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St Michael, Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire

(51°50′48″N, 0°55′37″W)
SP 740 170
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Buckinghamshire
now Buckinghamshire
  • Ron Baxter
28 February 2008

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Waddesdon is a good-sized village 5 miles NW of Aylesbury on the Roman road ofAkeman Street. The village is dominated by Waddesdon Manor, on a Lodge Hill to the W, but there was no medieval manor house here; the present house, built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild from 1874-80, was the first on the site, and Rothschild built the present village to the E of the old village centre at the same time. Nevertheless evidence of continuous settlement here goes back to the bronze age. The church stands in the centre of the old village, opposite the gates to the manor, on the N side of the A41 which approximately follows the line ofAkeman Streetthrough the village. St Michael’s is a large church with an aisled nave with S porch, chancel and W tower. The nave is late-12thc, with an elaborate S doorway under a 14thc porch, rebuilt in 1902. The nave aisles are of six bays with clerestory windows above the piers. The N arcade is uniform, with the octagonal piers, finely moulded capitals and convex chamfered arch orders typical of the first years of the 14thc, and the use of forms of Y-tracery in most of the aisle windows confirms this dating. The S arcade, however, reveals a more complex history. The two E bays, including pier 1 but not pier 2, have the same design as the N arcade. The next three bays also have pointed arches, but with late-12thc details, the piers are cylindrical and the capitals are scalloped. Then pier 5 has a roughly moulded capital of a mid-13thc type, and the arch of bay 6 has deep double chamfers, also diagnostically mid-13thc. Finally the W respond returns to the scalloped design of piers 2-4. What this suggests is that a 12thc arcade of four bays (the present bays 2-5) was extended westwards by a bay in the 13thc; the W respond being reused n the new W wall, a new being pier inserted (pier 5) on the line of the old E wall and a new arch built (bay 6). Then in the early 14thc the aisle was extended by a bay to the E, the original pier 1 being retained as the new pier 2, and the arch of the old bay 1 being rebuilt in the new style. Piers 2, 3 and 4 have (or had) slim shafts rising from the impost blocks on the nave face, terminating in small scallop capitals, but carrying nothing. Small statues are a possibility, or transverse arches or, perhaps likeliest, roof trusses. The clerestory is 15thc, and its insertion, together with the raising of the nave walls and flattening of the roofline, was presumably responsible for the loss of the original trusses, supported by the shafts above the pier capitals.

The chancel dates from the early 14thc campaign, being rebuilt a bay further east than the 12thc chancel. The tower is of the late 14thc, with Perpendicular bell-openings, a polygonal SE stair with a battlemented turret rising higher than the main parapet, and angle buttresses at the W. It was taken down and rebuilt in 1891-92. A sign of an early restoration is given by the rainwater heads, dated 1736, and the church was completely restored during the incumbency of Richard Burges (1859-67). The nave and chancel are mortar rendered, and the tower is of irregular ashlar blocks. Romanesque sculpture is found on the S doorway and S nave arcade.


The manor of Waddesdon was held by Beorhtric, a thegn of Edward the Confessor, before the Conquest. He was dispossessed by the Conqueror’s queen Maud, and by 1087 it had passed to Miles Crispin, who had a manor house here but whose main dwelling was atWallingford(Berks). The overlordship of Waddesdon manor descended with the honour ofWallingford. Henry II granted the tenancy of Waddesdon manor to Henry of Oxford, and after Henry’s death (before 1167) to Reynold Courtenay. Reynold married Hawise, coheir of the Earl of Devon, between 1173 and 1178, and settled Waddesdon on his wife’s half-sister Maud as a dowry when she married a relative of his. After Maud’s death, c.1224, Waddesdon reverted to Robert Courtenay (d.1242), heir of Reynold and Hawise.

By the early 13thc Waddesdon rectory was a prebend in Lincoln cathedral, held in three portions, the advowson of each descending with the manor of Waddesdon. This situation lasted until 1874. The parish is now part of the Schorne team benefice, i.e. Dunton, Granborough, Hardwick, Hoggeston, North Marston, Oving with Pitchcott, Waddesdon with Over Winchendon and Fleet Marston, and Whitchurch with Creslow.


Exterior Features


Interior Features



The nave arcade of Waddesdon contains the finest display of elaborate trumpet-scallop capitals in the county. Those on the south doorway appear to be simpler products of the same workshop, and their drilled shields relate them to capitals on the chancel arch at Ickford, and in the nave arcades at Cuddington. A date in the last two decades of the 12thc is suggested.


A. E. Hawkins, Waddesdon and the Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels. Church guide, Waddesdon 1989, 3rd ed. 2002.

C. O. Moreton, History of Waddesdon and Over Winchendon.London 1929.

N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire.London 1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 707-08.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 1 (south).London 1912, 301-04.

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. IV (1927), 107-18.