St Peter and St Paul
History of the Church
Nobody knows when the first church was built at Great Missenden. There appears to have been one on or near the site of the present church when the Abbey was founded in 1133. The current Church building was built in the 14th and 15th centuries with 19th century extensions and restorations. It is about 300 meters from the old centre of Great Missenden and can be reached from the village by a bridge over the bypass. The site is unusual but not unique; other examples within the Chilterns include Bledlow, Chesham and Ellesborough.
It is a spacious church with a wide chancel, nave, north and south aisles, transepts and tower at the western end. Like most ancient churches it is the product of many people's skills and changes in religious thinking.
The chancel contains 14th century work with Victorian restoration work and, on the north side, a recess for the organ and the vestries. In the chancel, near the altar, is a fine collection of medieval floor tiles, probably made in a well-known workshop at nearby Penn.
The 14th century nave arcades are topped by a 15th century clerestory. The south aisle and both transepts contain 15th century windows. The north aisle was rebuilt and widened at the end of the 19th century.
At the west end of the nave is a much restored 12th century font, remarkable for the flowing, floral carving on the four semi-circular faces of its base. The font is one of the so-called 'Aylesbury group', a small collection of ancient fonts found in this part of Buckinghamshire.
At the top of each nave pillar is a little carved head. These are probably portraits, caricatures even, of local personalities at the time the present nave was built. These candid portraits provide a link with all those who have lived and worshipped in Great Missenden over more than 900 years.
Watching over the approach to the church is the bold and strangely asymmetric tower. Sometime after the Reformation in the 16th century this tower was extended southwards, resulting in a wall nearly 14 feet thick, and a new belfry was built. Browne Willis states that the tower was altered to accommodate five large bells formerly in the abbey at the foot of the hill. Today, there are eight large bells hung for full circle ringing and one very small 'Sanctus' bell set in a small window high up on the west face of the tower. Close inspection will reveal that much of the tower is made up from recycled material, including windows, probably from the demolished medieval structures of the abbey.