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Newsletter No. 2 June 2016

Updated: Nov 18, 2019


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

The Scheme was started in June 2014 and the Register of Friends continues to grow, with forty seven members, as the benefits, some of which are described in this newsletter, become more widely appreciated.

This is our second newsletter, the first this year and we plan to issue two editions each year.

Visit to Christ Church Oxford, April 2016 (by Robert Frost)

At the invitation of the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, a group of 28 from Bisham visited the college and cathedral on Saturday 23 April. Christ Church is a constituent college of Oxford University. It is associated with the cathedral, which serves as the college chapel and whose Dean is the ex-officio college head.

The relatively small cathedral, built between 1150 and 1338 before the college was founded, contains the shrine of St Frideswide, which purportedly houses the relics of the 8th century nun, Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford. It is a veritable treasure house, with beautiful stained glass dating back to medieval times and a magnificent lierne vaulted ceiling of 1500. The cathedral was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the 1870s.

The college was founded in 1525 as Cardinal’s College by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, but Wolsey fell out with Henry VIII because of his refusal to support the king’s plan to marry his second wife, Anne Boleyn. After Henry had separated from the Church of Rome and created the Church of England, he refounded the college and then renamed it Christ Church in 1546. The great quadrangle, known as Tom Quad, still bears the outline of the enormous cloister planned by Wolsey but never completed.

During the Civil War, 1642-1646, Charles I had his headquarters at Christ Church. His army kept their cattle in the great quad and their hay in the cathedral. The famous Tom Tower over the entrance to the college was designed in 1682 by Sir Christopher Wren, previously a student at the college. Christ Church has educated 14 Prime Ministers. Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Dodgson) studied and lectured there and, more recently, the college has been used as a location in the films of Harry Potter books. The splendid 16th century dining hall has been reproduced at Cornell University and the University of Chicago.

With so much to see and enjoy, the visit was a full one. Fortunately the rain held off and two excellent guides were on hand to show us round the cathedral and the college, into the Picture Gallery, which houses an important collection of Old Master paintings and drawings, and into the Great Hall for tea. The visit ended with choral Evensong in the cathedral, where the group was allocated the best seats beside the superb choir, directed by Stephen Darlington, which has made scores of recordings. It was an inspiring conclusion to an unforgettable afternoon.

Tribute to Miss Patricia Burstall BEM (by David Pascall)

Following her article in our last newsletter we were looking forward to Patricia’s piece in this newsletter covering an aspect of the Hoby monuments. Unfortunately this is not to be as, following a tragic fall in her garden, Patricia died in March. Miss Patricia Burstall was a true Friend of All Saints’ Bisham. She was well known, not only to the congregation and residents of Bisham, but in the whole of Marlow, for her fundraising activities, for conducting historical tours and above all for running the Bisham Open Gardens Day event for over 20 years. Last year she was awarded the BEM for voluntary service to the community in Bisham, a richly deserved honour.

After reading English Literature at Reading University, Patricia worked for the BBC in London before leaving to care for her mother in their thatched cottage, in Bisham, near Marlow Bridge. Very stoically, she coped with a flood in her cottage on two occasions over the years. She could often be seen in the area pedalling her historic bike and refusing to have anything to do with motor cars. She was an author, member of the Marlow Choral Society and Bisham Church Choir, and, for the Marlow Society, organised various fundraising events and led walks.

Patricia was of an independent nature, a rather private person but with a great sense of humour and steely purpose when exhorting us to support some cause or other. Perhaps in some ways she was a figure from a bygone age, but she was also right up to date with her use of IT for her walk-leading and historical recording. She was a long distance walker too, covering many of the famous walks, including the 600-mile SW Coast Path, always using public transport to get there. She will be greatly missed in Bisham as a pillar of our church.

RIP Patricia. You will not be forgotten.

Postscript: The Bisham Open Gardens Day this year was held on Sunday 19th June and dedicated to Patricia’s memory. It was a great success and likely to be a record year. Sincere thanks to all who worked so hard to ensure that, what was essentially Patricia’s event, did not lose its appeal and momentum.

A Young Friend’s View of Bisham Church (by Alice Turnbull (age 13))

Bisham Church is a church for everybody, of all ages. I’ve known of it all my life, and through all my years of attending services, there has always been something to enjoy. This is just one of the reasons why I love this church so much.

Its location is a part of its importance to me. It is a calming experience to walk down to the river after services and look out over the Thames. I find it is the centre of its surroundings: look straight ahead and you can see the wooded walk by the water; look to the right and you can just see Higginson Park; look the other way and you find yourself staring in the direction of the lock. I find it a tranquil way to connect with nature, and witness the diverse wildlife which grace the river’s banks. I love to walk down there after services with my friends and spot birds skimming the waters.

The inside of the church itself is just as imposing, but in a different way. I often observe its great architectural features, such as the structurally significant arches overhead and the huge pillars which stand amid the pews. It fascinates me how some of the church remains from around 800 years back, when my ancestors would come to the exact same place on the exact day and do the exact same things for the exact same purpose. Not only this, but with its decorative beauty, it all adds to the relaxing environment. In particular the stained- glass windows, which cast a subtle light on me, reminding me of why I am there and also of my religion.

Recently, I came to Bisham Church to do some painting with my friend and her mum. I don't usually paint, but I found myself feeling very peaceful working away at my artwork. Bisham Church is the exact sort of place suitable for this kind of calm activity and this is what I also love about the Church - its character. It is so full of character that I spent lots of my time actually trying to choose what to paint, and it wasn't easy. There is so much in it that makes it special, and it is overall a very familiar and homely place for me.

The sketches of the Lady Hoby Monument and the stained-glass window are by my friend's Mum, and I was very grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to this newsletter.

(Sketches by Nicola Metcalfe)

Guided tour of the Church and Churchyard

Mr John Harper will give a guided tour of the church and the churchyard (weather permitting) at 14.30pm on Saturday 20th August 2016. The tour will take about an hour, depending on questions. If you are intending to visit for the tour, or part of the tour, please let the Secretary know (email address and telephone number are shown below) so that we can gauge numbers.

Church Opening Days

There was a time when All Saints’ Bisham was always open during daylight hours, as is the case with some of the village churches in the area. This enabled casual visitors and those who came from further afield specially to see the monuments to enjoy the building and find peace within it. Sadly, incidents of vandalism and theft made it necessary to keep the church locked at all times apart from when services were taking place or on occasional Open Days. Since this conflicts with a prime aim of the Friends to make the interior accessible, we are pleased to inform you that we intend to keep the church open at regular times during the year. How often this can happen will depend on the number of volunteers willing to supervise the openings. Currently we plan to open the church for viewing, prayer and quiet reflection from 2.00pm to 4.00pm on the third Saturday of each month except 17 December 2016 when it will be open from 14.30pm for two hours.

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

Joining the Friends

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

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

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We are so sorry to hear about Pat - she was such a knowledgeable person and knew so much about the church. She will be sorely missed by the community and would have loved the work of the Friends.

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