presented in 1925 by the 4th Earl Howe in memory of his second wife, Flora, Countess Howe.

At the west end hangs a replica of Raphael’s “Transfiguration” which was presented by Earl Howe in 1905. It was formerly the altar piece of the Curzon Chapel, Mayfair.

The tower contains three bells cast in 1849 by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

They are:
Treble   …  5 cwts.
Second …  7 cwts.
Tenor   … 11 cwts.

They are hung for “chiming” only and are rung from the floor of the crossing.

In 1931, the mother Church at Penn gave its east window as a present to the daughter church.  This can be seen in the North Transept, but unfortunately it does not quite fit the tracery.

The large Chancel is reserved for the use of the Howe family and contains two large stalls. On the north wall hangs the banner of Sir William Howe, who fought at the battle of Bunker Hill (1775), which formerly hung in for many years in Westminster Abbey. There are brasses in the Chancel to various members of the Curzon family, their servants and friends, and one commemoration of King Edward VII, which marks the occasion of his visit to Earl Howe, when he attended Divine service at Penn Street on 19th January 1902. A single light stained glass window on the South wall of the Chancel depicts St. Paul; a further window in the South wall of the Sanctuary portrays St. Luke and St. John. Beneath this window is a stone inscribed with the names of the first Earl Howe who built the Church and the first Incumbent and his wife. The east window is the only other containing stained glass in addition to those mentioned. the arch-braces of the roof of the Nave and Chancel rest upon stone corbels carved into various heads. Other carved figures may be found outside the Church on the dripstone terminations of the windows and doorways.

The tomb of the third Earl and his wife lies at the north-west end of the Churchyard and is provided with a separate avenue of approach and a lych-gate which was brought from another Curzon family seat at Gopsall, Leicestershire, a few years after the death of the third Earl in 1900.  There are memorials to Lady Evelyn Eyre and her husband, the Fourth Earl and his two wives, Frederick Graham Curzon and the Countess of Wilton.

The population of the parish in 1933 was 1,333.
The living is a vicarage in the gift of Earl Howe.

INCUMBENTS

Edward Bickersteth M.A.  … 1849
Alfred S. Butler                   … 1853
Thomas Bayley                   … 1860
John J. Lindeman M.A.       … 1886
Arthur Browning                … 1900
F.J. Sibtree                           … 1927
Ernest Davies                     … 1928
Vaughan F. Bryan-Brown … 1932
W.J. Mathias                       … 1948
J. W. Rees                            … 1952
David Ainsleigh Jones       … 1954
A. E. Paterson                    … 1959
Frank Wankling                 … 1967
Nigel Stowe                        … 1976
Matthew Boyes                  … 2002
William Mason                   … 2007
Peter Simmons                  … 2015
Ruth Atkinson                    … 2020


The Building of Holy Trinity, Penn Street

 The following is a contemporary description of the consecration of a new church at Penn Street, in 1849, named Holy Trinity, one supposes, after the mother church of Penn.

This new edifice has just been completed at Penn-Street, a hamlet of the parish of Penn, situate about midway between Beaconsfield and Amersham, and not far from Wycombe, in the most picturesque portion of the county of Buckingham. The population is much scattered and the majority residing at a long distance from the parish church of Penn, have been almost destitute of the means of attending a place of public worship. The parish is owned by Earl Howe, whom this spiritual destitution induced, about two years since, to project the erection and endowment of a Church for the district, which has just been accomplished, at a cost approaching £10,000. Such munificence it is extremely gratifying to commemorate in our Journal.

The site now occupied by the Church but a few months since was covered with timber, forming part of Penn-common Wood, and covering nearly 1000 acres. The design adopted by the architect (Mr Benjamin Ferrey) is the decorated style of the 14th century. The Church is cruciform in plan, and is calculated to afford accommodation to more than 400 persons. The whole interior is paved with encaustic tiles. The roof and fittings are of stained deal and the stained glass altar window was presented by her Majesty the Queen Dowager. The Church, from east to west, is about 150 feet long by thirty wide, and its height to the summit of the steeple is 140 feet. The whole structure has been completed within two years, and it is worthy to record that in its erection none but the tradesmen and tenants of the noble founder have been employed.

The consecration of the building took place last week, the Bishop of Oxford performing the interesting ceremony, in the presence of a vast concourse of spectators, attracted from the surrounding districts.

Among the leading personages present were Viscount and Viscountess Curzon, Lord and Lady Radstock and the Hon. Misses Waldegrave, Lord Boston and the Hon. Misses Ipley, Mr and Mrs Tyrwhitt Drake, Mr Bracebridge, Miss Norbury, and most of the influential families in the neighbourhood, and a large assemblage of clergy from the adjoining parishes. The road from the Manor-House to the church was very tastefully decorated with triumphal arches, formed of evergreens, and decorated with complimentary inscriptions, among which were “In grateful esteem of Earl Howe”, “God bless the house of Curzon”, &c. The approaches to the Church, and the entrance to the churchyard were also spanned by evergreen arches, bearing appropriate Scripture texts. 

The Lord Bishop was assisted by the Rev J Knollis, the Vicar of Penn, and the Rev E Bickersteth, the incumbent minister of the Church.

Near to the Church stands a very remarkable and picturesque tree, known as the “Queen’s Beech”, from the fact of her Majesty the Queen Dowager having, some years since, when on a visit at Penn, honoured with her presence a rustic entertainment given to the poor of the district, under the shadow of its branches, by Earl Howe.[1]

The Need for a New Church

It is a little difficult to accept the argument that a new church was needed simply because the inhabitants of Penn Street had too far to go to Penn church. It is, after all, only some 2 miles. No mention is made of restricted space in Penn church and it would seem more likely that other factors were at work. A combination, perhaps, of the dreariness of Mr Knollis’ services, with what a Victorian eye would have seen as the impossibly out-of-date furnishings of his ancient church, the exterior completely covered with unattractive rendering, and with little prospect of any immediate change. Victorians did not generally see old buildings as we do today. Our desirable old brick and flint cottages were commonly described as “wretched” or “inferior” and Earl Howe may well have wanted to have an impressive and brand new church to show off to his Royal friends and other important personages. It is indeed a very splendid and expensive church for a small country parish. He may also have wanted to produce an attractive alternative to the Methodist chapels that were taking away so many Anglicans. The new church was built on common land, part of Wycombe Heath, which was not yet enclosed.

The New Boundaries

The new ecclesiastical boundaries for Penn Street included some 250 of Penn’s 1050 parishioners, as well as taking nearly 600 from Holmer Green and Beamond End, in Little Missenden, and a small part of Amersham parish.[2]  Thus both the reduced Penn & new Penn Street parishes were of almost the same size, with about 800 parishioners each.[3]  Earl Howe had no difficulty in arranging this, because he was of course, as his successor still is, the lay rector of both Penn and Little Missenden. Many of the Howe family have since been buried at Penn Street.

Parsonage and School

 A very fine Parsonage House was built, at the same time, to match the splendid new church, and both together cost about £7000. In addition, Earl Howe endowed the living with income from rents of £143 p.a. The first vicar was Edward Bickersteth. He was succeeded, in 1853, by Alfred Butler. A school was built in 1850.[4]

Charles Garland, Methodist and Church Builder

A most interesting family tradition is reported in The Methodist Recorder of 13 August 1936, about Charles Garland of Penn, which gives us a marvellous flavour of the period, and seems worth repeating in full, despite its length.[5] The writer, a Methodist himself, describes it as, “the great story of what God wrought through one sermon”.

The sermon was heard by Mrs Garland, the wife of Charles Garland, of Penn. I do not know exactly what year it was, but at Windsor Mrs Garland heard Dr Adam Clarke (a Methodist theologian; died 1832). The discourse made such an impression upon her that she was led to see her trust must be not in the Church or its sacraments, but in the living Christ. She went home to Penn the next day and told her husband how her heart had been warmed. He was soon led into the same happy experience. They withdrew from the parish Church and joined a small company of Methodists, some of whom had been converted under the preaching of John Wesley during his visits to the neighbouring town of High “Wycombe.

Then the blow fell. Mr Garland was employed by Lord Curzon Howe, son of the famous admiral who is buried in Westminster Abbey. Lord Howe’s steward sent for Garland. “Now, my man,” he said curtly, ‘you can make your choice. You give up Methodism and return to worship at the parish Church, or you are dismissed from your work on the estate.” Garland made the reply you would expect from him: “I have made my choice, I am going to remain a Methodist. My conscience will not allow me to obey your order.” “Well,” said the unjust steward, “you can please yourself. I’ll give you a week to think it over. Lord Howe will not allow dissenters to work for him. You have been brought up in the Church. For some years your uncle was our vicar. There’s no reason whatever why you should become a Methodist.”  Garland stood firm. He told the steward that he wanted no time for reflection and he would not give up his fellowship with the little Methodist society. In the following week the steward asked him to make up his accounts, and he was paid off. For several years his sole occupation had been that of estate builder to Lord Howe, the position having been held by his family for generations. The Penn Methodists needed a bold leader, and were greatly helped by the membership of Mr and Mrs Garland. The cause began to prosper. But not so the worldly affairs of the good man. About three years later Mr Garland told his wife she need not lock the cash box as it was empty. He was both workless and penniless. These were hard times. There was war with France. Food was scarce and dear, and it was almost impossible to obtain work apart from military service. Taking his long carpenter’s pencil from his pocket, Charles Garland balanced it up and down on his forefinger, saying to his family, “To-day is the parting of the ways; we shall either go up or down.” “It will be up!’ cried his good wife. They knelt down for their usual family prayer. The reading of a Psalm “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble” was interrupted by a loud knock on the door. A messenger from Lord Howe had come with a letter. His lordship had been serving his country abroad for three years and had unexpectedly arrived home. He wanted to see Mr Garland at once. Charles set off for Penn House, and as he walked through the woods the words kept coming into his mind “We are at the parting of the ways; we shall either go up or down today. ”

 Arriving at Penn House, he found Lord Howe waiting for him in the library. “Now, Garland, said his lordship, after referring to an anonymous letter he had received, “what is all this about? I had no idea you had been dismissed from the estate and were in great distress. What happened?” “I think, my lord” said Garland, quietly, “it would be better if you put that question to your steward.” “Certainly, I will see him today;,” said Lord Howe. “Come here again tomorrow and we’ll put matters right.” That same afternoon the steward was shown the anonymous letter and was asked for an explanation. “It is true, he said, “that I dismissed Mr Garland because he became a Methodist and refused to return to the Church. I thought it was the only way to bring him to his senses.” “I should-like to know,” cried Lord Howe angrily, “what a man’s conscience concerning his religion has to do with you if he is a good employee. In my name you have brutally persecuted a man whom I respect. There is only one course for me to take. You are my steward no longer. Hand over all your papers. I shall allow you a small pension, but if you want it to continue keep out of my sight for I never want to see you again!” The discomfited steward slunk away, speechless.

Later, Lord Howe expressed his regret to Mr Garland. “I want a steward,” he said, “and you shall be the man, for if you are so loyal to your God you are sure to serve me faithfully in earthly things.” This proved true. Garland exercised a great influence in the locality. The vicar of the parish was among those who were led to a deeper experience of evangelical truth. Lord Howe and his family became deeply interested in the earnest efforts of the Methodist. A Chapel was built during the later years of Mr Garland’s stewardship.[6]  Somewhere about 1849, his employer instructed him to build Penn Street Parish Church.  Penn Street is a small village, about two and a half miles from Penn. The Church faces the entrance gates to Penn House, a mansion of brick in a small park of thirty-two acres, the ancestral abode of the Howe family. You could not imagine a more picturesque or a more beautifully situated sanctuary. It is built of flint, and its tall spire rises above the pine woods which surround it. I wonder how many visitors to the Church have heard the story of the staunch Methodist  who built it. The Church was thoroughly restored by Earl Howe, in memory of his father, in 1900, at a cost of £1,000. King Edward VII worshipped here in January, 1902, when he was visiting Earl Howe.

 It is a lovely tale, and probably a substantially true one, although like all the best family traditions, some of the details have become a little embellished. The 1820s would seem to fit the facts as we know them, not long after Lord Howe inherited the estate and was made an Earl, although the war with France was over by then and the Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Penn long since built. The Posse Comitatus of 1798 shows four Garlands, James Snr, James Jnr, Thomas and William, all carpenters and George Shrimpton as the steward. The 1841 census shows Charles Garland, a carpenter, aged 55, with a 40 year old wife, Sarah ( and a boy of 20. They lived opposite Slades Garage, in a cottage now called ‘Cobblers’, which he built himself.[7]   The uncle who had been vicar for some years, could have been the Rev Benjamin Anderson (Holy Trinity, Penn, 1808-13) , who seems to have lived in the parish before becoming vicar.  Charles Garland died in 1846 so may well have been involved in the planning of the church which was consecrated in 1849.  His widow continued his flourishing carpentry business with 5 employees in 1851.  She died in 1859.

Miles Green: c.1990


The Consecration of Holy Trinity, Penn Street, 1st May 1849

Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford

PENN. Trinity Church.—This beautiful church, which has been built and endowed at the sole cost of Earl Howe, was consecrated Tuesday last, May 1st, by the Lord Bishop of Oxford (Samuel Wilberforce). The Bishop arrived at the Church about eleven o’clock, and soon afterwards commenced the consecration service. The churchyard was first consecrated, and then the Church, petition for this purpose having been presented by Viscount Curzon. The service for the day was read by the Rev. Edward Bickersteth, after which the Bishop preached the sermon. His Lordship’s text was selected from Revelations xxi., 22 from which he took occasion to explain the nature and design of temples erected in honour of the Almighty; and thence to shew the reasons for the absence of any such temple in Heaven. The Bishop pointed out with great beauty and power in the course of his sermon, the typical nature of consecrated buildings, in their reference to Christ, and thence inferred the vast importance of reverence and devotion in the use of them, shewing how great blessings are to be conveyed through the ministrations of the Church to the sincere and humble worshipper. There was offertory collection after the sermon in behalf of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, when £27 10s. was collected, and the Holy Communion was then administered by the Bishop, assisted by the Rev. C. E. Kennaway, the Rev. J. Knollis, (Vicar of Penn,) and Rev. E. Bickersteth, to about 130 communicants. There were present in the Church (which was much crowded) the Countess Howe, the Viscount and Viscountess Curzon, the Chancellor of the Diocese, the Rev. J. T. and Mrs. Drake and family, the Rev. J. and Mrs. Knollis, Rev. E. and Mrs. Bickersteth, Archdeacon Vickers, Rev. John Bickersteth (Revd. Edward Bickersteth’s father), Rev. L. Ottley, Rev. Lord Wriothesley Russell (canon of Windsor), Rev. Henry Garth, Mr. Lowndes, &c, &c. Not the least interesting part of the service was the admission into the Church, the infant daughter of Lord and Lady Curzon. The Church, which is built throughout the early decorated style, is cruciform, consisting of nave, chancel, and two transepts, with a central tower, surmounted by spire rising to the height of 135 feet. The architect is Mr. Ferrey. The design is most chaste and simple, and the situation adds much to the beauty of the fabric, being on the N.E. verge of that large extent of beech trees, known by the name of Penn Wood. The tower contains three bells from Mear’s foundry, and in the north transept is a sweet toned organ, made by Bishop. The font, which is in the centre of the nave, facing the great entrance is very elegant. The east window, which was presented to the Church by her Majesty Queen Adelaide, contains a beautiful representation of the resurrection, as its main subject in the upper compartments of the window appear the symbols of the four evangelists, the Agnus Dei, &c. There are also two other stained glass windows, executed by Mr. Willement, in the Chancel on the south side, one containing the figures of St. Luke and St. John, with their appropriate symbols in the lights above, and the texts at the feet respectively, ” Glory be to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will towards men,” and ” God is love, and he that that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” The other window contains in its single light a fine figure of St. Paul, with a scroll crossing it, on which are the words, “By the Grace of God l am what I am.” All the arrangements and fittings of this beautiful structure are of the most elegant description; and no expense has been spared by that truly excellent nobleman, Earl Howe, to raise a temple worthy of Him for whose honour it is built. We regret to hear that Lord Howe was prevented by illness from being present on this interesting occasion. May his valuable life long be spared, that he may have the privilege of witnessing the good effects of this most munificent offering to his Saviour, his Church, and his country. The living has been presented, by the Noble Founder, to the Rev. Edward Bickersteth, M.A., formerly Curate of Holy Cross and St. Giles, Shrewsbury.

Bucks Herald, 5th May, 1848


King Edward VII visit to Penn Street

On the evening of January 16th 1902, the day of the opening of Parliament, King Edward left London by train, for Penn House, Buckinghamshire, the seat of Earl Howe. On Friday the King had an excellent day’s sport. His Majesty was accompanied by Earl Howe, Earl de Grey, Viscount Curzon, Lord Herbert Vane-Tempest, the Hon. H. Stonor, Mr. A. Sassoon, and General Sir Stanley Clarke. Game was plentiful and his Majesty was very fortunate in choice of position, securing a number of fine birds. A record bag for the Penn preserves was the result of the day’s outing, 1,203 pheasants, twenty partridges, ten hares, and twenty rabbits being brought down.

Luncheon was served early in the afternoon in a tent close to Penn Farm, where most of the ladies of the house party joined the shooters. On Sunday his Majesty attended divine service at Penn Street Church with the members of the house party.

King Edward VII Shooting Party 1902

The visit was reported in great detail in the local newspaper, with details of the shooting party, the King’s visit to Penn Street church on the Sunday morning, a drive around High Wycombe in the King’s motor car on Sunday afternoon, and the King’s departure to Windsor on Tuesday morning.

Click here to open an image of the newspaper report,
(PDF file 3Mb opens in new window)

The visit was also reported in ‘The Sphere’ magazine of 20th January, 1902.

Click the link or image below to open the page from The Sphere as a PDF file, (opens a new browser tab). King Edward VII visit to Penn Street 1902

The description of the church and the view from the tower, “The church stands on very high ground, the top of the church tower being 600ft above sea level.  Windsor castle is easily seen from the tower”, reads as if the author may have mistakenly included a description of Holy Trinity, Penn, rather than Holy Trinity, Penn Street, which sits in a slight hollow in Penn woods.