News from the West Buckingham Benefice
I used to be involved in running a course called ‘Understanding the Church of England’, and I
always wondered if that was even possible, as our church structures and history can be very odd
One of the oddities is the patronage system, which dates from the beginnings of the church in
England, when people, usually the local landowners, or royalty, would give land to use to build
a church and to provide its income (and pave their way to heaven!) – that’s where Glebe land
comes in. The consequences of that system are still with us, even though Glebe land is no
longer expected to produce the income for the church and clergy.
It all gets more complicated when churches are joined together to become benefices or joint
parishes, and the result may be, as in our case, that the benefice has several patrons.
Turweston’s patron is Westminster Abbey, and that came about because around 1286 the
Abbey purchased Simon de Ellesworth’s manor. The purchase was made with money provided
by Queen Eleanor of Castile as part of the foundation which she set up to endow the elaborate
anniversary observances of her death. She began to provide money for this purpose some years
before she died. The vendor was paid £133.6s.8d for the manor, although the abbot and convent
were not formally granted possession of it by Edward 1 until 1292. Further land in Turweston
was purchased for Queen Eleanor's foundation in 1340. Turweston was among the estates
confirmed as possessions of the new Dean and Chapter in Elizabeth 1’s charter of 1560.
Although the Abbey was originally patron for Turweston, they are now involved in the whole
benefice. In recent years they’ve been taking a real interest in their parishes, and Revd Canon
Jane Hedges came to visit the benefice and meet the churchwardens a few months ago. She
invited us to come for a visit to Westminster, and a coach-load of us took up the invitation on
1st March. We arrived at the Abbey as the bells were ringing for us (well, probably for St
David's Day!). Revd Jane met us at the door and gave us what turned out to be an excellent
private tour of the Abbey as preparations for the memorial service for Nelson Mandela on
Monday meant that visitors weren’t being allowed in. Our tour included a visit to St Edwards
Shrine, (not open to the general public) and some prayers there.
After the tour, we had reserved seats for evensong, where we had a good view of the choir, who
sang so beautifully it defies description. The spiritual excellence of evensong was balanced by
the physical one of a cream tea in the new cellarium. We enjoyed the day so much that we
might repeat it at some time in the future,