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Brief History

There has been a place of Christian worship at Mapledurham for the best part of a thousand years. After the Conquest, William parcelled out all the lands of England and the Warrens, the DeGournays and the Bardolfs were granted lands at Mapledurham. They were succeeded much later by the Chazeys and the Blounts.

At what point the manorial chapel of Mapledurham Gurney developed into the parish church, we may never know. Pevsner dated the present building to the 14th and 15th centuries, with possible 13th century remains at the west end of the south wall. The south aisle is late 14th century and may have been added as a chantry chapel. It is the property of the Eyston family of Mapledurham House and does not form part of the parish church. The baptismal font is Norman and is probably older than the church.

The founding of Eton College in 1440 marked a change in the position of St. Margaret’s. The parish was one of many alien priories which Henry VI used for its endowment. From that date, the benefice had a fixed and definite status under the protection of the Crown and backed by the authority of Parliament. The parish still maintains a connection with the College and many of its vicars from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century had held senior positions there. The Elizabethan, Savill flagon which bears the hall-mark of 1598 is part of the church plate and is held for safe keeping, on behalf of the church, at Eton.

The earliest recorded vicar of Mapledurham is Radulphus de Agia (c. 1158 – 70). From 1306, when Walter of Murlesle resigned, there is an unbroken written record of all the vicars of Mapledurham. The vicar was Roger Gery (1437 – 84) when the advowdson of Mapledurham passed to The Provost and Fellows of Eton in 1441. They became patrons of the living in 1484 on Gery’s death. More recent vicars of note include Daniel Collins (1636 – 37), later Chaplain to Charles I, Stephen Weston (1716 – 24) later Bishop of Exeter, John Sumner (1818 – 28), later Bishop of Chester and, subsequently, Archbishop of Canterbury (1848 – 62).

John Sumner was succeeded at Mapledurham by Lord Augustus FitzClarence (1829 – 54), one of ten natural children of the Duke of Clarence (William IV) and his mistress, the Irish actress, Dorothea Jordan. In addition, he was appointed chaplain to Queen Adelaide after his father’s accession to the throne in 1832.

William IV was a lavish benefactor of the church and the parish and, among his gifts was the clock in the tower which bears his initials, ‘W R.’ He made generous contributions to extend the vicarage and to enclose its adjacent grounds and he made substantial provision for the foundation of a new school in the village. No doubt he contributed to the marvellous collection of silver gilt communion plate presented to the church by Lord Augustus shortly after his appointment. Queen Victoria, William’s niece, was genuinely amused to discover that she had a natural cousin who was the vicar of a small parish in Oxfordshire.

Edward Coleridge, a nephew of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was appointed vicar in 1862. He was a member of the Tractarian Movement in the Church of England. He appointed the architect and fellow Tractarian, William Butterfield, to restore the church. Butterfield raised and refaced the tower and, literally, raised the roof of the church. He opened windows in the chancel, created a vestry in the organ chamber and added the gabled porch to the north entrance. He placed a reredos of Sienna marble with a cross of alabaster underneath the east window.

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Ian Lowry