Updated: Nov 26, 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. The Register of Friends now stands at 80, an increase of 50% so far this year. Anyone interested in this special place, wherever they live and whether or not they are church-goers, is welcome to join.
Anyone looking down the length of the church cannot fail to notice the large east window, and perhaps to wonder who some of the figures represent, how the window came about and when it was installed. It is a masterly work of stained glass, with striking colours when the light is favourable, and John Harper gives us an informed and vivid description from top to bottom.
The church has a few brasses. One, a delightful image of an early 16th century salt fishmonger, Thomas Crekett, is now in a prominent position at the back of the nave. Sheila Featherstone-Clark tells us as much about it as is known, although what connection its subject had with Bisham is unknown. The other brasses, of the merchant venturer John Brinkhurst and his two wives, are well documented and have a much fuller connection with the locality. These are tucked away in the tower and go largely unnoticed. The fascinating history behind them deserves a comprehensive explanation, beyond the available space in this Newsletter, so it will be a main feature of our 8th issue next spring.
When it comes to connections, who would have thought that there was a strong historical link between the parishioners of Bisham and a cemetery chapel in Australia? Jim McMaster who, with his wife Monica, has visited Tingalpa, Brisbane, gives us the intriguing details in his article. It is our good fortune too that the recently appointed President of the Friends of Tingalpa Chapel, Geoff Doherty, will be in Britain with his wife Marg this autumn and can spare the time to visit us on Sunday 6 October. We are arranging an informal lunch in the church that day for anyone who would like to meet the Dohertys and each other. Details are given in this Newsletter and we do hope that you will be able to join us.
It has always been our aim to arrange at least two events each year for Friends, and usually open to all. The history talk in May, attended by about fifty people, was a great success. Sheila Featherstone-Clark is working on a sequel, covering a later period of Bisham’s history, which will be advertised in due course. Friends are encouraged to propose ideas and of course to offer their help if they wish.
Visitors to the church are always welcome. We wish it were open more often and we are still trying to do something about this. However, it can always be opened on request, as happened for a group of archivists from St George’s Chapel, Windsor in April. They were pleased with their guided tour.
May I take this opportunity to thank you for all the support you give in various ways, as Friends, to the preservation of the building and the strengthening of the community. We hope you will find this Newsletter interesting.
The East Window (John Harper) Photos Robert Frost
On Easter Day this year, the hardy souls who attended the 6.00 am Sunrise service at Bisham were rewarded with a rare vision. Entering the church, on a cloudless morning, the sun was shining directly through the chancel’s large east window, enhancing its colours and its design in a spectacular way.
The window is, in fact, one of the newer features of the church, having been installed as recently as 1914. Its predecessor had had a relatively short life - it had been donated by Vice-Admiral Edward Vansittart from funds which were a farewell gift from the traders of Hong Kong, in gratitude for his ridding the seas of pirates around that coast. It had been a two light window, but unfortunately there is no available record of its design. For reasons unknown, it was considered by the Vansittart-Neale family to be capable of improvement, and a replacement three-light window was commissioned from the artist/designer James Powell.
He was given the theme ‘adoration’, and virtually all the figures depicted are kneeling in obeisance, looking towards Christ, who dominates the main central panel.
At the window’s apex, the familiar Paschal Lamb has been positioned. Moving downwards, the symbols alpha and omega (‘I am the beginning and the end’) appear beneath.
Following the features downwards, we find a group of buildings which are presumed to represent the Celestial City. Immediately underneath, the depiction of Christ dominates the whole tableau, attended in both adjacent lights by worshipping groups of angels and archangels.
Moving further downwards, the next section of the central light shows Mary, with the Christ Child, attended by an angel. On the left side of this panel, a group includes principal saints of the Christian church (perhaps in token deference to the church’s dedication), which includes St John, St Paul, St Stephen, St Mary Magdalene and St Peter. On the window’s right light, other historical figures have been portrayed. These include St Frideswide (patron saint of Oxford), Bishop Hugh of Lincoln, and St Nicholas (identified by the model of a ship he is holding, as patron saint of sailors). The inclusion of St Pancras, originally of Antioch, is something of a mystery, as he has no known connection with any place north of Rome where, as a Christian, he was martyred on the orders of the Emperor Diocletian. Finally, in full amour and kneeling at the lowest point in this section, we have the veteran of Agincourt, the 4th Earl of Salisbury whose family connections, the Montecutes and Nevilles, were in occupation of Bisham over a period of two hundred years.
At the window’s lowest level, we finally leave the sacred and celebrate the secular. In the middle can be clearly seen a depiction of Bisham Abbey, whose history has been so closely bound up with the church’s. On either side are found (on the left) the shields of Thomas Montacute (4th Earl of Salisbury) and Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury (father of Warwick the Kingmaker). On the right are those of the Hoby and Vansittart-Neale families respectively.
The impact of the whole window, in its resplendent colours, is a very appropriate tribute to both the glories of God, and his servants, as well as the many distinguished figures who have played such a dominant part - not only in Bisham with its church – but in the life of our nation.
The Thomas Crekett Brass (Sheila Featherstone-Clark) Photos Robert Frost
LSW.II. Thomas Crekett, fishmonger of London 1517, in civilian dress, and inscription; wife Annes, daughters and shield (Fishmongers’ Company) lost
This London F style brass, comprising a male effigy and four-line English inscription, has been removed from its original slab, formerly on the floor of the nave, probably during the extensive restoration undertaken in 1849. The inscription reads:
Pray for the soules of Thomas Crekett somtyme Fysshemonger of London and Annes his wyf the whiche Thomas decessed the XXV day of July the yer of O´ Lord MDXVII o whose soull jhu have mcy
The two plates originally formed part of a much larger composition comprising also a female effigy, a group of daughters and a shield bearing the arms of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers. The male effigy is depicted wearing a long fur-edged gown with very deep sleeves, and showing a gypcière or purse attached to the girdle.
The Bodleian Library in Oxford also possesses a rubbing of the female effigy and a drawing of the complete brass. (We’ll try and obtain a copy or link for a future Newsletter. Ed)
The specific connection to Bisham is not known but Thomas Crekett’s arms show that he was a salt fishmonger.
All Saints’ Bisham and Christ Church (the Pioneers’ Chapel), Tingalpa, Brisbane, Australia (James McMaster)
On 31 December 1854 Bertha Weedon was born at Temple and christened in the white font in All Saints’ Bisham. Her story is told in Marlow Museum’s Travellers’ Tales, with Marlow Connections. In 1863 her father Thomas Weedon and his brother Richard sold the Fine Paper Mill at Temple. Bertha’s paternal grandparents lived in The Deanery, St Peter’s Street, Marlow and the families left from there for Queensland.
Thomas’s wife Maria died a week before the ship arrived in Moreton Bay. The families settled in Tingalpa in the western outskirts of the new settlement of Brisbane. At that time there were no places of worship for the Pioneers.
In 1865 the Bishop of Brisbane, EW Tufnell, returned to England to recruit clergy and raise funds for building churches. Miss Phillis Jane Mills of Hyde Farm, Bisham, urged the All Saints’ Bisham congregation and parishioners to contribute. £50 was sent to Tingalpa.
After Bishop Tufnell preached at an unidentified church in Leamington Spa, Miss Louise Ann Finigan and parishioners raised £100. The Bisham and Leamington Spa contributions totalled about 60% of the eventual building costs of Christ Church, Tingalpa.
On the 28 October 1868 Bishop Tufnell consecrated Christ Church and Burial Ground, Tingalpa, the first consecrated Anglican church in Brisbane. Miss Mills emigrated to Tingalpa and married Thomas Weedon.
Susannah Weedon (Thomas Weedon’s mother and Bertha’s grandmother) was the first person to be buried in the burial ground. Bertha Weedon and Philip Pears were the first to be wed in Christ Church. Christ Church was demolished in 1885 by a cyclone and Thomas Weedon spearheaded the rebuilding effort.
Over time, by 1996, the congregation at Christ Church had diminished and the chapel was in a state of disrepair. Eventually it was deconsecrated and stripped for demolition. The local community appealed for Heritage Listing Status which, after a protracted campaign, was granted.
In 2002 the redoubtable Jackie Butler initiated the forming of the “Friends of Tingalpa Chapel” group to protect and restore both the chapel and cemetery. In 2005 All Saints’ Bisham was appointed the first Honorary Life Member of a Queensland Heritage Group.
In 2007, 139 years after its first consecration, the yet again restored (at a cost, this time, of some A$250,000) Tingalpa “Pioneers’ Chapel and Cemetery” was opened for public use for civil weddings, baptisms, burials and individual Pioneer Descendant celebration family days.
In 2017 Pioneer Descendant families, residents, military veterans and their families welcomed the opportunity to “adopt a grave”. 2018 was the 150th Anniversary of the consecration of Christ Church, Tingalpa. The cemetery now holds some 300 Pioneer and Descendants graves.
After 15 years of determined and successful effort to save Christ Church and Cemetery for the Pioneer / Settler Descendants and the local community, Jackie Butler handed over the leadership of the Friends Group to Geoff Doherty. Earlier this year she accepted Honorary Life Membership of the Friends of All Saints’ Bisham and, through their new President, the Friends of Christ Church Tingalpa Chapel as a whole also accepted Honorary Life Membership.
There are other links between Bisham and Tingalpa. In Tingalpa two Burstall brothers farmed and milled sugar cane. Nearby Burstall Avenue, Belmont, is named after them. There is a family link to the late Patricia Burstall.
Kathleen and Philip Oscroft, neighbours of Patricia Burstall, visited Tingalpa and Jim and Monica McMaster have enjoyed morning tea under the Jacaranda trees, with Jackie Butler, some of her team and a descendant of the Weedon family.
On Sunday 6 October 2019 Geoff Doherty and his wife Marg will be visiting All Saints’ Bisham. Long may the links flourish between us!
Informal lunch in the church to welcome Geoff Doherty, President of the Friends of Tingalpa Chapel, Brisbane, Australia
On Sunday 6 October Geoff Doherty and his wife Marg will visit the church for a guided tour at 11:30, followed by an informal lunch in the church at 12:30 hosted by the Friends. All are welcome, whether or not they are Friends. There will be no charge, although a small donation at the time to help defray the cost would be welcome.
Would you please inform Robert Frost (firstname.lastname@example.org 01628 476772) as soon as possible, and by the end of September at the latest, if you are able to come, so that we can make the necessary catering arrangements.
Visit by archivists from St George’s Chapel, Windsor
On Tuesday 9 April Kate McQuillian, Archivist & Chapter Librarian of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and four colleagues visited the church. This visit was arranged by Ann Darracott of the Maidenhead Civic Society and a Friend of All Saints’ as an extension to a visit to Bisham Abbey, particularly to study any armorial designs relating to the Order of the Garter. The visitors enjoyed a guided tour of the church. They were especially interested in references to the Earls of Salisbury, several of whom were appointed Knights of the Garter, as you may have noticed from the portrayal of the 4thEarl, described in John Harper’s article on the east window.
A new guide
Copies of The Story of Bisham Church. A short history and description (an attractive, illustrated, 24-page updated version of the previous guide) are now available in the church at a price of £1.50.
The plaque in memory of Patricia Burstall (message from the Church Warden)
We have received a very generous gift from Sandi Gifford and her family to provide the funds for the purchase and installation of a memorial plaque. This will be installed on the north wall of the church.
Members of the community who had gifted funds have been contacted and the gifts reallocated or returned depending on their wishes. We thank all those who had gifted funds for their generosity.
The order has now been placed with the stone mason.
1st Sunday in the month 8.00am Holy Communion
9.30am Informal Communion
Other Sundays in the month 9.30am Sung Eucharist
Church opening and guided tours
It is now possible that you might find the church open on a Wednesday, although we cannot at present confirm a schedule for this.
If you do find the church closed outside service times and would like to visit, you 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 can be organised, depending on the availability of volunteers.
Even if the church is not open when you visit, the churchyard is an experience to be savoured and enjoyed, and you will find 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 email@example.com, 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 me on 01628 476772. If they live in Marlow or Bisham and would like me to visit them personally to discuss the Friends, including ways in which they might help, I should be glad to do so.