The earliest records show a church on this site in the twelfth century built by Geoffrey de Clinton sometime between 1100 and 1135. Geoffrey or his successor later made over the manor of Hughenden including the church to the priory of Kenilworth and it seems that the monks established a small priory in what is now Church House.
A small chapel and a bell tower were added in the thirteenth century on the north side, and later still a small nave, about half the length of the present one was added, and a rounded Norman Arch used for the porch, though where this was originally we do not know. By 1870 the church was in a very bad state of repair, and the vicar, Canon Blagdon, with considerable financial help from his father-in-law, James Searight, set about rebuilding it. He raised the floor of the chancel, altered the pitch of the roof in the vestry, rebuilt the nave, moved the tower to its present position and raised it two stories. The result is an interesting example of Victorian Church architecture at its best.
Church Pre-Rebuild - Exterior
Church Pre-Rebuild - Interior
The Chancel is the remaining part of the original church. During the Victorian extension works in the 1870s, its floor was raised and redone with beautiful ceramic tiles, the roof altered and the walls painted.
In 1992-94 a major redecoration of the nave and chancel was undertaken. The effects of a coke boiler and oil lighting had rendered all surfaces grey. The walls and ceilings of the Nave were repainted, while in the Chancel, all the Victorian paintings and artwork were meticulously restored. In the process, the grapevine design and the gold altar outline were rediscovered and painstakingly put back, having spent most if not all of the twentieth century covered in dark red paint and curtaining. The whole restoration was almost entirely paid for by public subscription over and above an ever-increasing annual budget.
Chancel - Present Day
Chancel - Pre-1994 Restoration
The great Victorian novelist and statesman Benjamin Disraeli, who was born in London and brought up at Bradenham House in the neighbouring village, had long coveted Hughenden Manor. He eventually managed to purchase it in 1848, and with it, the lay rectorship of the parish, which entitled him to collect the Great Tithe and have his stall in the chancel.
He is commemorated in many parts of the church but the principal memorial is on the North side of the chancel, unique in that it is the only known example of a memorial erected by a reigning monarch to one of her subjects. Alongside the memorial are Lord Beaconsfield's Banner and Insignia of the Order of the Garter which were brought to Hughenden from St George's Chapel, Windsor, on Queen Victoria's instruction. Below the memorial a brass plate indicates the seat occupied by the Earl as Lay Rector.
Disraeli Memorial & Insignia
Various items in the church were paid for by the Hughenden Memorial Fund, in memory of Disraeli, including the organ and the murals in the chancel. The mural shown below, located on the south wall of the chancel, is a triptych-style painting of The Adoration of the Magi. In the central panel the Virgin Mary is seated with Jesus on her lap. The left hand panel shows Balthazar with a golden cup, Caspar kneeling with a golden crown, and a page with a gold casket. The right hand panel shows Melchior with a golden casket, a young man behind him holding a chain on a cushion and a page holding the reins of a camel.
The Christ child surrounded by the magi
The Disraeli tomb in the churchyard is a large crypt containing the remains of a number of members of the Disraeli family. It was finally sealed when the last member of the family was buried there in 1967. For the Earl’s funeral use was made of the natural slope of the ground from West to East, and a cutting was dug from the line of the present hedge to the door of the crypt enabling the bearers to carry the coffin right into the crypt.
One of the names on the tomb is not Disraeli. Mrs Brydges Williams, a great admirer of the statesman, offered to make him her heir if she might be buried alongside him. Her offer was accepted, and her body now lies in the crypt in Hughenden churchyard.
The North Chapel, contains some of the most intriguing monuments in the church. At the east end is a brass, the memorial of Robert Thurloe, priest of Hughenden in 1493. Unfortunately it is badly cracked, and rubbings are forbidden to avoid further damage.
The Hughenden Effigies' interest lies in the fact that they are sixteenth century forgeries. Standing at the East end of the chapel the stones mounted upright against the wall are probably original mediaeval tombstones defaced with the meaningless heraldry of the Wellesbourne family, and the recumbent figures are believed to have been placed in the church at the same time in an attempt to establish a pedigree for this “nouveau riche” family living in Brands House, which was at that time the Manor House of the parish. Artistically the effigies are very clumsy, but they are a fascinating example of the lengths to which men will go to establish a pedigree.
Effigy in North Chapel
Memorial of Robert Thurloe
The Pulpit, a memorial to James Searight, dominates the nave, and is decorated with angels and archangels. The Archangel Michael, casting the Dragon out of heaven, is easily identified. The other main figures represent the angel of the Annunciation, the angel of the Revelation of St John, and the one which puzzles many people, the Archangel Raphael who guided Tobit on his journey. He is identified by the fish whose liver provided such an effective means of expelling a devil. Derbyshire Blue John stones give additional colour relief around the frieze at the top.
The font is Early English, probably the original one made for the church when Geoffrey de Clinton built it. Like many old fonts it was retrieved from a rubbish heap and put back in the church. In accordance with ancient custom, it is large enough for a baby to be baptised by immersion. The panels show traces of pigment suggesting they may at one time have been painted.
Hughenden church has served a parish of some twenty square miles from the outskirts of Speen to the borders of High Wycombe and from Naphill to Great Kingshill for some 900 years. In the twentieth century much new housing arrived both in town and village, so that the total population is now around 9000. The nature of the parish is much changed; but through all this, the Church in the Park continues to stand as a witness to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and a spiritual centre, whose setting recalls us to the eternal truths of the Christian faith in a rapidly changing world.