Thursday, 4 July 2013

Buckingham, Buckinghamshire

Given how pretty Buckingham, well old Buckingham, is SS Peter & Paul is a serious disappointment. It looks OK from a distance but it's soon apparent that this C18th building suffered a poor Victorian re-hash by Scott which has left little interest.

SS Peter & Paul (3)


Glass (2)

There is a fascinating black and white house whose timbers were put together in Tudor days; and another is the manor house, with 16th century twisted chimneys recalling those at Hampton Court. The house has witnessed melancholy scenes. Fronting it stood the old church which, first losing its crumbling spire, next lost its tower, and at last altogether lost itself in ruin. Only its ancient churchyard remains, with tombs overgrown by ivy and cherubs on forgotten stones, forlorn amid flowers growing wild in the shade of pines and cypresses. The stump of the old cross moulders in this solitude.

Between the old church and the new are the almshouses founded 500 years ago by John Barton, renewed under Queen Anne, and rebuilt in our time. The new church, surrounded by limes and wide green verges, is on the site of a Saxon castle whose stone-lined well has been found. A striking building, the buttresses and windows of the church are richly carved. The ribs of the vaulted roof rest on pillars of stone and marble alternately. Over the west door is a great shield carved with a swan (an emblem we see in gold on the clock tower of the town hall).

The east window, put up in 1890 by the Buckingham Needle and Thread Society, represents the Te Deum, and its great pageant of life and colour shows in finely balanced groups the apostles, prophets, martyrs, and other figures in the great hymn of praise and jubilee. For half a century this admirable society, parent of many fellowships friendly to cathedrals, has existed solely to enrich the church. They can do nothing finer than their window, which, apart from historic buildings, is the pride of the town; but they have added a charming reredos showing the Nativity, some excellent panelling, and a beautiful altar frontal, all harmonising perfectly with their chief gift.

A literary treasure of the church is a Latin manuscript Bible, written 600 years ago in beautiful characters, the rich reds and blues of the capital letters standing out brilliantly against the quieter red of the text. It was presented to the church in 1471 by John Rudying, a remarkable man with a remarkable brass at Biggleswade in Bedfordshire. Formerly chained to a desk in the old church, the Bible was stolen and long lost, and was recovered at last by Browne Willis, the 18th century antiquary. It is now preserved under glass.

There is a good copy of Raphael’s Transfiguration in the chancel, and in the Children’s Corner is a duplicate of a Raphael Madonna. From the old church little was saved - four bench-ends with tracery and poppyheads by Tudor craftsmen, one bench of 1626, and two 17th century chests. The Buckinghamshire Hussars have a stone memorial on a wall, and below it is the Book of Remembrance, with the names that live for evermore.

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