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St John the Baptist, Preston Bissett, Buckinghamshire

(51°57′49″N, 1°2′37″W)
Preston Bissett
SP 658 299
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Buckinghamshire
now Buckinghamshire
  • Ron Baxter
12 June 2007

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Feature Sets

Preston Bissett is a good-sized village in the NW of the county, 3 miles SW of Buckingham in rolling countryside. The village clusters around the junction of three minor roads, with the church at the centre.

St John’s consists of a clerestoried, aisled nave with a S porch, a chancel and a W tower. The nave was heightened by the addition of the octofoil clerestory in the 19thc. Its aisles have 14thc windows, reticulated and flowing, and the 3-bay arcades on octagonal piers and the S doorway are of the same period. The porch is 19thc. The chancel is long and substantially of the 14thc with reticulated lateral windows and a 3-light E window with flowing tracery. The tower is short with a plain parapet. It may be 12thc in origin; it is of mixed coursed and uncoursed rubble and was originally unbuttressed, but the upper part was rebuilt with trefoil-headed bell-openings in the 13thc and diagonal buttresses were added, perhaps in the 14thc. Several carved stones have been set in the exterior E wall of the N aisle, including some 12thc pieces.


The manor was held by Ansgot de Rots from the Bishop of Bayeux in 1086. It consisted of 15 hides, meadow for 8 ploughs, woodland for 200 pigs and a mill, and had been held before the Conquest by Wiglaf, a man of Earl Leofwine. By the middle of the 13thc the overlordship had passed to the honour of “Chelefeud”, being held by the service of castle ward atRochestercastle. No reference to the overlordship has been found later than 1421. The next tenant of the manor known after Ansgot was William son of Helte, in the reign of Henry II. It then passed to a member of the Bissett family, probably Henry II’s dapifer Manasseh Bissett, who is associated with it in the 1150s and ‘60s. He was succeeded by Anselm Bissett, and the manor remained in this line until the middle of the 13thc, passing to the de Brok family around 1254 and remaining in that line until the end of the century. The church does not appear to have been attached to the manor, and the earliest known presentation was by Henry de Belesby in 1262. He was succeeded before 1307 by Henry de Greynsby, whose family held the advowson until 1403.

The parish is now in the Swan Team Ministry, i.e. Barton Hartshorn, Chetwode, Edgcott, Grendon Underwood, Marsh Gibbon, Preston Bissett, and Twyford.


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration


Reset stringcourse sections carved with frontal sawtooth, as on stone (i), are also found in the N chancel wall at Hoggeston, 10 miles to the E. The motif is also found on the N arcade labels at Tingewick, just 2 miles to the N, and further afield on the N doorway label at Stoke Goldington. The mortar is a standard design and could be of almost any date. The window heads are from small 12thc lancets, and the base profile is also 12thc. These stones suggest that there was a 12thc church on the site.


N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire.London 1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 600.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 2 (north).London 1913, 238-40.

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. IV (1927), 215-20.