Welcome to St. Nicholas Church
A Brief History of the Church
The present church dates from the early 13th Century although there are traces, notably in the rough hewn stones at the base of the Tower, of an earlier Saxon building. In early times, divine services were taken by monks of Notley Abbey; later on, Langlands Cottage in this village is supposed to have housed the Priest.
At the Dissolution, the church came under the care of Oxford Cathedral, which soon afterwards became the See of Oxford, although Buckinghamshire remained in the Diocese of Lincoln until 1845. Unlike many other churches, alterations to the interior did not occur after the early 17th Century and the Chancel and Nave have retained an uncluttered and beautifully simple appearance. Except for the tiled floor in the Chancel, the building has, to a great extent, been spared the enthusiasm of Victorian restorers and it retains a character and atmosphere that can have changed little since the late 18th Century. Indeed, if you stand on the Chancel steps and look West, you will be seeing what most English country churches must have looked like until around 1840.
The original pitched roof was removed in the 18th Century and replaced with a lead roof at a very shallow pitch. Since the Nave gables were left standing proud of the roof, giving the church a derelict air, it was for a long time known as "the Church with no roof". Eventually, the lead roof deteriorated and became dangerous and so the present tiled roof was erected in 1975, after many years of fund-raising, under the auspices of John Spencer Bernard at the original pitch. The Chancel roof was re-tiled in 1990.
On a buttress by the Chancel door are the remains of three Mass dials about three feet from the ground. These were used by the Priest to indicate the time of the next Mass and also as rudimentary sun-dials.
The Nave is remarkable for many things including its simplicity, the high box-pews, the West gallery, the Royal Arms, the large Commandments board and the imposing three-decker pulpit, dated 1613, with its reading desk and clerk's stall; even the floor has escaped re-paving. Some of the open pews at the back of the church date from the early 16th Century, while the box-pews date from the late 18th Century, the Manor pew being painted and having Gothic carving. Several of these pews are associated traditionally with various houses and families in the village.
The 15th Century octagonal font has the same moulding as the Chancel arch but bears traces of the original rough hewn stone contemporary with the stones at the base of the Tower. The West gallery, thankfully preserved unlike so many in the area, houses the organ and some original bench seating. The Royal Arms on the front of the Gallery are from the period 1816-1837, showing the escutcheon of Hanover.
The different alignment of the Chancel and the Nave probably occurred during the rebuilding of the Nave and the Tower during the 15th Century. A major part of the Chancel, including the East and North windows and the South door, dates from the 14th Century while the South windows appear to be 15th Century. The Altar rails and the two chairs are excellent 17th Century additions. The Chancel was partly rebuilt in 1891, when the floor was tiled and the tables of Commandments, Lord's Prayer and the Creed were transferred to the North wall of the Nave. The Chancel arch, which has been sparingly repaired over the years, shows no obvious signs of a rood screen or beam although there are visible buttress ends. On both sides of the arch there are nine small depressions, which are thought to be a 16th Century child's game similar to solitaire. On the North side of the arch and on the window nearest the Altar on the North side as well as the Entrance Porch can be seen Crusader crosses. These can also be seen beside the North-East window and in the entrance Porch. On the North side of the Chancel is a memorial to Lieut-Colonel Francis Tyringham Higgins-Bernard, which is a 20th Century version of a mediaeval knight's tomb(designed by Mr Loyd Haberly).
The South entrance porch dates, unchanged, from the 15th Century. The stone benches, probably used during "Church door" marriages and blessings, and the stone window arches look now as they must have looked then. The Stanley Young windows were added in 1997. In the North-East corner of the porch are the remains of a Holy Water stoup and the floor bears strange carvings, the significance of which is unknown. The carving of St. Nicholas above the door, depicting him as the Patron Saint of sailors (because he allayed a storm during a voyage to the Holy Land), was placed there in 1990 in memory of Richard Heppel, Churchwarden from 1979 to 1986.
Stained Glass Windows
The lovely airiness and lightness of the church are largely due to the absence of any large areas of stained glass. However, the existing glass is of some antiquity and interest. In the South window over the Gallery is a figure of St. Peter, dating from the 13th Century. In the North window opposite the pulpit are a pair of roundels, both dating from the 14th Century, which were said to have been taken from the church during the Civil War and hidden in Nether Winchendon House for safety; they were restored to the church in 1958. On the left is the Sacred Host with the letters INRI and the rays of glory; on the right is a monogram of the Blessed Virgin Mary (MARIA).
In the Chancel, the West window on the North wall contains the arms of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham; note the rays of the rising sun, emblematic of a follower of the House of York. These arms were placed in the church in 1483 to commemorate the granting of parochial status. The two animals are leopards. The West window on the South wall contains Flemish glass of the 17th Century dating from the time when Flemish nobles, resenting Spanish religious intolerance, fled to England bringing pieces of glass to prove their identity. In the East window of the South wall are arms of the Barton, Goodwin, Tyringham and Chetwynd families, who have lived in the area since Tudor times.
The Stanley Young Windows
The windows in the Porch were installed in 1997 to commemorate the ministry of Canon Stanley Young, from 1980 to 1995. The decorative roundel in the left-hand window (West side) consists of a lapwing. This was chosen because "Winchendon" is an old English name for a lapwing, and the village name may have been influenced by the many lapwings still to be seen in the fields which surround us. The yellow circles forming the border for the roundel reflect the similar yellow design used as a border for the existing very old stained glass panel of Saint Peter to be found in the South window of the gallery.
The right-hand window (East side) contains the figure of Saint Nicholas, our church's patronal saint. He is depicted, traditionally, in his episcopal robes as Bishop of Myra, holding Nether Winchendon church in his hands. The roundel illustrates the miracle in which Saint Nicholas alleviated the famine in Myra by arranging that however much grain was unloaded from a grain ship bound for Alexandria, the amount in the ship remained the same. The artist has also shown a pulley or winch, thought by some to have been the origin of the name "Winchendon". The Anglo Saxon meaning is "Hill at a bend".
Regular services include a traditional Book of Common Prayer service as well as less formal styles of worship, including a regular monthly Family Service. Please see the Covid-19 section on our site for current church services and support. Details of services across the area and contacts can be found on the 3 Bucks Churches website:
We are extremely lucky to have Reverend Richard Phillips as our vicar.
Visitors to our church will always receive a very warm welcome and we would be delighted to see you.
The Friends of St Nicholas
From top: the interior of the church; stained glass; the annual pet service; the church providing a backdrop for the village Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.