Amongst the cross-society activities in which members can become involved is Church Recording. In fact, Church recording as an Arts Society  activity originated here in the Chilterns – not per se at West Wycombe but, like so many on-going things in life, it was the result of a chance meeting during a journey on the Chiltern line in the spring of 1971. 

What is a Church record?

The Record is a descriptive inventory with photographs of the church contents covering monuments, metal, stone and wood works, textiles, paintings, library, windows and miscellaneous items (which, anomalously considering its bulk, include the organ).  That’s a mammoth task in itself by a team of dedicated volunteers; there remains the subsequent compilation of the Record including editing and checking text, merging of diagrams and photographs and the latter’s consolidation onto a ‘gold disk’ for future posterity and lastly, production and binding of 5 copies.  It is no wonder that the normal period from initial visit to a parish church to presentation of the Record normally spans 2 years.

Church Recording within the Chilterns.

The group supported by and working within our Society’s area is the Thames/Bucks Church Recorders.

I’m Bob Meredith; I’m a Church Recorder and my involvement is now coming up to record number 12. In the last throes of production is the Record for St Nicholas, Ibstone, a small, relatively isolated parish church that visually may have an insignificant appearance but which has served the residents in that hamlet community over many generations. As such this, the group’s 58th Record, deserves as great a diligence in preparatory work as given to larger edifices – after all its artefacts and archives provide a wealth of information and interest that has been at the core of the life in that village.

By the close of last year, over 1700 Church Records had been completed throughout the UK. Copies are retained by the Parochial Church Council; County Record Office or the Diocesan archive; Cathedrals and Church Buildings Council, Church House; the English Heritage Archive, formerly the National Monuments Record Centre, Swindon and the National Art Library at the V & A Museum.  Together they provide valuable reference sources not only for the Church and its insurers, but also the police, students and researchers in a diverse range of disciplines.  It can also provide a valuable resource for educational material within the parish – indeed one of our recent members, Ann Barton of Holy Trinity, Bledlow, led a group developing a ‘Church trail’ for schools and other groups in the parish.  She went onto provide a point of reference for the development of trails in other parishes.


Church Recording is not everyone’s ‘cup-of-tea’ but for anyone with a range of interests, it can open doors to a totally new appreciation of theology, history, architecture and the decorative arts; you meet a whole new group of people with widely different interests. I know; I’ve been there!  If anyone is interested, I’d be pleased to talk in more detail.


But to close, a personal reflection. There have been numerous artefacts that have provided an image that will stay with me for many moons.  The most memorable have come from St Nicholas, Nether Winchendon.  A piece of medieval glass bearing a most beautiful and delicate image of St Peter holding a large key of the time; a Flemish roundel of a rural scene with cows in a pound being milked by two dairy maids; a modern roundel of a lapwing in the porch window.  At Cadmore End a beautiful statuette of the Virgin and Child on the cover of the font and which formed a memorial to those of the parish killed during the two world wars.

And finally, on a board alongside the clock tower at Nether Winchendon:

“The CLOCK was given by the Will of Jane Beresford, widow Lady of the Manor: that it may Remind all who hear it to spend their Time in an honest Discharge of their Calling & in the Worship of God that Repentance may not come too Late.  MDCCLXXII”

Our next Record will be of St Peter and St Paul, Ellesborough - the parish church of Chequers and which gives rise to my inward thought ….” now on a clear, cold, silent night, I reckon one could hear the clock chimes of Nether Winchendon as far over as Chequers.  I have been tempted to email a copy of the above inscription to ‘them as occasionally reside at Chequers’ to ‘read, learn and inwardly digest!”