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Community - St James and the PCC
St James church Aston Abbotts
The following is adapted from the leaflet ‘Visitors guide to the historic church of St James the Great, Aston Abbotts, which is available in the Church Aston Abbotts’ well maintained church is still used for regular Sunday worship, baptisms, funerals and weddings. We first know of the existence of a church at Aston Abbotts in 1291 when £3 from the tithes was given to the kitchener of St. Albans Abbey. The Parish Records begin in 1550 and from them we learn, for example, that the first recorded marriage was on 28th June 1559 between Robert Bishop and Joanne Chalener. We also read that the parishioners bought a bull for eighteen shillings in 1564 and sold it three years later for 30 shillings, which sounds like good business. In the nineteenth century many of the old village cottages were pulled down and rebuilt. Consideration was also given to the Church, and almost all that remains of the old church is the Tower. We do not know quite what ideas the people had for the refurbishment of their ancient church building, but it became apparent in 1864 that the most practical option was to completely rebuild the Nave and Chancel on new foundations. The chosen architect was G. E. Street, a prolific designer of churches, notably, in Bucks those at Wescott (1867) and Beachampton (1873) and the work carried out by a local Bierton builder Mr. Durley at a total cost of £1239.3.11d of which £300 was donated by the then Lord of the Manor, Lord Overstone. The church was rededicated by Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, on Whit Tuesday 22nd May 1866. The rebuilding gave the opportunity for Aston Abbotts' most distinguished resident, Rear Admiral Sir James Clarke Ross, to be commemorated in the stained glass window above the Altar. Sir James was England's outstanding polar explorer of the time, who discovered the North magnetic pole in 1831 and also led the expedition which discovered the Great Ice Barrier in the Antarctic in 1842. He lived in the Abbey House till his death in 1862. His tomb is in the churchyard. The Church tower is in the perpendicular style, built in the early l6th Century and its roof, formerly covered with lead, is now tiled. It contains a chiming clock made by Gillett and Co. in 1889 and six bells. The bells are of some interest as numbers 2,3 and 5 were cast in 1652 and inscribed "Chandler made me". This would have been one of the chandlers who were blacksmiths at Drayton Parslow. The family cast church bells for over a century in the forge there. Number 4 and 6 are inscribed "Edward Hall made me', - number 4 in 1739 and number 6 in 1740. Number I was given in 1929 by an American, William Putnam in memory of his ancestor who left Aston Abbotts about 1630. More recently the clock, which replaced an earlier one, has been refurbished and fitted with an electrical winding mechanism.
St James’ Church drawn by Andy Bystra
In 2005 there was a special service in St James’ church commemorating Aston Abbotts’ wartime Czech connection. This was attended by their excellencies the Czech and Slovak ambassadors