The Reverend Simon Cronk Incumbent for the Benefice of
ST. MARY'S CHURCH Like many other old parish churches, St Mary's has come down to us from different periods of building. Part of the Church was built not long after the Norman Conquest in 1066. We can see for ourselves the little bit that goes back to a distant age by in the narrow window in the chancel. It is our benefactors, the craftsmen and the people who have worshipped in a loving and caring way that has made our church so beautiful. The chancel and pillars of the nave belong to the 13th century. It is likely that the richly moulded Early English north doorway, which is certainly not in its original position, was once the south doorway. Fine stone coffins slabs of the 13th century lie beside the altar in the north aisle [now the Lady Chapel] It was thought that sometime during the 13th century the church was badly damaged by fire. We owe many of the finest features of the church to the 14th century, built after the fire, including the north and south aisles.
The great spreading windows, in which still can be seen little fragments of the lovely stained glass which fitted them once upon a time. The south porch with vaulted roof has a small room over it ["parvise"] where, in early days the priest was thought to live. The buttresses outside, have niches in them for statues. Gone are the statues, but some of the gargoyles have stood the test of time: evidence of the skill of the stone masons. The chancel was also enlarged during the 14th C. The tower we see today was built at this time, possibly in three stages. The papal indulgence of 1398, granted to all who visited or gave arms for the conservation of Milton Church, may have been connected with these additions. Even then, the people of Great Milton relied on the generosity of its' visitors! The tower contains a peal of nine bells: two dated 1673, two dated 1771 with one 1772, another 1848 and an undated bell from the 17th or 18th century. The youngest the sanctus bell is dated 1825. In 1552, the commissioners recorded four bells and a sanctus bell. In 1631, a stock ring of five bells was supplied by Ellis Knight. In 1679, the church wardens reported the great bell was broken, but by 1684, only five years later, all the bells were in working order. Perhaps this was because two bells had been recast in 1673 by Ellis & Henry Knight. Much later, in 1771, three bells were recast by Thomas Rudhall of Glos.
In 1860 the organ was put in the north side of the chancel in a deep respond on the south arcade of the nave, In 1927, the Rev Percival Pott paid for a new vestry at the west end of the north aisle. In 1933, electric light came to the church. [Previously it had been lit by fine brass oil lamps and candles]: note the fine brass candelabra in the chancel dated 1897, which replaced even older candelabra. In the last 50 years, benefactors have generously given to the church: The stained glass window in the south aisle made by Mr Farrer Bell in 1957: The painted arms of Queen Elizabeth II over the north door: The ten commandments painted over the chancel arch: The panel of the creed and the Lord's Prayer over the east wall: The rich red carpets: The beautifully embroidered kneelers in church colours. Each one is dated and initialled on its end. Full details of embroiderers can be found in a book at the end of the church. The history of the church is a living monument to the people who have used and loved this building. The families known, and the families unrecorded, from the village of Great Milton who have worshiped week by week: all those people at some time have wished to leave some historic record. All have wanted to leave the next generation a place of beauty and peace. We too, can be part of this living history.
A BRIEF HISTORY Of THE BUILDING
Originally St Mary's was a 12th Century Norman church with no aisles. Most of the chancel arches and the north doorway were added in the 13th Century. ln the 14th Century the north and south aisles, the south porch and the buttresses outside were added and the chancel was extended.
The large monument beneath the bell tower was erected in 1618 by Sir Michael Dormer in honour of himself, and his wife and his father 1n 1861 this was moved from the south aisle to its current location, when the organ was installed in the clergy hall.
The Jacobean pulpit was installed in 1640. The clock was installed in the tower in 1699. There are nine bells dating from 1672 to 1825. The choir Stalls are 19th century.
The building was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott 1850. The prolific English Gothic revival architect.
This old VHS video recording [circa 1989] of the Annual Great Milton Church fête, was recently discovered by the Great Milton History Society when they moved their archives into a new location in The Bull. It captures the essential characteristics of the village fête. The Great Milton Bellringers have for many years supported the fête by running a stall. It has also become a tradition that the church bells are rung before the opening of the fête to “call the village” to this wonderful event.
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Click to view video clip [3 Min 52 secs]