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St Mary, Saunderton, Buckinghamshire

(51°42′36″N, 0°50′57″W)
SP 796 019
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Buckinghamshire
now Buckinghamshire
  • Ron Baxter
09 July 2007

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Feature Sets

Saunderton is a dispersed hamlet on the northern edge of theChiltern Hills, in the east of south Buckinghamshire. The hamlet is 1 mile SW of Princes Risborough and 1½ miles E of the Oxfordshire border. The church stands alongsideChurch Farm Road, once a coach road toLondon.

The church is 19thc and of flint, consisting of a nave with a S porch and a short, shingled bell turret with a conical spire, also shingled, set towards the W end of the roof ridge; and a chancel with a N vestry and organ room. Inside there is no chancel arch, but the narrower chancel is divided from the nave by a wooden screen with reticulated tracery. The original church on the site became unsafe owing to the dampness of the ground, and was demolished and entirely rebuilt on the old foundations in 1886-88, using the old materials as far as was possible. The Y-tracery of the nave and chancel windows point to a date of c.1300 for the old church, or at least to a major rebuilding around that time. The only Romanesque feature is the font; related to the Aylesbury group but of lower quality.


There were two manors in Saunderton before the Conquest, one held by a man of Earl Leofric, the other by Alric, a man of Earl Harold. After the Conquest, the first passed to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and was held from him by Roger in 1086. It consisted of 5 hides, 1 mill, meadow for 1 plough-team and woodland for 50 pigs. Alric’s manor had passed to Miles Crispin by 1086, and was held from him by Osbert. It was also of 5 hides, with 2 mills, meadow for 1 plough-team and woodland for 50 pigs.

By 1215, Odo’s manor was called Saunderton St Mary and Miles Crispin’s Saunderton St Nicholas. Saunderton St Mary pertained to the honour of Leicester before 1235, and passed to that ofLancaster. The tenants took the name Saunderton as early as the mid-12thc, when Robert, son of Osbert de Saunderton was tenant. By 1215 the tenancy had passed to another Osbert, presumably Robert’s heir, and he was still alive in 1247. It remained in this family until 1452, when William Saunderton conveyed it to John Brecknock and others. Meanwhile Miles Crispin’s manor pertained to the Honour of Wallingford, and later that of Ewelme. The tenancy had passed to Roger de Sanford by 1215, and at his death around 1235 it was divided between his three daughters, Emma, wife of William Beauchamp, Joan, wife of Henry Dayrell, and Maud, wife of John “medicus”, this manor later being named Bromes or Brown’s Manor. Bromes manor had passed to John Brecknock and others by 1459, and was thus in the same hands as Saunderton St Mary.

There were two churches, St Mary’s and St Nicholas’s by 1215, and their advowsons passed with the manor in which they were situated. After 1235 the advowson of St Nicholas was divided between the holders of Dayrell’s and Bromes manor, who presented alternately. The rectories were combined to form the rectory of St Mary and St Nicholas in 1535.

The parish of Saunderton was amalgamated with Bledlow and Horsenden in 1973, and in 1998 the joint parish became part of the Risborough Team Ministry. This consists of four parishes: Princes Risborough with Ilmer; Monks Risborough with Owlswick; Lacey Green with Speen and Loosely Row; and Bledlow with Saunderton and Horsenden.





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. The Saunderton font may be compared with those at Chearsley and Buckland, of which the last is the most proficient.


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, 276-77.

P. Smith, Saint Mary and Saint Nicholas Church, Saunderton, Buckinghamshire, church guide 2006.

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. III (1925), 92-95.