We use cookies to improve your experience, some are essential for the operation of this site.

St Michael, Chenies, Buckinghamshire

(51°40′30″N, 0°31′55″W)
TQ 016 984
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Buckinghamshire
now Buckinghamshire
  • Ron Baxter
17 September 2006

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=3735.

Find out how to cite the CRSBI website here.


Chenies is a village in E Buckinghamshire, within half a mile of the Hertfordshire border and under three miles E of Amersham. The village stands on rising ground on the S bank of the river Chess with the church at its heart and Chenies manor, an attractive brick manor whose oldest parts date from the 1460s, immediately to the W. Despite the proximity of such commuter towns as Amersham and Chalfont, and the main rail link to London running nearby, Chenies has sustained an attractive village character. The Chess valley here is heavily wooded and largely given to pasture.

St Michael’s consists of a nave with no clerestory but a S aisle, extended alongside the chancel by A. J. Pilkington in 1896-97 to form a S organ chamber, a W tower and, running the entire length of the N side of the church, the Bedford Chapel begun in 1556. The church dates largely from a reconstruction begun in 1479 that continued for 30 years; Sir David Philip, then resident in the manor at his death in 1506, left £4 in his will to “fynyshe my building of the parish church of Chenies”. The 4-bay S arcade is of this date. The Bedford chapel was built in 1556 by Anne, Countess of Bedford according to the will of her husband, Sir John Russell, the first earl. It communicates with the church via three glazed arches, one in the chancel and two in the nave, and is, according to Pevsner, “the richest storehouse of funeral monuments in any parish church of England.” Unfortunately this treasure-chest is not accessible to the casual visitor, nor are the monuments easily visible from the nave, since the chapel lights can only be turned on from inside it. The chapel has been enlarged several times since the 16thc. In 1861-62 Henry Clutton extended the vault northwards under the churchyard; in 1886-87 the chapel itself was extended westwards with a vault below by A. Macpherson of Derby, and a N aisle was added and the chapel extended to the E by Bodley in 1906-07. The west tower has diagonal west buttresses and a polygonal turret taller than the tower at the SE angle, a common Buckinghamshire feature. It is fitted with large Perpendicular bell-openings and has a battlemented parapet with gargoyles at the angles. The church is constructed of flint rubble, and the 19thc churchyard wall is of knapped flint and ashlar chequerwork. The church itself was restored twice in the 19thc; by Clutton (1861-62) and Macpherson (1886-87). Vestiges of the pre-15thc church survive in the 12thc font, one of the Aylesbury group, and a loose 12thc volute capital.


Chenies was known as Isenhampstead in the 12thc, and as Isenhampstead Chenies from the 13thc because of its connection with the Cheyne family. It was not recorded by name in the Domesday Survey, and the earliest notice of it occurred in 1165, when it was held for a knight’s fee by Alexander of Isenhampstead. In 1232 Alexander Cheyne presented to the church, and he may have been a successor. The manor remained in the Cheyne family until the death without issue of Sir John Cheyne in 1468. It passed to his widow, Agnes, and on her death to her niece Anne, wife of David Philip. Anne’s grand-daughter, another Anne, married Lord John Russell, a favourite of Henry VIII, in 1526. Russell was made Earl of Bedford in 1550 and buried in the mausoleum described above.

The advowson of the church has apparently always gone with the lordship of the manor. The church is now part of the benefice of Chenies and Little Chalfont, Latimer and Flaunden.




Loose Sculpture


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. The closest to Chenies is Great Kimble, which has a similar upper band of medallions formed by interlacing stems and filled with foliage forms, although these are more elaborate at Great Kimble. The base at Great Kimble is a double scallop rather than a cushion, but like Chenies it has decorative forms in relief in the angle tucks. These sophisticated 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 loose capital is of a similar date on the evidence of its notched leaves similar to waterleaf and its tall and slender profile. Its size and its structure, carved on three faces, suggest that it was set against a wall, as on a blind arcade.


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

K. Goodearl, The Aylesbury Fonts, www.petergoodearl.co.uk/ken/aylesburyfonts/index.htm.

M. Thurlby, 'Fluted and Chalice-Shaped: The Aylesbury Group of Fonts', Country Life, CLXXI, 1982, 228-29.

M. Thurlby, The Place of St Albans in Regional Sculpture and Architecture in the Second Half of the Twelfth Century, M. Henig & P. Lindley (ed.), Alban and St Albans. Roman and Medieval Architecture, Art and Archaeology. , British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions XXIV). Leeds 2001, 162-75.

VCH, Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. III , London 1925, 199-203.

N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire. London 1960, 2nd ed, London 1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 40, 228-33.