The United Benefice of
Ivinghoe with Pitstone, Slapton and Marsworth

About the Benefice

The Benefice includes the villages of Ivinghoe, Pitstone, Slapton, Marsworth, Horton and Ivinghoe Aston. The churches at Ivinghoe Slapton and Marsworth are used for regular worship whilst the church at Pitstone is now redundent and cared for by the Churches Historic Trust.

There is a strong core of lay participation in our benefice, which is encouraged and constantly being built upon.


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All Saints, Marsworth

The first reference to the manor of Marsworth is made in the year 970 when Elgiva, sister in law to Edgar, King of Wessex, petitioned that she might leave to him in her will the manor of Marsworth, but whether there was a church here is not known. At the compilation of the Doomsday Book in 1086 the manor was held by Ralph Basset and in 1190 Thurstan Basset built a church here. No visible remains of the building exist, but the present south chapel and aisle are possibly built on the lines of the original building. He was the last sole owner of the manor, having no male heir, and early in the next century gave the advowson to Caldwell Priory, Bedfordshire.

Being a poor foundation, they neglected their responsibility; however during the reign of HenryVIII it was given to Trinity College, Cambridge, who held it until the 20th century. Early in the 14th century the south chapel was rebuilt and the present nave and chancel added; in the 15th century the nave was widened to its present width and the tower built. Early in the next century the tower buttresses were added.

The church was badly restored in 1828 and again in 1854, when the chancel was practically rebuilt and in the course of which the font, which had been described as a charming15th century one decorated with flowers and little heads, disappeared; a carved and canopied oak pulpit was replaced and the old pews removed. The Rev F W Ragg who became incumbent in 1880, trained a number of local men in stonework and for the next 25 years he and they, under his supervision, carried out a skillful restoration, making good as far as was possible some of the depredations perpetrated earlier in the century.

In 1969 much of the external stonework was repaired and the roof of the nave and chancel made watertight. In 1971 a Victorian screen was removed from the entrance to the chancel, the altar was lowered by one step and the sanctuary repaved. From 1978 until quite recently further restoration work has been carried out to the stonework of the tower and other parts of the exterior. Further work to the exterior stonework, especially windows and crenellations, and to the roof is urgently required.

Enough of history, what of the inside as we see it today. The Porch is 19th century but the arch and inner jambs to the door into the church are 13th century. The Tower Arch is 15th century with beautifully carved capitals of a foliage design, possibly from the rebuilding of the nave in the 14th century. The Nave: the arches and pillars between the nave and the south aisle also date from the 15th century. Some unsophisticated incised coats-of-arms on the pillars are interesting. The Pulpit on the left hand side of the nave at the entrance to the chancel is supported by a 14th century capital of a pillar and was found by Rev Ragg buried in the south porch. The door to the left of the pulpit originally led to a rood loft the entrance of which can be seen above the pulpit. The Chancel decoration owes much to the work of Rev Ragg.

The carved heads of Faith, Hope and Charity, the surrounds to the windows and the panels are worth a close study, showing a variety of natural forms characteristic of the period of art-nouveau. A list of incumbents of the church can be seen behind the choirstalls on the north side of the chancel, the first dated 1215. The East window is dedicated to the Rev Ragg.

The South Chapel contains seven memorials to the West family, who owned most of the manor in the 16th century, the most important being the Table Tomb which was moved to its present position possibly when the organ was installed. The tomb is in memory of Edmund West who died in 1681; it is of particular significance as being one of the few remaining works of Epiphanius Evesham, whose signature can be seen at the right hand bottom corner of the panel at the north end of the tomb. By the side of the tomb lie two 13th century coffin lids. The window behind the tomb is by Kempe and Tower whose emblem can be found in the bottom of the left hand side light - a small wheat sheaf with a superimposed tower. To the right of the tomb, set in the wall, are a double piscina (used for the washing of holy vessels) and a corbel, both of the 14th century.

The lancet window in the chapel is the oldest in the church dating, again, from the 14th century. On the left as you leave the chapel and enter the South Aisle hangs the painting of the Magnificat by Jan Pienkowski, a gift from the artist. It shows a pregnant Mary with the words of the Magnificat. The borders of this painting were painted by children of the village supervised by the artist. Beyond the painting there is a much restored 13th century recess, probably a tomb, but to whom there is no record. A collection of stones, probably from early restoration, lie in the recess. Further along the south wall is a 15th century niche with traces of original colouring depicting the figure of a saint and the inscription "Judge and avenge my cause O Lord from them that evil be, from wicked and deceitful O Lord deliver me". Beyond the niche on the same wall are memorials to the Seare family who held part of the manor from 1546 to 1798.

Within the tower is a Peal of Six Bells. Five of these are old bells which were retuned and rehung together with a new sixth bell in a new metal frame in 1995. Part of the old wooden frame can be seen as a balustrade to the new ringing floor which was constructed at the same time.

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Holy Cross Church, Slapton

The Church of Holy Cross, Slapton is a vibrant worshipping community with a beautiful building – described by John Betjeman as ‘stately for its size’ – and a rich past.

There are records of a church at Slapton in 1223, and the benefice belonged to Barking Abbey, before eventually passing to Christ Church, Oxford.

Its most famous rector is John Kempe, who became a Cardinal in 1428 and Archbishop of Canterbury in 1452.

Much of the existing church – the chancel, nave, north and south aisles and a west tower – date from the late 13th century, with some later additions including a nave clerestory and windows in the 15th century.

The church has numerous attractive features, including several brasses of rectors and local noteworthies, some medieval tiles, and a (probably) 13th century font.

Holy Cross Slapton is very much a living church, with a loving church family and regular worship. There is a strong tradition of lay participation and involvement both in the services and in the regular fundraising initiatives.

Despite the hard work of its regular worshippers, the financial position of this valuable village asset remains precarious, and if you would like to help please contact .

You are also warmly invited to join with us in our Sunday morning worship at 11.15.

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St Mary‘s Church, Pitstone

Did you know that pitstone has a beautiful Twelth Century Church? It situated at the end of Church Road, Pitstone. It is now cared for by a group of local "Friends of Ptstone Church" as it is now vested in the Churches Conservation Trust. The friends and the trust are keen for the church to be used as much as possible by the community, and various events are planned each year.

The church is open every Sunday afternoon in the summer months between 2.30 and 5.30pm. Better still it will be open for the annual Art, Craft and Flower festival over the May bank holiday weekend: Saturday May 23rd 1 - 6pm, Sunday May 24th 11 - 5pm with sung evensong at 6pm, Monday May 25th 11 - 5.30pm. Refreshments are served throughout the weekend in the church.

If you would like to know more or get involved with the festival, or perhaps help serve teas or bake a cake, please ring 01296 668336.

There will also be a special concert on July 11th at 7.30pm and an additional evensong and a Taize service will be held in the Autumn.

Make Pitstone Church an attraction to visit this year.

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St Mary‘s, Ivinghoe

St.Mary’s, Church at Ivinghoe follows a wide range of church traditions, and the village worship should appeal to everyone. 

The church stands prominently overlooking the village. It has been said there has been a church here, of a kind, since Saxon times, but the building we know today originated from 1230. St.Mary’s is a large church for a village of its present size, which indicates Ivinghoe would have been considerably larger when the church was built.

This Grade 1 listed building is Early English, dating from 1220-30 and retains some original features such as the rose windows in the trancepts. The walls by the west door are thicker, suggesting that they formed part of an earlier church. The building was always cruciform in plan though the aisles, including the north doorway, were rebuilt during the fourteenth century a time when the tower was added.

The building is noted for its angel ceiling and the poupée pew ends which are Elizabethan. The restoration of 1872 by E.G.Street included the provision of a medieval style baptistry.

In 1872 under-floor heating was provided, now there are modern radiators, a kitchen and a toilet all of which encourage the ongoing use of the Church.

You are welcome to find out more.

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Image: Stain glass window, St Mary‘s Church, Ivinghoe