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Newsletter No. 14 May 2023

Photo by Stewart Featherstone - Clark

From the editor

Judy Taylor

Haven’t we had an amazing 7 months as Friends of Bisham Church!

Despite a long, tough winter it seems the pull of our beautiful church and its grounds, and the people who are there to bring us all together have helped us through to the spring.

Since the last Newsletter in September we have done so much, and Sean’s chair’s report demonstrates the support and enthusiasm we’ve had for all our events.

Enjoy this issue. It reflects the diversity and enthusiasm of our community, and the time we have all made have for each other when we’ve needed it. I have a feeling the summer and autumn will be busy and hopefully full of good times with family and friends for all of us and I look forward to seeing you all over the next 6 months – hopefully in more sunshine!


BCF Chair’s Report May 2023

Sean Wheeler

I am delighted to report that Bisham Church Friends have had another busy time over the last 12 months encouraging people to visit our beautiful church.

Our Objectives have remained the same.

  • Raise awareness of All Saints Bisham

  • Encourage more people through the door.

  • Raise funds to support the church & community.

  • Bring the village community together.

We now have 126 Bisham Church Friends which is an increase of 7 in the last 12 months.

Please welcome our new Friends:

  • Keith and Su Da Costa

  • Shirley Jenkins-Pandya

  • Peregrine (Perry) Smith

  • Heidi Clapp

  • Derrick and Ann Holden

Since April last year we have hosted nearly 40 different events to meet the needs of the church, the school & the local community which has resulted in 1,430 people attending our events & activities – these have included...

BBO Big Band Evenings, Easter Egg Hunts, Community coffee mornings with history talks by Sheila - including one at the Abbey, Churchyard tidy ups with the BCC a village & school Jubilee & Coronation Event, Marlow Riders coffee stops, a Sunday afternoon of music with Richard Brooman, Quiz Night at Bisham Abbey, school church service refreshments, the Bisham Friends thank you evening, Soup & Social lunches, sunrise service refreshments, & new this year, Church Tours.

We have been trying new things out such as our winter soup lunches and our Saturday afternoon Church Tour Open Days and will update you on these next time.

I wanted to share the significant amount of money that has been raised at some of our fundraisers and say a big thank you to everyone involved

  • Marlow Riders £1915

  • Quiz Night £1028

  • Richard Brooman afternoon of music £700

  • BBO Big Band evenings £1,490

  • Coffee Morning funds for the Ukraine Community £860

With this and other successful fund-raisers, in total we raised £11,202 that will be used for the church, the school & the local community. Last year we funded the new Microphone & WIFI system and donated to the new Organ Fund. This time around our fund-raising efforts will go towards a new servery at the church. This will enable us to better support the church services and Friends events that we plan to host in the future. Permission is being sought, so watch this space for more details.

We remain still very active with Friends, villagers & other community groups with events notifications, Door drops / whats app group/ flyers /posters / website / Round & About /Bisham School/ASM Notice board, Marlow FM etc.

The BCF website From March 22 to date has had around 700 unique visitors, helped by the new sign on the towpath kindly driven by Robert Frost. We have 33 Instagram followers which has increased by 9 .

The results achieved continue to show the importance that beautiful Bisham Church plays as a hub that brings the local community together and reinforces the need to have a place for the community in the village to come together.

I want to personally thank the BCF team, John, Stewart & the BCC, The Jubilee & Coronation team, you the church Friends’, the local villagers and the wider community for all the support we have had. It wouldn’t happen without you all.

As a thank you we would like to invite you to the Summer Bisham Church Friends thank you evening, due to be held at the end of August at Bisham Church for wine, cheese and canapés. – look forward to seeing you there and keep an eye out for the finalised date.

The next events we have planned are included at the back of the newsletter. We hope to see you there!

Sean Wheeler BEM

Chair Bisham Church Friends


Part 2 of All Saints, Bisham and our links to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

With kind thanks to Jim McMaster

In April 2022’s edition of the Friends’ Newsletter we wrote a piece about our links with the Pioneers’ Chapel and Cemetery, Tingalpa (Southeast of Brisbane) and Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Woolloongabba (South of the river Brisbane).

On visiting his daughter and her family this spring, Jim returned to both The Pioneers’ Chapel and Holy Trinity Church to hand over Friendship Binders from the BCF. In return, he received books from both places, given in Friendship to us.

There were a few gaps in our story last time, and with Jim’s help, we are aiming to fill some of them in:


We wrote about The Pioneer’s Chapel being Heritage Listed in 1998, having been borne out of Christ Church Tingalpa – the first consecrated Anglican Church in Brisbane, built in 1868.

As mentioned in the last piece, the Weedon family had owned Paper Mills at Temple. Bertha Weedon was born in 1860 and Christened in the font at All Saints. She went to the newly opened Bisham School. Her Family emigrated to Brisbane and her wedding to Philip Pears was the first at Christ Church Tingalpa.

They had a daughter Georgie, who married a cattle rancher called Frank Hives. He left Australia having lost half his herd and joined the British Colonial Services, becoming a senior diplomat. Frank co-authored 3 books on his Nigerian experiences, ‘The life of a Jackaroo’, ‘Ju Ju and Justice in Nigeria’ and ‘Justice in Nigeria’, all of which remain at Tingalpa.

In 1938 Bertha dies aged 84. Her story is told in Marlow Museum’s booklet “Travellers’ Tales”.

Fast forward to 1996: The congregation at Christ Church dwindled and the Church authorities ordered the decommissioning of the Church, removing the belfry and leaving the building to deteriorate.

At this point fundraiser Jackie Butler has it repurposed as a community centre – the Pioneers’ Chapel and Cemetery. She managed to secure a Government Heritage grant of A$250,000 to help with the work. The Chapel was Heritage Listed in 1998.

In 2005 the Pioneers’ Chapel appointed All Saints the first Honorary Life Member of a Queensland Heritage Group.

In 2017 the Chapel announced that it would begin an ‘Adopt a Grave’ policy for veterans’ families and the community. You’ll be able to see photographs of the cemetery as it is featured in the book given to the Friends and kept in our church. The Chapel holds an annual Settler Family Celebration Day. Each year a different Pioneer Family is selected and celebrated. Family members come from all over the world.

In 2018 Jim and Monica McMaster visited the Pioneers’ Chapel and gave the President, Jackie Butler, the BCF ‘Blue’ Friendship Binder. This was the year that the Chapel and Cemetery celebrated its 150th anniversary.

This year – 2023 - the Friendship Binder was updated to a ‘White’ version and was presented to Ray Pini, President and Donna Power, Vice-President of the Tingalpa Pioneers’ Chapel.


Moving on to the Weedon Memorial Chapel, within Holy Trinity Anglican Church.

Spinster Phyllis Jane Mills of Hyde Farm, Bisham followed the Weedon family to Brisbane.

Thomas’s wife had died on the voyage out and Thomas and Phyllis Jane married.

They were so much part of the fabric of this Church’s community and growth. Thomas was Holy Trinity’s first Lay Reader and stayed in this role for 20 years. Phyllis Jane founded the Sunday school and was known as ‘the Mother of the parish’.

Thomas died in 1896, and Phyllis Jane after the first world war in 1922, having encouraged the young men of the time to join up as soldiers. On her death she gifted “The Wilderness” property to Holy Trinity. Three bungalows were built on the plot. The Weedon Estate is featured in the Holy Trinity 150th Anniversary Book.

The wooden Church was blighted by natural and man-made calamities. It was, as you may recall from our first article, first demolished by a storm in 1874, then again in 1929, by a fire caused by a spark from a passing steam train.

Holy Trinity was rebuilt in Italian Romanesque style and has the small Weedon Memorial Chapel inside. The tall white Spire and Church are clearly visible from the motorway.

It’s 3rd disaster came more recently, in the 1970s, with the construction of the M3 Pacific Motorway. This road ran straight through the centre of Woolloongabba and split the congregation in half – literally. Over the decade, around 50% of the congregation moved on to worship elsewhere, because it was so difficult to reach Holy Trinity church.

In 2014 a Super Cell Storm caused over A$1,000,000 worth of damage. A Heritage Grant saved the day and Holy Trinity was Heritage listed.

The challenges don’t end there... The Australian Government has just announced that the Woolloongabba Stadium, known throughout the world of cricket as “The Gabba”, is to be demolished and rebuilt for the 2032 Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies and athletics events. The construction disruption will surely present Holy Trinity with more pressure on parishioners to continue to worship there. Knowing their determination, they will pull through. We hope so.

Jim and Monica gave Reverend Rosemary Gardiner the BCF Red Friendship Binder and received the Holy Trinity 150th Anniversary book for us.

Sean Wheeler, our Chair, was presented with both books by Jim at the BCF coffee morning on Thursday 11th May, and gave everybody who attended a fascinating talk about his trip and the history of our links.


Quiz night

Matthew Palmer

Bisham Church Friends hosted their first Quiz Night in a while at Bisham Abbey in November 22 . The evening was a great success with over 100 locals competing against some tough categories set by Sharon the resident Quiz leader at The Donkey in Marlow. The ticket price included the Quiz, a light supper of Shepard’s Pie with veg and two raffle tickets all for the great value of £20 per person. The winners were the "Top Table" team which was Jackie & Steve Marfleet, Geoff & Su Woods, Robynne Winer & Chris Redwood who as reigning champions received medals to prove it in total over £1000 was raised which has been donated to the church organ fund. All in all a great evening was had by everyone, so good that the BCF have booked the next one on Wednesday 8th November 2023 again at Bisham Abbey - watch this space this details.

Quiz winners September 2022


Soup Lunches, a new initiative for the community

Gina Palmer

John thought it would be nice to encourage the community to join in the warmth of the church in our Winter months, along with companionship, and a nice bowl of homemade soup. We all agreed and the BCF team would launch the first trial lunch in January, and although it was very well advertised was only attended by a few. The tasty soup, courtesy of Steve and Jackie was well received.

Our subsequent Soup Lunch in February was better attended with 15 people, and again the soup was very much appreciated by those who came.

Our third – and last - date for this winter resulted in some new faces alongside regulars. We introduced a few games on each table, and a pickup service by car if needed. This all went down very well.

We would now appreciate any feedback and any thoughts you might have on the ‘Soup Lunch’ concept, so we can decide whether we continue next Autumn, and what improvements we might make.

Thank you all for your support.


Celebrating Charles’ Coronation Bisham Style! By Zoe Williamson

Following the success of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee last year, the Friends were eager to make the next Royal Event bigger and better than the last, and they didn’t disappoint! Leading the way, Committee Chair Sean Wheeler corralled a group of Bisham residents and delegated roles and responsibilities with aplomb and a large dose of his contagious enthusiasm.

Despite the formidable weather forecast, the day wasn’t as wet as predicted but having the use of the school hall for the main event meant everyone could enjoy the celebrations without fear of a downpour. With an unsurprising theme of red, white and blue the atmosphere was made more regal by the multitude of crowns crafted by the children attending the event. Michael Smith exhibited a series of phototgraphs of our new King through his lifetime, now on display in the Church.

With over 100 residents joining in with the celebrations, the hall was soon filled with the sound of chatter and laughter. This was complimented by the joyful music of the Marlow Ukelele Band whose tunes ranged from 60s classics to modern-day chart toppers.

Entertainment was also provided in the form of a Bisham history quiz, a fancy dress competition and music from Spencer Chaplin.

Sean deserves a special mention for reaching out to local celebrities and securing some wonderful raffle prizes. A massive thank you goes out to Tom & Beth Kerridge for donating Dinner for 2 at The Coach; to Chris Hughes for donating 2 tickets for Pub in the Park; and to The Compleat Angler for donating an Afternoon Tea for 2. Generous offerings from the committee helped the raffle, alongside donations for cakes, refreshments and the BBQ

The whopping £920 funds raised have been split between Bisham Church and Bisham School who have informed us that they are purchasing three book trees as part of a ‘Reading for Pleasure’ initiative to encourage children to try new books.

See everybody at the next one!

Photo by Michael Smith


Sean Wheeler, Hidden Treasure of our Community

This month our wonderful Chair, Sean Wheeler features as the Bisham Church Friends’ Hidden Treasure. I don’t think he knew I was going to do this, so I might be in trouble, but he deserves a tribute – and knowing him, he’s found out anyway.

I spent some time talking to Matthew, his husband and Gina, his mother-in-law about his life, as I’ve only known him for a relatively short time.

Sean is incredibly modest, yet pretty famous. He’s somebody most of Bisham, Marlow, Henley and the surrounding areas know, because he lives and breathes his local community supporting us in so many different ways. He helps people feel valued, connected, respected and included. He’s a very special person and it seemed only right to shine a light on him this time around.

According to Matthew and Gina, Sean was bornin a rush in Henley on Thames in 1963 and it seems he has never stopped since.

The son of a butcher and a retail assistant, Sean was one of 5 children; 2 girls 3 boys. He was always busy, both as a child and a teenager - and couldn’t wait to start work.

One of his first jobs was as a pot washer at the Angel on the Bridge in Henley.

This early (albeit not the most glamorous) taste of the world of hospitality led to him gaining qualifications at Reading Catering College. After that he worked in numerous venues in a number of roles, including commi chef, waiter, barman, across a spectrum of pubs and restaurants.

He then headed to Southampton and opened the coffee shop in Miss Selfridge (in his 20s). This was a pioneering move for the fashion brand and pretty much unique at the time. Sean spearheaded their development across the chain.

His career continued to develop and he eventually became Operations Director for TGI Friday’s, and then Ops Director of their restaurant Group. On he went, going from strength to strength and developing a particular skill in operations and HR.

Eventually he worked with the Bass Restaurant Group for nearly a decade and ended up as HR director at the Dorchester Collection UK.

As we’ve all witnessed with BCF. I think we could run a global Church Friends’ operation with Sean at the helm. He has relentless energy and enthusiasm and his organisational skills are the stuff of legend. But there’s more to being a great leader than this... Even during the most frenetic periods of his career, Sean’s care for others was evident.

In the mid 80s he was a buddy for a client with HIV, looking after him and supporting him with emotional and practical support. He researched how he could formalise his charity contributions. This led to him becoming part of Thames Valley Positive Support, a charity dedicated to supporting people with HIV and Aids. He is now their Chair.

He set up Walk for Well-being 3 years ago – a mental health initiative for people in the Catering Industry.

He delivers Meals from Marlow, supports local Ukrainian refugees, and so, so much more – of course including his marvellous work for BCF as our Chair.

Sean married Matthew on August 16th 2009. They moved to Bisham 7 years ago, in 2016. Gina - Matthew’s mum - who we also know and love as part of our BCF team, came to live with them in her lodge on their grounds in 2020.

Once settled in Bisham, Sean visited the Open Gardens days and as Covid began to encourage a welcome increase in neighbourliness, Sean was keen to get the Bisham community together. There was no community hall, so he decided to be part of the Church community and build community connection from there. The rest, as they say, is history

In 2019 he was very deservedly recognised for all his wonderful work with charities and communities receiving the British Empire Medal (BEM).

This article can’t end without a mention of Sean and Matthew’s babies - they have 2 dogs – Lily being the new arrival – who are their pride and joy.

As I’ve put this together without his input, I couldn’t ask him what his favourite part of the Church and grounds is. Gina, Matthew and I felt his talent for taking photographs, especially of views of the Church from the river, is what must be very special to him.

‘Generous’ is the word his family use to describe him. I’d add calm, kind and inexhaustible. We are all enriched by having Sean on our side.

Sean receiving his Empire medal
Sean receiving his Empire medal

Photo by Sean Wheeler


Bisham Church Council Report: Spring 2023

Alan Randall

The Christmas period was highlighted by many services throughout the Parish with a good attendance of schoolchildren and their parents.

The highlights of our January meeting revealed the extraordinary increase in our gas bill which was £3,100 for the last quarter alone, a figure we can expect to be repeated for the first quarter of 2023. This increase has caused a deficit in our income and expenditure account for the year.

The replacement organ has now been ordered and will cost considerably more than the original £30,000. We have discovered that the VAT involved in the purchase can be recovered which of course is a great help, but the fact remains that we must seek further donations to offset this important investment.

The church pathway has been resurfaced with tarmac and is a great improvement. Although it has great practical qualities, a more aesthetic finish with resin would have proved too expensive.

We have lost two stalwart members of our congregation recently, Elizabeth Bamford and John Harper. Their contributions to our church life were immeasurable and will be sorely missed by us all. A large congregation celebrated John’s life at a very dignified funeral service, all arranged by John. We will have the opportunity to gather in memory of Elizabeth at 2.00pm on Saturday 3rd June.



The Reverend John Smith

As this is the first and maybe the last piece I write for the Friends of Bisham Church magazine, I want to begin by thanking you all for the support you have shown for All Saints Bisham. A big thank you goes to Sean and all his helpers who have done such an amazing job organising events both inside and outside the church. Thanks to our wonderful bakers who produce wonderful cakes, the best in the area I am told. And thank you all for your donations which have been used to fund community and church projects.

As I say, the cakes are wonderful, the history talks are fantastic reconnecting us with our past and heritage, and the donations are always appreciated but what thrills me most about the Friends is to see you all gathered sharing stories, seeking advice, comparing opinions, criticising, encouraging, gossiping, etc. etc. For this is the essence of community, community building in progress, the topic of this piece.

After almost two years of lock down, when we saw some almost heroic community efforts to support others, I think we have a new appreciation for what community gives us. We know by hard experience what we missed and there is a new determination to rediscover community. You all are a good example of this. In truth the breakdown of community has been occurring long before the pandemic. The fragmentation of the family unit, the basic building block of community, became more apparent from the 1960s on.

By nature, as humans, we are community-oriented. Through our activities and jobs, we can share commonalities with others and not feel alone. Yet, people seem to be feeling more disconnected than ever. I do not think we have lost our basic virtue of humanity, love, and the ability to feel empathy but do we know, if we ever did, what it means to understand what a person is feeling, to offer comfort, to be patient, and to walk alongside even if we do not fully understand?

Few people choose to go through life solely on their own. Most of us need human interaction. Isolating ourselves to avoid contact with others may seem a solution, but it is not a satisfying option. I think we have to revive ourselves and the practice of community through healing together, not apart. If we separate ourselves from growing and collaborating with others, we lose out. We are social beings. Most of us need others to live fully as human beings. Rediscovering our sense of community probably begins with serving others, shared sacrifice, being present, engaging with others, and respecting human dignity.

Technology, which should be connecting us as community, seems to be having the opposite effect of isolating us from one another. I am not on social media but from afar it seems a poor substitute for real, flesh and blood connections with people. When we are not bound to wholesome friends, and good community, I think we become more self-serving. Community beckons us to look outwards rather than inwards. We have to rediscover love, compassion, and compromise. Power off the phone, the TV, and the laptop. Look around. We are alive and there are people that need us and we need them despite telling ourselves that we are self-sufficient. You are the nucleus of this happening here in Bisham. I love and respect you for that. Thank you.


And finally, the poem that was recited by James Nesbitt at the Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle. I think it’s rather uplifting!

We’re Lighting up the Nation

Professor Daljit Nagra, Chairman, Royal Society of Literature

No one’s an island when each is at home in the hope and glory! Born free – we’re a plucky bunch of every shade. From the bronze of the Celts across our Roman roads to Windrush and beyond, today, just now, the spectacular parades of light travelling from Windsor to iconic heartlands across the realm so the kingdom be unified. Imagine Edinburgh Castle near monuments for Scott and Burns, or imagine across the waters of Belfast our titanic dockyard and the blood-sweat, the toil that launched a thousand ships over there’s Blackpool for Punch & Judy, glad rags for the tango and foxtrot, and out for a pint of Newkie Brown by the Gateshead Bridge, that harp of the Toon, the Tyne – it’s all mine now all Yorkshire beams from the hall of seven-hilled Sheffield, now my heart’s with the famed anthem, the land of my fathers at Cardiff Millennium! Everywhere I look, from the golden miles of Leicester with their chicken masalas and jollof rice to an eco-haven amid the botanical gardens of Cambridge like the oasis at Eden with its rainforest under a dome, to our bold promise of the cliffs of Dover, everywhere I look, within our shores, I feel a new phase, new chapter must begin, just now, so let’s light up the nation like a smile!


Future dates for your diary

FRIDAY 9TH JUNE - 10am - 12pm

  • Complimentary Community Coffee Morning - All Saints Bisham

  • Homemade cakes & fresh coffee

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

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

SATURDAY 10TH JUNE – 1pm - 3pm

  • Church Tour - All Saints Bisham with Sheila our local historian

  • £5 pp includes Tea & biscuits.

  • Book via Bisham Church Friends Website

SUNDAY 2ND JULY - 3pm - 5.15pm

  • A Melody of Music for a Summer's Afternoon - Richard Brooman & Rowena Gibbons

  • Bisham Church Fund Raiser - Tea & cakes from 4.30pm onwards

THURSDAY 24TH AUGUST – 1pm - 3pm

  • Church Tour - All Saints Bisham with Sheila our local historian

  • £5 pp includes Tea & biscuits.

  • Book via Bisham Church Friends Website

THURSDAY 31ST AUGUST - 6.30pm - 9pm

  • Bisham Church Friends Summer Event

  • An evening to thank all Bisham Church Friends for all their support to date catch up with other Friends & meet new ones who have joined in the last 12 months.

  • Complimentary Wine & Canapés

Please let us know if you would like to join us – details below


  • National Heritage Riders & Striders Open Day - All Saints Bisham

  • Church open for short church tours with Sheila our local historian.

  • £5 pp includes Tea & biscuits

Book via Bisham Church Friends Website


  • Harvest Service - 9.30am

  • Harvest Supper at All Saints Bisham – 6.30pm for 7pm

Keep an eye our on our Events page here for more details.


  • Churchyard Autumn Tidy Up

  • Refreshments after included


  • Afternoon of Music - Details to follow

  • Bisham Church Fund Raiser - tea & cakes from 4.30pm

Keep an eye our on our Events page here for more details.

WEDNESDAY 8TH NOVEMBER -6.30pm – 9.30pm

  • Quiz Night at Bisham Abbey

  • Drink on arrival & Supper included – TICKET PRICE TBC

  • Create a team of 6 or join a team on the night Fundraising event for the Church

  • Book & Pay in Advance - DETAILS OUT SOON

Keep an eye our on our Events page here for more details.

For any questions, please contact / Sean 07808094777 /

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