Picture of St Mary the Virgin Church painted in 1918 by F Fisher. He was a sergeant with responsibility for discipline at RAF Halton.
Following the printing of the book I wrote on the history of ST Mary’s Church I have been given the notes and papers of Will Davenport. Will Davenport, as well as being a churchwarden at the time of the church restoration in 1961, was also an amateur historian. He wrote the original pamphlet on the church in 1961which I used as one of the sources for my book. When he and his wife left the village in 1975 he passed his papers on to Mr & Mrs List, neighbours of his in World’s End Lane. They have kindly passed the papers on to me. Whilst going through these I was able to find some details on the crypt (or vault) in the church.
During the restoration of the Lady Chapel in 1925 the crypt was “discovered” when the oak pews were removed and the floor levelled. The coffin of Henry Tompkins was unearthed but it was covered up again in the floor of the crypt. No details of the crypt were recorded at that time.
In 1961 when the floor of the south aisle was again re-laid the crypt was opened up and in Will Davenport’s notebook there is a description of it. The crypt is not large and measures 9 feet long by 6 feet wide and 7 feet high in the middle. It is built of bricks and was described as a Catenarian Arch with a continuous key stone at the top running the whole length. The crypt is located at the very east end of the south aisle and was entered at the east end via an entrance outside in the churchyard. Will Davenport writes that this entrance was concreted at some time, and remains so to this day. As I wrote in my book (page 59) two lead funeral memorials were found, now stored in the chest by the north entrance to the church. The first was oval in shape bore no name or identification but with the wording “Died June 4th 1829 Aged 27 Years”. The second was for Mrs Sarah Tompkins who died on 25th June 1774. The coffin found in 1925 was not seen and was probably buried in the floor.
From the dates of the coffin and the memorials it would appear that the crypt was in use until at least 1829. When it was sealed up is open to conjecture but was probably during the Victorian restorations of 1860.
As to the origin of the crypt it is not possible to say who built it but as it had been used by the Tompkins’ family it may have something to do with the Lords of the Manor House. As the crypt is located at the east end of the south aisle it would have been directly underneath the private chapel that had been built by Sir John de Molins (Molyns). He was lord of the manor from 1333 to 1360 and he established a number of Chantries in Bucks for the souls of his family. A Chantry is a building on private land or a dedicated area within a greater church, set aside or built especially for and dedicated to the performance of the chantry duties by the priest. Thus there may be some connection between the crypt and Sir John de Molins private chapel in the church.
Sir John de Molins was a medieval robber baron who seized a great deal of land and property throughout much of the area. In 1333 he presented John de La Haye as rector of Weston Turville. John de la Haye was a right-hand man of Molins and he led a band of men on at least one attack on the village of Horsenden and the surrounding area. It is interesting to note that John de la Haye resigned as Rector in 1342 after Sir John Molins’ manors and land had been confiscated by order of King Edward III.