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Newsletter No. 3 December 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 now stands at 51.

Maintaining our Church (by Rod Stevens – Churchwarden)

Our church was subjected to a forced entry intrusion on or about 29th August this year. Entry was gained by kicking in the door to the Williams Chapel. This caused serious damage to the door frame but not the door. The cost of the repair has been met by our insurance company apart from £100.00 excess. By the time you read this article the door frame will have been replaced. Fortunately no further damage was caused apart from the loss of a small amount of cash from a collecting box at the rear of the building.

Extremes of weather cause a lot of stress to old buildings and the very high temperatures we experienced last summer were the probable cause of several lengths of flashing slipping out of position on the roof of the Hoby Chapel. We contacted our builder, Boshers, to carry out the repair. In order to do this safely scaffolding needed to be erected; this work has now been completed.

Recently we have had members of our congregation telling us, that our sound system in church was not performing as well as when first installed. Discussing this problem with the Rector, he mentioned that All Saints’ Marlow had used the services of Mr John Bowen to carry out adjustments to their system and this had proved very successful. Mr Bowen recently spent a day at Bisham checking and carrying out adjustments to our sound system. The benefit was appreciated by all who attended our service the following Sunday.

We are still actively pursuing provision of kitchen and toilet facilities within the church. Donations made previously for toilet facilities remain ring-fenced in a separate ASB account. Meanwhile, the temporary toilet facilities have been retained.

Two Dips into The Past

1. AN  IMPORTANT DAY AT BISHAM CHURCH in 1998 ( By David Pascall, then Churchwarden)

In late 1997 we received notice that the Lord Bishop of Oxford, the Rt. Rev. Richard Harries, would be coming to All Saints, Bisham in February 1998 to conduct the morning Eucharist service attended by his Chaplain.

Comprehensive instructions arrived from the Chaplain as to how we should attend the Bishop. As Chuchwardens, Elizabeth Bamford and I, in close consultation with our priest, the Rev. Sue Irwin, were, of course anxious to comply with the correct procedures. For example - did we want full ceremonial rig, mitre and crook? Yes, of course! When handing the Bishop his mitre make sure the tails are lying on top and the opening is towards him. Don’t give him the staff first, he only has two hands! He can usually dress himself, but a hand with a cope, if used, is usually appreciated.

The 8th Feb arrived and best suit and tie were duly donned - need to be smart on parade, after all the Bishop was an ex-Army Officer! The Bishop, well known nationally particularly for his regular broadcasts on the BBC Thought for the Day, arrived. He is very tall, particularly so when wearing his mitre and known to be rather severe but he greeted us very warmly putting us at our ease immediately and enthusing about our beautiful Church and magnificent setting.

The golden rule is to make sure that whatever happens, it looks right and that you do it together, even if it wasn’t rehearsed in that way.

The service began with Elizabeth and I, holding our staves of office erect, leading the Bishop and Sue down the aisle.

After the service we posed for photos outside the Church and in due course a very nice letter arrived thanking us for a memorable day in our beautiful Church

Elizabeth and I were honoured to be a part of this important occasion.  My photos are a lasting memory of a highlight in my Church life.

We wish Bishop Richard well in his retirement as Baron Harries of Pentregarth.

2. FREDERICK SEPTIMUS KELLY (1881-1916) (by John Harper).

On 13th November this year, the death of one of Bisham’s most distinguished residents was commemorated in All Saints’ Marlow with a local concert by the Chiltern Camerata, performing mostly Kelly’s own compositions.

Kelly lived with his sister Maisie at Bisham Grange in the pre-Great War period. He was born in Australia of British parents and, on returning to England, completed his education at Eton College. A man of immense intellect, his two most gifted, but greatly differing, accomplishments were his rowing and musical composition. He won the Henley Diamond Sculls in three consecutive years, rowed in the Oxford eight in the 1903 boat race, and competed in the 1908 Olympic Games.

Having been recognised as being musically talented at an early age, he further developed his interests whilst at Balliol - probably at the expense of other studies, as he graduated with a disappointing degree. After Oxford, he studied piano at Frankfurt, to a sufficient standard to accompany the cellist Pablo Casals in a concert performance; he was a personal friend of Percy Grainger.

On the declaration of war, he was commissioned in the Royal Naval Division (naval infantry) and was posted to Gallipoli. He was at Rupert Brooke’s bedside on his death at sea in the Aegean, and was a member of the burial party on the island of Skyros. Wounded at Gallipoli, where he won the DSC – the naval equivalent of the military MC - he was subsequently transferred to the Western Front, by now a Lieutenant Commander. On the 13th November 2016, he died leading his men against a machine gun post at Beaucourt-sur- l’Ancre in the final battle of the 1916 Somme campaign. He was 35.

His name is recorded on the war memorial in Bisham church and his sister paid for the memorial in Bisham village that was designed by Eric Gill.

Photographing Stained Glass (by Robert Frost)

I am fascinated by stained glass, its history, colour, sanctity and craftsmanship, and its vulnerability and longevity in equal measure. Combining this fascination with an interest in photography can present countless opportunities to notice and record, so long as one remembers some simple techniques. This is all made much easier with digital.

You don’t need expensive equipment, but you do need to have it with you. A smartphone is in most people’s pocket, although I often use an old compact camera purchased on eBay for £30. Obviously light is essential and, remembering that it will be coming from behind the glass, keep the flash switched off and pick a fairly bright day. This will ensure vivid colours, a fast shutter speed and small aperture, which should create a sharp image by reducing camera shake and increasing the depth of field. Most times your camera will cope on the automatic setting, although using the programme mode will give you more control.

Most church windows are above eye height. By pointing the camera upwards, you will have converging verticals, which will spoil the image. This can be corrected by using a computer programme later, but I prefer to avoid this by keeping the camera level. Usually I stand back and place the window at the top of the frame, cropping out the bottom of the image later, as I did recently with the famous Jesse window in Wells Cathedral. This breathtaking medieval glass avoided being smashed by Cromwell’s troops, partly because they ran out of time but also, I think, because it is set so high.

Sometimes I raise my own viewpoint. A swivelling viewing screen is invaluable for this and was the only way that I could take the photo of the portion of the Hoby armorial window at Bisham used in the notelets sold in the church. For that I climbed up a step ladder (with care!), leant to the side, because the Two Knights’ tomb was in the way, and held the camera as steadily as possible above my head while looking up into the swivelling viewfinder.

The Nativity scene used for our church Christmas card was much easier. I am surprised at how frequently visitors take time to find it!

Bisham church has glass covering several centuries, all of it interesting and much of it good. It’s worth looking around.

St Cecilia is a favourite saint of mine, so I’m glad she is represented in Bisham.

Here is another Victorian St Cecilia window in Christ Church, Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh, India. How beautiful and different they both are.

The inscriptions on memorial windows can be interesting in addition to the glass. Here is one from the same church in India. What an unfortunate mishap for Dr Jackson.

Our windows, from the Hoby window of 1609 to the St Clare window of 1968, all merit inspection. The latter proved to be ideal for bookmarks, also on sale.

New wine in old bottles might not be a good idea, but modern glass in old buildings often is. You have seen this in bombed churches in London. Here is an example from the 12th century Beaugency Abbey church on the Loire, which replaced the old glass shattered in WW2. Vibrant and wonderful, don’t you think?

Guided tours of the Church and Churchyard, and Church Opening in 2017

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. This conflicts with a prime aim of the Friends to make the interior accessible and we arranged to open the church open at regular times, once a month, during 2016. However, the number of visitors has been very meagre with none at all on most occasions. For 2017 we will change the procedure. Anyone wishing to visit should call the Parish Office, 01628 481806, and arrangements can then be made to open the church at an agreed date and time. If required a guided tour of the church and churchyard could be organised.

Even if the church is not open when you visit, 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.

Christmas 2016 and Regular Services

Christmas Eve Saturday 24th December 

3.00 p.m.          - Crib Service

11.30 p.m. - Midnight Communion

Christmas Day Sunday 25th December

9.30 a.m.     - Parish Communion

Regular Services throughout the year

1st Sunday 8.00 a.m. Holy Communion

9.30 a.m. All Age Service

2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Sundays 9.30 a.m. Parish Communion

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.

Finally we wish you all a peaceful and refreshing Christmas and all that you would wish for yourselves in 2017.

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