All Saints’ Church, Renhold, Bedfordshire, England

With its lovely brown cobbled walls, small leaded spire and its blend of Decorated and Perpendicular styles of architecture, All Saints’ Church has served the Parish of Renhold for over 800 years as a building for worship of our Lord.

It stands in the centre of the village and at the highest point, 169 feet above sea level, overlooking the valley of the River Great Ouse. Originally a daughter church of Newnham Priory, it was given the tithes of the Parish with responsibility for maintaining the building. The earliest recorded Vicar was Geoffrey de Ranhal, appointed by the Prior and Convent of Newnham in 1229.

The Church consists of a Chancel, Nave with Porch, North Aisle and West Tower. Parts of the Nave and North Aisle date from the 14th century.

The West Tower was built in the 15th century, at which time the south wall was rebuilt. In the mid 1850’s many churches were in a sad, neglected state and the unsatisfactory condition of All Saints was deeply deplored. An article published in the Northampton Mercury on 15th January 1853 described the interior as “dirty and decayed”. The Lay Rector’s seat was softly cushioned, contrasting strongly with the dingy appearance elsewhere in the building. In the belfry reposed a bath, purchased for the use of the parishioners when the cholera raged (Bedford had an epidemic in 1849). Windows were blocked up in the Porch and a family vault marred one of the windows in the Aisle. A copy of a painting of the Church in 1815 by Thomas Fisher is shown below - the original is in the Luton Museum.

The painting depicts the lower level of the roof before the 1863 restoration, revealing the small door above the roof in the Bell Tower. The roof was raised in 1863 and the former door is now a window within the Church. - see pre 1863 roof line. The Bull Family Memorial can also be seen between the Vestry windows (plots Y25-Y29).

In the years 1862/1863 all was remedied and the present appearance of the Church owes much to the restoration work carried out by local contractors under the supervision of James Horsford, a Bedford architect, with advice from the Rev. William Airey of Keysoe, Bedfordshire, Rural Dean, who advocated the removal of the plaster walls. The work, which cost over £800, included rebuilding the Chancel arch and east window, new roofs, new pews, new fittings in the Chancel, and the addition of gable crosses to the Chancel arch and east wall. In fact it was a thorough overhaul. The Font was placed by the south door and the Chancel floor laid with Minton tiles. The Nave and Aisle were fitted with open seats and that part of the floor laid with red and blue Staffordshire tiles. The Church re-opened on Thursday 29th October 1863 with Divine Service.  

THE CHANCEL

Pews for the Patron or Squire lie to the north side with the Vicar’s family pew on the south side. The stalls were carved by Mr Conquest in 1863 and the Altar rails were made by Rattee and Kett of Cambridge. The kerb to the Priest’s step is of black marble. In the north wall is a blocked window which is visible from outside above a mausoleum. All the slates to the Chancel roof were renewed in the 1950s.

There are ancient monuments in white marble to the Becher and Polhill families of Howbury Hall and a high altar-tomb with richly carved figures of Edmund Wayte and his wife in brass on the lid.

The main part of the east window in the Chancel was replaced with plain glass in 1979 courtesy of the late Patrick Ralph Harrison of Abbey Farm.

The stained glass Memorial Window in memory of Peter Henry Joyce of Woodfield Farm is in the south wall of the Sanctuary. The dedication service was held on 23rd March 1990 led by the late Rt. Rev. David Farmbrough, Bishop of Bedford. Also in the south wall is a smaller two light window.

There is a 15th century door in the north wall of the Chancel, which opens into the Vestry and a similar Priest’s door in the opposite south wall, between the two windows.

THE NAVE

The original Nave is 14th century, but was considerably restored in 1863. Click here to see pictures of the Nave and Chancel.

The remains of a circular staircase near the south wall led to a Rood Loft, no longer in existence.

The pulpit is 17th century Jacobean with carved panels and was mounted on a new oak base of Gothic design in 1863. The panels were renewed in places by the late Mr C G Barber. On top are two ancient adjustable candlesticks and a book rest.

The Prayer Desk on the north side of the Chancel Arch opposite the pulpit was constructed of open oak tracery from the Rood Screen, found in the Church in 1863. Now known as the Vicar’s Stall.

The Lectern was donated to the Church in 1887 by Rosa Leigh-Spencer, the daughter of the Rev. Leigh Spencer (1859 – 1885).

On either side of the Tower arch are two tablets containing the Ten Commandments, which were erected in 1957, following their presentation by Mr William Simons of Birchfields Farm. The tablets are of Hopton-Wood stone. A board bearing the Commandments was put up in 1773 and remained until the 1862/1863 renovations.

Around the walls of the Nave and North Aisle are the Stations of the Cross. These were originally made for the Chapel in Bedford Prison and when they fell into disrepair, they were replaced and offered to our Church. They were restored by Haydn Baker, who then lived in the Village, and dedicated by Rev David Gamble c.1989.

THE NORTH AISLE

This is the most ancient part of the Church with two windows in the earlier style of architecture with “decorated tracery”. It is known as the Reaper Chapel.

The west window is 15th century. The east window is a stained glass memorial of 1966 to the Simons family known as the Reaper Window.

At the top of a small window in the north wall there is a red shield with three picks on it - the Arms of the Picot family; see Picot Window.

The original north door was removed in 1948. The present door, new in 1988, leads into the Chapter House.

THE VESTRY

In the north wall of the Chancel is a 15th century priest’s doorway which leads into the Vestry. In 1723 William Becher, who died in 1724, left £676. 18s. 6d, in his will of 31st May 1723, to purchase consolidated stocks to produce £16 19s 4d per annum to endow a school and schoolmaster. The Vestry was built as a schoolroom by his son, soon after his father’s death. There is reference to a schoolmaster at Renhold in 1730. The owner of Howbury from time to time was to have the right of appointing a master hithereto – this no longer applies! The Vestry continued in use as a school until 1865, when a new school was built in the village (now a private house). The Vestry building, made of stone, has a tiled roof and brick chimney stack. The outer door which led into the churchyard now shuts in the boiler room.  The Victorian School was replaced with the current Church of England Lower School in 1977.

The leaded windows are old and worn. On the outside wall between the two timber-framed windows are tablets in memory of the Bull family. The Rev. Thomas Bull was Vicar of Renhold from 1787 to 1797 and lived at Church Farm, for a short time, which became the Vicarage while the Vicarage opposite the Church was being enlarged to accommodate  Rev. Bull's large family.

THE CHURCH PORCH

This is on the south side of the Church and has blocked windows on either side with stone seats and a flagstone floor. The door to the Church has some medieval iron-work, and across the doorway was once a scratch sundial or mass dial, which was removed during a restoration in the 1970's and lost.

THE TOWER

The west Tower has a small leaded spiralet dating from the 15th century and approximately 80 feet high. The top of the Tower was restored and a Gallery was erected by John Cobb for £21 under the Tower in 1788-89; the gallery was removed in 1855. The top of the Tower was again restored in 1901.

The clock on the south face is an electric one made by Smith of Derby and was dedicated on 31st March 1993 by the Bishop of Bedford in memory of Mrs Margaret Markham of Tithe Farm, formerly Mrs Anthony Le Fanu and sister of Peter and Jack Joyce.  Margaret was buried in All Saints church yard (plot AB7).

At the top of the spire is a weather vane for the people of Renhold in the shape of a golden fish - a christian symbol used from the first century, The Greek word for fish -  ΙΧΘΥΣ  upon wich a rebus is made, is derived fron the first letters of the Greek words for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.


The Church, tower and spire stand at the highest point at the centre of the Village. The lead work on the Tower roof was renewed in 1788-89 by Thomas Empy – a Bedford plumber. I.F. 1788  is carved on one of the roof timbers in the Tower – possibly for John Freshwater who is known to have worked on the tower

Stone steps, which were restored in 1992, lead to the Ringing Chamber which houses the bell ropes. The last restoration of the bells was in 1978 when they were augmented from five to six bells – The Church Bells. When the roof of the Nave was raised in 1863 it gave the bell ringers a useful view into the Church through the window which was previously a door above the roof level; this view through the window is very useful for all services in that the bell ringers can see a bride departing or the choir entering and also see a Churchwarden's signal that ringing should start or stop.

THE FONT

The font is a rare specimen of a Norman Font c.12th Century

THE OAK CHEST

The very heavy 15th century chest, in the Vestry, was probably a great log hollowed out and a slice cut off the top to be used as a lid. It has three hinges and the locks are missing - the two Churchwardens and the Vicar used to have one key each when the chest was in use. A slit in the lid could have made it a collecting centre for coins.

THE ORGAN

The Organ is located under the Tower and is an unusually good instrument, with much variety of power and sweet tone, especially on the quieter stops. The Organ leads the congregation in all sung services.

THE CHAPTER HOUSE

The Chapter House is situated on the north side of All Saints’ Church and accessed through the north door of the Church or from double doors opposite the north side of the tower

THE HASSOCKS

The provision of coloured kneelers revealed the interest and talents in needlework shown by members of the congregation and friends. They have proved to be another valuable addition to services in the Church.

THE CHURCH PLATE

The Church owns 17th Century Communion vessels and more modern items, the most valuable of which are kept in our Bank. An Elizabethan Chalice and cover dated 1570 was noted in a Church inventory in 1708, but subsequently lost. All present plate is of a later date, including a silver flagon of 1674 presented by Elizabeth Becher in 1675, a silver paten of 1683 given by William Becher in 1684 and a silver cup and paten given by Elizabeth Becher in 1734.

THE CHURCHYARD

The South side is partly hedged and has a small wooden entrance gate with wooden fencing at the east end and a small iron entrance gate under a yew arch hedge. Further to the east on the southern boundary is a double iron gate leading to the Chapter House and to the footpath to the wood beyond.

The west side has a wooden fence and North side has trees and hedges.

On the north side of the Church is the Mausoleum

The car park at the front of the Church is the responsibility of the Bedford Borough Council

For details of the Headstones click on Churchyard


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

The remains of a circular staircase near the south wall led to a Rood Loft, no longer in existence.


The pulpit is 17th Century Jacobean with carved panels and was mounted on a new oak base of Gothic design in 1863. The panels were renewed in places by the late Mr C G Barber. On top are two ancient adjustable candlesticks and a book rest.


The Prayer Desk on the north side of the Chancel Arch opposite the pulpit was constructed of open oak tracery from the Rood Screen, found in the Church in 1863. Now known as the Vicar’s Stall.


The Lectern was donated to the Church in 1887 by Rosa Leigh-Spencer, the daughter of the Rev. Leigh Spencer (1859 – 1885).


On either side of the Tower arch are two tablets containing the Ten Commandments, which were erected in 1957, following their presentation by Mr William Simons of Birchfields Farm. The tablets are of Hopton-Wood stone. A board bearing the Commandments was put up in 1773 and remained until the 1862/1863 renovations.


Around the walls of the Nave and North Aisle are the Stations of the Cross. These were originally made for the Chapel in Bedford Prison and when they fell into disrepair, they were replaced and offered to our Church. They were restored by Haydn Baker, who then lived in the Village, and dedicated by Rev David Gamble c.1989.


The North Aisle

This is the most ancient part of the Church with two windows in the earlier style of architecture with “decorated tracery”. It is known as the Reaper Chapel.


The west window is 15th Century. The east window is a stained glass memorial of 1966 to the Simons family known as the Reaper Window.


At the top of a small window in the north wall there is a red shield with three picks on it - the arms of the Picot family; see Picot Window.


The original north door was removed in 1948. The present door, new in 1988, leads into the Chapter House.


The Vestry

In the north wall of the Chancel is a 15th Century priest’s doorway which leads into the Vestry. In 1723 William Becher, who died in 1724, left £676. 18s. 6d, in his will of 31st May 1723, to purchase consolidated stocks to produce £16 19s 4d per annum to endow a school and schoolmaster. The Vestry was built as a schoolroom by his son, soon after his father’s death. There is reference to a schoolmaster at Renhold in 1730. The owner of Howbury from time to time was to have the right of appointing a master thereto – this no longer applies! The Vestry continued in use as a school until 1865, when a new school was built in the village (now the Scout Hall). The Vestry building, made of stone, has a tiled roof and brick chimney stack. The outer door which led into the churchyard now shuts in the boiler room.  The Victorian School was replaced with the current Church of England Lower School in 1977


The leaded windows are old and worn. On the outside wall between the two timber-framed windows are tablets in memory of the Bull family. The Rev. Thomas Bull was Vicar of Renhold from 1787 to 1797 and lived at Church Farm, for a short time, which became the Vicarage while the Vicarage opposite the Church was being enlarged to accommodate  Rev. Bull's large family.


The Church Porch

This is on the south side of the Church and has blocked windows on either side with stone seats and a flagstone floor. The door to the Church has some medieval iron-work, and across the doorway was once a scratch sundial or mass dial, which was removed during a restoration in the 1970's and lost.


The Tower

The west Tower has a small leaded spiralet dating from the 15th Century and approximately 80 feet high. The top of the Tower was restored and a Gallery was erected by John Cobb for £21 under the Tower in 1788-89; the gallery was removed in 1855. The top of the Tower was again restored in 1901.


The clock on the south face is an electric one made by Smith of Derby and was dedicated on 31st March 1993 by the Bishop of Bedford in memory of Mrs Margaret Markham of Tithe Farm, formerly Mrs Anthony Le Fanu and sister of Peter and Jack Joyce.  Margaret is buried in All Saints church yard (plot AB7).


At the top of the spire is a weather vane for the people of Renhold in the shape of a golden fish - a symbol of Christian Baptism.  The fish has been in this position for many centuries, pointing the way of God, and of the wind, through many generations.  The Church, tower and spire stand at the highest point at the centre of the Village. The lead work on the Tower roof was renewed in 1788-89 by Thomas Empy – a Bedford plumber. I.F. 1788  is carved on one of the roof timbers in the Tower – possibly for John Freshwater who is known to have worked on the tower


Stone steps, which were restored in 1992, lead to the Ringing Chamber which houses the bell ropes. The last restoration of the bells was in 1978 when they were augmented from five to six bells – The Church Bells. When the roof of the Nave was raised in 1863 it gave the bell ringers a useful view into the Church through the window which was previously a door above the roof level; this view through the window is very useful for all services in that the bell ringers can see a bride departing or the choir entering and also see a Churchwarden's signal that ringing should start or stop.


The Font

The font is a rare specimen of a Norman Font c.12th Century


The Oak Chest

The very heavy 15th Century chest, in the Vestry, was probably a great log hollowed out and a slice cut off the top to be used as a lid. It has three hinges and the locks are missing - the two Churchwardens and the Vicar used to have one key each when the chest was in use. A slit in the lid could have made it a collecting centre for coins.


The Organ

The Organ is located under the Tower and is an unusually good instrument, with much variety of power and sweet tone, especially on the quieter stops. The Organ and Church Choir lead the congregation in all sung services, under the guidance of Mike Puttock, Organist and Director of Music. The Choir has been a joy of our Church life for many years.


The Chapter House


The Chapter House is situated on the north side of All Saints and accessed through the north door of the Church or from double doors opposite the north side of the tower


The Hassocks

The provision of coloured kneelers revealed the interest and talents in needlework shown by members of the congregation and friends. They have proved to be another valuable addition to services in the Church.


The Hand Bells

The Hand Bell ringers are an integral part of the life of All Saints, Renhold.


The Church Plate

The Church owns 17th Century Communion vessels and more modern items, the most valuable of which are kept in our Bank. An Elizabethan Chalice and cover dated 1570 was noted in a Church inventory in 1708, but subsequently lost. All present plate is of a later date, including a silver flagon of 1674 presented by Elizabeth Becher in 1675, a silver paten of 1683 given by William Becher in 1684 and a silver cup and paten given by Elizabeth Becher in 1734.


The Churchyard

The South side is partly hedged and has a small wooden entrance gate with wooden fencing at the east end and a small iron entrance gate under a yew arch hedge. Further to the east on the southern boundary is a double iron gate leading to the Chapter House and to the footpath to the wood beyond.


The west side has a wooden fence and North side has trees and hedges.


ON the north side of the Church is the Mausoleum


The car park at the front of the Church is the responsibility of the Bedfordshire County Council


For details of the Headstones click on Churchyard


 

 The History of All Saints’ Church