top of page

Newsletter No. 13 September 2022

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

Photo by Sean Wheeler

From the editor

Judy Taylor

Hello to all our readers. Hasn’t summer been eventful?

We have had extraordinary heat waves, which I trust you have all managed to get through without too much discomfort. We have a new prime minister. We have a new vicar at Bisham Church, (much more exciting) although one many will know already

We are now heading for Autumn. The National news tells us it will be a time of battening down the hatches financially, cutting our cloth accordingly, and bracing up.

Despite all of this, we are lucky, because we have our community to support us, whatever the last few months of 2022 bring. The Church has never been a livelier hub for meeting friends, whether it’s putting on a few pounds with the delicious cakes at our coffee mornings, learning about the history of our village, or being entertained by a great variety of local talent.

The events list is in the newsletter. Hopefully, you will come along to our fantastic mix of daytime and evening events through the autumn and winter and bring friends and family too. We love meeting you all.

This edition of the newsletter includes, among other articles, an encapsulation of Sheila Featherstone-Clark’s wonderful history sessions, and a piece on Alix French-Brown's house and its glamorous previous owners who are both buried in the churchyard….We have another hidden treasure – Barbara Case - and her favourite part of the church. There is also a special photograph of Lorraine Gill signing her Crucifixion artwork. Finally, there’s a note from our new vicar, John.

Enjoy reading it and do feel free to send me ideas for future inclusions. The next newsletter will be in the spring.



Chair of Bisham Church Friends Update

Sean Wheeler

The Bisham Church Friends team has continued to be busy focusing on our 3 key objectives; raising awareness of our beautiful church, encouraging more people to come into the church, and helping to raise church funds.

It is hard to believe that it is just over a year since we hosted our first Friends event, with Lorraine Gill and friends talking about her life with Tony Buzan, inventor of mind maps, whose ashes are resting on our church grounds. This was followed by a 7-day exhibition of Lorraine’s work and images of her life with Tony. Since then, our relationship has blossomed resulting in Lorraine kindly sharing her painting “The Crucifixion”, one of her most treasured artworks, with the church.

We have had a great year. With your continued support, we have held 21 events including our popular coffee mornings with history on the church from Sheila (there’s more on this history in the newsletter), an afternoon of songs, arias, and show tunes from the talented Richard Brooman, a children’s Easter Egg Hunt, an evening with the brilliant BBO Big Band, several Marlow Riders fundraising coffee and cakes stops, two churchyard tidy ups and two Platinum Jubilee celebrations for the Village and Bisham School.

These events have helped us raise over £8,500 with around 1,100 people attending in total which is amazing.

To ensure we spend the money raised wisely we are in discussions with Stewart and the DCC to support both the church and the community. We are thinking about improving the kitchen facilities in the church, including a dishwasher and fridge, improving the sound system, and supporting the new church organ fundraising activity. Once these decisions are finalised we will let you know. Of course, we will continue to use the funds to be able to offer refreshments at our events for you to enjoy.

We have always tried to ensure we had something for everyone and that our events are always community-focused, which from the great feedback we’ve had seems to be working.

I would like to mention The Bisham Village Platinum Jubilee Event held on 5th June. This was a collaboration with Bisham Church Friends, the villagers, and the school.

It was a great family event, including live music from Spencer Chaplin (grandson of Charlie Chaplin), games and activities, amazing cakes and BBQ food, Rebellion beer, and an exhibition of images of Queen Elizabeth, kindly curated by Michael & Terry Smith, which then spent a month at All Saints Marlow so more people could enjoy them. While the weather was dull, we still had 150 attendees to join in the fun, and we raised over £500. Our hope is to build into our programme more village collaborations going forward, so Bisham Church really becomes the hub of our community.

While all our events are special, I would like to highlight our Friends Summer Event held on Thursday 18th August - a very warm and enjoyable evening of friends getting together over a drink and sharing news. Lots of familiar faces and some newer ones too. Wonderful! I wanted also to flag up the return of our Quiz Night which is on the 9th November at Bisham Abbey, which we hope will become another annual event with the village community.

Finally, thank you for your continued support to date; we couldn’t do it without you! We look forward to seeing you and your family and friends at our future events

Sean Wheeler BEM

Bisham Church Friends Chair


Future dates for your diary


  • Complimentary Community Coffee Morning - 10am - 12 noon

  • Homemade cakes & fresh coffee

  • 10.45am our history talks continue with local historian, Sheila

Please let us know if you would like to bake a cake and/or join us.


  • Church Yard Autumn Tidy Up & bulb planting - 1.00pm – 4.00pm

  • Followed by tea & cakes to thank all the hard workers

  • Looking for friends, families & keen gardeners to volunteer to help tidy up the grounds

Helpers needed, let us know – details below - bring your own cutters, weeders, and brushes etc.

SUNDAY – 23RD OCTOBER NEW DATE - DCC Event supported by BCF

  • A Mostly English Afternoon of Music - 3pm - 5pm

  • Richard Brooman returns, accompanied by Graham Barker

  • Fund raiser for Church Organ Fund - tea & cakes at 4.30pm

Please let us know if you would like to bake a cake and join us.


  • Quiz Night at Bisham Abbey is back!! –-6.30pm – 9.30pm

  • Drink on arrival & Supper included - Ticket price £20 pp and includes x2 raffle tickets. (More raffle tickets can be purchased on the night)

  • Open to all villagers, family & friends, create a team or join a team on the night

  • Fundraising event for the new Bisham Church Organ

Please let us know if you would like to join us.


  • Complimentary Festive Community Coffee Morning - 10am - 12 noon

  • Joined by Bisham School Children for carols & nativity Homemade cakes & fresh coffee

Please let us know if you would like to bake a cake and join us.


  • Christmas Carol Service – 5pm

  • Everyone is welcome

  • Refreshments after the service


  • Crib Service – 3pm

  • Everyone is welcome


  • Christmas Day Service – 9.30am

  • Everyone welcome

If you & your family would like to become a Friend, join our events or bake a cake, please send details to (BCF Secretary) or alternatively call/email Sean (BCF Chair) 07808094777 /


A summary of our History talks

Sheila Featherstone-Clark is our resident historian. Sheila came to Bisham village in 1981 and is passionate about researching the village's history and telling its stories, not just about the Abbey. Sheila has enjoyed talking to local residents and digging for snippets in the archives to share at the coffee mornings. You can listen to more in her podcast: In The Shadow of the Abbey

Everything Sheila’s told us so far has been precised below between us – a whistlestop tour through the church and the very exciting families who have influenced its evolution and health

Chronology of families in Bisham Abbey

  • Earls of Salisbury (Montacute/Plantangnet ) 1301 -1540

  • Hoby 1554 - 1758

  • Vansittart (Neale) 1780 - 1965

1. 24/9/21 The development of All Saints Bisham church:

Sheila told us about the overall evolution of the Church from 1066

  • The Knight’s Templar held the Bisham Estate from 1140 with All Saints as the basic village church.

  • The Earls of Salisbury held the Abbey from 1335 – 1540; the church was where they worshipped

  • The Bisham Abbey Estate was given to Ann of Cleves – Henry VIII’s 4th wife - as a divorce settlement in 1540. It was swapped with Sir Philip Hoby’s property in Suffolk as Bisham was too close to Windsor and Court. She gave Temple to her purser. (Sir Philip was a diplomatic courtier and had gone with Holbein to paint the portrait of Ann of Cleves). The Hobys held Bisham Abbey for 200 years

  • Jump to 1566 and the Hoby chapel was built. Plaques of members of the Hoby family can be found here, recognising their contribution to sustaining and developing the Estate over 2 centuries. (The chapel houses the tomb of the 2 worthy knights. Lady Elizabeth Hoby built the memorials to her brother-in-law Sir Philp and her husband Sir Thomas)

  • Margaret Cary – Lady Hoby’s daughter-in-law and 1st cousin to Elizabeth I – had swans as her family symbol. The Square ‘swans’ monument was erected in 1570 on her death, now the village’s symbol

  • In 1609 the stained-glass Hoby window was installed by Edward, Elizabeth Hoby’s son, in her memory

  • New bells were hung in the tower in 1840, funded by George Henry Vansittart, Lord of the Manor

  • Benjamin Ferry, architect, designed a Gothic refurbishment of the church, including the pews and font and the South Aisle, which was extended for a new doorway and porch in 1849

  • The new East window was installed in 1855 – a gift from the people of Shanghai to thank Vice Admiral Edward Westby Vansittart, Captain of HMS Bittern, for suppressing piracy in the South China seas

  • In 1875 the Williams chapel was built for £2,000 in memory of retired Horseguards Major General Owen Lewis Cope’s parents, who were buried there originally. He also built the monument outside the church – the Williams monument, the entrance to the underground crypt

  • Moving on to the 20th century, George Kenneth Vansittart Neale died in 1904 and a monument of him kneeling with his dog was installed on the left of the chapel. He was only 14 when he died

  • In 1914 Edith Vansittart Neale replaced the East Window in memory of members of her family

  • In 1920 a War Memorial plaque was added by Sir Henry Vansittart Neale and the Reverend W Farrer on the back wall. It was further added after the 2nd World War, in memory of local people who gave their lives in pursuit of lasting peace

  • Fast forward again to 2019 when a new loo was installed in place of the old boiler

  • In 2021 an area of pews was cleared in order to make space for the church to host BCF community activities - and here we are!

The Church from the graveyard

And from the other side of the river

2) 27/10/2021 The Hobys and the Burial Chapel

This family had the most significant influence on the church for over 200 years, from 1554 – 1780

  • It all began with Sir Philip Hoby in 1535 (trusted courtier to Henry VIII), who was the last papal legate to Rome. He was a wife hunter or matchmaker to the stars of the day! He was charged with overseas missions, including finding a wife for Henry VIII (a few times!)

  • He married Elizabeth Stonor in 1540, who was part of Catherine Parr’s inner circle. This was the beginning of a long relationship between the Hobys and the Stonors

  • In 1554 the Bisham Estate was swapped between Philip Hoby and the divorced Ann of Cleves

  • In 1556 Sir Philip died, Sir Thomas Hoby took the reins. Thomas (Philip’s younger half-brother) he was also a courtier

  • 3 weeks after he inherited Bisham Estate, he married Elizabeth Cooke on 27th June 1556 – an Essex girl, but very well educated. Her father was tutor to Prince Edward and he believed in female education. She was a very early feminist and a feisty character - she even had a showdown with Shakespeare, moving the building of the Globe from one side of the river to the other, to avoid the hoy polloy hanging around her house in Blackfriars

  • Her sisters married Lord Cecil/Burghley and Lord Bacon and were close to Elizabeth I

  • In 1566 Thomas Hoby was appointed Ambassador to France and they moved to Paris. He died aged 36. Elizabeth built the burial chapel in the Church

  • In 1574 Elizabeth Hoby married John, Lord Russell, heir to the Duke of Bedford – which would give her the Countess’s coronet. She didn’t inherit it because he died 6 months before his father, but she included it on her monument nonetheless

  • In 1592 she mounted a Pageant on Bisham Hill – the first time that noblewomen had acted in a pageant - partly to find a husband for her daughter Anne, who went on to marry Lord Herbert, Marquis of Worcester (getting her coronet)

  • Her son Thomas Posthumus married Margaret Dakins of Hackness, Essex in 1591. She wrote a diary of a Protestant woman – the oldest diary of an English gentlewoman

  • The 17th Century became more male-dominated. Edward, Elizabeth’s son, became MP for Berkshire and Rochester. He didn’t have a legitimate son, but he did have an illegitimate son called Peregrine, by Catherine Pinkney. Do any of our readers know of a link with Pinkney’s Green? While Perigrine was recognised by society and allowed to take on the estate, he couldn’t inherit the title

  • In 1634 Peregrine had a son called Edward Hoby. A new title was created for him – and the Hoby Baronetcy continued. He died in 1675 and his younger brother John inherits it. Finally Sir Philip, Dean of Ardfert, became the last Hoby Baronet in 1766

  • Then succession was passed to his first cousin, Sir John Mill, on condition that he became ‘Hoby’

  • His wife then sold the estate in 1780. The Vansittarts took over and the commercial influence began

Hoby Monument

3. 01/12/2021 Vansittarts and Indian Money

  • The Vansittarts held the Estate for nearly 200 years, from 1780 to 1965 and had the right to appoint the clergy (advowson)

  • Arthur Vansittart of Shottesbrooke, had 6 sons, the youngest of whom was George Vansittart. He and his older brother Henry were Indian linguists. Henry owned Foxley at Bray and Reading Abbey.

  • Henry got George involved with the Hellfire Club - the centre of debauchery locally. His father was horrified and sent young George to India in 1761 to sort himself out. He was a close friend of Clive of India who founded the East India Company

  • He returned in 1780 with only a minor fortune, a changed and sensible man, marrying his cousin Sara Stonehouse. He decided to invest in the community. Others with Indian money settled nearby

  • George gave the estate a complete makeover, including the Church

  • His youngest son Henry became Vice Admiral and founded the Canadian branch of the family.

  • Edward Neale, another son, became Vicar of Bisham and trustee of the estate (not Vansittart, as he married the niece of Oliver Cromwell and had to drop the Vansittart).

  • George’s oldest son, called George Henry, became an army general but died before his father, so his heir was his grandson - baby George Henry…. aged only one

  • He needed a guardian – Henry Windsor took the role – 8th Earl of Plymouth. He was the last of the name of Windsor, leaving the Royal Family to be able to take the name

  • George Henry remained Lord of Manor for 64 years. He founded the school in 1840 and built the vicarage in 1860. He presided over church improvements including the new North Wing or Williams chapel, and a gothic makeover.

  • George’s brother Augustus left a legacy in 1896 to fund Victorian schoolrooms

  • Edward Ernest became Lord of Manor in 1885. He was a lawyer, and son of Vicar Edward Neale and was known as the father of the Co-operative Society, with a memorial in Westminster Abbey

  • He built the road from Quarry Wood to Cookham Dean to get to the new railway station.

Memorial Tablets

4. 10/03/22 Thomas Williams: The Copper King at Temple Mill

  • Thomas Williams was born in 1737 and became a solicitor in Anglesea. Copper was found in Wales in 1760 and he took advantage of this, becoming part owner of the Paris Mountain Copper mine

  • He was very shrewd and had a good team around him. He reorganised the copper mine once he owned it, creating his own vertical manufacturing industry from smelting to manufacturing items

  • He moved the Welsh miners to Ravenshead in Lancashire. He then took on other sites in Wales and in Wraysbury Berkshire, ending up with the monopoly in the Copper trade in the UK. He was fantastically wealthy and influential.

  • Took on a fellow called Pascoe Grenfell, who ultimately bought Taplow House from the Earl of Orkney and rebuilt it. He was a very able salesman, son of one of the Cornish copper mining families, and was very smart. In 1784 They went on to run the business together – Pascoe was only 24 at the time.

  • By 1787 Pasco and Thomas had taken over every British mine

  • During this time, they won the contract for producing copper bottoms on navy ships, including the patent for copper bolts to secure the copper bottoms (probably most notably HMS Victory).

  • His business had capital of almost £1m in 1799

  • In need of more capacity, in 1788 he purchased 3 Temple mills to expand his capacity – a hammer mill, a flat rolling mill and a bolt mill, shifting 1000 tons of copper a year

  • In 1790 he built Temple house - designed by Samuel Wyatt. The slate pillar fence was his too. He upgraded Temple Lock. He was also voted MP for Marlow. His son Owen became the 2nd MP for Marlow in 1796, alongside his father, continuing after his death.

  • Thomas Williams died in 1802. At that time he was employing 1200 people across his 2 main mines. Only 10 years later the industry was decimated, with only 120 employees, due to the collapse of copper prices, due in no small way to Thomas’s death

  • All the copper tributes are in the Williams Chapel including plaques to Thomas Peers Williams – Owen’s son. He was described by his neighbour Benjamin D’Israeli, as a ‘nincompoop’. His daughter was Edith, Countess of Aylesford who married the 7th Earl of Aylesford – Heneage. While he was off galavanting in India with the prince of Wales, she had a dalliance with George Spencer Churchill, producing a son, who was Baptised and was titled 7th Earl, suggesting that he’d been accepted by his biological father but he was refused entry to the House of Lords.

  • In 1850 the mills turned to paper….

William's Chapel

5. 25/05/22 Henry James- The last Squire - Tragedy, Honours and the Jubilee

  • Edward Earnest Vansittart-Neale, son of The Reverend Neale, inherited the Estate, from 1885 – 1892. He took over from George Henry who died in 1885 having inherited aged 1 but produced no children

  • Edward was a barrister, who founded the Co-operative movement and began to fund various commercial ventures. However, he wasn’t very commercially minded. Money was hemorrhaging until he inherited the Estate, age 75

  • He went to live in Manchester, HQ of the Co-operative movement, and left his family – Frances Sarah Farrah, their son Henry James and 3 younger sisters, Constance, Henrietta and Edith – in Bisham

  • Henry, had to get involved, therefore, in the absence of his father. He didn’t go to Oxford, instead getting a job at the admiralty, in order to earn income to support his mum and sisters

  • Gladstone brought in succession duties, levied on the life interest of the estate in 1894. With Edward extracting funds for his Cooperative interests, and an Estate needing continuous funding to remain viable, once Henry took over, the family would leave the big house whenever they could to let it

  • He was married in 1887 to Florence Eddis, who were both in their 40s. They had Phyllis (1889), George Kenneth (1890), who died at 14, and Elizabeth Francis (1893), who became Mrs Paget

  • Henry built in the village, experimenting with cement, a new material at the time. This construction included The White Cottages, and Warren Cottage, the home of the curate. He was awarded Companion of the Bath in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee list, for good work at the Admiralty

  • Edward had started the Bisham Club and Institute, (now the entrance to Bisham Court) and Henry gave them a billiard table and an extension, library and social spaces

  • 4 working farms existed on the Estate, Town, Abbey, Park and Hyde

  • In 1897 Henry gifted a piece of riverside land to the villagers so they could have their own slipway…

  • Sir Henry was made Knight Commander of the Bath in the 1902 Coronation honours recognising 40 years of service

  • This set an important precedent – The Doctrine of Frustration of Purpose!

  • Henry continued to sell plots of land, including along New Road, specifying that they had to build to the value of £500

  • Meanwhile, Lady Florence was running bible classes, and training local lads in basket work. It was a busy village looking after itself, connected to the community

  • Henry was head of many local societies and wanted to be involved with no airs and graces. At Phyllis’s 21st birthday party held at the Abbey in 1910, the whole village was invited, all 400 people!

  • The 1st world war saw the Abbey offered as a war hospital to Belgian soldiers, with the church as a great source of solace. Both daughters became nurses

  • 1918 Bridge House in Marlow was built, on land Henry sold

  • Elizabeth married Major Leo Paget in Bisham Church in 1917 – the first bride from the Abbey to be married at the church since Lady Hoby

  • When Henry died in 1923 Elizabeth had 2 sons – Berkeley and Guy. They would be the heirs

Henry James

6. 26/07/2022 Life in Bisham at the turn of the century 1900 – 1905

  • Revd Powell had been vicar for 51 years until 1900 and had been busy during his half a century with the church:

  • He established the village school in 1848 to provide elementary and religious education 22 years before National Education Act. The school always got top marks in inspections and consequently maximum grants

  • In 1836 rebuilt and extended the south aisle of the church with a new entrance

  • Fast forward to 1849 a new pulpit and gothic pews arrived; poppy heads with carved foliage

  • In 1874 new Victorian classrooms were added to the school – a legacy of Augustus Vansittart-Neale

  • In 1875 the Williams Chapel was added, costing £2,000, thanks to Owen Lewis Cope Williams

  • The vicarage was extended during this time too

  • A new vicar came to the vicarage in 1900, Revd William Farrer and wife Edith. in 1901 there were 137 names on the school roll – 85 boys and 52 girls. (To give an idea of the times, the summer treat was a river trip to Temple in Mrs Taylor and Mr Riley’s electric launches). This was the year that the old schoolmaster John Yates died – he was the enumerator for the 1901 census

  • A collection for Revd Powell raised £49-17-6 which paid for a memorial tablet made of Sienna and green Irish marble with a Wheeled Bier

  • Revd Farrer started carving classes with prizes first given at the flower show in 1904. (The chest in the church was carved by them in 1908). The flower show cost £37 to put on and the new church boiler cost £38-19-06! The Easter offerings were given to the clergy and giving was generous enough to pay for the new boiler without additional fundraising.

  • 1904 floods meant that the Temple children went to school in a wagon

  • Mothers’ meetings were held on Fridays run by Lady Florence Vansittart Neale and Mrs Farrer

  • Football and cricket clubs were doing well, playing on the most beautiful ground in England, courtesy of the Squire, Sir Henry

  • One Sunday school treat showed off Mr Nicholson’s Magic lantern and Fred Harding’s phonograph, invented by Thomas Edison

  • The Vansittart heir George Kenneth sadly died of appendicitis at age 14. A life-sized monument was erected in his memory. Lt Gen Owen Williams was put in the vault and the Admiral died too, at age 86. Many in the village lived to a good old age

  • The pulpit was raised in the church to avoid flood water and major external repairs to the tower happened in 1905, and inside the floor was replaced, twice, as it was rotten

  • The school continued to do well as a Church of England school educating all the village children to the age of 13

  • Everyone lived and worked together in the village, with the more affluent paying for community activities

The Chest 1908


Lorraine Gill donates Crucifixion to our Church

We are so delighted to have been given a work of art by Lorraine Gill, Tony Buzan’s lifelong friend.

The Crucifixion was painted in 1973 in the house of John Berger the Art Critic, in Bonnieux in the South of France. John Berger had written of Lorraine's work many times and became a mentor for over forty years.

The inspiration for the Crucifixion is an icon of suffering and redemption of the human condition - Darkness into Light. Lorraine chose to paint about light and beauty. Each facet is hand painted and the painting took over a year to complete.

The central panel represents Christ as pure light. The left panel has more red, indicating John the Baptist and the right panel more blue, indicating The Virgin Mary.

Tony Buzan, Lorraine’s lifelong companion and 'Inventor of Mind Maps’, always had this painting in his house as a symbol of humanity and potential.

In this Church now rests Tony Buzan and The Crucifixion due to Lorraine’s kindness and generosity

Lorraine signs her work as she donates it to our Church



Sunday 5 June 2022

Bisham School was the venue for the Jubilee celebration lunch on a fine day with many friends and village families participating.

Sean Wheeler had arranged an array of amusements and selection of food. A long table was laden with tea, coffee, soft drinks, plus a barrel of Marlow’s local Rebellion beer and many homemade cakes, manned by Gina and Hilary. Stuart Featherstone Clark sourced sausages from Giles Philp at Town Farm and burgers on his barbecue and many families brought picnics and chairs and made-up sociable groups. Stuart also provided a gazebo canopy in case of inclement weather or shade and it was much appreciated.

There were games for the children, a tombola, an open frame for looking through and taking photos of faces.

Michael and Terry Smith had organised a wonderful display of framed pictures of Queen Elizabeth in each of her seven decades. They had chosen 7 interesting portraits and had made beautiful wooden frames with an appropriate description for each one mounted below, and all mounted on easels all done to the highest quality. They were subsequently displayed at All Saints’ Church, Marlow for a month, very worthy of extended display.

Sheila Featherstone Clark tested us on the knowledge of Bisham church, the Hoby and Vansittart families and the village, which she had mentioned in her very interesting talks over the previous months. Bruce and Jackie, keen supporters of the BCF coffee mornings, won the quiz having the best recall and memories of the talks.

We were very fortunate to be serenaded and entertained by a musician with a guitar, Spencer Chaplin, who sang non-stop from 11.30 to 2.30pm. His selection of songs from the 60’s through the decades had us all humming along and created a happy atmosphere. Spencer is a grandchild of Charlie Chapman, one of many, and he is one of a family of 8 children. We were delighted that Sean was able to organise Spencer to entertain us.

The event was a great success and we are all indebted to Sean for his organisation and to all the Bisham Church Friends committee and helpers who made a memorable Jubilee for us all. About 150 attended and donations amounted to £567.