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Remains of the church and churchyard of St Mary Magdalen

A Scheduled Monument in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes

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Latitude: 52.0587 / 52°3'31"N

Longitude: -0.8551 / 0°51'18"W

OS Eastings: 478593.974858

OS Northings: 240655.058963

OS Grid: SP785406

Mapcode National: GBR BYG.SRX

Mapcode Global: VHDSZ.4J94

Entry Name: Remains of the church and churchyard of St Mary Magdalen

Scheduled Date: 20 January 1987

Last Amended: 13 January 2005

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021371

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35357

County: Milton Keynes

Civil Parish: Stony Stratford

Built-Up Area: Milton Keynes

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Stony Stratford St Mary and Giles

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes the buried and standing remains of the medieval church
of St Mary Magdalen, together with its associated graveyard, located on the
north east side of the High Street in the market town of Stony Stratford.
Stony Stratford emerged in the medieval period, growing up along either side
of the former Roman road of Watling Street (now the High Street) which formed
a boundary between the two ecclesiastical parishes of Calverton and
Wolverton. The churches associated with the two parishes were situated along
the Roman road: the church of St Mary Magdalen occupied a plot on the north
east side of Watling Street in the parish of Wolverton and the church of St
Giles was sited on the south west side of Watling Street in the parish of
Calverton. The remains of the church of St Mary Magdalen are situated 220m to
the north west of the church of St Giles which now serves as the parish
church of Stony Stratford.
It is not known when the two churches were first built, but references dating
to 1202 and 1203 mention three clerks and one priest at Stony Stratford and
therefore suggest the presence of at least one church at that time. The two
churches are first mentioned by name in 1476 when a chantry is recorded as
being founded `in the chapel of St Mary Magdalene and St Giles'. However it
is probable that both churches were in existence by 1290 when Hugh de Vere
was granted an annual fair on the vigil and feast of St Mary Magdalen, in
addition to the fair granted to him in 1257 on the vigil, feast and morrow of
St Giles. In 1487 John Edy, who was founder of the town guild, left funds in
his will for the repair of the chancel of St Mary Magdalen. At the
dissolution of the chantries during the 1540s the church of St Mary Magdalen
was referred to as a free chapel with two priests, one of which was
`maintained by the guild of Stony Stratford'. Not long after 1641 the chapels
of St Mary Magdalen and St Giles in Stony Stratford were united and services
held in them alternately.
In 1742 the church of St Mary Magdalen burnt down in a fire which destroyed
much of the town. Only the tower at the west end of the church survived the
fire and its restoration took place led by the local notary, Browne Willis.
Thirty pounds was spent in `setting up, leading' and putting a new roof on
the tower with the idea of rebuilding the rest of the church. Browne Willis
had previously made a survey of the church in about 1730 describing it as
consisting of two aisles with a tower, 65 feet in height with six bells and a
clock. In the east window were the arms of John Plantagenet, who was Duke of
Bedford in the 15th century, and on the roof of the church, on stone
escutcheons, were the arms of James de la Plaunche, who died in 1305.
The scheduling incorporates the church tower of St Mary Magdalen, the buried
remains of the church and the surrounding churchyard, a rectangular area of
ground orientated north east-south west, together with the associated graves
and gravestones.
The church tower, which is a Listed Building Grade II*, is built of limestone
in the perpendicular style of the 15th century and stands to its original
height. It consists of three stages with a parapet at the top, and a string
course between each stage. The original internal stone staircase survives.
There are blocked-up arches on the north east and south east sides of the
bottom stage. The north east arch would have provided access between the nave
of the church and the tower whilst the south east arch would have provided
access to the tower from the churchyard. This pointed arch has been partly
filled-in leaving a low rounded arch, less than 1.52m high, with a brick
voussoir. Access to the tower is provided through a padlocked iron gate and a
wooden door on this side. On the south west side of the tower there is a
blocked-up window with a moulded stone arch. Pilaster angle buttresses rise
from the bottom four corners to the top of the second stage of the tower and
there are square headed loop lights on the south east and south west faces.
The windows on all four sides of the top stage, or bell chamber, each consist
of two cinquefoiled lights with a transom and a quatrefoil under a
two-centred head. The string course dividing this upper stage from the
parapet has gargoyles on all four corners. The parapet is embattled on the
north east and southwest sides and gabled on the north west and south east
sides, indicating that the roof of the tower was formerly pitched.
The main part of the church would have originally extended in a north east
direction from the church tower and a string course marking the gabled roof
of the nave is visible on the north east side of the tower. The footprint of
the church is not clear on the ground which is uneven and slopes from the
south east and north west sides of the churchyard. However its foundations
will survive buried beneath the ground surface, together with the remains of
graves and other features which originally lay within the church. After the
1742 fire, burials continued within the churchyard until about 1865 despite
the destruction of the church. These burials, with accompanying gravestones,
are laid in rows on the same north east-south west orientation as the church
and some have been interred within the footprint of the church nave and
The churchyard is surrounded by limestone walls on the north east and north
west sides, by a limestone and brick wall on the south east side and by the
back wall of number 96, High Street and an iron fence on the south west side.
These boundary features are not included in the scheduling. The original
outline of the churchyard is recorded as being much larger but it was poorly
enclosed and subsequently reduced in size as neighbouring properties
All pathway surfaces, the street lights and the telegraph pole are excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and
containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for
Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on
Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated
into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in
its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and
are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides
accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the
priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes
provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional
altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west
end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon
and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish
churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south
or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation
were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were
rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of
the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little
fabric of the first church being still easily visible.
Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the
density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed
settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest
clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of
1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New
churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to
around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches
have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for
their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later
population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour
and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are
identified to be nationally important.

The remains of the church and churchyard of St Mary Magdalen will provide
important information regarding its history and development as well as its
relationship with the parish and the town of Stony Stratford. The churchyard
will provide evidence for the demography of the local population together
with information about their health and life expectancy.
As well as the tower, the remains of the church will include buried evidence
for the nave, two aisles and chancel. It may also include other unrecorded
elements such as a porch, chapel, crypt and transepts as well as evidence for
the location of features such as the font, vaults, screens and shrines. The
remains will include information relating to the layout and fabric of the
church and evidence of rebuilding and modifications which will assist in
dating changes to the church through time. Fixtures and fittings buried
following the fire of 1742 will provide insights into the status of the
medieval church. Such artefacts may include architectural details, fragments
of sculpture and mouldings, as well as painted wall plaster and window glass.

Burials dating from the earliest phases of the church will survive both
within the nave and throughout the churchyard and these will provide
information relating to the medieval and later community. Burial of the
wealthiest members of society usually took place within the church itself
whilst the general population were buried within the churchyard. After the
fire of 1742 burial continued in the churchyard until the mid-19th century,
including within the footprint of the destroyed church. The majority of the
gravestones relate to this later period and it is probable that they overlie
earlier burials; earlier gravestones which predate the fire are also believed
to survive within the churchyard. Evidence for boundaries and divisions will
also be provided within the confines of the churchyard and evidence of other
structures, such as a churchyard cross, may also survive.
Elements of an earlier landscape, predating the church and churchyard may be
preserved within the churchyard, perhaps relating to the early layout of the
town of Stony Stratford and associated with the Roman road of Watling Street
or relating to earlier field systems.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Brown, O F , Stony Stratford, (1985)
Milton Keynes District Council, , Guide to the Historic Buildings of Milton Keynes132
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire380
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire380
RCHM Bucks,
Title: 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map
Source Date:
Title: 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map
Source Date:

Source: Historic England

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