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Newsletter No. 1 December 2015

Updated: Nov 18, 2019

The aim of the Friends Scheme is to promote a shared sense of community, both locally and universally, centred on a beautiful historic building in a peaceful Thames-side setting. Through social gatherings, presentations and communications, members learn more about the architecture, art and archaeology of the church, and about the church’s role in the history of Bisham and its district, while meeting each other and sharing a common interest.

The Scheme was started in June 2014 and the Register of Friends continues to grow, with over thirty members signed up and interest taking off, as the benefits, some of which are described in this newsletter, become more widely appreciated.

This is our first newsletter and we are planning to issue others twice a year.

Visit to Stonor Park, August 2015

On 11 August a small group of Friends joined members of the Maidenhead Civic Society for a private guided tour of Stonor Park, one of England’s oldest manor houses, situated in a beautiful setting and owned by the same family of the same faith for 850 years. The particular reason for the visit was because of Stonor’s connection with Bisham Abbey and Church.

Stonor houses the Bisham collection, loaned originally by Margaret Dickinson, the last Vansittart descendent who lived at the Abbey. This included portraits of Elizabeth and Anne, daughters of Lady Elizabeth Hoby, who both died in February 1570, as well as a magnificent portrait of her son Edward as a young man.

It was a relaxed and informative visit to a magnificent house, with time to stroll around the lovely garden and then enjoy a cream tea.

Guided tour of the Church and Churchyard

Our Church Historian, Miss Patricia Burstall BEM, will give a guided tour of the church and the churchyard (weather permitting) at 10.30am on Saturday 19th March, 2016. The full tour (with a small exhibition) could take up to two hours, depending on questions. If you are intending to visit for the tour, or part of the tour, please let the Secretary know (email address and telephone number are shown below) so that we can gauge numbers.

Hoby Heraldic Window (by Patricia Burstall, Church Historian).

It is impossible to put a price on the window, which shows all the Hoby coats of arms, but it is obviously very precious, being unique.  The date 1609, the year of Lady Hoby's death, appears in the bottom right hand corner.  It is the opinion of one expert, however, that the top part may be earlier, and of another expert that it may be later.  The glass is enamelled, not stained, although I have a feeling that this applies only to the blue parts.  I will try to check on this before the open day for the Friends on March 19th.

Although the window appeared to be in good condition, it was actually in need of restoration by 2002, and in that year this was undertaken in the workshops at Canterbury Cathedral by a team led by Dr. Sebastian Strobl.  I had the fun of being in charge of getting grants to help towards the cost, which I managed to do to the extent of two-thirds of the total.  Contributors were The Council for the Care of Churches, The Glaziers' Company, The Manifold Trust and our then Vicar, The Revd. Sue Irwin, who supplied some money which had been left for the use of the church.

In several places the bottom parts of the glass had been repaired by lead which, where possible, was replaced by araldite.  Where the colour of the glass was worn away it was not replaced on the surface, but little 'plates' were made and attached to the back of affected parts.  The glass was replaced with ventilation, and a window of kiln-distorted isothermal glazing was placed on the outside to protect it from damage.  This is held in place by ferramenta made by a specialist blacksmith.

Several of us from church hired a minibus in which Richard Brooman (Church Council member at that time) drove us to Canterbury to see work in progress - a fascinating visit.  We were all delighted with the restoration, which has set the window up for several hundred more years  We have full records showing 'before' and 'after' conditions of each section, which are invaluable.  In the past no records were kept of repairs or restoration of any part of the church.

Visit to Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

At the warm invitation of the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, visits to the Cathedral are offered to parishes in the diocese. Revd Sarah Fitzgerald, Marlow Team Vicar, will be leading a visit from Bisham in the spring and anyone from the congregation and from the Friends will be welcome.

Details, including the date, will be circulated early in the New Year. The visit is likely to include a guided tour of the Cathedral at 3pm, a visit to the Treasury and Cathedral Shop, afternoon tea in the Great Hall, a visit to the Upper Library and Choral Evensong in the Cathedral at 6pm for those who would like to stay on for it. If numbers are sufficient, a private coach will be arranged. If not, Oxford is quite easily reached via the M40 and Park & Ride.

Church opening days in 2016

There was a time when All Saints’ Bisham was always open during daylight hours, as is the case with some of the village churches in the area. This enabled casual visitors and those who came from further afield specially to see the monuments to enjoy the building and find peace within it. Sadly, incidents of vandalism and theft made it necessary to keep the church locked at all times apart from when services were taking place or on occasional Open Days. Since this conflicts with a prime aim of the Friends to make the interior accessible, we are pleased to inform you that we intend to keep the church open at regular times during the year. How often this can happen will depend on the number of volunteers willing to supervise the openings.

We shall start with two hours per month during the first half of 2016 as follows:

Saturday 23rd January 1.30pm until 3.30pm.

Wednesday 17th February 2.00pm until 4.00pm.

Saturday 19th March 10.30am until 1.00pm (to coincide with tour).

Wednesday 20th April 2.00pm until 4.00pm.

Saturday 21st May 2.00pm until 4.00pm.

Wednesday 15th June 2.00pm until 4.00pm.

In due course, as membership increases and more volunteers come forward, it is expected that opening times will be extended. But even if you are unable to visit when the church is open, the serenity of the Thames-side churchyard is an experience to be savoured and enjoyed, and there are plenty of benches with views in different directions, especially of the river.

Joining the Friends

If you know of others who might like to join, whether they live in Bisham, Marlow or further afield, please do encourage them to do so. Your help in spreading the word would be invaluable. Please also let us know if there is anything you would particularly like us to try and do.

For further information, including an application form, prospective Friends should email us at, write to Friends of the Church of All Saints Bisham, c/o Parish Office, Parish of Great Marlow and Marlow Bottom with Little Marlow and Bisham, The Causeway, Marlow, Bucks SL7 2AA, or telephone our Membership Secretary on 01628 471409 .

We wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2016.

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