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

All Saints, Wing, Buckinghamshire

(51°53′42″N, 0°43′21″W)
SP 880 226
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Buckinghamshire
now Buckinghamshire
  • Ron Baxter

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=9263.

Find out how to cite the CRSBI website here.


Wing is in the E of the county, in the ancient hundred of Cottesloe. It is a substantial settlement on the road from Aylesbury to Leighton Buzzard, 6 miles NE of Aylesbury and a mile from the Bedfordshire border. The village stands on a hill in the Vale of Aylesbury, with the church in the centre.

The church at Wing is one of the most important Anglo-Saxon churches in the country. Its precise chronology is a matter of some dispute, but it seems certain that there were at least two pre-Conquest campaigns. It consists of an aisled nave with N and S doorways under porches, a polygonal apse raised above a vaulted crypt, and a W tower. The following account of the building and its chronology is largely based on the conflicting published views of Fernie (1983) and Gem (2003). The 7-sided apse is decorated with tall thin pilaster strips at the angles, which carry semicircular blind arches. Above the arches can be seen the worn traces of triangular pediments. At ground level are arched windows into the crypt, enclosing niches inside. The crypt is vaulted; the vault carried on four rectangular masonry piers that define a central chamber surrounded by an ambulatory. The original entrance was via narrow passageways from the church, but these are now blocked and entrance is from the exterior on the S side. In Gem's account, the lower parts of the outer wall, including the crypt windows and their niches, may date from the 8thc. The upper part of the apse is a 9thc. rebuilding, and the crypt vault and ambulatory is either contemporary or slightly later. For Fernie the outer crypt walls are early 9thc. and the ambulatory and upper apse walls are late 10thc.

The central vessel of the nave is a narrow rectangle, almost three times as long as its width. High above the chancel arch at the E end is a double round-headed E window with arched heads divided by a central shaft; the only surviving Anglo-Saxon window in the nave and probably of c.1000. The nave walls rise to a height of 35 feet (10.7 m), and their upper parts are much thinner than the lower parts, with a sloping offset partway up the clerestory zone. This may represent an Anglo-Saxon heightening of walls that were originally lower, but there is no obvious change in construction on the exterior. The nave aisles, with a 3-bay arcade at the W end of the nave are an original feature of the church according to the accounts of Fernie (1983), the Taylors and Jackson & Fletcher. Gem, on the other hand says that they are not an original part of the building, and are an Anglo-Saxon or, at latest, an early Norman addition. 8th-9thc. fabric is certainly to be seen around the NE angle of the N aisle, including a blocked arch in the E wall. For Fernie this confirms that the entire aisle is early, while Gem suggests that there were side-chambers at the E end of each aisle in the original design. There is now a 4-bay arcade; the 3 western bays being round headed and carried on square piers with stepped imposts, while the E bay on either side is 13thc.-14thc. and represents a later piercing of the wall for chapels; St Katherine's on the S side and the Lady Chapel on the N. There are some traces of 12thc. work at Wing: the base of an Aylesbury-group font on the S porch and various loose stones. Two of these have chip-carved decoration and another is an engaged trefoil capital. There was much replacement of windows in the 14thc. and 15thc., and the S porch, bearing the arms of Mowbray and Rokes is 15thc. too. The 15thc. W tower is of three storeys with angle-buttresses and an embattled parapet. Dates have been added to the exterior clerestory walls in decorative ironwork ties, representing churchwardens' repairs in 1649, 1657, 1669 and 1792. The church was restored by George Gilbert Scott in 1850, by George Gilbert Scott junior in 1881 and by John Oldrid Scott in 1892-93. The 12thc. font base and loose stones are recorded in detail below. A pre-Conquest date has here been accepted for the arcades, but photographs of them are included for the sceptical.


The earliest reference to Wing appears in the will of Aelfgifu, a member of the West Saxon royal house, dateable between 966 and 975. She held the estate of Wing at that time, and could conceivably have had a hand in the building of the church. The first notice of the church dates from shortly after 1066, when the priest Goldric held it and its associated lands. In 1086 the manor of Wing was held by the Count of Mortain himself. It was assessed at 5 hides with meadow for 25 ploughs, and was a large vill with 51 villans and 20 bordars. Before the Conquest the manor was held by Ulf, a man of Earl Harold. The Mortain lands were forfeited to the crown in 1104. It was held by Hugh Talbot in the 12thc., and by his descendant Quintin before 1198. Henry fitzGerald held it in 1218 and the Lady Ermentrude in 1234 and 1235. Later lords of the manor came from the families of Talbot (before 1239, 1247), de Warenne (before 1239, 1304, 1328) and Arundel (1331, 1376).

The church meanwhile had been given to the Benedictine abbey of St Nicholas, Angers by Bodin de Ver some time before 1086, and in 1216 the Abbot of St Nicholas arranged that the office of Vicar of Wing should be funded from the church revenues, although he retained the right of presentation. This suggests that it had previously served as a minster church, and now became a parish church. The possessions of St Nicholas, Angers passed to the Priory of St Mary de Pre at St Albans during the Hundred Years' War. After the dissolution of St Mary de Pre in 1528 the priory's rights in Wing were acquired by Robert Dormer, who had acquired the manor in 1515. The Dormers became Earls of Caernarvon in 1628, but the direct line failed at the beginning of the 18thc. The parish is now in the benefice of Wing with Grove.



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. Of these the closest to the base at Wing are Aylesbury itself, Great Kimble and Bledlow, all of which have double-scallop bases with foliage decoration. 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 trefoil capital probably came from a doorway with nook-shafts. The trefoil form is found as early as c.1130 at Reading Abbey, but the combination of trefoil shields and flat-leaf cones suggests a later date, perhaps as late as c1160-80. The two chip-carved stones are enigmatic. Their decoration points to a date around 1100, and if they were not shaped at the back they could have come from a tympanum or a lintel. It may be that the shaping represents a reuse of the stones as vault springers.

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. III (1925), 449-58.
C. S. Drake, The Romanesque Fonts of Northern Europe and Scandinavia. London, 2002, 26-27, 175.
E. C. Fernie, The Architecture of the Anglo-Saxons. London 1983, 69-71, 121.
E. D. C. Jackson & E. G. M. Fletcher, "The Apse and Nave at Wing," Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 3rd series XXV (1962), 1-20.
R. Gem, All Saints Church Wing. Much Wenlock 2003.
K. Goodearl, The Aylesbury fonts (web resource),
RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 2 (north). London 1913, 331-35.
H. M. & J. Taylor, Anglo-Saxon Architecture. Cambridge, 3 vols, II, 1965, 665-72.
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.
N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire. London 1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 749-52.