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St Peter, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire

(51°42′1″N, 0°41′56″W)
Great Missenden
SP 900 010
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Buckinghamshire
now Buckinghamshire
  • Ron Baxter
27 February 2007

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Feature Sets

Great Missenden is a village towards the S of the county, 4 miles NW of Amersham in theChiltern hills. The village extends for 2 miles along the valley of the river Misbourne; the High Street with the station and most of the residential area being on the W bank, while the church stands on the steeply-rising opposite bank, beyond the A413 Aylesbury to Amersham road that bypasses the village on its E side. The church stands in wooded land with Rook Wood some 300 yards to the S, and in the wood is Rook Wood Castle, a medieval enclosure with a ditch and bank that may have been a timber castle, and was occupied in the 12thc (pottery finds). The site of Missenden Abbey is 0.3 mile S of the church.

The church has an aisled nave with 4-bay 14thc arcades and a 15thc clerestory. The S aisle is wider than the N, and both aisles have 15thc windows. The E nave aisle bays on either side is in fact a transept, which dates from the 14thc, with one flowing tracery window in the S transept, two windows of c.1300 in the N transept, and other windows dating from the 15thc. The chancel is 14thc, with an elaborate wall arcade on the S and life-sized figures of St Peter andSt Paulin niches on the E wall. To the N of the chancel is a 19thc vestry. The embattled W tower has been broadened to the S, giving it a markedly rectangular plan. Construction is of small flints, and the nave clerestory and chancel walls are mortar rendered. The only Romanesque feature is the font, of the Aylesbury type.


The Domesday Survey records that the manor was held by Sigeraed son of Aelfgifu, a thegn of Edward the Confessor, before the Conquest. In 1086 it was held by Turstin fitzRolf from Walter Giffard, and consisted of 10 hides of ploughland, meadow for 2 ploughs and woodland for 500 pigs. This Walter Giffard was probably created Earl of Buckingham by William II and died in 1102, leaving a son, Walter, who died childless in 1164. The Giffard lands remained with the crown until 1191, when they were restored by Richard I to Walter’s nearest heirs, the descendants of Rohais, the sister of the 1st earl. The two claimants in 1191 were Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford and William Marshal. The latter received the Giffard lands inEngland, and when his line failed in 1245 the Giffrad part of his estate passed to the Clares, Earls of Gloucester. The patronage of the church was held by the lord of the manor (i.e. the sub-tenants) until it was given by William of Missenden to the abbey of Arroasian canons at Great Missenden that he founded in 1133, as part of its original endowment. A market and a fair were said, in 1367, to have been granted by King Henry III to Joan, late wife of Hugh de Sanford at some time in his reign, but as she had never used the rights, King Edward III granted them to Thomas de Mussenden, tenant of the manor, in that year.

The parish is now in the benefice of Great Missenden with Ballinger and Little Hampden.





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. Of the other fonts in the group, the Great Missenden font base is closest to Weston Turville, which also has a cushion base but is generally more elaborately carved, and to its neighbour at Little Missenden, where a motif similar to those on the S and W faces of this font appear.


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

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

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.” in 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, esp. 164-67, 173.

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. I (1905), 369-76 (on Missenden abbey).

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. II (1908), 347-53.

E. C. Vollans, “The Evolution of Farm-Lands in the Central Chilterns in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries”, Transactions and Papers (Institute of British Geographers), No. 26. (1959), 197-241.