High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire – All Saints’

Thursday 16 August 2019. We are in High Wycombe, having been to see Taming of the Shrew at Stratford last night, and off to see Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre later today. We went for a walk into the town. All Saints’ church was wonderful. It’s at SU865930 and has a website – http://www.allsaintshighwycombe.org/ . Proper, inclusive, grown-up Christianity, which includes heritage, music, arts and spirituality on its website. It opens its building with the Mustard Seed café – they were very welcoming indeed. Disabled access was very easy – loos too. I only had my phone on me, so I’m sorry these photos are not brilliant. Go and pay High Wycombe a visit!

William of Malmesbury writes that St Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester, regularly passed through the town en route to London. He was licensed by the Bishop of Lincoln to consecrate a new church built by Smertlin, a wealthy resident whose land-holdings are mentioned in Domesday – 1087 has been suggested as the date (he is remembered in a statue – for All Saints they have a study afternoon looking at all their saints). In 1273 the Bishop of Lincoln offered an indulgence to those who helped rebuild the church, and much of the Norman work was replaced. The nave is huge. The chairs work  very well. I didn’t take a photo of the tables at the west end as there were too many people in the café. The tower is C16 and has a ring of 14 bells – that must be worth hearing.

You enter the church at the west end, then I worked my way round clockwise. The font is Victorian, and the light raises a rather boring Victorian font to something worth looking at (does the colour change with the liturgical season?). I can’t remember the significance of the elephant.

The Parish Chest is C16. The memorial is to 2nd Lieut. Frederick Youens – he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross (I wonder if that did anything to soothe his mother’s grief?) – worth reading http://www.lightinfantry.me.uk/vcfyouens7.htm

The window was given by Dame Frances Dove in 1932, the first woman to be elected to the Borough Council in 1932. She was refused the mayoralty because of her gender, so had this window – featuring 32 famous women – installed in the church, just by the Mayor’s chair. That is the way to make a protest!

The organ is a Henry Willis of 1930, but now needs £350,000 to get it working properly again. Some lovely carving.

I walked up beside it in to the NE aisle to have a good look at the Shelburne Memorial by the Flemish sculptor Peter Scheemakers (1754) commemorating Henry Petty, first Earl of Shelburne, and his wife Arabella. When Henry died, his title lapsed because his six children and grandson, all shown on the memorial, had pre-deceased him. I like the books too.

There are other good memorials – how many words could they write about Philadelphia? – and in the window is glass commemorating the negotiations between William Petty (Prime Minister 1782-3) and Benjamin Franklin at the Treaty of Paris, which bought to an end the American War of Independence. The window was installed in 1990.

The South East chapel is rather nice, and I like the various memorials down the south side of the church. Note the memorial to Jacob Wheeler, a shoemaker who died in 1621.

I didn’t photo much of the stained glass, but I did like the colours in this one. It is also worth looking up to the roof of the Nave, and along the length of the church itself.

The Nave altar reredos was carved in 1922 as a memorial to the Town’s men who died in WW1. It was brought forward, along with the altar, in a re-ordering of 1993.

Having had a good explore, we patronised the café, used the facilities, smiled that the Christian name of the administrator is ‘Thistle’, and went and had a wander outside. Feeling very upbeat after a wonderful church visit, I was brought back down to earth by the sight of the homeless camp in the churchyard. Please don’t think I am criticising the church – I am not – but it makes me very angry that in rich C21 Britain we are OK with the number of homeless people in our Society.

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