27 June 1902 - Bedfordshire Times - Round the County .... LXXV Westoning (ii) of (ii) (Concluded)

On entering the church, one is struck with the lofty Decorated arches and massive octagonal piers of the three bays in the nave. A very noticeable effect is produced by stopping of the moulding of the arches several inches above the tops of the caps. The fine arch openings into the tower are late decorated, if not perpendicular, with responds on each side consisting of semi-circular shafts divided by concave mouldings. There are as also good terminations the hood- mould. Over both the north doorway (which is closed up) and the south doorway, are hood moulds terminating at one end in a return and at the other in a corbel-head with an especially jovial expression? The East Side of the tower projects about a foot into the nave, the western responds of which have therefore to be rather clumsily connected with the tower reponds by a splayed surface.

Though there is at present no visible work in the church earlier than the Decorated period, there must at one time have been here a building of Norman or Transitional Early English date, for into the south wall are built -for preservation- several very interesting fragments of a Norman arch and of what is probably Transitional Early English work. There is also a small portion showing the mid-band of a shaft.

The windows of the church are of different characters, ranging from Decorated to Perpendicular. Each aisle has an east window of three plain lights with Decorated tracery above, and a west window of three cinque-foiled lights rising to a depressed arch. The north wall of the north aisle has two windows, each of which has a central trefoiled light rising to the top of the arch between two plain shorter lights, The south wall of the south aisle has two windows of three quince-foiled lights beneath distinctly Perpendicular tracery. The east window- the only one that has colour-has three plain lights with Decorated tracery above. The subjects of the three principal lights are drawn from the journey to Emmaus (Luke xxiv, 13-29) Mary Magdalene at the sepulchre (John xx, 16-17) and Jesus appearing to the disciples (John xxi, 12-13). The glass is a memorial to the late Rev. John William Coventry-Campion and his wife Ann, and was put in at the expense of their children. Each side of the chancel has two windows of two plain lights under Decorated tracery. There is a priest's door in the south wall of the chancel, and a door opening into the vestry in the north wall. In the south wall of the chancel is a good specimen of piscina with a shelf. A similar trefoiled recess with a shelf in the south wall of the south aisle was probably originally a piscina, though the bottom of it is now covered with cement. Near the south door is a curious massive font, which may be best, described as bulbous mouldings, the workmanship of which is rather rude though probably belonging to the Decorated period. The benches of the nave and aisles evidently date from the restoration in1857. They are of oak, of the pre-Reformation pattern, and the bench ends are carved tracery in the tops of the panels, some of this carving being much older than the present benches and probably belonged to earlier benches. Some fragments of oak dado against the south wall have the appearance of belonging to the Stuart period. The nave is divided from the chancel by the lower parts of an ancient oak screen. There are no traces of the former existence of a rood loft. The pulpit, which stands at the north-east corner of the nave, is of oak with carving in the panels. A litany desk stands in front of the chancel: there is an oaken lectern in the southeast corner of the nave; and near it, above the chancel-step, is a prayer desk. The plain stalls in the chancel are of stained deal. An organ, the gift of Major and Mrs Coventry-Campion, occupies a part of the north side of the chancel. The nave and the aisles are well paved with ancient flag stones; the choir and the sanctuary are tastefully tiled, this work having been done by Major Coventry-Campion, though the care of the chancel belongs to the lay rector, who lives at a distance and whose property is in a trust. The neat and substantial roofs date from 1857.

There is one step from the nave to chancel, one at the altar-rails, and one at the table. The table has a crimson embroidered front; the top is covered with velvet, and on it a brass priest's desk. On the shelf, are a brass cross, two triplet candlesticks, two flower holders, and two single candlesticks. Behind the shelf is a crimson reredos reaching to the window? The east wall, on each side of the table, has a dark green damask curtain with a pattern of fleurs-de-lis. On each side of the east window is a long tablet, the two bearing the Decalogue, Creed etc. In the sanctuary are two carved oak Glastonbury chairs. In the vestry, there are three ancient chests.

The church contains no special conspicuous monuments. On the sanctuary floor are two large black marble slabs. That on the north side is in memory of Susanna, wife of Francis Astrey, D.D. of Woodend, Harlington who died in 1759, aged 79. That on the south side is in memory of Francis Astrey himself, who is described as the son of Sir James Astrey, Knight (by Ann daughter of Sir Thomas Penyston, Bart.) Treasurer Prebendary of St. Paul's Cathedral and rector of St. James's Garlick-Nith, London. He married Susanna, eldest daughter and co-heir of Thomas Walklate, citizen of London, and Margaret his wife. Dr. Astrey died in 1766, aged 91. An elabororatly decorated escutcheon crest, motto etc are carved on the slab, the motto being 'In Coelo Quies'. The Astrey's were the lay rectors. More than a century ago, the Penyston's, inherited the great tithes from them. There is a line of plain square memorial slabs on the north wall of the choir, belonging to the early part of the nineteenth century; but these are nearly all covered by the organ. Near the East End of the south aisle hangs the hatchment of the late Rev. John William Coventry-Campion. The motto is especially noteworthy as one of the very few cases of Greek to be found in such cases. It consists of the first two words of verse 208 of Iliad vi, which, in default of Greek letters may thus be printed


And may be Englished "Always to excel". Pope has thus rendered the whole verse: "To stand the first in worth as in command". On another part of the south wall is a tablet in memory of the Rev. R. Whitehurst, who died in 1823, after having been vicar for thirty years.A few notes should be added to what has already been said of the exterior of the church. The outer arch of the porch is distinctly good decorative work. Above it, is a rectangular niche, now empty, and above that is the narrow (now unglazed) window of the parvise. On the front of the porch are the remains of a large dial minus the gnomon. Another smaller dial, of a very interesting character, is built into the west wall of the tower close to the north jamb of the west door. This dial has most probably been removed from another part of the building. The west door is of Perpendicular work, as is the whole of the tower, except the quite recent parapet, The dripstone has conspicuous head corbels. Over the door is a window of two cinque-foiled lights with a little Perpendicular tracery in the arch. The double corner buttresses of the tower are of three stages, and rise to the belfry. Several of the tombstones and wooden tablets in the graveyard are interesting, One of the latter, from which name and date have been obliterated by time, bears the legend- this written and spelt: - O'er a loving father here

Nature bids us drop a tear

Nature's dictates we obay

And the mournful tribute pay.A lichened stone gives the name of Henry Hume " Vicker", who died in 1710. On another stone is the date 1719. Near the east windows is a well preserved stone in memory of Thomas Beard who died in 1694. A curious nuncupative will, unearthed by Mr. Blaydes, is probably that of the father of Beard, though in the will the name is spelt Bearte. In the year1661, one Thomas Bearte of Westoning, finding himself on the point of death, called in as witnesses Mrs Anne Bunker, Mrs. Bridgett Ceyles (widow) and Richard Roffe, labourer, and in the their presence, this said to his wife, in the words of the will "Sweet hart, thou knowest I have made noe will, I leave all to the (meaning all of his estate to his sayd wife) desireing the to be good to my sonne, or words to the same effecte," etc. Another will date 1678, in which Thomas Piggott gives to his eldest son his sealed gold ring and his silver tobacco box, throws light an interesting light upon the manners of the times.

An entry in ' Mr Blayde's "Bedfordshire Notes and Queries" enables me to mention some of the property belonging to the church when Edward VI's inventory was made in 1552. Many of the readers of this article who may not be students of ecclesiastical subjects will be interested in learning what articles and vestures are in use in the church before the Reformation. Among other things were –two chalices, silver parcel gilt, weighing 18.5 ounces; six linen altar cloths, three towels, two hangings, and two cross cloths; two latten (a kind of brass) candlesticks and a bason, two latten censers and a hearse cloth; several eleven vestments- one green of green velvet, one of blue satin, one of white satin, one of red sareenen, one of green damask, one of red seye (fine serge), one of red satin, one of green thread, one blue thread, one brocaded and flowered, and one other of black; five copes- one of blue satin, one of red sarcenet, one wrought in the frame of thread, one of blue satin, and one of green branched damask, two surplices and two rochets. The hangings and the cross cloths mentioned in the inventory were cloths used in Lent to hang before the Great Rood or crucifix, or for covering the images. "Branched" damask means damask decorated with needlework. Spencer mentions a train " branched with gold and pearl" Shakespeare mentions a "branched velvet gown", and Tennyson makes Enid long for a dress " all branch'd and flower'd with gold."As the vicar vacated the living a few days before I visited Westoning I am unable to discover whether a complete list of vicars has been compiled. In the Clergy List of the Archdeacon of Bedford in 1605, the vicar was William Sterey, "noe grad.." resident. The patron was Sir Geo. ffarmer. There were 190 communicants; and one man and three women were recusants. In the proceedings of the Committee for Plundered Ministers, in 1646, there is mentioned of a vicar named Rawlings, or Rawlins. It appears that he been guilty of marrying the only daughter of a Mr. Vincent, who lived about three miles away, to a man whose name is not given, "in a private manner" in his parish church, in the presence only of the said man's brother, without asking the father's consent or publishing the contract of matrimony " contrary to the directions of the Directory." The case was heard on the 28th of April, and it was order that his offence be reported to the House, that such punishment might be inflicted, as they should think fit. In 1664 Joseph Lamplough, rector of Yelden, was also vicar of Westoning. Mention is made above of the tombstone of Henry Hume, "vicker" who died in 1710; and also of Whitehurst who died in 1823. The Rev. Thomas Pearse, who was succeeded by his son in 1891, was vicar for more than sixty years. The son, the Rev. Arthur Henry Pearse was compelled to resign two or three years ago, on account of his health; when the Rev. Edward Trevor Bird – previously curate of St. Paul's Church, Bedford – was instituted. Mr Bird has just vacated the living, and is again assistant curate at St. Paul's, Bedford. These are all the details I have at present been able to gather. The present patron of the vicarage is Major Coventry-Campion. The register dates from 1560.The parish enjoys several ancient charities. That of the Town Lands includes several tenements and about twenty acres of land. It can be traced back to the early half of the seventeenth century; but how much older it is there are no means of discovering. . The date of the origin of that of the Bread Lands- the annual proceeds of an acre and a half of land- are also lost. The bread is given away on St. Thomas's day. What is called the Widow's land consists of two small pieces of land, which are supposed to have been bequeathed for charitable purposes for poor widows by a Mrs. Dorothy Astley. Is it not possible that the name should be Astrey?Nonconformity is at present represented in the parish by a chapel belonging to a Strict Baptist Church, dating from the latter part of the eighteenth century. A register of births exists from 1798 to 1836. There is also a Wesleyan Chapel. But in the seventeenth century, the parish was very interestingly connected with the Puritan movement. The Rev. William Dell, who as rector of Yelden, and afterwards a preacher in Fairfax's army, made himself a very conspicuous personage, belonging to a Westoning family. He was born at Westoning; and in 1664 he was buried in unconsecrated ground on his own estate in that parish, near the Harlington border. He was one of the elected clergy in 1662, when he was followed by the Joseph Lamplough mentioned above as being both rector of Yelden and vicar of Westoning. A fuller notice of Dell was given in the Article on Yelden. Still more interesting to modern readers is the fact that it was at Lower Samsell, a small hamlet in Westoning on the east side of the Midland railway, that Bunyan was arrested in 1660on the warrant of Francis Wingate of Harlington House. The site of the cottage in which the arrest took place is still pointed out. A full account of the incident is to be found in Dr. Brown's "John Bunyan, his Life and Times." Dr. Brown also mentions, amongst the persons arrested for their Nonconformity in 1669 a "Lawrance Bunion, junior of Westoning, possibly a kinsman of the greater Bunyan then in Bedford gaol." Readers of former articles may remember that there were Bunyans in the neighbouring parish of Pulloxhill as early as the thirteenth century, and that they are mentioned in the "Dunstable Chronicle."In conclusion, I have to thank Major Coventry –Campion, Mr. Trepte and Mrs. Kitchener for courteous aid in the collection of such material as could be gathered upon the spot.

A.R.Correction. - In the former part of this article, in the extract from Rymer's "Foedera", "John de Langeton, bishop of Cirencester" should of course have been "bishop of Chichester." Also " The Lysons says" should have been " The Lysons say". The " bad quarters of an hour" which writers endure, on discovering blunders after their copy has gone to press, should be reckoned among by no means the least "ills that flesh is heir to."