Updated: Apr 13, 2022
From the editor
Hello to everybody – a spring is in our steps! I hope all our readers survived a really rather wet, long winter, with Covid still hanging around. April is now with us, the geese are back, the daffodils have excelled themselves and the sun has had his hat on – and off – over the past few weeks.
We have been very excited to see so many members of our Friends community visiting us and enjoying various events. Whether Churchgoers, history-buffs or cake-lovers, we seem to be finding popular ways to entertain and educate our Friends and yours. Any ideas for future initiatives are very welcome. You’ll see our calendar of future events here too, so please make sure you put them in your diaries.
This edition includes a feature on a past actress who is buried in the churchyard, a very interesting piece on Elizabeth Cooke Hoby Russell’s monuments, a journey through history to tell the story of an extraordinary link between us and friends in Brisbane and our featured Hidden Treasure.
I wish everybody a very happy, healthy, fun-filled summer and we will be back at the end of September with the Autumn edition.
Note: Any requests for extra donations to BCF are NOT from us. Please ignore them.
Chair of Bisham Church Friends Update
Since our last newsletter, the team at Bisham Church Friends has been busy focussing on our 3 key objectives; to raise awareness of our beautiful church, to encourage more people to come into the church to help raise church funds.
It seems a long time since our first event in August of last year which was an excellent evening with Lorraine Gill & friends, celebrating the amazing life of Tony Buzan, the inventor of mind maps and whose ashes are laid to rest at the church. This was followed by a week-long exhibition of Lorraine’s art and some memories of her life with Tony. We have also held a number of well attended free-to-attend coffee mornings with talks about the history of the church and its supporters from our local historian, Sheila Featherstone Clark.
We set up the Autumn churchyard tidy-up with members of the church and village and had the Marlow Riders cycling club come to us not once but twice, as they particularly enjoyed the cake and coffee we provided. Finally, we ended 2021 by providing mulled wine and mince pies with the DCC at the Christmas carol service.
Over 400 people have attended our events in and around the church, our Friends membership has increased, as has our Instagram following. We have a list of Fantastic Facts later that celebrates some great initiatives and some amazing fundraising. Thanks to all of you who have helped, donated and turned up! All-in-all we were delighted to end the year this way after all the challenges of living with the pandemic.
2022 started with a bang with a Sunday afternoon of “ Songs, Arias & Light Opera” with Baritone, Richard Brooman & Rowena Gibbons. There’s a short review of the event in this newsletter.
This was another very well attended afternoon, which while it was a wet and windy Sunday, attracted 65 people and raised over £600.
Our March coffee morning was well attended with over 50 people coming along, the usual delicious cakes (thanks to our volunteer bakers) and a history talk about the Williams Chapel by Sheila.
As this newsletter arrives with you we are planning the final details of our Easter Monday Egg Hunt for the local children, our next fundraiser with the BBO Big Band at Marlow British Legion on 28th April and our Platinum Jubilee Big Lunch in June - to name but a few events. Details are all below.
We are truly delighted with the support we have seen from the Church Friends, the village and the wider community. It shows the valuable role the church can play in providing a hub to bring the local community together.
We are on track to have another great year of activity that we will update you on in our September edition. At this point I hope I will be able to say more about our plans to reinvest the money raised into the church and community.
If you know anyone who would like to become a Friend, please email me at
Finally, thank you for your continued support. We couldn’t do it without you and we look forward to seeing you and your family and friends at our future events.
Sean Wheeler BEM
Bisham Church Friends Chair
If you & your family would like to become a Friend, join our events or bake a cake, please send details to firstname.lastname@example.org (BCF Secretary) or alternatively call/email Sean (BCF Chair) 07808094777 / email@example.com
2022 Spring to Autumn BCF
We have a fantastic list of events and activities to keep us all busy through to the Autumn. Please make notes in your diary. If there are any keen bakers among you for the coffee mornings, all contributions are very welcome. We look forward to seeing our Friends – and their friends - at some or all of these!
Easter Monday 18th April from 11am to 1pm
Egg Hunt for local children with coffee & cake
BCF Fund Raiser event in partnership with Bisham School
Thursday 28th April from 8pm to 10.30pm
BBO Big Band evening to be held at the British Legion, Station Approach, Marlow
BCF & DCC joint Fund Raiser. Tickets £8 on the door, on the night.
Wednesday 25th May from 10am to 12 noon
Community coffee morning with history from Sheila - 1890 - 1941 - Sir Henry James and the wars
Complimentary BCF Friends event
Sunday 5th June from 11.30am to 2.30pm
Queens Platinum Jubilee Weekend: Bring-your-own picnic
Parish Slipway by Bisham Church and SchoolFamily Event Children’s activities, games, music.
BCF & DCC joint event for Bisham Village & BCF Friends
Friday 17th June from 11am to 2pm
THE BIG Jubilee LUNCH Bisham School
Joint BCF/DCC & Bisham School event for Bisham school children, teachers and parents, Bisham Village and BCF Friends
Tuesday 26th July from 10am to 12 noon
Community coffee morning and history from Sheila
Complimentary BCF Friends event
Provisional: Mid August
Friends only Summer Evening Event
Complimentary BCF Friends event. Visit our website closer to the date for more info.
Friends signed up
Number of members to date - 114
New friends since last AGM – 12
11 events held since August 21 (post relaxation of event Covid restrictions)
427 people have come through the church door - All events have had good attendance
Total amount of money raised since last AGM
Fundraising events £1696.00
Friends’ donations £2335.00
Other PDQ etc -£340
Total money raised - £4371.00
17 more events planned by end of December
Lady Elizabeth Cooke Hoby Russell and her Monuments
(Edited from a longer piece by Ann Darracott)
Ann Darracott is a marine biologist who has worked in fisheries research and training in East Africa, marine resources and environmental impact assessment (EIA) in South Africa, interspersed with research on the impact of trace metals on oysters and the creation of courses on EIA and development and pollution monitoring and assessment in London.
Since settling in this area she has volunteered with Maidenhead Civic Society helping create the Green Way and the Millennium Walk plus researching and writing about Ockwells Manor, Bisham Abbey and St John the Baptist Church, Shottesbrooke. She is currently involved in updating the Millennium Walk leaflet to include the new link, will soon be doing the same with the Green Way leaflet once the development of Maidenhead town centre is finished and is finalising the draft of a book about Ockwells Manor house and its owners.
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As many who enjoy the church and its history already know, Lady Elizabeth (1528 – 1609) was involved with the creation of many monuments.
The first seems to have been a monument for her husband Sir Thomas Hoby and his half-brother Sir Philip (the Knights’ Tomb) which she placed in a specially built chapel added to All Saints Church near to Bisham Abbey where she had lived.
Elizabeth was a daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke and his wife, who had five daughters and two sons. Her father, an erudite man, was tutor to Edward VI and it is said that his intellectual legacy was carried on not by his sons but by his daughters.
Elizabeth was evidently interested in composing epitaphs in Latin, and sometimes Greek, for family monuments – epitaphs that described the valour of the departed and the grief of the relatives left behind.
One of her sisters, Mildred, was married to Sir William Cecil, who became Lord Burghley in 1571. Sir Philip Hoby obtained Bisham (in 1552) and he had already started “new building” there by 1557. Shortly after Philip’s death in May 1558, his half-brother Sir Thomas Hoby, who inherited Bisham, married Elizabeth Cooke. Thomas was one of Philip’s executors along with Sir William Cecil.
The monuments are characterised by the use of alabaster and sometimes marble, Corinthian columns, effigies including offspring, recumbent or kneeling, family heraldry with the more flowery epitaphs in Latin (and sometimes Greek) plus English inscriptions.
It is thought all these were scripted by Elizabeth and executed by the tomb sculptors she employed – William Cure and his sons Cornelius and William. In addition I suggest she may have had a hand in the monument to her sister Mildred and niece Anne; see chronological list below.
Elizabeth & Anne Hoby (after Feb 1571); daughters by her husband Thomas.
Sir Anthony Cooke (d.1576) and her mother Anne Fitzwilliam (d.1553), her parents.
John Lord Russell (d.1584), Elizabeth’s second husband; next to it is a statue of their daughter Elizabeth (Bess) (d.1601).
Lady Mildred (d.1589) wife of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and her niece, Ann Countess of Oxford (d.1588), her sister and niece.
Lady Elizabeth Cooke Hoby Russell (d.1609).
1. The Knights’ Tomb for Sir Philip (d.1558) & Sir Thomas Hoby (d.1566)
(All Saints Church, Bisham)
Elizabeth was author of the Latin epitaphs on the reredos of the monument (left to Thomas, right to Philip) and the inscription in English below the ledger that describes her marriage and also mentioning that Thomas died in Paris in 1566 leaving his wife great with child in a strange country, who bought hym home, built this chappell and laid him and his brother here in one tombe together vivat post funera virtus. It was erected within three years of Thomas’s funeral by the Cure workshop.
2. Monument of Elizabeth & Anne Hoby (after Feb 1571)
Lady Elizabeth’s daughters by Sir Thomas (All Saints Church, Bisham)
The ledger stone for Elizabeth (aged 9) & Anne (aged 7) Hoby bears a simple engraved classical urn within which she inscribed a Latin epicedium to commemorate their brief lives but also her own lasting sorrow for their loss (Phillippy p89).
They were buried within a week of each other in February 1571. The stone is located on the floor of the Hoby Chapel. Their portraits, probably posthumous, are part of the Bisham Collection at Stonor.
3. Monument to Sir Anthony Cooke (d.1576) and his wife Anne Fitzwilliam (d.1553), Lady Elizabeth’s parents (St Edward the Confessor Church, Romford, Essex)
Cooke and his wife face each other with their two sons behind him and their four daughters behind her. This arrangement has similarities to Elizabeth’s own monument that she is thought to have designed.
Following the death of Sir Anthony Cooke, his children undertook the collaborative project of erecting a monument to Cooke and his first wife Ann Fitzwilliam who had died more than two decades earlier, employing Cornelius Cure who with his father had created the Knights tomb at Bisham a decade earlier. Although the financial responsibility for the monument lay with Richard, the elder son and male heir, the Latin inscriptions & poem on the monument and a stone panel affixed to a nearby wall with an English epitaph for her father are considered to be by Elizabeth. A brass plaque commemorating Anne has not survived.
Top: A recent copy of the text.
Below: Stone plaque with epitaph in English for Sir Anthony Cooke thought to have been written by Elizabeth.
The four surviving Cooke sisters Mildred (d.1589), Anne (d.1610), Elizabeth (d.1609), Katherine (d.1583) identified by their heraldry and an identification plaque above (Phillippy p160).
In each case the armorial over the figures and plaques have their husbands coat impaled with that of their father. As Elizabeth was on her second marriage this meant the coat of John Lord Russell was used. The fifth daughter, Margaret (d.1558) married Sir Ralph Rowlett, possibly in a double ceremony when Elizabeth married Sir Thomas Hoby. She died shortly after her marriage and may be represented by a female head above the central bay.
4. Monument to John Lord Russell (d.1584), Elizabeth’s second husband; next to it is a statue of their daughter Elizabeth (Bess) (d.1601)
(Both in the Chapel of St Edmund, Westminster Abbey)
The reclining figure of John Lord Russell (d.1584) with figures above representing his daughters, Nan and Bess and at his feet a small effigy of his deceased infant son Francis. Photo Copyright: Dean & Chapter of Westminster Abbey.
The Latin poem above his armorial bemoans his death beginning Lament aloud now, daughters, now pour forth a tearful poem. Epitaphs behind his effigy are in Greek (left) and Latin (right) with other Latin inscriptions elsewhere as well as heraldry. Their son’s death and then her husband’s death, before his father, meant her daughters didn’t inherit when Francis, Earl of Bedford died in 1585.
This monument was constructed while Elizabeth was embroiled in a lawsuit to recover the Earl of Bedford’s inheritance for her daughters. The tomb vigorously asserts the legitimacy of his daughters' claim as heirs to the earl.
In comparison with the Knights’ tomb, Phillippy believes that John Russell’s tomb sacrifices intimacy for grandeur. It makes clear that she had become a master of employing poetry, monumental forms and ceremonial conventions to advance her own interests and those of her family.
Monument to Bess Russell (d.1601), daughter of John Lord Russell and Elizabeth
Figure of Bess Russell located to the left of her father’s monument with the inscription “Dormit non mortua est” (Sleeping not dead). Photo Copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey
Attributed to the Cure workshop, this monument was erected by her sister Anne but probably designed by Elizabeth.
5. Monument to Lady Mildred (d.1589) wife of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and Ann, Countess of Oxford (d.1588), their daughter (The Chapel of St Nicholas, Westminster Abbey)
The reclining figures of Mildred Cecil (in front) and daughter Anne (behind), with a kneeling figure of William Cecil, Lord Burghley (above). Photo Copyright: Dean & Chapter of Westminster Abbey.
This monument bears a marked similarity to the monument for John, Lord Russell (d.1584), located in an adjacent chapel at Westminster Abbey.
At the foot of their effigies is a kneeling figure of Mildred’s son Sir Robert Cecil, and behind the heads are kneeling figures of the three daughters of Anne, Countess of Oxford, Elizabeth, Bridget and Susanna. Anne also had daughter Frances who died as an infant. A unicorn is at the foot of her effigy. In Celtic mythology the unicorn was a symbol of purity and innocence, as well as masculinity and power. There are many Corinthian columns and heraldic achievements. The monument is attributed to Cornelius Cure (Westminster Abbey website).
According to the Westminster Abbey website “The extremely long Latin inscription is by Lord Burghley himself, recording his grief, and can be translated:
Centre, below the figure of Lord Burghley:
Under here (mine eyes are full of tears, my spirit oppressed with the greatest grief) appear the likenesses of two illustrious women, who, while they yet lived, were most dear to me, far beyond the whole race of women kind
Upper left panel:
Should anyone seek to know who is this old man kneeling here, grey headed, venerable, girt about with his parliamentary robes, Knight of the Order of the Garter; and who are these two noble ladies, splendidly attired, and who these kneeling at their heads and feet; he will discover all these things from the following words of the old man, and from the inscriptions appended to each.” This is continued on the upper right panel.
That Burghley wrote this may be true; however, in 1597 Elizabeth offered a poem to Robert Cecil, Burghley’s son by Mildred, which was a Latin eulogy for Elizabeth Brooke Cecil, Robert’s wife, written in his voice. She may have done the same for his father, especially as she was chief mourner at the funeral of her sister, Mildred. At the end of her poem for Robert’s wife Elizabeth wrote Quod licuit feci vellem mihi plura licere (I have done what was permitted, I wish more were permitted to me), the same tag she used for the monuments for both her husbands.
Burghley’s own monument in St Martin’s, Stamford, is also elaborate but the inscriptions in Latin are prosaic, listing his career and his marriages. He does not come across as indulging in florid text.
The reclining figure of William Cecil, Lord Burghley (d.1598), in St Martin’s Church, Stamford. Monument probably also by the Cure workshop.
6. Monument to Lady Elizabeth Cooke Hoby Russell (d. 1609)
(The Hoby Chapel, All Saints Church, Bisham)
The kneeling figure of Lady Elizabeth Hoby Russell (d.1609) wearing mourning garments and bearing a coronet, surrounded by her children from both marriages, alive and dead. The ledger stone for her daughters by Sir Thomas is in the foreground
The figure faces that of Nan, Lady Herbert, later Countess of Worcester. Lying on the floor is a small effigy of Francis, her deceased infant son and behind are figures of her deceased daughters Bess, Elizabeth and Anne with her living sons, Thomas Posthumous and Edward behind them.
Close-up of the portrait of Lady Elizabeth Cooke Hoby Russell at Bisham Abbey with an inscription in Greek.
Lady Elizabeth commissioned her portrait in 1600 which was probably intended to serve as a preliminary portrait for her monumental effigy in the event that she predeceased its creation. The tomb’s indebtedness to her parents’ monument is evident in her central position, kneeling before a prayer table. The table holds an open book that bears her name in Latin but is visible only to the unseeing eyes of her effigy. Unlike her parents’ monument she kneels alone with neither husband represented.
It is thought that the monument was made during her lifetime as both monument and the portrait (attributed to Robert Peake), extant in the great hall of Bisham Abbey, wear mourning clothes after her second widowhood, though there is no coronet in the portrait. Phillippy suggests that the lack of an inscription on a panel behind her effigy indicates she didn’t survive to see the monument engraved and also that errors in Latin and Greek texts indicate she may not have lived long enough to supervise the tomb sculptor as he engraved her tomb. Phillippy also notes that the heraldry on her monument is mostly identical to that on the Romford monument for her parents: Cooke/Fitzwilliam; Cooke/Hoby; Cooke/Russell; Cooke/Cecil/Cooke/Bacon; Cooke/Rowlett.
Lady Elizabeth Cooke Hoby Russell was an erudite woman prepared to fight for her rights. She was also a woman who bore six children, four of whom died before her and was a widow twice; perhaps writing the epitaphs for them helped.
Elizabeth also wrote epitaphs for neighbours. When living at Bisham Abbey she wrote an epitaph in Latin for Thomas Noke (d.1567) that is extant as part of his brass on the floor of nearby St John the Baptist Church, Shottesbrooke, thought to have been put there after 1578-9 when Noke’s son, also Thomas, bought the manor. This is the only epitaph that specifies she was the author (beginning in Latin: Epitaph by Lady Hobbie on the death of Thomas Noke).
The collection of monuments she was involved with give a good idea of what were considered suitable memorials for people of rank in the C16th. They also show what the Cure family of sculptors was capable of; Cornelius Cure became master mason in 1596 on Burghley’s recommendation.
To Jim Bolton, historian of St Edward the Confessor Church, Romford, Essex, for helpful discussions about the monument of Elizabeth’s parents there; and to the late Patricia Burstall whose book by Patricia Phillippy has proved invaluable in describing monuments linked to Lady Elizabeth Cooke Hoby Russell. Thanks also to my husband Brian for photography and editing.
Laoutaris C, 2014. Shakespeare and the Countess. Fig Tree imprint of Penguin Books.
Phillippy P, (Ed) 2011. Elizabeth Cooke Hoby Russell – The writings of an English Sappho. Iter Inc.
Powell E, 1902. The travels and life of Sir Thomas Hoby Kt of Bisham Abbey, written by himself 1547-1564. Royal Historical Society.
All Saints, Bisham and our links to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
With kind thanks to Jim McMaster
Many of you may already know that All Saints Bisham is honorary Life Member of a heritage group in Queensland, Australia who helped restore and preserve the old Christ Church and its burial grounds in Tingalpa, and specifically the Pioneers’ Chapel.
Jim McMaster, one of our Friends, whose daughter and her family live in Brisbane, has sent us a really interesting timeline of our links and also some fabulous photographs. We hope you enjoy this historical journey and that if you ever make it to Brisbane, you can visit this lovely church.
Susannah Weedon and her younger son Thomas, his wife and family, of Temple Mills, Bisham emigrate to Queensland. Thomas’s wife Maria dies at sea a week before the ship reaches Moreton Bay, Brisbane.
Thomas’s elder brother, Richard Warren Weedon and his family from Marlow, arrive in Brisbane. There is no church in Tingalpa, Brisbane, where the Weedons first settle. Meanwhile, in Bisham, Miss Phyllis Jane Mills helps with fundraising amongst parishioners for the construction of Christ Church, Tingalpa. (Phyllis Jane is the unmarried second daughter of Mr John Mills of Hyde Farm, Bisham.)
Christ Church Tingalpa Pioneer’s Chapel, Brisbane, Australia is completed and is the first consecrated Anglican Church in Brisbane, opening in October of that year.
Richard Warren Weedon, previously Chairman of the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) in UK, builds a large property, “Cannon Hill House”, near Tingalpa. The property has 7 bedrooms, an orchard and a maze (modelled on the Hampton Court Maze).
With part of the extended Weedon family Thomas and Phyllis Jane Mills move to Woolloongabba, nearer to Central Brisbane. The family buys land and builds 3 sizeable properties, “The Wilderness” (now no 73), “Bryn Mawr” and “The Eyrie”, in Hawthorne Street, Woolloongabba. (Woolloongabba is now the home of the famous Cricket Ground “The Gabba”!
Holy Trinity Anglican Church is built at 68 Hawthorne Street. With no vicar, Thomas is, for twenty years, Holy Trinity’s first Lay Reader.
Thomas declines the offer of the Editorship of “The Sydney Morning Post” Newspaper.
Holy Trinity is demolished by a storm and rebuilt. The photograph here of Bertha Weedon gives us a sense of the time.
Miss Phyllis Jane Mills of Hyde Farm, Bisham, emigrates and marries Thomas. She founds the Sunday School and becomes known as “The Mother of the Parish” for her dedication to the Sunday School and other needs of the congregation.
Another Miss Weedon, formerly Matron of Brisbane General Hospital, founds St Clair, the first Brisbane Private Hospital.
Thomas dies. Phyllis Jane encourages the young men of the time to join up for the First World war.
On her death aged 90 Phyllis Jane gifts “The Wilderness” property to Holy Trinity.
The wooden Holy Trinity church is destroyed again, this time by fire caused by sparks from a passing steam train.
Holy Trinity is rebuilt in Italian Romanesque style. At the church’s north end a small Chapel is dedicated as “The Weedon Memorial Chapel”.
Christ Church Tingalpa, including the Pioneers’ Chapel is Queensland Heritage Listed.
All Saints, Bisham is appointed the First Honorary Life Member of a Queensland Heritage Listed Body
Holy Trinity, Woolloongabba, is Heritage Listed.
Geoff (President of Friends of Tingalpa Chapel) and Margaret Doherty visit All Saints.
All Saints, Bisham now has links with two Heritage Listed Churches in Brisbane.
The Information about Thomas and Phyllis Jane Weedon and Holy Trinity is thanks to the “About Us: Our History” Section of the Holy Trinity web site.
The Bisham Hall of Fame
Stop press! An update on our first VIP in the Hall of Fame…
I very much enjoyed featuring Lorraine Gill and her partner Tony Buzan in the last edition of the Newsletter. Such intelligent, charismatic, creative and ground-breaking people deserve their place in history, and our links with them are worth celebrating.
An update for you on Lorraine’s quest to have Tony’s notes, poetry and diaries included in the British Library. The definition of the contents of the British Library is ‘the work of those who contribute to the intellectual and cultural history of the nation.’
Great news, she found out that on 11th March they approved his work for inclusion, which means he is, in Lorraine’s words, ‘one of the greats of history’. Congratulations Lorraine. It was incredibly hard work, we know, to achieve this for him and for all of us.
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No 2 of the Bisham Hall of Fame series: Edith Marion Rosse (Milady) died 1932
Having watched the dramas at the Oscars a few of weeks ago, and having featured Lorraine and Tony, I was inspired to feature some more interesting connections we might have with those in the performing arts and creative industries. I am not sure where this might take us, but if you know any exciting, interesting or bizarre links please let us know and they can be featured in future editions.
For now, I am sure this piece of history has been featured in the past, but for those that missed it, here is the story of Edith Marion Rosse, who is buried in the churchyard at Bisham. She died in very suspicious circumstances in 1932.
Her headstone reads…
"In love ever remember Edith Marion Rosse (Milady) who peacefully fell asleep in London on the 14th day of September 1932"
…but did she peacefully fall asleep, or was she murdered?
Edith Marion Ross (Milady) had, in her early days, appeared on stage under the name of Vivienne Pierpont, playing in touring productins of musical comedies. Productions that she had appeared in included ‘The Quaker Girl’, ‘The Duchess of Danzig’, ‘Dorothy’ and ‘The Arcadians’. She also played in Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
She met her husband while appearing in these musical comedies. His name was Frederick Rosse, an old Harrovian and the composer of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ suite. They married in 1907 but had lived apart for a number of years, certainly since 1923 when her life took a cruel and fatal twist…
Having stayed in her marital home for some time, she formally moved in with another stage actor called Arthur Maundy Gregory. He was struggling financially and was in debt. Edith, on the other hand had means – over £18,000 in fact; a great deal of money then. Edith became sick after lunch on 19th August 1932 but recovered and heat stroke was assumed. However, on the night of 3rd September she was taken violently ill again and the doctor was called for. Edith remained in a mentally confused state and semi-conscious until 14 September 1932 when she died.
Initially, the doctor diagnosed her as having suffered from some form of blood poisoning arising out of a defective kidney which was later confirmed by a consultant and her death certificate was signed as being a natural death, caused by a cerebral haemorrhage and chronic Bright’s disease.
She left all her money to Arthur, in a will scrawled on the back of a menu card from the Carlton Hotel. The will stated, 'Everything I have, if anything happens to me, to be left to the Man, to be disposed of as he thinks best and in accordance with what I should desire'.
It was said that Arthur had been a man of some substance, but that in August 1932 he had had some difficulties and owed some thousands of pounds which he apparently didn't have the funds to cover.
Arthur supervised her burial, specifying a riverside plot in the churchyard at Bisham. He ordered the coffin lid to be left unsealed and the grave to be dug unusually shallow, only 18 inches from the surface. Edith’s niece was suspicious about her aunt’s death and burial and made a complaint, requesting an inquest. The order for the exhumation was given on the authority of the Home Secretary.
At dusk on 28 April 1933 a number of official cars pulled up at Bisham Churchyard. Despite the police trying to keep the operation secret, a crowd gathered on the other bank of the river and some tried to cross to the cemetery in a rowing boat but were turned back.
The white stone cross, on which was a bronze figure of Christ, was lifted and the gravediggers exhumed the coffin. Once it was out of the ground, it was sealed and then taken to the Paddington coroner's mortuary, where they discovered that it was waterlogged.
Former actress and suspected murder victim whose body was exhumed.
The police consulted with a forensic scientist called Bernard Spilsbury, who was convinced that the burial arrangements, including the unsealed coffin and shallow grave, were intended to ensure it would be impossible to detect the presence of poisons in her system. An open verdict was returned at her inquest in July 1933.
Arthur was arrested in Germany but was never tried for the suspected murder of Edith. He died in a German POW camp on 28th September 1941.
Richard Brooman: A Sunday afternoon Musical Concert to remember
Reviewed by Hamish Hunter March 2022
Sixty-five people were royally entertained on Sunday 13th February in All Saints’ Bisham church by Richard Brooman, expertly accompanied by Rowena Gibbons, in another successful Bisham Church Friends (BCF) event. Richard sang a wide variety of numbers ranging from Robert Burns, through film and musical to opera.
Richard is a Bisham resident and has been using his baritone skills for many years having graduated from twenty years of rugby songs to the more sophisticated atmosphere of opera where he has been on stage in a multitude of performances including The Marriage of Figaro and The Merry Widow to mention just two and, of course, his much loved Gilbert and Sullivan.
Rowena studied oboe and pianoforte at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester and soon discovered her love was in accompanying other performers. Amongst other responsibilities she is currently accompanist to the Thame Choral Society, Towcester Choral Society and Aylesbury Festival Choir and, in 2021, took up the post of musical director for Flitwick Singers.
Richard started the concert with My Love is like a Red Red Rose by Robert Burns. We then were entertained with pieces from Schubert and various Italian arias before he launched with gusto into Gilbert and Sullivan.
After a short interval, when Bisham Church Friends now famous cakes were on offer, Richard gave us Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hammerstein numbers from film and musicals. More opera by Handel, Wagner and Mozart followed before he concluded the afternoon with excerpts from Showboat, Stabat Mater and Carmen.
The audience much appreciated this musical feast which was delivered with professionalism and humour – a really entertaining afternoon. No tickets were sold but those attending gave donations amounting to over £600 to be used for improving the facilities in the church which is now proving to be a consistently popular venue for local events.
All Saints Bisham’s Hidden Treasure: Spring 2022
Elizabeth Bamford has been connected to Bisham Church for over 50 years and is this month’s hidden treasure. I live near her and she’s a regular sight whizzing down the lane in her car. She is full of energy and has lived a very interesting life.
Elizabeth was born in Karachi. Her father was in the Indian army. She came to England with her mother in 1938, the year before the 2nd World War, and lived in Ealing, London throughout the war.
During this time, she and her mother were lent a cottage in Cardiff to escape the bombing, but during their short stay, Cardiff itself was very badly bombed, so they came back to London, where she remained.
Elizabeth says she thought about being a doctor but physics defeated her…”I had a useless physics teacher, who couldn’t do the work herself very well, so that was the end of that!”
Instead, she built a successful career as a physiotherapist in the 50s, training at St Mary’s hospital, Paddington and going on to work at the National Heart Hospital.
She married her husband Anthony in 1969 and moved to Marlow. She has 2 children, Peter and Steven. Both were Christened at Bisham and it’s at this point that Elizabeth really began her relationship with All Saints Church and its community of wonderful people, many of whom have become her friends and supporters.
After her children had been to Bisham school and she had established a life for herself and her family in Marlow, she became a more regular church attender, eventually becoming Church warden. She shared this role with David Pascal –“he was good at paper work, my skill was more with the people.” She remained a warden for the maximum tenure, nearly 6 years.
A special time for her at Bisham was when a vicar called Charles Chadwick joined. “He was a great vicar, and someone who didn’t suffer fools …. He asked me to serve which I thought was a great privilege”. Alter serving made her feel closer to the church, but when first asked was unsure. “I was a bit nervous about the responsibility of serving, but Charles said, ‘He doesn’t mind if you make a mistake, and people won’t notice, so it doesn’t matter.’ This gave me the confidence to take on the role, which I’ve loved”
Elizabeth remembers that it was difficult to serve if those receiving communion were wearing large hats. “If they are wearing hats like one VIP who used to come up for communion, you can’t see where their mouths are. I used to worry about spillages... You can’t hand the chalice over, and you don’t want to miss!”
There have been times when Elizabeth and her colleagues have had to keep the show on the road, as she put it, when waiting for new clergymen. Having that responsibility to the parishioners and to the rest of the team is something Elizabeth has clearly taken seriously throughout her time with the church. She loves the building and the sense of community and safety it provides for her and others.
“Bisham Church has a lovely feeling because of all the people that have been there over hundreds of years – a feeling of comfort”
Since the death of her husband Anthony the All Saints community has been a wonderful support for her and she will be forever grateful. She gives back in so many ways. She’s on the cleaning rota, the flower rota, and works closely with other stalwarts of the church community, like Pam Harper, who is as much a part of the fabric as Elizabeth.
Elizabeth’s favourite part of the church is in the Williams chapel. On the wall is a memorial stone plaque to Eliza Hughes, who drowned. “It’s my favourite part of the church. It’s the loveliest of words. Whoever drowned – I just know her name was Eliza - was obviously a very loved girl.“
Eliza was in fact the sister-in-law of Owen Williams, son of Thomas, who was ‘handsome, genial, kind and accomplished’ and was killed in action with the Matabele aged 28.
These photographs shows the plaque and also one with Elizabeth standing by it, to give you an idea of its scale.
Elizabeth’s other great talent is as an artist. She was always interested in drawing and painting – oils not watercolour. Her paintings have graced Christmas cards from Bisham Church. We have featured here a couple of Elizabeth’s paintings. The first is of the church from across the river. (I particularly like the detail of the 2 empty benches. They transport me to the spot). The second is of the stained glass window in the Williams chapel. Elizabeth included the candle because she liked the way a wisp of light floated over the window when the candle was snuffed out.
She isn’t painting at the moment. “Since Anthony died, I’m adjusting; settling into my new life.” She remains happy living in the woodland hideaway above the river. A hidden treasure indeed!
Our New Riverside Notice Board
Early this year, the DDC gave their full approval for the riverside information board.
The journey to getting this has been long and difficult, but we are delighted with the result, which will act as a draw for all those walking past the beautiful church.
We hope its presence and the QR code it will have on it, will help spread the word about all the exciting events we and the Church have lined up.
Thank you to Mint Signs who have been so helpful
Also, grateful thanks to James Geddes, MD of Stoney Ware Estate Ltd, the landowner, whose help and encouragement ever since an initial meeting has certainly helped bring this to fruition
Thanks to Alan and his family who worked so hard to put the sign in place
Most of all, hats off to Robert Frost for his dogged determination in seeing it through.
Look out for the board when you are walking.
District Church Council Report
The DCC is very pleased to report that the church has a new organist, John Pearson, who Pam Harper almost literally bumped into as a dog walking new neighbour, hoping to find an opportunity locally to satisfy his ample skills. This is indeed most fortunate and with our present 35 year old organ now showing its age, John has already been very proactive in researching a replacement. This would of course come at considerable expense (£30,000+) and so it is proposed that a replacement organ fund is launched at our AGM in April. Generous donations have already been assigned to launch this project.
The churchyard yew tree problem, whereby two of the three trunks had been blown down, have been cleared and the remaining trunk has fortunately survived possibly the worst of the winter storms we have endured. Although our tree report recommended a crown thinning, I would now consider this to be unnecessary. The neighbouring willow tree on parish land has yet to be pollarded which would result in the overhanging branches not interfering with several adjacent graves.
As reported elsewhere, the information board installation on the far side of the river has now been completed and I would like to record the DCC’s sincere thanks to Robert Frost for masterminding its progress through to completion. The anticipated interest in our church will have to be complemented by its availability to be open regularly---this will have to be addressed by the DCC.
With the receding of lockdowns and mask wearing (but not covid unfortunately), services have become more enjoyable. However, it is very sad to report that our vicar, Rev Sarah Fitzgerald has chosen to seek early retirement due to ongoing health problems. Meanwhile, the Ministerial team are covering for her in her absence and we hope Sarah manages, with all our prayers, to enjoy her situation as much as possible in her difficult circumstances.
During the past year or more the progress of BCF’s ambitious programme has been so impressive with excellent support for all the publicised events. Another busy year lies ahead.
A final thought…
This newsletter comes at such a bleak time for so many in Eastern Europe. We have fund-raised at recent events – thank you to all those who donated - and we know that there are a number of local initiatives to support Ukrainians here and abroad who find themselves struggling in so many ways.
As I see news reports of beautiful buildings all over Ukraine being destroyed it brings into sharp relief how our history is recorded by what we leave behind, whether it’s the wonderful monuments in our church, the art that people like Elizabeth has produced to capture the simple beauty of our surroundings, or the music that we celebrated with Richard Brooman. Creativity, in all its forms, should always be celebrated because it’s our record of the times, past and present.
On that note, I’ve included Simon Armitage’s poem to mark the war, called Resistance, at the back of this edition. I think it’s beautifully written, and it captures the sense of it, and indeed the nonsense of it. My favourite verse is the last.
Resistance, by Simon Armitage: Poet Laureate 2019 - 2029
It’s war again: a family carries its family out of a pranged house under a burning thatch.
The next scene smacks of archive newsreel: platforms and trains (never again, never again),
toddlers passed over heads and shoulders, lifetimes stowed in luggage racks.
It’s war again: unmistakable smoke on the near horizon mistaken for thick fog. Fingers crossed.
An old blue tractor tows an armoured tank into no-man’s land.
It’s the ceasefire hour: godspeed the columns of winter coats and fur-lined hoods, the high-wire walk
over buckled bridges managing cases and bags, balancing west and east - godspeed.
It’s war again: the woman in black gives sunflower seeds to the soldier, insists his marrow will nourish
the national flower. In dreams let bullets be birds, let cluster bombs burst into flocks.
False news is news with the pity edited out. It’s war again:
an air-raid siren can’t fully mute the cathedral bells - let’s call that hope.