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Stanbridge Church Repairs and Additions

Stanbridge church from the north December 2008
Stanbridge church from the north December 2008

Most of the following information is taken from former County Archivist Chris Pickford's Bedfordshire Historical Record Society volume Bedfordshire Churches in the 19th Century: Parishes S-Y. The earliest precisely datable thing in the church is a bell of 1637, the others dating to between 1709 and 1807. In 1752 repairs were carried out on the church, the bells were repaired in 1780 and between 1793 and 1794 major work was undertaken on the roof and windows [all P57/5/1].

 Daniel Ellingham's memorial December 2008
Daniel Ellingham's memorial December 2008

Just beneath the clerestory above the north arcade is a memorial to Daniel Ellingham which reads, in the eccentric spelling of the time:

In memory of
Daniell Ellingham yoman
who Departed this life
Aug ye 6th 1713: & lieth
Buried under a Stone in ye
midell Space, Aged: 76 years
He was a loving Husband,
& a tender Father to 12
Chilldren, he left good
Instructions to his Chilldren
& gran Chilldren, in a book
of his one Writing to
defier them to feare God,
and be obedent to their parents
Eliz: wife of Daniell Ellingham
who dyed june ye 2nd 1723 age 76.

Another memorial, on the west wall of the south aisle commemorates a tragic story as well as a Wesleyan Methodist, rather unusually in an Anglican parish church:

Fleet memorial on the south aisle west wall December 2008
Fleet memorial on the south aisle west wall December 2008

SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
HANNAH, the beloved Wife of the
REVD. HENRY FLEET, and Daughter of
John and Elizth Tearle of this place,
Who while on a Voyage with her Husband to Africa
Was called to her eternal reward:
Jany 1st., 1839,
Aged 22 Years.
Also of the above REVD HENRY FLEET.
Wesleyan Missionary,
Who died at Sierra Leone Western Africa
May 30th 1839.
Aged 22 Years.

Stanbridge belonged to the Peculiar of Leighton Buzzard until that body was abolished in 1852 and the parish bought under the Archdeaconry of Bedford. At a visitation by the Peculiar in 1827 it was reported that the chancel was: "in great want of repair", a commentator noting in the same year that: "The Tower is greatly decayed and was originally very roughly built".

Stanbridge church from the south-west March 2008
Stanbridge church from the south-west March 2008

Six years later the church was surveyed and Robert Feake Nixon of Woburn won the resulting tender to restore the building. All the lead was removed from the roof and replaced by slates. The other works are not recorded but must have been extensive as the cost was £290, a very large sum at the time. It is possible that the west gallery was erected, the church at least partially re-seated and iron ties inserted to strengthen the north and south walls of the clerestory. Further repairs were planned in 1860, these would have cost £45 but the money could not be raised and so the work went undone.

 Stanbridge church interior looking west about 1890 Z50-108-17
Stanbridge church interior looking west about 1890 [Z50/108/17]

In 1873 Archdeacon Bathurst, at a visitation, described the church as: "very unsound" and in 1888 described it as in a: "very bad state". Such was the condition of the building that by 1881 the organ could not be used and the choir moved from the gallery to the chancel and sang to the accompaniment of a harmonium.

Catharine Lawford's plaque December 2008
Catharine Lawford's plaque December 2008

It was not until 1892 that money could be found to begin the restoration which was completed the following year [P57/2/2/4-20]. A plaque in the church records the fact that Catharine Lawford of Linslade "though not residing nor possessing property in this parish" gave sums amounting to £680 between 1890 and 1893 to aid the restoration. She died on 5th April 1893, aged 79.

The south aisle and arcade December 2008
The south aisle and arcade December 2008

The architect for the restoration was Ewan Christian, who had carried out work at All Saints, Leighton Buzzard, and the cost was £2,229. The south aisle, porch and chancel arch were rebuilt, the roofs restored and recovered with lead, some sixty years after the lead had been removed by Nixon, floors were re-laid and new seating provided. The organ was repaired by Heath & Reach organ builder Thomas Atterton. The church was reopened on 13th July 1893.

 Church restoration plaque on the south aisle wall December 2008
Church restoration plaque on the south aisle wall December 2008

In 1913 stained glass was inserted into the east window and a clock placed in the tower in 1923 as a war memorial [P57/2/2/22-23]. A wooden font cover was provided in 1928 and a new organ chamber and organ provided in 1932 [P57/2/2/27-28].

The east window December 2008
The east window December 2008

The bells were re-hung in 1951 and increased to six in number in 1988 [P57/2/2/31-33]. Further restoration of roofs and fabric was undertaken between 1952 and 1959 [P57/2/2/34-36] and a vestry and ringing loft created in the tower in 1965 [P57/2/2/37-39].

The organ in the chancel December 2008
The organ in the chancel December 2008