From the Very Beginings

The Church of St Michael and All Angels, Thornton, stands in a green parkland setting. A short distance away is the river Ouse, where Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire meet.

Thornton is “the village where the thorn-bushes grew”. Its parish was roughly in the shape of an equilateral triangle with its apex to the north, the church and the manor house situated at one end, near the northwest boundary.

Although no longer used as a parish church, this building has been used for 700 years.
It was vested in The Churches Conservation Trust (previously known as the Redundant Churches Fund) in July 1993 after four years of neglect. The Wolverton and District Archaeological Society volunteers cleared the church and monuments of excessive bird droppings etc. (26 bags were disposed of!)

The first church on the site was in 1219. The present building dates from the first half of the 1300s – probably rebuilt by John de Chastillon (Lord of the Manor from 1332-1343) who founded a chantry here in 1344, providing a chantry chapel to the north of the chancel. This chapel was rebuilt by Robert Ingylton (Lord of the Manor from 1464-1472) in the fulfilment of the will of his predecessor, John Barton, who died in 1434 and requested a chantry where Mass could be said for him and his parents. He also left provision for the parish priest to give ‘6d weekly to six poor people, to clothe 6 poore children annually and also for the said priest to teach the children of the said town’.

Link to further pictures of Thornton Church
The Mediaeval church consisted of a western tower, a nave with north and south aisles, and a chancel with a north chapel. After the Reformation however (and again through the initiatives of the Lords of the Manor) this building was to alter greatly, both in its structure and its furnishings.

The Mediaeval church consisted of a western tower, nave with north and south aisles, and a chancel with north chapel. After the Reformation however (and again through the initiatives of the of the Lords of the Manor) this building was to alter greatly, both in its structure and its furnishings.


The historian Browne Willis, writing in 1735 for his ‘History and Antiquities of the Town, Hundred and Deanery of Buckingham’ (published in 1755) gives some idea of what the church looked like in its day. The chancel was still standing, as was its north chapel, beneath which were the vaults of the Tyrells, containing the coffins of this family from 1570 onwards and including ‘no less than 6 Baronets’. The north aisle however, had been demolished about 1620 (when the scholarly William Breedon was rector and Sir Edward Tyrell held the Manor) and the north arcade had been crudely walled up. The positions of the monuments in 1735 may be seen on the plan, and also those of the stained glass windows, which Browne Willis noted. These included windows with SS Michael, Catherine, Margaret, Mary Magdalene, a bishop, an apostle and Our Lady in glory (now lost).
Sketch (left) by T. Ford, folio no. 56 manuscript Browne Willis XXII, showing the church before alterations the clearstorey windows and the south doorway before they were filled in. Also the chancel with 2 windows and door facing south, before demolition.

It was Thomas Sheppard (son-in-law of the Revd Dr William Cotton and Lord of the Manor from 1779-1821) who drastically altered the character of the church in a building campaign which took place some time between 1780 and 1800. This was a time when convenience rather than conservation was popular in church reordering and, in line with current fashion, Sheppard succeeded in turning St Michael’s into a rectangular preaching-box. The work was completed in 1801, when a correspondent wrote in praise of it to the Gentleman’s Magazine; the letter (together with an engraving by J. Richards) appeared in the December 1801 issue. More info…
Sheppard’s work opened out once more the north arcade and rebuilt the north aisle, but walled up the church arch and dismantled the mediaeval chancel and north chapel. A new ceiling was constructed beneath the level of the clerestory windows, which were blocked up. Plan of Church as it is today.

A west gallery was erected and the church was re-floored and re-seated. Subsequent discoveries have revealed how sweeping this transformation was. A carved stone corbel, sections of moulded timber from the roof and the 14th-century effigy of a priest were discovered during the 1994 restoration, buried beneath the floorboards in the north aisle. Fragments of a painted Royal Arms over the chancel arch and carved woodwork in the roof still remain in place above the plaster ceiling.

Stained Glass Windows
Stained glass windows in the east and south walls. All the other windows are clear-glazed.

All aisle windows are the same design of tracery of c.1850. They are made with zinc frames, individual quarries puttied into place. These framed windows are bowed but adequate. Repairs were made to damaged quarries and two ventilators were bird-proofed within stainless steel mesh fitted inside and out to allow the central pivoted ventilators to operate.

Zinc was in use for some years for quarries and simple geometrical patterns for church windows, but has entirely dropped out of use now. It made a very strong, rigid framework but was very expensive, owing to the time it took in working. The whole framework was built up, first, of T section calms, and soldered together. The glass was then dropped in and puttied as in wood or iron frames. It was wider than the average lead, and so stopped more light. It was more susceptible to the action of the weather. Thousands of feet of such work have been pulled out and replaced with leaded lights.



Church Grave Index


Surname Forename Location Dates
Roman Catholic Sisters Graves
Metchtud Mary St. N 1 1924
Unterhoffer St. Berthe Theresa N 1 1954
Nazareth Mary N 2 1956
Lilley Martina Kathleen N 2 1981
Bernadette St Sister N 3 1959
Elizabeth St Mother N 4 1960
Magdalen Mother N 5 1965
Shehan Eleanor Sister N 6 1973
Rochford Edna Margaret Sister N 6 1985
Hopkins Mary Ipswich N 7 1968
Hyland Anthony Sister N 8 1973
Cafferty James Sister N 8 1979
Hackett Emma Sister N 9 1972
Lowenstein Helen Sister N 10 1976
McCoy Finian Rose Sister N 10 1981
Keegan John Baptist Sister N 11 1975
De Verinne Mary Annunciata Gertrude N 12 1990
Welsh Columbiere Elizabeth Sister N 12 1950
Aspinall John Sister N 13 1979
Zannelato Assunta Maria Sister N 14 1990
Church of England Graves
Almond Caioulis George P 51
Almond Elizabetha P 51
Apap-Bolohn John P 21
Baker Thomas P 16 1961
Baker Annie Caroline P 16 1977
Coates Harriett P 53 1869
Coates Nathaniel P 53
Coates John Alfred P 53 1859
Colton Eliza P 20 1887
Colton Robert P 20 1914
Crompton Annie P22 1909-1989
De Prilleux Susan P 55 1977
Dixon Sarah P 43
Dixon William P 43
Dixson Francis P 49 1767
Dixson William P 49
Dover Ann P 38 1813
Dover John P 38
Fairfax Eileen P 27 1973
Fricker Dorothy Mary P 33 1906-1995
Galton (Gayton) Richard P 36 1798
Gammage Frank P 25 1909-1978
Gammage Anna Quaglia P 25 1909-1981
Gander Daphne Vivien P 39 1931-1993
Harding Annie Amelia P 15 1946
Harding George Frederick P 15 1961
Harris Maud Annette Letitia Elizabeth P 35 1869-1950
Harris Henry William P 35
Hawkins Tracy Dawn P 26 1974
Haynes Gilbert Edmund P 40 1905-1984
Haynes Joan Elizabeth P 40 1910-1994
Hobbs Winifred Ethel P 54 1901
Hobbs Matthew P 54
Hobbs Anne P 54
Illegible William P 41
Judg John P 46 1720
King George Edward P19 1981
King Dorothy May P 19 2002
Knight James Edmund Teddy P 17 1919
London Henry William P 37
Lonsdale-Hands Frederick Richard De Prilleux P 55 1969
Nutt Harold P 32 1918-1990
Pennell Sue (Susan) P 28 1957
Pennell Thomas P 28 1957
Pennell George P 28
Poole Robert P 30 1951
Reddin Beatrice Mary (Queenie) P 18 1891-1976
Seaton Ruby Florence P 24 1984
Seaton William P 24 1991
Sheen Thomas P 37 1791
Sheen Mary P 47 1775
Sheen Benjamin P 47
Sheen Thomas P 48 1767
Sheppard Thomas P 36
Sheppard Thos. P 44
Taylor Billy P 34 1953
Taylor Peggy P 34
Thomas Michael Charles (Thomo) P 31 1994
Tullett Richard Albert P 56 1967
Wallhead Ken P 23 1989
Wallhead Pat P 23 1980
Ward Sophie Olive Remelion (Leon) P 29 19767
Weaver Mary P 44 1798
Wrighton Emma P 52 1852
Wrighton Thomas P 52
Wrighton Emma P 52

The Alabaster Effigies of John and Isabella Barton

(pic. left) The upper part of the effigy of John Barton. The collar of twisted cord round his neck is very unusual. Its pendant, in the form of a lion, undoubtedly represents the white Lion of March, which is normally shown attached to the Yorkist collar of Suns and Roses on monuments of the supporters of the House of York during the Wars of the Roses (Lancastrian supporters wore the Collar of SS). He died, however, long before a widespread Yorkist faction had developed. It is likely, therefore, that the Lion of March pendant which he wears on a much simpler collar indicates that he was actually in the service of Richard Duke of York (1411 – 1460), father of King Edward IV.

John Barton’s Will requested the rebuilding of the north chapel as a chantry for himself and his parents. This was duly done and the licence for it was granted on 4th July 1468, which must have been about the time when these effigies were made at one of the midlands alabaster workshops almost certainly at Chellaston, near Derby. They rank alongside high-quality work of the period, including monuments at Norbury (Derbyshire), Stanton Harcourt (Oxfordshire), Ryther and Methley (Yorkshire), Salisbury Cathedral, St. Helen’s Bishopsgate, London and at the Churches Conservation Trust’s church at South Cowton in Yorkshire.

The figures of John Barton and his wife Isabella (originally beneath the lost north chantry chapel arch) which now are by the west entrance, beneath the gallery, are those of John Barton, who died in 1437 and Isabella who died in 1457, having married Sir Robert Shotesbrook. John Barton lies on the south side clad in armour, his hands folded in prayer his sword by his side and his resting upon a helm. Some of the original colour can be seen on both figures. Extract from letter from Mark Downing of the Church Monuments Society to B. Egan, dated 18th May 2003.



“Firstly I would like to mention that the effigy might date from the early 1460’s when Edward IV seized the crown and introduced the Yorkist collar with the Lion of March pendant. In almost all cases from the Yorkist period the collar is decorated with alternate Suns and Roses with the Lion of March pendant, but at Thornton it has a plain chain.”

It seems that Mr. Downing missed something, because looking closely at the upper body, just above the hands (pic. left), you can see a Lion of March pendant, still with some colour.





Isabella Barton ‘s head rest on a cushion, held by two small figures, the one which you can see was remodelled in the Victorian period. Her cloak is held with a cord attached to two clasps. She wears a necklace of five cords and a cross and a headdress of the period. Notice the number of rings on her hands.

There are two little dogs at the feet of her skirt. The detail of her clothing is beautiful and there are traces of the original red colouring.