to the Church of St Thomas and 790 years of recorded church history.
is not known whether a church or chapel existed here in Anglo-Saxon,
Anglo-Danish or Norman times. Although the Domesday Book of 1086
(reign of William I) lists two manors at “Sevinstone/Suivinestone”
(Simpson) in Seckloe Hundred, it does not mention a church
or priest here! The records of the Diocese of Lincoln mention, that
in 1231, during the reign of Henry III, Philip de Lemington
was presented as Rector of the church by Geoffrey de Cauz,
Lord of the Manor.
church was valued at £5 6s 8d in 1291 (reign of
Edward I) and at £17 6s 8d in 1535 (Reformation
of Henry VIII).
1847 Simpson, or Sympson, like other ecclesiastical parishes in
Buckinghamshire, had been transferred to the Diocese of Oxford. St Thomas is now one of the five churches in the Woughton Ecumenical
a, which was established in 1977.
Grade 2 listed, St Thomas is of Oolitic Limestone construction and
cruciform in plan – aligned east to west. It comprises a tall
slender Central Tower; Nave, North and South Transepts and Porch
with clay peg-tile roofs; and a Chancel with low-pitched Welsh slate
This, the oldest part of the existing building, appears to represent
all that survives of a smaller cruciform plan church. The double-chamfered
pointed arches resting on the semi-circular sectioned responds or
jambs of the crossing, are in the late Early English style and date
from c1250–1300. Four pointed windows of c1400 pierce the
walls of the bell chamber. The Tower contains a peal of six bells
- one bell of 1604, two bells of 1630 and one bell of 1694, all
four recast in 1895/6; a new bell of 1895 and yet another of 1926.
The Nave is later than the Tower and is entered through north and
south doorways which are typical of the Decorated style of 1300–1350.
The single window piercing the north wall and two windows piercing
the south wall, although repaired, show some portions of tracery
of 1300–1350. However, at the west end of the Nave is a limestone
font, with plain tapering round bowl, cylindrical stem and stepped
base, typical of the 13th century. The elaborate wooden cover dates
from the 17th century. Other 14th century features in the Nave include
the cinquefoil arched niche for the holy water stoup by the south
doorway and the doorways leading to the North and South Transepts
(chapels). The large four light window at the west end of the Nave
dates from the late-15th century and is in the Perpendicular style
although extensively repaired externally. Also of the 15th century
is the magnificent nave roof, with hammer-beam trusses at the east
and west ends and three intermediate trusses of double arch-braced
collar-with-tie-beam type. The 14th century roof was both higher
and of steeper pitch!
15th century stair turret in the angle of the Nave north wall and
the North Transept west wall gave access to a former rood (cross)
loft, below which was a screen. It now gives access to the staircase
of 1904 which leads to the bell ringing chamber in the Tower.
the Tower west crossing arch and unusually painted on the plaster
are the Royal Arms of George II, dated 1742. The fourth quarter
of the circular shield depicts the Hanoverian Royal Arms, in particular
the white horse. The mural was carefully restored in 1953 (Coronation
Year), when the outer GR2 was changed to ER2!
the north-west corner of the Nave is a fine pipe organ, which was
installed in 1920 by Messrs Bishop and Son, the organ builders,
of Ipswich and London. The organ is said to have come from “the
church at Frinton-on-Sea, Essex” and is the last surviving
pipe organ in the three historic churches of the Woughton Parish.
The long Chancel is of the early-14th century. Its roof was lowered
during the extensive renovation works of 1873. The window surrounds
piercing the north and south walls show clear traces of early-14th
century work, whilst a blocked 15th century doorway in the north
wall gave access to the former Vestry. The entire east wall, including
the window, were rebuilt in 1904. Of three lights and in the Decorated
curvilinear style, this stained-glass window depicts the Ascension
of Christ and is the work of Powell and Sons. It commemorates Henry
William White, who died 29th May, 1921, aged 19 years. The reredos
is similarly dedicated.
important medieval features survive in the sanctuary; firstly, piercing
the north wall is a flat arched aumbry (safe) and piercing the south
wall a somewhat worn looking piscina. Repositioned in the piscina
is a broken headstone commemorating William Gale, who died in 1638
and an exceptionally early churchyard stone. Fixed to the internal
face of the Chancel south wall are various monuments to the Hanmer
family, who were Lords of the Manor. These range in date from Job
Hanmer, died 16th November, 1738, aged 63 years to Arabella Hanmer,
died 16th November, 1828, aged 66 years. However, the most impressive
is the monument commemorating Sir Walden Hanmer, died 20th October,
1783, aged 66 years and Dame Ann his wife. It depicts Justice with
the scales and is the work of “J. Bacon R.A., Sculptor, London,1789.”
This was formerly the Lady Chapel and is now used asa Vestry. The
reticulated (fish net) south window which dated from 1300-1350,
had to be rebuilt in 1999. To the left of the altar table is an
original piscina and to the right a blocked squint. In the north-east
corner of the Lady Chapel is a squint (hagioscope) which afforded
a view of the Chancel high altar, until blocked by Sir Walden Hanmer’s
monument in 1789. The curved queen-post roof trusses are of 17th
Formerly the North Chapel, this now functions as the kitchen and
toilets. In the kitchen is a fine trefoil arched piscina of 14th
century date and piercing the east wall is a 15th century doorway
which gave access to the former Vestry. The north wall is pierced
by an original three light reticulated window of 1300-1350. To its
left is a blocked squint. As with the South Transept, there are
curved queen-post roof trusses of 17th century date.
Later than the Nave and of limestone with some red brick patching
up, the South Porch dates from the late-15th or early-16th century.
The two-centred archway rests on weathered capitals and has weathered
head-stops. The blocked west window shows earlier reused tracery.
Above the archway is a badly weathered limestone scratch dial, with
sockets for the former iron gnomon.
The former Vestry, which dated from the 15th century, stood between
the east wall of the North Transept and the north wall of the Chancel.
It was demolished in the 19th century. In 1989, during re-ordering
works at St Thomas Church, the Milton Keynes Archaeology Unit excavated
part of the original floor of the Vestry which consisted of glazed
floor tiles of Little Brickhill type dating from the 15th century.
The church has been dedicated to St Thomas at least since 1847.
His feast day is celebrated on 21st December b by the Church of England.
However, in a will dated 20th April, 1485 (reign of Richard III),
John Browne, the cousin of Edmund Lord Grey (Lord of the Manor),
included a request to be buried in the cemetery of the Church of
St Nicholas at “Seveneston.” Alas, we do not know
when the name was changed. It may have been in 1535 or 1536 at the
Reformation of Henry VIII c. Efforts to revive the dedication of St Nicholas
in 1929 were to no avail! Note the stained glass, dated 1931, in
the 14th century Nave north window, which depicts St Nicholas!
His feast day is celebrated on 6th December by the Church of England.
St Nicholas, who was Bishop of Myra in Turkey, died in c. A.D.326.
He is a patron of bankers and money-lenders, sailors, travellers
and children. He is also the figure behind ‘Santa Claus’,
the proper name of Father Christmas, who brings gifts to children.
a The graveyard burials record book for 1888 - 1976 has a
handwritten marginal note on the page for 1974 stating "New parish of
Woughton created Jan 1st 1974 to include former parish of Simpson." This was presumably an Anglican parish before it became an ecumenical one. (The spelling "Sympson" is used in the burials record until 1936.)
b The feast day of St Thomas was moved by the Common Worship calendar of the Church of England to 3rd July, which is when the church now celebrates its patronal festival.
c If the dedication was changed at the Reformation, clearly this was only a partial change. A map dating from 1880 (excerpt below), and the Ordnance Survey 1:10,560 map of Buckinghamshire of 1881-1886, both show the church as “St Nicolas’s”. However a map produced for a sale in 1919 (excerpt below) shows it as “St Thomas’s”.
A list of the rectors of the church from 1231 to 1807 can be found at www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/BKM/Simpson/rectors.
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