Celebrations held during landmark year for ancient church in Milton Keynes

All Saints, Loughton. Picture: Gill Prince
All Saints, Loughton. Picture: Gill Prince

The community in Loughton is celebrating this year as the beautiful parish church marks its 800th anniversary.

All Saints’ Church dates back to 1218 when the first recorded rector was Simon de Luhton, in the reign of Henry III, when it is thought the church was a stone building with a thatched roof.

800th anniversary logo by Eden Ravenscroft

800th anniversary logo by Eden Ravenscroft

The 800th anniversary year sees a series of special events and services to celebrate and an anniversary logo which identifies these was designed by one of the young people at the church, Eden Ravenscroft.

The first event is on Saturday, April 21 at 7.30pm with a concert featuring Heart and Music. Tickets via watlingvalley.org.uk/heart-music-concert/

Other main dates include a church and village fete on June 9 and heritage open weekend with flower festival and textile exhibition on September 8 and 9.

All Saints was expanded in the 14th century when a nave and a porch were added, though not the one seen today. The porch was a parish meeting place and weddings were witnessed here before being solemnised within the nave.

All Saints c 11218

All Saints c 11218

The church has a colourful history too. In 1378, the curate of Little Loughton, William Capel de Sapcote, was found dead on the highway. An inquest found that the rector of Great Loughton, John Gervyes, had killed him with an arrow worth 1d. One theory is that the unfortunate curate was caught in the crossfire during regular archery practice. This possibly links to King Edward III’s declaration of 1363: “... that every man in the same country, if he be able-bodied, shall, upon holidays, make use, in his games, of bows and arrows... and so learn and practise archery.” The value of the bow and arrow was 14d, and Great Loughton was fined by that amount.

In 1408, Little and Great Loughton were merged to form one parish, and stone from Little Loughton Church may have been used to extend All Saints’.

The tower was built early in the 16th century and the first two bells were hung in the 1540s. A further four were added over the years and now, in 2018, the bells are being restored as part of the 800th celebrations, as a result of fundraising, grants, donations and a generous bequest.

The organ in the church has its own little piece of history; it was originally manually pumped and you can find a small Spitfire carved into the side of it by a bored boy who had to pump the bellows for the organ!

All Saints prepared for a wedding

All Saints prepared for a wedding

The church also has two modern stained glass windows by Harry Stammers, which were created in 1965 and they are quite unusual in style. Stammers is credited with reviving the tradition of the York School of Glass Painting in the late 1940s.

The church has stood in its prominent position in Loughton through the English Civil War, the Black Death, and two World Wars. With 800 years of services and prayers and thousands of people through its doors, it remains an important part of the local community today as a place of worship for people of all ages.

All Saints’ is now part of the Watling Valley Partnership, which is made up of five churches in the west of Milton Keynes, together with Christ the Sower Ecumenical Primary School. In addition to regular Sunday services which are held at 8am and 9.30am, All Saints’ welcomes baptism families and wedding couples who want to mark these special occasions in its beautiful ancient surroundings. More details of all these services can be found at watlingvalley.org.uk

Each year, the church also holds different events and services to support the local community including Christmas, Easter and harvest services, Remembrance Sunday, the biennial Scarecrow Trail, and Christmas Cracker.

Full details of all the events and services planned are available at watlingvalley.org.uk/allsaints800