“Considerable interest was at first excited in the operations of the steeple-jack during the fixing of the scaffold,” & etc, and this culminated on Tuesday, October 14th in an unlooked for incident.
A young gentleman, a native of Olney, who is a sailor and happened to be visiting his friends, was seized with a burning desire to ‘go aloft,’ and accordingly while the workmen were at dinner, Master Charlie ascended the ladders, climbed up the rods above, and hung his hat on the weather-cock, twirling round the metal chanticleer and performing other antics amidst the excitement of a number of spectators. The steeple-jack, finding something untoward going forward rushed out and ascended the steeple just as Master Charlie was coming down. An altercation ensured, the steeple-jack threatening to ‘punch’ Master Charlie’s head. In order, we presume, to facilitate the performance of this agreeable operation, the steeple-jack removed a ladder, but meantime Charlie had sped like lightning down a pulley rope amid the gesticulations of his pursuer”.
The repairs were completed on the 14th November, but not before the weather-cock, which is two feet nine inches from the beak to the tip of the tail and two feet high, was re-gilded and further inscribed as follows: J P Langley, vicar, John Garrard, Thomas T Coles, churchwardens, 1884. The tower has also a fine west door and a good two-light window, the gift of the late Mrs Welton of this parish, with the figures of SS Peter and Paul, and contains a fine peal of eight bells.
Proceeding along the aisle, there is a brass plate notifying that “To the Glory of God, AD 1903, two new bells were added to the existing six and the latter re-hung; at the same time the Westminster Chimes were fitted to the Clock. The cost of the above was defrayed by a bequest of Thomas Eyles of Olney, supplemented by a gift from his sister Catherine.” Near by is a mural tablet to the memory of Dr George Grindon who died in 1832.
The fine organ, by J Binns of Leeds, more to be admired for its grand tone and splendid workmanship than for its elaborate appearance, takes up a large portion of the east end of the south aisle.
The chancel, approached by a massive arch, contains mural tablets to the memory of members of the families of Johnson (1680), Browne (1787), and Mason (1787). In the south wall is a sedilia of three seats and a piscina, gradually rising eastward. Further east is an engraved brass plate reading “To the Glory of God this Reredos is placed in affectionate memory of John Garrard, Born January 19th 1804, Died March 2nd 1896, Aged 92 years, and of his brother William Garrard, Born December 15th 1805, Died Sept 6th 1896, Aged 90 years. Both were born and died in this parish, and are interred in this Churchyard, Whitsuntide, 1897.
The reredos calls for more than a passing glance. It is of Caën stone, relieved by pillars of black, grey, and red Devonshire marble. The work was trusted to Messrs. Jones & Willis of London. The design in the centre contains the pastoral lamb and the side panels are emblematical of the four Evangelists. The tops of the panels are diapered and fitted with crocketed labels. The elaborately carved tracery is in the Gothic Style, with Conventional capitals, and figure-heads at the top of the pillars. Four pinnacles surmount the centre.
The east window, of five lights, representing scenes in the Life of Christ, was presented by the late Mr Thomas Revis in 1870. One of the north windows of the chancel illustrates the story of the “Brazen serpent,” and is inscribed “To the Glory of God this and the opposite window are placed by AGH Iliffe in loving memory of her husband and infant daughter.” The window thus mentioned, on the south side, is not only a striking picture of the “Crucifixion”, but also for the fidelity of the portraits therein contained of the late Mr John Garrard and Mr Iliffe, whose bare grey heads tower above the helmeted soldiers on the left hand side of the picture. This window is inscribed “Woman behold thy son: Behold thy Mother. John Arthur Iliffe B 6th June 1836 D 28 Sep 1898. Elin Philippa Iliffe B 7 Oct 1889 D 10 Ap 1890”.
In the north wall of the chancel is an ambry; and in the lower part of the wall is the Easter sepulchre or founder’s tomb beneath a low arch. In the east wall of the north aisle are the remains of an ancient piscina showing that this portion of the Church was anciently used as a chapel. There are also traces in this wall of an ancient lancelet window. On the north wall are mural tablets to the memory of William Gaines (1657) and William Leapidge Cooper (1903), and traces of an old window. The fittings of the edifice are modern, principally in oak and very good.
In the porch is a framed list of the Rectors and Vicars from 1263 to the present time, also the coat-of-arms that formerly stood above the chancel arch.
Since the advent of our present vicar the Church has made rapid strides towards what it should be as a place of worship. We had a fine external Church but a paltry interior, and this the Rev SH Smith has earnestly set to work to rectify. He has had the Church cleaned, the old unsafe gallery removed, the floor levelled and nicely re-laid with stone and wood, massive and comfortable oak benches, the organist surpliced, and last but not least, a splendid organ to lend tone to the singing, and make the services more bright and cheerful. If the improvements still continue we may hope to see a good screen, and a surpliced choir in the chancel. A great improvement to the external portion would be a gate, in Lordship Close, sufficiently wide to allow of carriages and coaches to drive up to the Church door when fashionable weddings or funerals take place allowing them to draw out through the north gates, or vice versa. This would be greatly appreciated by, especially in inclement weather, one and all.
Accompanying photographs added by Oliver Ratcliff