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St Dunstan, Monks Risborough, Buckinghamshire

(51°43′56″N, 0°49′26″W)
Monks Risborough
SP 813 044
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Buckinghamshire
now Buckinghamshire
  • Ron Baxter
27 February 2007

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Feature Sets

Monks Risborough is in central Buckinghamshire, in the Chiltern Hills 6 miles S of Aylesbury on the A4010 road toHigh Wycombe. It now forms the northern part of the Princes Risborough conurbation. The two Risboroughs became a single civil parish in 1934, and were physically united when theWellingtonand Place Farm estates were completed in 1965. The old centre of Monks Risborough consists of the church, a 16thc dovecote and a group of picturesque thatched, timber-framed houses.

The church consists of an aisled and clerestoried nave with 4-bay arcades, a N transept in bay 1 of the nave aisle, a chancel with a 19thc organ room to the N, and a W tower. The building dates substantially from the 13thc, 14thc and 15thc; the transept being all that remains of the 13thc work, and the nave arcades and the W tower belonging to the 14thc. Construction is of flint, and the entire building was restored byG. E. Streetin 1863-64. The only Romanesque sculpture here is the Aylesbury-type font.


Monks Risborough belonged to the monks of Christ Church Canterbury by the end of the 10thc, evidence for which is found in a royal charter of 994 by Aethelred to Aescwig, Bishop of Dorchester confirming his possession of 30 hides of land there that had been sold to him by Archbishop Sigeric (990-94) to raise money to pay off the Danes threatening Canterbury (S.882). The land was returned to Archbishop Aelfric in 995 (S.1378), andCanterbury’s possessions in Monks Risborough confirmed by a royal charter of 1002 (S.914).

The Domesday Survey records that in 1086 it was held by Archbishop Lanfranc and was assessed at 30 hides with meadow for 6 ploughs and woodland for 300 pigs. In the Confessor’s time Esger the staller had held it fromChristChurch. The monks ofChristChurchheld the manor until the Dissolution.

The parish now belongs to the Risborough Team ministry, which consists of four parishes: Princes Risborough with Ilmer; Monks Risborough with Owlswick; Lacey Green with Speen and Loosely Row; and Bledlow with Saunderton and Horsenden.





The font belongs to a group of 22 (according to Pevsner) centred on Aylesbury, of which thirteen (not all complete) are in Buckinghamshire. These are at Aylesbury, Bledlow, Buckland, Chearsley, Chenies, Great Kimble, Great Missenden, Linslade, Little Missenden, Monks Risborough, Pitstone, Weston Turville and Wing. Of these the finest are at Aylesbury, Chenies, Great Kimble, Great Missenden (base only), Weston Turville and Wing (base only). Others in the group have shallower or less complex carving, while a further three in the county, at Ludgershall, Saunderton and Haddenham, are less adept copies of the design. Outside Buckinghamshire there are related fonts at Duston and Eydon in Northants, and at Barton-le-Clay, Dunstable, Flitwick and Houghton Regis in Bedfordshire. These fonts are normally dated late in the 12thc, c.1170-90. Thurlby suggests, on the basis of comparisons of foliage forms on the Aylesbury and Weston Turville fonts with sculpture at St Alban’s Abbey dating from the abbacy of Simon (1167-83), and on the resemblance between these fonts and liturgical chalices, that the sculptors were copying St Albans metalwork, perhaps of the kind produced by one Master Baldwin according to an account by Matthew Paris.

The Monks Risborough font is unusual in that its bowl and collar are of a hard, shelly stone rather than the normal soft clunch, and this may explain the relative shallowness of the carving and the lack of decoration on the collar. The presence of a stem is unusual in the group. It is in a different stone (clunch) and is probably 13thc like the water-holding base and the plinth. There are close similarities with the font at Bledlow, and Pevsner suggests that both are by the same carver. The decoration of the upper band is perhaps best understood as a simplification of the more deeply carved and sophisticated forms of the Great Kimble font.


P. H. Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters: an Annotated List and Bibliography.London 1968, S.882, S.914, S.1378. Available online at The Electronic Sawyer (http://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/sdk13/chartwww/eSawyer.99/eSawyer2.html)

C. S. Drake, The Romanesque Fonts of Northern Europe and Scandinavia.London, 2002, 26-27, 175.

N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire.London 1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 570-71.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 1 (south).London 1912, 257-59.

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. II (1908), 256-60.