721/4/25 CHURCH GREEN ROAD
CHURCH OF ST MARY
Late C12 origins: rebuilt C13-C15; reordered 1704-07 by Browne Willis; restored 1838 by William White; re-ordered late C20.
Limestone rubble, lead roofs.
Chancel with N chapel, nave with N and S aisles and S porch, W tower.
The church is embattled throughout and is largely Perpendicular in appearance, with some Decorated windows and doorways. The chancel has a fine Decorated-style E window, entirely renewed in the C19, and two C19 Perpendicular style windows in the S wall and a C19 doorway. The N chapel E window is early C14 with renewed, Decorated tracery, and there are traces of another C14 window in the N wall, but otherwise the chapel and N aisle windows are late C15. The N aisle has a late C14 N door. The C15 nave clerestory has four windows on each side, each with three lights.
The E window of the S aisle is c.1330 and has good Decorated tracery; the S aisle W window is C15, and there are two late Perpendicular style windows in the S wall. The S door is curious. The inner part of the opening has continuous mouldings and is probably late C13; the outer orders have rich Romanesque mouldings including beakhead, and may be a former chancel arch or doorway reset and remodelled in the late C13. The S porch was apparently rebuilt in the C19, but has a C14 outer opening. The C15 W tower is of three stages, and has a NW diagonal buttress, a SW stair turret rising above the parapet and a large Perpendicular W window.
The interior has very complete medieval fabric of the late C13-C15, and good medieval roofs.
Late C13 chancel arch, the inner order on moulded capitals, and contemporary S arcade of 4 bays, with chamfered arches and moulded capitals and bases. Blocked late C13 clerestory with foiled circle openings above the arcade. A former rood loft door survives on the S side.
Two-bay chancel N arcade with ballflower decoration on the central capital. The arcade does not extend the full length of the chancel, and a small C14 door at the E end of the arcade into the chapel indicates that both arches of the arcade were intended, as now, to be blocked by tombs. A blocked, trefoil-headed squint next to the door. C14 arch between the chapel and N aisle with recut head corbels. Both the chancel arcade and the arch to the aisle are blocked by late C20 timber and glazed screens for the service area.
C14 N arcade of 4 bays, increasing in length towards the W. The E respond has a C14 head corbel and the W respond capital, possibly reset, has stylised flowers. The third pier has a C15 capital. C15 tower arch with polygonal responds, and C15 clerestory. There is a small, probably C19 timber gallery with a glazed, traceried screen below in the tower arch.
Excellent roofs. The C15 N chapel roof has moulded purlins and ridge. The E bay has some C19 decoration. The C15 nave roof has mould purlins and principals, with arch braced tie-beams on short posts on timber corbels. The C15 S aisle roof also has moulded purlins and principals, with arched tie beams. The N aisle roof is an unusual design with large open arch braces on C14 or C15 stone corbels just above the arcade capitals. The posts have unusual terminations with stop chamfers and crenellations, and are probably C17. The S porch roof has been renewed, but retains some C15 moulded beams.The chancel roof is dated 1953, and is similar to that in the N chapel.
Late C13 or early C14 piscina and sedilia in chancel, with four arches carried on attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. Trefoil-headed piscina, C14, in N chapel. Very plain font, possibly C17, with a circular bowl. The octagonal cover is early C17 and has a spire with arabesques. Interesting and rare poor box of 1637. Possibly C17 wooden lock on inside of S door. Good C19 and early C20 glass including E window of 1868, designed by Henry Holiday for Powell and Sons.
Several interesting monuments. Richard, Lord Grey de Wilton, d. 1442, an excellent, armoured alabaster effigy on a chest panelled with quatrefoils. A C17 helm hangs next to it. A table tomb in the chancel to Katherine, wife of Browne Willis, d. 1724. Both are unfortunately partially hidden by an inserted floor in the sanctuary and by the screens for the service area. Thomas Sparke, rector, d.1616 a small and highly unusual brass by Richard Haydocke showing a bust on a tomb chest surrounded by allegorical and other figures, texts and arabesque ornament, set within an alabaster strapwork frame. A small, fragmentary, late C16 monument with coloured alabaster effigies of a man and eight children is said to have been brought by Browne Willis from Deptford church. Other monuments to members of the Willis¿ family. The church was refurnished in the late C20 with furnishings and chairs for seating.
A church probably existed here in the C12, and earliest surviving fabric, the C12 voussoirs over the S door, probably came from a former door or perhaps the chancel arch. Otherwise the church was wholly rebuilt in stages from the late C13 to the C15. The earliest fabric is the reset late C12 S door, probably belonging to an aisleless nave of that date. The chancel was rebuilt in the late C13, and the S aisle added. The N chapel is early C14, and the N aisle is mostly mid C14. The S porch is C14 in origin. Part of the N arcade was added or rebuilt in the C15, when the W tower and clerestory were added. Much of the C14 work, and probably also the C15 work, is associated with the Grey family, who held the manor of Over, West or Old Bletchley from the early C13 to the mid C17. The N chapel in particular, was clearly intended to be a chantry chapel and family mausoleum, although only the tomb of Richard, Lord Grey de Wilton, c.1442 now survives. Browne Willis (1682-1760), the noted early antiquary, owned the Bletchley estate from 1699-1760, and was responsible for refurnishing the church in the early C18. In 1704-07, he had the church 'repaired and beautified', and the chancel was ceiled and painted with figures of the twelve Apostles `in the Verrio manner', indicating an exuberence of clouds, draperies and rich decoration after the manner of Antonio Verrio (1639-1707). This was removed during the 1868 restoration, when a number of other Browne Willis period features, such as the chancel S door, were also altered, and the church was refurnished. The architect was William White (1825-1900), a leading architect of the Victorian Gothic Revival. The church was wholly reordered in the late C20 to remove the White period furnishings. A two-storey service and meeting room area was also installed in the N chapel.
Pevsner, N and Williamson, E., Victoria County History of Buckinghamshire, 4 (1927), 274-83
Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire (1994), 507
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
The church of St Mary, Bletchley, is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Parish church with C12 origins, and retaining a reset C12 door or chancel arch.
* Rebuilt in stages in the late C13-C15, and showing a complex and interesting building history.
* Excellent medieval roofs in the whole building except the chancel.
* Very fine tomb of Richard, Lord Grey de Wilton, d. 1442 and other interesting monuments.