(Bedfordshire Churches of the 19th Century - Bedfordshire Historical Society Volume 79 - 2000)


The chancel, nave and aisles of the present church were built in the Decorated style in the C14th, but some C12th carved stones from the previous building have been built into masonry. The south porch also dates from the CI4th. In the C15th the west tower was added, the aisle walls were heightened and the body of the church was re-roofed. There is a C13th font from the earlier church, and the lower parts of a C15th rood screen remain in their original position.1

The Edwardian inventory of 1552 lists the plate and valuables and states that £the churche chauncell steple and porche£ were £all covered with leed£.2 In 1629 William Rawlins left money for £a cloth and carpet for the communion table and a long cushion and a faire pulpit cloth£,3 insisting that the pulpit cloth should have his name on it. In 1672 the four mediaeval bells were augmented to five by the addition of a treble.4 New plate was provided in 1685.5

One of the bells was recast in 1722.4 From 1743 expenditure on the church is recorded in the churchwardens£ accounts.6 The book begins with the recasting of two bells by Thomas Russell of Wootton in 1743.4 In 1753 the pulpit was painted and a new pulpit cloth and cushion were provided.7 Repairs to the leadwork on the roof were carried out in 1779-81 at a cost of some £32. The leaded spire was repaired in 1785 and the accounts record a gift of sixpence to £the workmen having a difficult job at the steeple£.8 Further roof repairs were done between 1787 and 1795. In 1799 the ten commandments were set up in the chancel arch.9 The bells were rehung by John Farmer in 1805 and in 1807 - 9 repairs costing £35 were carried out by Messrs. Drew and Carte.10 In 1810 the church clock was repaired or replaced.11 In 1812 a new patch dated 1777 was added to the plate.5 In about 1815 £a rough temporary gallery£ was built with the name of the churchwarden, William Woodward, painted on the front.12 The accounts also mention a robbery at the church in 1822.

Here at Westoning the evidence in the contemporary sources fits together especially well in showing how Archdeacon Bonney£s orders were implemented. The accounts refer to getting the church ready for his visitation,13 and the volume contains a note on the laws regarding pews and the duties of churchwardens entered £by order of the Archdeacon£ in 1825. Several of the furnishings listed in the 1825 terrier had been replaced or repaired in response to Bonney£s orders, and in 1824-5 repairs to the church were carried out at a cost of £87.14 This included the enlargement of the west gallery. The later accounts refer to the purchase of new hassocks in 1828-9,15 the recasting of the third bell in 1829,4 repairs by William Hindes in 1837-8 and minor work in 1850.16

In 1857 the church was completely restored under William Slater at a cost of £1757. The work involved repairs to the stonework and roofs, a new roof on the chancel, the addition of a vestry and a new stair turret on the tower. The west gallery and the decalogue boards in the chancel arch were also taken down at the time of the restoration.17

43. Westoning: SE view. The roofline on the tower indicates the appearance of the church before the present roof was erected in the C 15th. The chancel roof was raised to a sleeper pitch when the church was restored in 1857. (Watercolour: Thomas Fisher c.1815)
Further work on the church took place in 1893 after an appeal was launched to meet the cost of repairs and improvements.18 Lamps were provided £to make evening service possible£, the stonework was repaired in 1893 by Samuel Foster of Kempston, and in 1894 the bells were rehung in a new frame.19 At the same time chancel improvements were undertaken by J.G. Coventry Campion who in 1895 placed stained glass in the east window in memory of his parents.20 In 1903 a further stained glass window was placed in the south aisle. One of the bells was recast in 1903 and in 1923 a sixth bell was added.4 The oak eagle lectern was presented by Mrs. Newland in 1908.20 More recently, a major programme of restoration to the fabric was completed in 1996.21

1. Extract from glebe terrier, 24 June 1825


Church yard. Item the churchyard containing three roods by estimation, bounded by the land of John Everitt Everitt Esquire on the North and West, by the Public Road on the East, and by the Vicarage premises on the South, railed and paled on the North and East at the expence of the Parish, the West fence is a quick set hedge belonging to John Everitt Everitt Esquire, the South fence is maintained at the expence of the Vicar, the gates thereof made by the Parish. There is a public foot path through the church yard.

Church. Belonging to the said parish are first the parish church an ancient building containing in length within the walls 92 feet in length, the body of the church 46 feet in length, 38 feet in breadth, the length of the chancel is 33 feet, the breadth 17 feet, the steeple is 63 feet high, 13 feet long and 11 feet broad.

Furniture and ornaments. Within and belonging to which one communion table and a covering for the same of blue cloth,3 likewise another of linen and two napkins. Two surplices, a flaggon plated,5 a silver cup, & paten, a pewter bason for the offertory, an iron chest for the registers & other parish documents,22 3 wooden chests, one pulpit and reading desk, one pulpit cushion covered with blue cloth,7 one large bible of the last translation,23 two large common prayer books.24 The book of homilies. The ten commandments.9 One church clock.11 Five bells with their frames,4 the diamr. of the first bell is two feet five inches & a half, of the second is two feet eight inches, of the third bell is two feet ten inches & a half, of the fourth bell is three feet one inch & a half, of the fifth bell is three feet five inches & a half. A bier. A hearse cloth. 25

Parish Registers. A parchment register book beginning 1563 ending 1723,26 another beginning 1724 ending 1793, another beginning 1793 ending 1812, another of marriages beginning 1754 ending 1802, another register of marriages beginning 1802 ending 1812, likewise 3 register books for baptisms, marriages, & funerals respectively, according to the statute, beginning 1813, and also a register for banns beginning 1824.

Seats in the Church. The seats in the body of the church repaired by the parish, those in the chancel by the Rector. There is also a gallery erected by William Woodward Churchwarden for the use of the singers enlarged last year for the use of the Sunday School.12

Parish Clerk. There is also due to the Parish Clerk from the Parish two guineas per annum. For every funeral two shillings, for every marriage by banns two shillings and sixpence, banns one shilling, for every marriage by licence five shillings, for a woman£s churching sixpence.

2. Archdeacon Bonney£s historical notices of churches, c.1820-1840

WESTONING, St. Mary Magdalen. This church consists of a Nave, aisles separated by large octagonal Piers and lofty pointed Arches with plain Mouldings, Chancel, & Tower at the West End, on which is a short leaden Spire.8 The Font is circular on a circular Base. The general Character of the Church is early decorated.

On the Chalice is this Inscription £George Whittimore John Dix Churchwardens of Westoning in Bedfordshire 1685£.5

3. Archdeacon Bonney£s visitation notebook, 1823-1839

WESTONING. This Church consists of a Nave, North and South Aisles, a Tower at the West End of the Nave and Chancel at the East End thereof.

At the Visitation of 1823,13 The following Order was given that - the third Bell be recast in the Course of three years;4 a blue Cloth Covering for the Communion Table be purchased,3 and also a plated Flagon;5 the Seats be made Oak colour - The long Seats be taken up, made even, repaired, & set down again & oiled; the same be done to the Pulpit and Reading desk; The Earth be moved from the Walls of the Church & proper drainage be made.14

At the Visitation of 1826. It was ordered that the Stonework of the Cornices, Doors, and Windows of the Tower be restored with Parkers Cement - & new Weather boards be placed in the Windows.

At the Visitation of 1833 The following Order was given, that, a new Font Bason be purchased - the Windows of the Bellchamber be restored with Cement - the Fence of the Church Yard be repaired.

At the Visitation of 1836 Ordered that the Windows of Bell Chamber, Church Yard Fence, and timbers of the North Aisle be repaired16 - also that the Pulpit Cloth & Covering of the cushion be turned and cleansed.

At the Visitation 1839. Ordered, the Communion Table to be oiled, the Gallery to be painted to suit the Seats - The Clerk£s Prayer Book to be repaired.24 The Tower to be put into Substantial repair, particularly the Bellchamber £Windows and Roof. The steps before the Communion Table to be set even - & the Parish Chest to be set on Feet to secure the things kept in it from damp.

4. Article on the Church by WA. (no.8) NM 2 August 1845

WESTONING. This church was in a very neglected state;27 the dirty condition which it exhibited, and for which there can be no excuse, must disgust every one, even those who are indifferent to Church architecture. It seemed in character with the dirty chancel, and stagnant water, which you pass in your way from the high road to the Church. White washing, however, had not been neglected, and it had been so perseveringly applied that the mouldings were nearly obliterated. In the porch especially this was the case, where the windows, apparently very good specimens, had been bricked up. Why this was done we are at a loss to conjecture, more especially as there is a miserable wooden gate to prevent the

£Offering a sunny place to them
Who deck the house of worship.£

The wooden roof remained, but a gallery of the most unsightly description ran along the whole of the western entrance. The arch was boarded up, the western light, of course, excluded. The originator of this disfigurement had thought so well of his work as to record his name.12 There were none of the original sittings left, but the £lidless boxes£ prevailed over them, one of which almost entirely excluded an apparently very good niche. The font was£.

£.wooden roof remained, the crown of the arch had been boarded up, for the purpose it is presumed of placing in the wrong situation, the ten command merits, &c., badly executed.9 Over the centre of the miserable communion table, some former incumbent had had the bad taste to erect a tablet in memory of himself and wife.28 We hope the Venerable Archdeacon, on his next visitation, will order it to be removed. There were two large pews in the chancel not much better, and equally offensive as the other boxes for which this portion of the sacred edifice appeared to be the receptacle. The lead on the roof had not been removed. The Church-yard was in a neglected state, July 29th 1845.

Notes 1. Pevsner pp. 161-2 VCH III pp. 453-4, and Bernard Anderson Parish Church of St.Mary Magdalene, Westoning (1997); 2. Eeles and Brown pp 9-10; 3. Memorandum in parish register, 1629 (P 16/1/2). The 1629 pulpit cushion was replaced in 1753 (note 7) and in 1824 the parish bought a new £blue cloth for communion table£ from Mr. Mellor (£12 15s), as ordered by the Archdeacon; 4. Details of the bells are given by North (p. 204). There were four bells in 1552 and so the treble dared 1672 was probably an addition. The bell of 1722 was recast in 1903. The recasting of the second and tenor bells in 1743 is fully documented in the accounts (P 16/5/1), as are the rehanging of the bells by John Farmer (£23 5s) in 1805 and the recasting of the third (as ordered by Bonney in 1823) by Mears in 1829; 5. According to the VCH and the modern schedule (ABE 5), the plate includes a cup (hallmarked 1655 bat inscribed and dated 1685 as noted by Bonney), flagon and alms dish of 1683, a paten (hallmarked 1777) acquired in 1812, and a paten of 1876. The accounts (P 16/5/1) record the purchase of a new plated flagon (Rev. Mr. £Pearse £1 15 6d) in 1824 in compliance with Bonney£s visitation orders; 6. Churchwardens£ accounts 1743-1841 and 1841-94 (P 16/5/1-2); 7. The new pulpit cloth and cushion of 1753 probably replaced those of 1629. The accounts for 1753 record payments for the new pulpit cloth (£4 3s), and £A Piller and Feathers for the Coshen and Making£ (7s) (P 16/5/1); 8. The accounts record payments of about £18 to John Carte (plumber). Thomas Stanbridge (carpenter), and William Wildman (bricklayer) for work on the steeple in 1785 (P 16/5/1); 9. The churchwardens paid £John Carte£s bill for Erecting the Ten Commandments & other repairs for the church£ (£20 13s 4£d) in 1799 (P 16/5/1). As noted by W.A. and in the appeal leaflet for the 1857 restoration (BS 601) the commandments were painted on a partition in the chancel arch; 10. Payments to Mr. Drew (£13 3s 10d) and Mr.Carte (£22 3s) 1807-8 (P 16/5/1); 11. A clock is listed in the 1708 terrier but there is no mention in the churchwardens£ accounts until 1809. It seems that the clock was restored or renewed in 1810 by Thomas Hardwick of Ridgmont. It is mentioned in the accounts for 1842, but it was probably removed when the tower was restored in 1857; 12. The ICBS papers (LPL ref: ICBS 5056) mention £a rough temporary gallery put up without a faculty about 35 years ago£ and the descriptions in the terrier and by W.A. suggest that it bore the name of William Woodward as churchwarden. He held office from 1810 to 1835. The gallery was enlarged in 1824 as indicated by the terrier; 13. Payment for cleaning £when the Archdeacon came to inspect the church£ 1823 (P 6/5/I); 14. The accounts (P 16/5/1) record payments in 1824-5 to Mr. Stanbridge, Mr. Taylor. and to Mrs. Rees for work in the church and the total cost of the work was later given as £87 (LPL ref: ICBS 5056). Mrs Rees was paid £for painting the pews seats & the two Ends of the gallery and Repairing the Church windows£ but the other payments in the accounts give no detailed information on what was done; 15. Payments to George Rich for 8 Hassocks (£1 3s) in 1828, and for a long hassock in the chancel before the altar (15s.) in 1829 (P16/5/1); 16. Bill of William Hindes for repairs to church and churchyard (£16 1s 4d) in 1837-8 (P 16/5/3), and payments in accounts to W. Hinde (£9 16s 8d) and Mr. Sheard (£12 10s 3d) 1850 (P 16/5/2); 17. Sources for the restoration in 1857 include memoranda and minutes in the account book (P 16/5/2), appeal leaflet with print showing Slater£s impressions of the restored interior Jan. 1857 (BS 601 and X 254/88/262), a ground plan by Slater (at the church), the ICBS papers (including a plan) 1826-8 (LPL ref: ICBS 5056), and reports in BT 31 Oct. and 7 Nov. 1857, The Builder 7 Nov. 1857 p.645 and AASRP p. 244; 18. Appeal leaflet and accounts regarding the work of 1892-4 (P 16/2/2/1-2 and p 16/5/2). Archdeacon Bathurst (ABE 3) also refers to the repairs done in 1893; 19. Papers concerning the rehanging of the bells, 1894 (P 16/2/2/1), including plans of the new bellframe; 20.The stained glass of 1895 and 1905 and the new lectern of 1908 are mentioned in Kelly£s Directory 1914 (p. 184); 21.The recent repairs are described in detail by Anderson pp.18-9; 22. The iron chest was purchased (£2) in 1823 (P 16/5/1); 23.The Church bible was bought (£1 10s) in 1765 and the accounts record a payment to £Mr. Franklin new binding bible£ (£1 7s 6d) in 1831-2 (P 16/5/1); 24. The churchwardens bought a £New Common Prayer book£ (£1 1s) in 1777 and another one (£2 3s) in 1812 (p 16/5/1). In 1846 Mr. Dodd of Woburn received 6s. 6d. for repairing a prayer book (P16/5/2); 25. A £Black cloth for town burials£ was bought (1s) in 1754-5, and a Mr. May of Ampthill supplied a £new paull£ (£3 6s) in 1808-9 (P 16/5/1); 26. This volume is incomplete. The section for 1595 must have been missing for some time as a gap is noted in the Parish Register Abstract (1831); 27. The remark is surprising considering the level of upkeep and care evident from the other sources; 28. In a letter in NM 30 August 1845 J.D. Parry took exception of WA£s comment about the memorial tablet. Parry assumed that the Rev. R.H. Whitehurst was the subject of the tablet concerned and wrote in defence of the latter£s character, describing his good works. In a postscript to the Ridgmont article in NM 6 Sept. 1845 W.A. admitted his error in implying that the tablet had been erected during the incumbent£s lifetime but stated that Parry was in error of having assumed he was referring to Whitehurst£s memorial. He maintained his view that £nothing can justify the position the tablet occupies£.