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The Saint Laurence Chronicles

 
   

Contents

UPTON OLD CHURCH

St. Laurence Church the oldest building in Slough has a Grade 1 listing and appears to have consisted of a nave and tower dating from the 12th century, approximately 1130 AD, and could have been built on the site of an old Saxon church during the Norman era. History informs us that shortly afterwards the Priors of Merton, from the Augustinian convent in Merton, Surrey, were given the house which preceded the current, much altered Upton Court to the south of the church, by Pagan de Beauchamp. Who had previously been granted the house by William the Conqueror. They then extended the length of the nave by 19 feet (5.8 Metres) to 55 feet 6 inches (16.9 Metres) and added the chancel which measured 21 feet (6.4 Metres) long by 16 feet (4.9 Metres) wide to the east of the tower in 1880. The chancel would have been used as their private chapel with access via a small Norman arched door that still exists into the vestry. The nave would have been the domain of the local vicar and had no access to the chancel. The chancel still retains the original stone vaulting that had some restoration work in the middle 19th century, attributed to a Mr. Willement who assisted during the extension to the church. At this time the two east windows were rebuilt in Norman form to replicate the original windows which had been altered to a Tudor style three window fenestration, see picture on page. Probably dating from the 15th century. Information recorded in “The Gentleman’s Magazine Volume 26” dated Dec 1846 written when the church had been stripped gives a lengthy account of the structure and comments on the floor of the chancel which was tiled with patterned tiles albeit in a sad state and includes an engraving composed of four tiles.

The nave has also been considerably altered over the years. Construction of the walls, some three feet thick, with an outer facing of flint and conglomerate ( pudding stone ). At the west of the north wall can be seen the line of the 1180’s extension that has a facing of flint only. From a check of the height of the outline of a Norman window, additional courses of stonework and traces of a window in the tower below the present roof implies the walls have been raised and a new roof erected, probably in the 1300`s, using the King Post system seen today both in the church and also in Upton Court, reputedly built about 1327. The North door has also been moved from its original position that can still be seen by the in fill to the east of the present doorway. Similarly traces can also be seen of old windows.

The tower 12ft 6in (3.8 m) long by 12ft (3.7 m) wide has also undergone many changes.

Early pictures of the church show a tall tower shrouded in ivy. In 1846 the ivy’s trunk was recorded as being nearly three feet thick, implying that it must have been of great age. Investigation in later years however, revealed that the ivy was damaging the tower stonework and it was accordingly removed. Photographs taken in the period between 1851 and 1906 show a much lower tower with a pointed tiled roof, currently, the roof is of a much flatter construction.

Information taken from the church inventory dated 18th July 1552 reveals the tower would have housed four bells. This same inventory also recorded a silver chalice, paten and other articles associated with the Eucharist. Just previous to this in 1531 the Priors of Merton, possibly seeing the possibility of dissolution, leased Upton Court to a Roger Erlewen. The Dissolution of the monasteries occurred in 1538 to be followed in 1552 by the issue of Cranmers Prayer Book, decreeing that no items of rubric should be used. Accordingly the Duke of Northumberland (The Protector) confiscated the bells, vestments and altar ware.

However in the reign of James the First, 1603 – 1625, times changed again, articles of rubric were restored. The church inventory dated sixteenth August 1637, taken from the Archdeacons Catalogue, “Visitation of Upton 1637” (County Records Office, County Hall Aylesbury Bucks). States “four bells and repairs to be made to the belfry stairs”. Examination of the one remaining bell shows it to have been cast by Richard Eldridge and inscribed “Our Hope Is In The Lord” “ R E 1619”. Today there is no trace of the stairway referred to above, access to the bell can only be achieved via a long ladder supported on the lip of a trap door.

Many other comments refer to such items as :-
(1) Cut down the height of various pews including Mr. Bulstrodes, Mr. Stiles and Mr. Woodwards, which would have required a subscription for the seats in those days.
(2) A little window at the west end of the church to be glazed.
(3) The north door to be renewed.
The Chalice, dated 1616 can be viewed, where it is currently housed, in the museum at Christchurch, Oxford. Suggesting the restoration of the eucharist at St. Laurence under the rule of James the First.
A further inventory dated 1714 refers to the four bells and gives extracts from the church wardens accounts

£ ---- s ---- d
1727 --- Ringing for ye queen ---- 0 -- 5 -- 0
King George 2nd ringing --- 0 -- 5 -- 0
Arch Deacon ringing ---- 0 -- 9 -- 0
1757 --- Paid for beer for ringers --- 0 -- 5 -- 0
1811 --- Paid to ringers, 18 times ---4 --10 -- 0

During the 1800`s with the growth of the community in the one time hamlet of Slough, firstly through the coming of stagecoach traffic and secondly the railway, it became necessary improve the position of and increase the size of the church. This resulted in the building of a new church in the centre of the town that was consecrated in 1837 using the name of St. Laurence. Later to be renamed St. Mary`s.

Old Upton church had by this time fallen into disrepair, the tower had been struck by lightning. The south door had been left open, cattle had come in and added to the damage. At this time a farmer, John Pocock who lived at Dutchmans Farm and could see the church from his home gave fifty pounds to save the church from demolition. Nevertheless the church was stripped of all useful materials either to be sold or for use in the new church. The four bells were taken to the new church, but one did not blend well, so, when additional bells were provided it was replaced and later returned to Old Upton Church to be re-hung in the tower. Other artifacts taken include the Hanoverian Coat of Arms, dated 1716. The four quarters represent England, France, Ireland and Hanover from the reign of George the First (1714-1727). An early drawing of the church looking towards the chancel shows they were situated on the north wall. They are now hung on the south wall of the new aisle. It appears they were taken to St. Mary`s in 1837 and placed in the new church, in 1876 they were set up in the tower. With the modifications to the tower in 1911 they were taken down and condemned to the stoke hole. A letter to the parish magazine by a Mr. Fussell resulted in their restoration and replacement at St. Laurence`s. The surround on the panels of the Ten Commandments was also taken from the old church. Where it would have formed part of either the rood screen, as suggested by Phipps, or more likely the gallery depicted in the drawing placed on the north wall of the nave. Recent examination of the surround reveals the decoration to contain the “rose & thistle” emblems implying a date from the James 1st period (1603 – 1625). This surround was, similarly, found discarded at St. Mary`s, recovered and used as the border for the panels that were illuminated by Mr. Willement.

The Norman font was also taken to the new church but returned for the consecration service.

The church having been damaged and in disrepair was, however, still in use for burials. Two memorial tablets at the eastern end of the nave refer to members of the Lascelles and Harewood families, residents of Upton Court between 1711 and 1926. Firstly, William Lascelles a Bencher of the Inner Temple, London who died in the 76th year of his age, on the 18th May 1808. This tablet appears to have been moved from its original position on the north wall as recorded in the book by Lipscombe, published in XXXX. The second tablet relates to Lady Frances, eldest daughter of the Right Honourable Edward Earl of Harewood who died June 31st 1817 and the Honourable John Douglas who died on May 1st 1819 aged 62 years. Further tombs are mentioned in the Lipscombe book, but seemingly are not to be found today. For example, they include an altar-tomb to Gifford Manwaring Cookesley born Dec. 24th 1831, died Aug. 1st 1832 and Charles Gifford Cookesley born Jan 8th 1833. Also a slab in the floor dedicated to Anna Dorothea Drury ob. 2nd June 1817.

Other slabs refer to the Style family, William Style Yeoman died 1732 aged 41, Alice his wife died 1740 aged about 50, Robert (grandson) died 1794 aged 38.

Of interest, an American visitor to the church during 1999 claimed to be a descendent of the Ducke family who had lived at Upton Court. Checks of the lineage of Upton Court showed the Ducke family 1589-1609 and Lipscombe shows Thomas Ducke died 1650 also Judith Miller daughter of Thomas Ducke died 1710 aged 77 years.

An article printed in “The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction” dated September 24th 1831 suggests that visitors to Windsor ought to visit the church. It mentions various memorials and suggests that the church could have had an influence on Thomas Gray, who lived with his sister at Stoke Court, within the parish boundary, and where he wrote his famous “Elegy to a Country Churchyard”.

RESTORATION OF UPTON CHURCH.

Mention has already been made of John Pocock who died in 1841 and that he had given a donation to stop the demolition of the old church. Some time after, Mr. Jesse of Victoria Park (now known as Herschel Park) wrote an article in “Favourite Haunts & Rural Studies” concluding with a plea to his readers for assistance in restoring the church for worship. He mentioned that Sir William Herschel was buried in the church and also referred to the possibility that it could have been the church seen by and written about by Thomas Gray.

An article in the Windsor & Eton Express dated 5th January 1850 reported that the vicar, Mr. Champneys, had started collecting donations, resulting in the sum of £380, including £50 from Her Majesty Queen Victoria. In February 1851 an advertisement appeared in the Windsor & Eton Express for a service at New Windsor parish church with the sermon to be preached by the Lord Bishop of Oxford appealing for funds to complete the restoration of Upton church. The article also alluded to the need for more accommodation to meet the spiritual needs of the parish.

It is of interest to consider the growth of Slough at that time. Reference to the local news in the early editions of newspapers hardly mentions Slough, a small hamlet on the old Bath road, which began to expand with the introduction of, firstly the stagecoach trade between the west country and London and secondly the Great Western Railway in the 1840`s.

Lipscombe gives the size of the Parish in his chapter on Upton-cum-Chalvey, which quotes a population of 2296 in the hamlets of Upton, Slough and Chalvey.

The edition of the Windsor and Eton Express on December 6th 1851 gave a lengthy report on the Re-consecration of Upton Old Church including a list of the many who contributed to its rebirth. They included the Lord Harewood whose family lived in Upton Court (1832-1926), Sir John Herschel, the Caleys and H. Darvill (local traders), R.Ferry the architect, many clerics and other members of the community.

REBUILDING OF UPTON CHURCH.

The rebuilding of the church with the addition of the south aisle, that is constructed to the same dimensions as the existing nave resulted in the finding and, in some cases, restoration of various early articles of church life. When the lime wash, that would have been applied during the reign of Queen Mary 1st (1553-1558) to cover the old wall paintings, dating from the period between reigns of Henry 3rd and Edward 3rd (1216 – 1377) was cleaned off, a painting was discovered of the Magi. Regretfully the lime had leached out so much colour that it was not restorable, and the walls were plastered over again.

A Norman piscina, badly damaged, was also found and after some repair work placed in the niche at the south east corner of the chancel. Information shows it to be one of only about four still in existence.

The representation of the Trinity now sited in a complimentary alabaster niche in the south wall of the tower is reputedly of Italian origin, dating from the 1300s. In spite of the damage traces of the original colour are still apparent. The damage is alleged to have been caused by Cromwellian soldiers who used the church as stabling for their horses overnight and possibly used their swords to destroy this Roman artifact.

The mediaeval coloured windows would also have been smashed to rid the church of allusions to the Roman era. Thereby reflecting what also happened in so many of our mediaeval cathedrals at that time. During the building works many shards of the coloured glass were recovered and fortunately retained. Some years later, 1891 / 1892 several pieces were assembled to form the small circular window found in the south wall and known as the “Rose Window”.

The tablet commemorating The Astronomer Royal Sir William Herschel originally affixed to north side of the arch leading from the tower to the chancel was removed and placed in its present position on the south wall of the tower.

A “Poor Box” reputedly of either the 16th or 17th century, apparently stolen, later found in a ditch and subsequently repaired and reduced in size is placed in the chancel. It is of interest to note the three lockable staples, which would have required the churchwardens` “et al” to be available to unlock the box.

CHANGES MADE TO THE CHURCH.

Externally the height of the tower was reduced nineteen feet (5.8 Metres) by the removal of many tons of brickwork and a pointed tiled roof placed over. (picture below)

The base of the tower was opened up by the construction of a round-topped arch with a height of twenty feet to match the arch on its eastern side.

The wooden pulpit with sounding board situated on the south wall was removed and a new pulpit gifted by Rev.H.W.Majendie the vicar of Speen placed in the southeast corner of the nave.

A reference in the book by the Rev. Pownoll W. Phipps M.A. dated 1886 shows that a new pulpit by Mr. Earp costing about £45 was given in 1863 in memory of Mr. Thomas Rawdon Ward and his wife. This pulpit still exists today, prompting the question what happened to the previous newly installed pulpit.

An early drawing shows what appears to be a gallery on the west wall of the tower, this must have been removed at some stage but no record can be traced.

A ceiling was removed from the nave to reveal the King Post construction seen today, this was found to be in very good condition and only requiring cleaning and oiling. The spaces between the rafters were plastered over leaving a very clean roof appearance.

The south wall was replaced with several columns supporting arches these in turn supporting the roof; the tops of the columns were decorated in Norman fashion.

The materials removed when constructing these arches were retained and reused for the new south wall that has evidence of both flint and pudding stone and conforms to the style of the original structure. The south doorway also reflected the Norman heritage.

At the East End of the new aisle a small bell cote was constructed and a Sanctus bell cast by C. & G. Mears hung in 1859. (“Church Bells of Buckinghamshire” by A. Cocks shows the inscription “In Honorem S. S. Trinitatis A. D. 1859 C. et G. Mears Londini Fecerunt”).

A small lean to vestry with access through the old Norman doorway was built on to the south side of the tower. The interior of the east wall of the new aisle was made to replicate the original west wall at the base of tower with its three arches. The arch on the left holds an original wooden arch probably from the fifteenth century which when stripped of its whitewash revealed a perfectly preserved timber arch. The centre and right arches are faced with grey stone on, which are fixed a number of mediaeval brasses relating to the Bulstrode family. Information shows the brasses were removed from white Purbeck marble plinths in the chancel. Edward Bulstrode (died 1517) was Esquire to the Body to King Henry the 7th and 8th whose reigns were from 1485 to 1547, the family lived at Stoke Court, Stoke Poges between 1455 and 1617.

It is of interest to note that Dorothy Gray the widowed mother of Thomas Gray also lived in this house between 1742 and 1753 where she would have received many visits from her famous son who wrote the “Elegy to A Country Churchyard”.

The six brasses to the left depict Agnes Bulstrode (died 1472) wife of William Bulstrode, four other brasses show Edward Bulstrode wearing armour, his wife, their sons and daughters, the inscription concludes with the date 1599. On the west wall of the south aisle is a brass plate bearing the inscription to Maria, wife of Frederick Henry Bulstrode, son of Edward and Cecilia Bulstrode, who died in 1614. Above this is an elaborate marble tablet in an alabaster frame with the inscription to Henry Bulstrode, son and heir to Edward Bulstrode and Bridgetta his second wife who died in 1671. Thereby showing the families long connection with Upton church.

Lipscombes book on page 572 shows the geneology of the Bulstrode family with reference to baptisms, marriages and burials of various family members in Upton church. Examples taken from the book include “Mary baptised 14th July 1566”, “Henry baptised 5th Jan.1578, buried 3rd Jan 1632”, “ Bridget buried 3rd Nov. 1631 and “Coluberry buried 15th June 1699”.

BENJAMIN LANE Esq.

Benjamin Lane who lived in Upton Court from 1692 and died in 1723 as the Lord of the Manor of Upton made a bequest to the Parish of Upton to the effect that six English bibles be distributed to poor people able to read and who would want them.

There is a tablet on the north wall of the church to commemorate this charitable bequest and while the terms of the bequest are not applicable in their fullest terms in todays society, the three churches in the parish still operate in the spirit of the charity by distributing six bibles within the three parish churches.

The bequest also calls for the minister to preach a sermon extolling the excellence of the scriptures for which he would receive the sum of twenty shillings. Again this is still continued today with the senior trustee presenting the Rector with a one pound coin at the end of the presentation service.

SIR WILLIAM HERSCHEL.

Sir William Herschel who was born in Hanover in 1738 and named Friedrich Wilhelm came to England as a musician but later became involved in the study of astronomy while still actively working in the field of music. Particularly in Bath where he was made director of the Bath orchestra in 1776. During 1781 he made his great astronomical discovery, the planet Uranus, which resulted in a call to Windsor to meet King George the Third who offered him the position of Astronomer Royal. This he accepted and soon after he moved to various homes in the Datchet, Windsor and Slough area. Finally settling in Observatory House in the Windsor Road where he built and set up his Forty-Foot telescope, and continued both his studies and the manufacture of his famous hand polished mirrors used in these large magnification telescopes. During this time he became acquainted with and in 1788, married Mary Pitt the widow of his friend John Pitt. Mary being the daughter of John Baldwin, also commemorated in the church.

After his death in 1822 he was interred in a vault in the base of the tower and a commemorative Grecian tablet by J. Theakston placed on the north side of the arch leading to the chancel. Ten years later his widow Dame Mary Herschel was interred in the same vault and a further tablet placed above that of her husbands. During the refitting of the church these memorials were removed and replaced on the north wall of the tower adjacent to and above the family vault.

The church was refitted with all new timber pews and many parishioners made separate donations for specific items.

For example: - the communion table and chairs, altar rails, altar cloth, and new service books

Mrs. Champneys, the wife of the rector donated the window, made by Mr. Willement, in the south wall adjacent to the pulpit. As already mentioned Mr. Willement gave the two windows above the altar, but since replaced by windows donated by Col. Michael Ward and made by The White Friar Co.

The old organ was removed, extended and taken to St. Peters church, Chalvey to be replaced by a new organ donated by the Misses Nixey, the sisters of Mr. Nixey a well known benefactor to Slough churches. Who had previously bought the old rectory, and on the site built a home named Springfields, known later as Upton Towers. But colloquially called Black Lead Castle by the residents of the town in allusion to his wealth accrued from the sale of black lead polish used by so many households for polishing their iron grates and ranges in those days.

With the completion of the work, including the landscaping of the churchyard, supervised by the architect Mr. Ferry, the mason Mr. Harley and the contractor Mr. Snowball. Came the time to consecrate the newly extended Old Upton Church.

THE CONSECRATION SERVICE

On the second of December 1851 the Bishop of Oxford accompanied by his chaplain was received by some thirty clergy led by the local curates the Reverends Tooke and Robson who requested the bishop to consecrate the church and gave him the petition from the parishioners. Having read the petition the Bishop agreed to consecrate the church and processed to the communion table where he proceeded with the service. The choir from St. Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle, chanted while Rev. Dr. Elvey played the organ.

The sermon given by the Bishop was based on Matthew Ch.4 V. 19, “ Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”

Following the offertory a collection was made which resulted in £120 to be added to the building fund. Those not taking communion then left the church thereby leaving 170 to take communion.

The service was said to have commenced at about 11am and terminated at 3pm.

LATER EVENTS AFFECTING THE CHURCH

During 1888 new bells were gifted to and installed in St. Mary`s church, at this time the bell dated 1619 which did not blend with the peal was returned to St. Laurence some 50 years after its removal.

In July 1890 the three grandsons of Sir William Herschel, William J. Herschel, John H. Herschel and Alexander Herschel, accompanied by the architect Mr. Gambia Perry and the mason Mr. E. Sargeant, opened the vault to check that it was in good order. They found some evidence of decay and issued a contract to Mr.Sargeant to affect repairs. The repairs to be completed and the stone restored by Sunday.

From a paragraph in the Windsor & Eton Express in 1893 it is recorded that the south doorway was in a dangerous state. It was partly rebuilt using Bath Stone and the circular window above the doorway was opened up. The old mediaeval glass found, and kept, both, during the rebuilding of the church, and the provision of new drainage channels, was used to provide what is known as the Rose Window.

During February 1895 a burst water pipe damaged the church furnace rendering it unusable, the Windsor & Eton express recorded that the only heat in the church came from the gas jets. Thereby implying that the lighting at that time would have relied on “town gas”.

From information gleaned via the Kempe Society during their visit to the church in the year 2000 it became apparent that the two windows in the east wall of the chancel attributed by Phipps to Thomas Willement were not so. They were, in fact, of a later date and made by James Powell & Sons of the White Friar Glass Co.

Reference to the V & A, Archive of Art & Design who hold the original White Friar order books showed that the two windows and the interposed mosaic of “Christ In Glory” were all ordered by and donated by Colonel Michael Foster Ward, of No. 16 Upton Park. A son of Mr. Thomas Rawdon Ward commemorated on the elegant stone pulpit in the north east corner of the nave. This order being dated July 29th 1895.

During 1906 it became necessary to repair and restore the top of the tower. A Faculty was issued, the pointed top was removed and the roof rebuilt in its present style (picture ), reputedly to more correctly represent its original Norman appearance.

In 1907 a memorial tablet dedicated to Professor Alexander Herschel (1836 – 1907), son of John Herschel, was placed to the right of the main Herschel memorial. Alexander was born in Feldhausen in South Africa soon after his father had returned home from presiding at the meeting of the Literary & Philosophic Society of Cape Town. Alexander who also had a distinguished career, studied at Cambridge and took professorships in both Glasgow and Newcastle. In later life also lived at Observatory House and became a luminary on the activity of meteorites and had many other varied interests. Alexander is interred in a vault on the south side of the church; it is brick built with a stone slab top but regretfully the weather has eroded the inscriptions.

The lean to vestry was enlarged to its present size in 1910.

A faculty was issued on the 13th of July 1931 authorising the installation of electric lighting in St. Laurence church. A picture taken in 1938 shows pendant lamps suspended from above.

At present it is not possible to confirm the style of the previous lighting method. Gas was available in the town from 1841 and must have been installed in the period between 1851 and 1895, when it was reported that the only heating available, when the furnace was out of commission, was from the gas flares. It is possible that gas would still have been used, but probably with gas mantles rather than flares.

On the 18th June 1938 authority was given to shift the organ console to a new position in the south aisle. Conversation with a person who attended the church Sunday school as a child confirmed that the organ was a pipe organ with the air supplied by a pump situated in the vestry and pumped by hand using what may be described as like an old fashioned mangle. At the same time keeping a watchful eye on the pressure to ensure sufficient air on the loud passages and keeping it down for the more gentle pieces.

At a later date this organ was replaced by the present Compton electronic and the old organ sold on to the St. Francis of Assissi church at Charminster in the Bournemouth Diocese.

At about that time the large square topped doorway was cut into tower wall giving better access into the vestry.

During the period 1959 to 1962 the banner depicting St. Laurence Holding the Grid Iron was gifted to the church by Mr. & Mrs. Edward & Ella Tebbit, proprietors of the Keymilla Hairdressing Salon in Slough High Street, and parents of John Tebbit a well known member of St. Mary’s church. The banner was given in memory of Mrs. Ella Tebbit’s parents, Mr.& Mrs.. F.W. Lloyd, the grandparents of John Tebbit.

The Sisters at the Convent of St. John the Baptist, Clewer, crafted the banner. Regretfully, the Sisters, whose numbers had declined, recently vacated the convent. The original purpose of the convent, which was to provide succour to young girls many of whom had got themselves into trouble, very often with the soldiers in the garrison town of Windsor, had been eliminated. A sad day for such a beautiful chapel to be empty of the prayers of the Sisters.

1981 saw a major change; a decision was made to provide a coffee area in the west end of the south aisle by removing some of the pews. When work started it was found that the floor and bases of the pews were infested with both woodworm and dry rot.

A work phase of one week to treat the roof timbers and complete the coffee area resulted in a closure of three months. On entering the church it was seen to resemble its old Norman self-having a bare bones appearance. The opportunity was taken to rewire the church, install new lighting and repaint the walls pink, allegedly the same as it had been previously, although the dirt of decades had completely obscured the true colour.

In 1984 saw the church closed for another three months during which time the unreliable central heating system was replaced by a modern pressurised gas fired boiler system with an effective timer arrangement and frost protection.

In 1989 it was reported that severe storms had damaged the church roof, a burglary had resulted in damage to the window at west end of the south aisle, fortunately these were repaired with monies received from the insurance claim. At about this time an application was made for an Archdeacon’s Certificate / Faculty for a nave carpet. Alterations to the vestry, including the fitting of (a) a gas water heater & (b) a gas cooker, at the same time two stainless steel sink units were provided. Thereby providing the facilities for the monthly lunches still continued today following the Sunday service. They are also well used for the provision of refreshments at the annual Mediaeval Fayre and during the church open days in the summer.

As a result of the removal of the old pews new chairs were obtained and the church “turned round” with an altar table and chairs on a raised dais in the centre of the south side of the new aisle. New upholstered, stacking and linking chairs were bought and set up in semicircle, avoiding the pillars where possible. All these changes were not to everybody’s liking and regretfully meant the loss of some regular parishioners, nevertheless life went on.

During 1990 a special memorial service was arranged to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Sir William Herschel. This followed the realization that the grave stone and memorial tablets had suffered the ravages of time and were in need of repair. The local Herschel Society initiated a project to restore them and was helped by the Royal Astronomical Society, of which Sir William was the first president, and many other contributors. On February 25th 1990 the special service was held, conducted by the Provost of Eton College The Lord Charteris of Amisfield whose predecessor, Dr. Joseph Goodall, Provost at Eton College 1809 to 1840, had in 1822 compiled the original Latin text on the memorial.

The translation of the text contained in “The Observatory” “A Review of Astronomy” dated 1990 October kindly supplied by Commander A. Fanning of the local Herschel Society is as under.

“William Herschel, Knight of the Guelphic Order.
Born at Hanover, he chose England for his country. Amongst the most distinguished Astronomers of his age he was deservedly reckoned.
For should his lesser discoveries be passed over
He was the first man to discover a planet outside the orbit of Saturn.
Aided by new contrivances which he himself both invented and constructed
He broke through the barriers of the heavens
And piercing and searching out the remoter depths of space
He laid open to the eyes and intelligence of astronomers
The vast gyrations of double stars.
To the skill with which he separated the rays of the sun by prismatic analysis into heat and light,
And to the industry with which he investigated the nature and the positions of the nebulae and of the luminous apparitions beyond the limits of our system,
Ever with innate modesty tempering his bolder conjectures,
His contemporaries bear willing witness.
Many things which he taught may yet be acknowledged by posterity to be true,
Should astronomy be indebted to support for men of genius in future ages.
A useful blameless and amiable life distinguished not less for the successful issue of his labours than for virtue and true goodness,
Was closed by death, lamented alike by his kindred and by all good men,
In the fullness of years on the 25th day of August, the year of our salvation 1822, and the 84th of his age”.

The service was attended by the Mayor of Slough, representatives of the local Herschel Society, representatives of the Royal Astronomical Society, local dignitaries and a number of Sir William Herschel direct descendants, many of whom were invited to Eton College for a celebration meal following the ceremony.

In the 1990's to avoid the problem of having to speak either from the lectern or by transporting the lectern microphone around the church a donation was received to purchase a lapel microphone and associated equipment. This has given the speakers the opportunity to be more in contact with the congregation. This facility has also been of great benefit to the visiting speakers at the Mothers' Union meetings held monthly in the church.

In the year 2000 donations were received to provide a “loop system” whereby persons with hearing aids are now able to receive the service via their personal hearing aids. Making life much easier for the hard of hearing.

During 2000 following discussions with the church members the church was again turned round with the congregation now facing towards the chancel. Thereby one could look directly into the old and attractive Norman arches of the chancel, and move into and take communion in the sanctuary of the chancel and the base of the old tower.

With the increase in attempts to enter and commit acts of robbery in churches today. Evidence of such an act in St. Laurence with damage to the north door has resulted in the provision of P.I.R. actuated floodlighting which was installed in August 2000.

Following the generous gift of £10,000 received as the result of the legacy from a Miss Cruickshank in 1997, a commission was arranged for a new stained glass window to replace the plain glass window situated at the west end of the south aisle. This window installed during November depicts text from Psalm 8, as requested by Miss Cruickshank, the heavens and the work of the famous Astronomer Royal, Sir William Herschel, who is interred below the tower of this old church.

The small circular window above the double lancet window includes the planet Uranus, a major discovery by Herschel that resulted in his move from Bath to this local area and his title of Astronomer Royal. The left-hand window contains the text of Psalm 8, the Sun at the top and Earth, as seen from space looking at the African continent at the base with various planets between. The right hand lancet shows the telescope, built in the back garden of Observatory House, now, regretfully demolished and superceded by a modern office block, and several other well-known planets. The window is the work of Andrew Taylor of Littleton Pennel, Wiltshire and never ceases to evoke admiration from its many viewers. Many of whom take the trouble to re examine the content and thereby find other aspects of the heavens embodied by the artist.

The year 2001 celebrates the 150th anniversary of the re-dedication of St. Laurence Church. During the year a program of events was arranged to mark this anniversary. The first momentous event was the dedication of the Cruickshank Window on the 24th of February.

The window, installed during November 2001, was dedicated during the service held on Saturday 24th of February 2001. Some 150 people attended the service. Which included the artist, Mr. Andrew Taylor with his family, members of the Herschel family, Mr. Neil Alston, a relative of Miss Cruickshank, the local M.P. the Mayor of Slough, and members of local societies, for example, the Herschel Society, the Slough Civic Society, Slough Talking Newspapers, etc.

A dissertation on the life and work of Sir William Herschel was given by Dr Heather Couper, astronomer and columnist in the Independent Newspaper, who in the Friday edition of the newspaper had written a fine article regarding her visit to Slough and the dedication of the window. During the service our organist Keith Bosley played "Preludium No. 14" and "Sonata No. 6", music composed by Herschel. The congregation sang the hymn composed by and written by Keith Bosley to commemorate the birthday (18th November), normally played and sung on the Sunday nearest to Sir William Herschel's Birthday. This wonderful afternoon was topped off with tea, provided by members of St. Laurence Church in the hall of Long Close School adjacent to the church by kind permission of the Head Master, Mr. Martin Kneath.

The next event celebrating this 150th anniversary year took place in July with a flower festival spanning Friday 20th. To Sunday 22nd July. The festival, masterminded by Barbara Hillier, was mainly the work of the Burnham Floral Arts Society under the guidance of Val Cottington. Many of the personalities involved in the life of the church were commemorated in the floral displays. They included:

  • Benjamin Lane; Lord of the Manor who bequeathed the Benjamin Lane Trust, that donates six bibles to be given on Bible Sunday.

  • Sir William Herschel the famous astronomer who is buried under the church tower.

  • Charles Turner a well-known nurseryman with an extensive nursery situated between the High Street and old Wellington Street, parts of which are now occupied by the Post Office sorting office and Slough telephone exchange. Among the plants they introduced was their "crimson rambler rose" which was incorporated in the Borough coat of arms in 1938.

  • The Bulstrode family who lived within the old parish boundary at Stoke Court and are remembered by the ancient brasses, some of which date from 1599. They were originally placed on Purbeck marble slabs in the chancel but are now affixed to east wall of the south aisle.

  • The Priors of Merton, who before the Reformation lived in Upton Court, later to become the Manor House, situated to the south of the church and to whom is attributed the beautiful chancel built circa 1180 and the extension to the nave to accommodate the local parishioners. The Slough Observer Newspaper now occupies this much-altered building

  • Mr. John Pocock who made a donation of £50 to prevent the demolition of the church when it was stripped to provide materials for the new church in the town centre. Not to be confused with the rebuilding fund some years later.

  • Mr. Richard Bentley, book publisher, originally of Upton Park but later of the Mere. The Bentley's published books by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and many other well-known authors, and was later absorbed by the Macmillan publishing company.

  • Mr. Richard Ward a well respected artist who was commissioned by Queen Victoria to provide twelve paintings of Windsor Castle, lived in Herschel Park and is buried in St. Laurence churchyard.

  • George Fordham, a top class jockey who rode for Queen Victoria, won the Derby in the colours of the Rothschild family. His gravestone is memorable for the inscription "tis the pace that kills".

Another display related to the "old alms box", once stolen, found in a ditch repaired and returned to the church.

The bell tower was also featured particularly with reference to the 19th century writings that suggest the ivy-covered tower is the one referred to in the "Elegy of a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray. Who in former times lived with his mother at Stoke Court, and would have passed near the church when visiting Eton College.

Our many visitors whose contributions helped to raise the DCC's bank balance enjoyed the lovely floral displays. Thanks must go to the ladies and one gentleman of the Burnham floral Society, the ladies who prepared the "Mothers' Union" display and those who kept the refreshments going over many long hours.

Of the more mundane happenings to affect the church was the demise of the north wall. The bricks in this old wall were crumbling badly and in many cases had fallen apart thereby creating a danger to the passing public. After some time it was agreed the wall must be replaced and contracts placed. Typically when the wall was demolished it was seen to have no foundation/footings. When the footings were excavated it seen that the soil pipe from toilet had been both broken and removed to make way for the green CCTV ducts provided some years back when our electricity supply cable was cut in two places by the same cable contractor.

It was of interest to see the building contractor had photographs of the old wall and was using them laid out on a flat surface to enable the craftsmen to replicate exactly the positions and styles of the various buttresses which was constructed using old stock bricks and specialized mortar.

The Compton organ, an analogue thermionic valve organ installed in the 1960's was showing its age and the regular maintenance engineer had retired, thereby leaving a problem should a major fault occur. Following much agonizing it was decided that the replacement should be a modern digital organ. Subsequently, with assistance from other organists it was decided to invest in an "Eminent" organ made in the Netherlands and installed by "Cathedral Organs" of Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

Following the fitting and setting up of the organ a series of organ recitals with invited guest organists was arranged. The organists included Philip Wharton from St. Mary's church, Datchet, Keith Bosley of St. Laurence, Malcolm Stowell of St. Mary's Slough, Henry Macey from Sunninghill, James Sherlock, an eighteen year old pupil from Eton College destined for an organ scholarship at Cambridge University and David Macey from Beaconsfield. David Macey being the predecessor of Keith Bosley some thirty years ago when the Compton organ was in its infancy.

The repertoire of the various recitals was extremely varied with selections from such well-known composers as J. S. Bach, Robert Schumann, Cesar Franck, Sir Edward Elgar and Joseph Haydn. It was good to hear Sir William "Herschel's Preludium No. 14 in F" played by Henry Macey, thereby reminding us that this famous musician/astronomer is buried beneath the tower of this ancient church.

Several more modern pieces were played including "The Dam Busters March" by Eric Coates, arranged by Lacey. This was also apparent in the program by the youthful James Sherlock, which included several pieces by contemporary organ composers.

An interesting six Wednesdays which brought together many other organists who were able to discuss the merits of the new organ, look at the art exhibition of pictures by two local artists and finish off with a glass or two of wine. Altogether a very worthwhile exercise, our thanks must go both to Keith for organising the event and to all the participating organists for so freely giving of their valuable time.

A further important event was the visit by the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harris, who attended and took part in the Advent Sunday Eucharist service on the 2nd December commemorating the rededication service reported 150 years previously. A fitting climax to this anniversary year of this old and venerable church.

During the Bishop's sermon a rather large moth or butterfly made its appearance, fluttering around the nave, it seemed, for some time. Needless to say Bishop Richard was not put out by this invasion and was able to continue and include this chance occurrence into his sermon with the skill one attributes to such speakers.

Ken Bryant

 

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