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St Mary, Shenley Church End, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

(52°1′20″N, 0°47′19″W)
Shenley Church End, Milton Keynes
SP 832 367
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Buckinghamshire
now Milton Keynes
  • Ron Baxter
12 June 2007

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The development of Milton Keynes that was to absorb the village of Shenley Church End did not begin until the mid-1980s, and it is now on the SW edge of that conurbation. Its name, along with that of Shenley Brook End to the S, indicates that the medieval village was in a forest clearing, and indeed part of Shenley Wood survives to the W. Although the area is dominated by the curving streets and pastiche houses of the New Town, it retains a further trace of its medieval past in the motte, called the Toot, to the S of the church.

The church is cruciform with a central tower, aisled and clerestoried nave with a S porch, transepts, and chancel with a N vestry. Romanesque interest centres on the chancel, of c.1200 with windows with nook-shafts inside and out and the remains of a vault in the form of a corbelled wall-shaft with elaborate capitals. The presence of a blocked plain 12thc lancet in the E wall of the S transept suggests that the present chancel is not the original one. The S arcade is crude work of c.1200 or a few years later, certainly not by the sophisticated workshop responsible for the chancel. The N arcade is later still. Both arcades are of 4 bays, and their E bays were cut back when heavy buttresses were inserted to support the crossing tower. All details of this are 15thc, and it must have been rebuilt at that time. The aisle windows are 14thc, as are those of the clerestory, and the latter are more elaborate on the S side than the N (as are the chancel windows). These facts, together with the presence of a S porch, indicates that this was the side of normal approach originally, but now the church is approached from the N and worshippers must walk around it to gain entry. The N vestry was added in the 19thc. Features recorded here are the chancel windows and vaulting shaft and the S nave arcade.


Two manors in Shenley Church End (Senelai) were held by Burgheard, a housecarl of Edward the Confessor, before the Conquest. In 1086 both were held by Hugh from Earl Hugh ofChester. The first was of 2 hides with meadow sufficient for 5 plough-teams and enough woodland for 50 pigs. The second was of 5 hides with meadow for 5 plough-teams and woodland for 50 pigs. In neither case was a church or a priest mentioned. From Hugh these two manors passed as a single estate to the Maunsell family, being held by William Maunsell in 1167 and Thomas Maunsell in 1198. Thomas presented to the church in 1223 and 1229.

The parish now belongs to the Watling Valley Ecumenical Partnership, including Shenley Church End, Loughton, Tattenhoe, Two Mile Ash and Furzton.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

String courses

Interior Features



Vaulting/Roof Supports


Interior Decoration

String courses

It is regrettable that the 1980s development of this part of Milton Keynes was not planned to take account of the medieval topography of the church, with its carefully planned approach from the south. The presence of a plain window in the S transept suggests that there was an earlier 12thc cruciform church on the site. When aisles were added, between the start of the 13thc and the 14thc, the arcades must have fitted the available space, and at some time in the 15thc the tower was replaced with the present one. The care taken to buttress the new tower, at the expense of the arcades, suggests that the old one fell down. The original chancel is likely to have been much shorter than the present one, which is one of the highpoints of sculpture at the end of the 12thc in the county. It was originally roofed with a two-bay quadripartite rib vault. A deliberate feature of the interior of the chancel is that each window was made to a slightly different design. The use of shaft-swallowers, as on the vault support, also appears at Leckhampstead, 7 miles to the W. A puzzling feature is the mismatch between the crudeness of the S arcade and the sophisticated virtuosity of the chancel, especially as the two must be fairly close in date. Like Pevsner I am inclined to date the arcade slightly later than the chancel, on account of its waterholding bases, pointed arches and moulded capitals: it may be as late as 1210.

As with all the Milton Keynes villages it is worth comparing the description in the first edition of Pevsner (1960), with that in the revision of 1994.


N. Pevsner, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire. London1960, 234-35.

N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings ofEngland: Buckinghamshire.London 1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 546-47.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 2 (north).London1913.

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. IV (1927), 445-51.