Vicars of Penn Street

Vicars of Penn Street from 1849

Edward Bickersteth 1849 – 1853
Alfred S Butler 1853 – 1860
Thomas Bayley 1860 – 1886
J J Lindeman 1886 – 1899 Died in Office,
Buried 6th June 1899
A L Mauby 1900
Arthur Browning 1901 – 1927
Francis James Sibree 1927 – 1928
Ernest Davies 1928 – 1931
Vaughan F Bryan-Brown 1932 – 1947
W J Mathias 1948 – 1951
J W Rees 1952 – 1953
David Ainsleigh Jones 1954 – 1959
A E Paterson 1959 – 1966
Frank Wankling 1967 – 1975
Nigel Stowe 1976 – 2001
Matthew Boyes 2002 – 2006 (Priest in Charge)
William Mason 2007 – 2013
Peter Simmons 2015 – 2019
Ruth Atkinson 2020 – 2022


Edward Bickersteth 1849 – 1853

Edward Bickersteth,
Dean of Lichfield
Vanity Fair, Dec. 20, 1884

Edward Bickersteth the first Vicar of Penn Street, was born in Acton in Suffolk, into an ecclesiastical family: his father was the Rev John Bickersteth, sometime Rector of Sapcote; and his brother Robert was a future Bishop of Ripon. He was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1831, and migrated to Sidney Sussex College two years later, graduating B.A. in 1836. He also studied at Durham University in 1837. Ordained Deacon late 1837, he began his career as curate to Arch-deacon Vickers at Chetton, nr. Bridgnorth in Shropshire, and ordained priest January, 1839, curate at Holy Cross and St. Giles, Shrewsbury Abbey. He held incumbencies at Holy Trinity, Penn Street, 1849 – 1853, and St. Mary’s, Aylesbury, before being appointed Archdeacon of Buckingham, and appears here on an 1861 photograph of Rural Deans and Archdeacons, (Edward Bickersteth 26). In 1866 he was nominated an honorary canon of Christ Church, Oxford.

In 1875, he was appointed Dean of Lichfield. His chief achievement as Dean was the restoration of the west front of Lichfield Cathedral, which was begun in 1877 and completed and dedicated on 9 May 1884. He resigned just a few weeks before his death on 9 October 1892.

He was twice married: first, on 13 October 1840, to Martha Mary Anne, daughter of Valentine Vickers of Cransmere in Shropshire. She died on 2 February 1881, and on 12 October 1882, he married Mary Anne, daughter of Thomas Whitmore Wylde-Browne of The Woodlands, Bridgnorth, Shropshire. She survived him. (Wikipedia)

Two Stained Glass windows in the newly built Holy Trinity, Penn Street church were presented by Edward Bickersteth and his wife Mary Martha Anne.

Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement

Carte de Visite

BICKERSTETH, EDWARD (1814–1892), dean of Lichfield, born on 23 Oct. 1814 at Acton in Suffolk, was the second son of John Bickersteth (1781-1855), rector of Sapcote in Leicestershire, by his wife Henrietta (d. 19 March 1830), daughter and co-heiress of George Lang of Leyland, Lancashire. Henry Bickersteth, baron Langdale [q. v.], and Edward Bickersteth [q. v.] were his uncles; Robert Bickersteth [q. v.] was his brother. Edward entered Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, graduating B. A. in 1836, M.A. in 1839, and D.D. in 1864. He also studied at Durham University in 1837. In that year he was ordained deacon, and in 1838 was curate of Chetton in Shropshire. In 1839 he was ordained priest, and became curate at the Abbey, Shrewsbury. From 1849 to 1853 he was perpetual curate of Penn Street and rural dean Amersham, in Buckinghamshire. In 1853 he became vicar of Aylesbury and archdeacon of Buckinghamshire. In 1866 he was nominated an honorary canon of Christ Church, Oxford. He was select preacher at Cambridge in 1861, 1864, 1873, and 1878, and at Oxford in 1875. In 1864, 1866, 1869, and 1874 he presided as prolocutor over the lower house of the convocation of Canterbury. During his tenure of office an address to the crown was presented by the lower house requesting that a mark of the royal favour should be conferred on him, but nine years elapsed before he was installed dean of Lichfield on 28 April 1875. As prolocutor he was ex officio member of the committee for the revised version of the Bible, and he attended most regularly the sittings of the New Testament section.

His chief achievement as dean was the restoration of the west front of Lichfield Cathedral, which was commenced in 1877 and completed and dedicated on 9 May 1884. He resigned the deanery on 1 Oct. 1892, and died without issue at Leamington on 7 Oct. He was buried at Leamington on 11 Oct. He was twice married : first, on 13 Oct. 1840, to Martha Mary Anne, daughter of Valentine Vickers of Cransmere in Shropshire. She died on 2 Feb. 1881, and on 12 Oct. 1882 he married Mary Anne, daughter of Thomas Whitmore Wylde-Browne of The Woodlands, Bridgnorth, Shropshire. She survived him.

Bickersteth, who was a high churchman, was the author of numerous sermons, charges, and collections of prayers.

Rev. A. S. Butler 1853 – 1860

PENN INCUMBENCY.-The Lord Bishop of Oxford has licensed the the Rev. A. S. Butler, B.A., to the incumbency of Penn-street. near Amersham. Vacant by the resignation of the Venerable Archdeacon Bickersteth, vicar of Aylesbury, on the nomination of Earl Howe.

Bucks Herald, July 23rd, 1853.

Rev Thomas Bayley 1860 – 1886

BA St Edmund Hall, 30th May 1846.
Curate, St. Mary’s, Pitstone, Bucks, 1847.

Vicar, Holy Trinity, Penn Street, 1860 – 1886

Death of a Former Vicar.  Bucks Herald, 6 March 1897

The Rev. Thos. Bayley, who for many years was Vicar of Penn Street, died on the 1st inst. (1st March 1897) at Brighton, to which place he removed in 1886, having resigned his vicarage owing to failing health.  Mr. Bayley was a well-read man, and took much interest in the Church and secular literature of the day.  He was a very diligent minister of the Gospel.  In his parish he was kind and sympathetic and especially attentive to the sick, consequently much loved.  His sermons were carefully written and carefully delivered, and were full of Gospel instruction and suggestive topics.  His voice was weak, a drawback to any one ministering in the large church of Penn-street, but his congregation became accustomed to him, and could gather up his words without difficulty.  He was for many years a member of Chenies Clerical Association, and was highly esteemed by his clerical brethren.  A clerical neighbour and he went out together in Mr. Bayley’s carriage to the meetings for 20 years.

Presentation to the Vicar – April 27th 1886

Viscount Curzon, Earl Howe

Viscount Curzon, Earl Howe

Viscount Curzon, (Earl Howe, see footnote) M.P. for South Bucks, visited the Earl Howe’s day school on Bank Holiday, upon the occasion of an interesting ceremony in connection with the retirement of the Rev.T Bayley from the vicarage of Penn Street Church. His Lordship, in presenting a testimonial to Mr. Bayley, observed that the honour thus conferred upon him was greatly enhanced owing to the fact that the present was subscribed to by members of other denominations, regardless of creed or politics. It gave him the greatest possible pleasure to be the means of conveying to Mr. Bayley the heartfelt regard and esteem of such a large number of friends present – for he certainly must call them friends having been brought up amongst them during nearly the whole of his lifetime. the pleasure was also mingled with a large amount of sorrow, caused but the prospect of their so soon losing the presence of their respected and beloved Vicar, who had made himself so devoted to them by his self-sacrifice in every good deed and work. The parish was losing one whose place would not be easily filled, and whoever his successor might be, he (his Lordship) earnestly hoped he might prove himself worthy to follow in the steps of such a good man. In the name of the subscribers he begged to hand Mr. Bayley the token before him as a slight acknowledgement of past services and present esteem. (Applause.)

The testimonial consisted of a silver Queen’s reading lamp, and a silver fish carver and fork, upon which was engraved, “Presented to the Rev. Thomas Bayley by his parishioners as a mark of esteem held by them at the close of twenty-five years’ faithful ministry at Penn Street Church. April 27th, 1886.”

Queens reading Lamp

Mr Bayley, who was visibly affected, begged to thank all friends who has subscribed to the present before him, and also his Lordship for his great kindness in thus coming forward at great personal sacrifice to present the testimonial to him. Words failed him to express all that he felt at that moment. On looking back for a quarter of a century during which he had been amongst them he saw many changes; friends who were with him at the commencement of his ministry were gone to the grave and another generation had taken their place. He felt extremely happy in seeing such a large gathering assembled to testify the appreciation of his services; and he assured them all that when at some distance from them, and sitting in the light of the excellent lamp they had been pleased to present to him, he should should ever think of all his kind friends at Penn Street to the end of his days, whether that time should be long or short. He should also ever think of the loved surroundings of the place, especially the dear old Church, with its tall spire, seen from such great distance, peeping from the wood and pointing to the skies, where he sincerely hoped he should meet all his friends never to part again. He could not trust himself to say more words, but he heartily all those who had in any way contributed to the present now in his hands. (Applause.)

Mr Widdowson then thanked Lord Curzon for his great kindness in attending there that day; and begged in the name of the Committee to propose a vote of thanks to him. This was seconded by the Vicar and carried with acclamation.

Lord Curzon briefly replied, and apologised for the absence of Lady Curzon, who would have been exceedingly pleased to attend and show the great respect she felt for Mr. Bayley, but owing to an engagement at Slough of a similar nature to that in which they were engaged, she was prevented from attending. Ringing cheers were given for his Lordship at the close of the meeting (as also on his arrival) which were repeatedly acknowledged by him.

A public tea followed the meeting, when about 140 friends sat down to an excellent repast provided by Mr. Eggleton. The gathering was in every way a success, and was thoroughly enjoyed. A sacred concert was given in the evening, when Mr. Widdowson, in the absence of the Vicar from fatigue, presided. The admission being free, every available seat was occupied and standing room was taken advantage of where possible. The singing was accompanied on harmonium by Mrs. Winter and Miss Widdowson, who greatly assisted the various vocalists. The following was the programme, which was given throughout with great success, the pieces “Rest,” and “Abide with me,” being encored; but for the time of the evening, other as deserving would doubtless have shared the same fate; Chorus, “Children’s voices;” solo “Resignation;” Mr. Winter; trio, “How beautiful upon the mountains,” Miss Wingrove and Misses Copestake; solo, “Mark the vesper bells,” Miss Norman; duet, “Rest,” Miss and Mr. Widdowson; solo “Abide with me,” Mrs. Winter; solo, “The little hero,” Mr. Winter; anthem, “Jerusalem my happy home;” solo, “The better land,” Miss Widdowson; solo, “The crowded harbour,” Miss Boug; recitation, “The life-boat,” Mr. Jerrold; trio, “Ho! every one that thirsteth,” Mrs. and Messrs. Winter; trio, “My bud in heaven,” Miss Dean, Messrs. Laurence and Howell; duet, “Leaning on Jesus,” Mrs. Widdowson, jun., and Hickson; duet, “Glory to Thee my God this night,” Mr. and Mrs. Winter; “National Anthem.” Too many thanks cannot be give to the ladies of the hamlet for the untiring zeal displayed in decorating the Schoolroom, and assisting in numerous ways.

Bucks Herald, Saturday May 1st, 1886.

Richard George Penn Curzon, 4th Earl Howe, (28 April 1861 – 10 January 1929),
Elected Member of Parliament for Wycombe in 1885.
Styled Viscount Curzon between 1876 and 1900.

JJ Lindeman 1886 – 1899

Vicar of Naseby, Northamptonshire

Vicar, Holy Trinity, Penn Street, 1886 – 1899
Died in Office, Buried, Penn Street, 6th June, 1899

Arthur Browning 1901 – 1927

Vicar of Holy Trinity, Penn Street, 1901 – 1926.
Previously, Curate, Maidenhead and Cookham.

David Niven lived here between 1920 and 1922, as a ten to twelve year old, one of a dozen boys (who included two Persian princes and the young third Sir Philip Rose) in the crammer run by the Revd Arthur Browning. David Niven’s autobiography remembers a very pleasant interlude in Penn Street, despite the vicar – who was ‘a magnificent looking grandson of Robert Browning with clear blue eyes and white, wavy hair. He was uniformly adored by the parents and loathed by the boys, without exception, as an evil-tempered, vain old tyrant!’

In the 1911 Census, Arthur Browning desscribes himslef as “Clergyman-Priest General of England-Private Tutor”, and includes his wife Catherine, son Robert and daughter Esther, and four boarders: a private tutor from Sheffield and three students, from New Zealand, Calcutta India, and London, plus three domestic servants, from local villages.

(Photograph, The Sphere, June 25th, 1902)

King Edward VII visited Penn Street, January 16th, 1902.

The short and tragic incumbency of Revd. FJ Sibree

Very little is recorded regarding the short incumbency of the Revd. FJ Sibree.  The following is collected from various sources, Birth, Marriage and Death records, Census Returns and Electoral Rolls and Probate records and local newspaper reports.

The Revd. Sibree arrived at Penn Street in 1927, and resigned in 1928, intending to retire,  because of his wife’s illness, when he was replaced by Ernest Davies.

Francis Joseph Sibree was born in 1860 at Painswick, Stroud, Gloucestershire.  His parents ran a boarding school, Bussage House, with 20 – 30 teenage children, mostly boys, a few girls, and their own five children.

He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford.  At the ages of 20 and 30, Francis is shown as ‘tutor’, having joined the ‘family business’.

In 1894 he married Margaret Louisa List, after Banns at St Paul’s church Gloucester.  His occupation is shown as ‘Headmaster’ Bussage House School.

He trained for ministry at Gloucester Theological College, and was ordained Deacon in 1896 and priest in 1898.  His first appointment was as assistant curate, Chalford, Gloucester.  In 1901 he is listed asr, ‘Clerk in Holy Orders, School Master’, The Park, The Hall, Shipdham, near Dereham, Norfolk, in the parish of Shipdham, All Saints. The Hall was another boarding school with teenage boys.

It was not unusual for the vicar or curate to also tutor boarders. The Revd. Arthur Browning, Francis Sibree’s predecessor also ran a ‘crammer’ at the vicarage, for ten or so teenage boys, including the young David Niven.

1904-1912 he was vicar of St Mary’s, Portchester, Fareham, Hants, proceeding to Bexley Heath in 1912, and Wandsworth in 1916 and in living at 10 Rusholme Road, Wandsworth, presumably the vicarage of St Michael’s Church, Southfield.  His first wife Margaret died 2nd August 1923, they had no children.

In July 1924, he married a widow, Edith Eleanor Muirhead, née Dennett, at Kensington.  Edith had four daughters and two sons by her previous marriage.

Francis Sibree arrived at Penn Street in 1927, and tragically his second wife Edith died the following year, 20th September 1928, aged 63, only five years after their marriage.  Her Probate record reveals that she left £9219 7s. 6d. around £580,000 in 2020.

Only a short time before her death, Revd. Sibree had tendered his resignation because of his wife’s health and had made arrangements to leave Penn Street.  The Revd. Ernest Davies was been named as his replacement and was inducted as vicar of Penn Street in November 1928.

Francis Sibree undertoook clerical duties at Buckingham for a short time and was appointed  vicar of Westbury, North Bucks, in 1929, serving for 7 years, until his death 17 July 1936, aged 76, His funeral was unusual in that he was cremated at Golders Green crematorium before the funeral service at Westbury.

His obituary in the Buckingham Advertiser and North Bucks Free Press, 25th July, 1936, describes him as ‘an enthusiastic motorist’, and that ‘he played tennis into his 70th year’.  One of his achievements at Westbury was the installation of electricity in the church and vicarage.

His estate was worth £2661 11s. 6d. worth £200,000 in 2020.

Thanks to Ron Saunders for searching out relevent newspaper cuttings.

Peter Strutt, 2020

Revd. Ernest Davies

The Rev. Ernest Davies was appointed by Eal Howe to replace Francis Sibree, who had only been in office a year, when he announced his intention to retire due to the illness of his wife Edith.

Ernest Davies appointment was announced in the Bucks Examiner 7th September 1928.

Revd. Davies Induction took place on 15th November 1928, reported here in the Bucks Examiner.

Frank Wankling 1967 – 1975

“How Holmer Green got its church”

Although the Rev. F. Wank­Iing and his wife and family were given an official reception when Mr. WankIing was inducted as Vicar of Penn Street and Holmer Green. at Penn Street Church recently, Holmer Green folk on Saturday arranged their own welcome and said it with flowers in the form of a delightfully decorated village hall and a bouquet for Mrs Wankling.  The Sunday School provided musical entertainment, the Young Wives organised the refreshments, and Mrs. S. Waller supervised the floral decorations.

Mr. F. W. Todd. who always reads the lessons at Holmer Green, gave the official verbal welcome on behalf of the villagers.

He recalled that just over a century ago the then Countess Howe decided she would like a church of her own at own at Penn Street. which necessitated a special Act of Parliament. taking away exist­ing parts of the parishes of Penn and Little Missenden. That was how the church at Holmer Green started.

Although the vicar lived at Penn Street there appeared to be much more work at Holmer Green where they were eventually hop­ing to enlarge.

In his response Mr. Wankling said he already realised how much work was involved at Holmer Green Green, where one of the main needs was the building of a Sun­day School, and he visualised a lot of work for Holmer Green people to do.

Bucks Examiner, Friday September 8th, 1967.

Editor’s Note: Frank Wankling went on to oversee the building of the Church Centre at Holmer Green, adjacent to the church, Christ Church, which was built in 1894.

Nigel Stowe 1976-2001

Nigel Stowe: (1936-2021), was born on the 29th April 1936 in the School House attached to the small village school at West Tytherley, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, where his father was headmaster.

At the age of 14, Nigel committed his heart and life to Christ following a talk at a well-attended school Christian Union meeting at Monkton Coombe school, visited by the evangelist Don Summers, who went on to have a world-wide ministry of evangelism.

Nigel’s spiritual growth began to take off when a fellow pupil invited him to help and teach at the small Sunday School at Midford Chapel in one of the nearby villages. In his last 2 years at school he played a leading role in the CU becoming its secretary and organising the Wednesday evening speakers.
Following National Service in the Royal Engineers as a training officer and almost full-time Chaplain confirmed God’s call and provided a wonderful training ground for leadership and teaching experience. In September 1959 Nigel returned to Clifton Theological College for 2 years ordination training, being appointed vice-senior student in his last year.

At Michaelmas 1961 Nigel was ordained by the Bishop of St Albans to serve as curate in the parish of Christ Church, Ware in Hertfordshire where he learned much about the administrative workings of a parish. Just after his third Christmas there he married Pauline Gray who was the PE teacher at the secondary school and heavily involved in the Young People’s work at Christ Church.

At the end of the summer of 1964 Nigel and Pauline moved to Reigate, Surrey where Nigel became senior curate at St Mary’s with Canon Peter Baker, whose son, Tony, had been at college with him and was his best man. These were very happy and fulfilling years.

In 1968, they accepted an invitation to the parish of St Jude’s Mildmay Park in Islington, consisting of 8000 people in a half mile square with the church at the centre, Newington Green and Hackney and Balls Pond Road on different edges. These were precious days of outreach and humbling commitment by the small dedicated congregation. The 8 years of ministry there provided several life times of parochial and human experience for Nigel and Pauline.

In 1976 they moved to the parish of Penn Street with Holmer Green, which was to be their home for 26 years. Nigel oversaw the almost total restoration of Holy Trinity Church, the parsonage house and much of Christ Church. He carried on to completion the facilities at Holmer Green provided by the new church centre main hall started by Frank Wankling, and then designed and built with the help of members of the congregation, first the extension to the front, the workshop and upper room and then, later, the games room to the rear. Pauline is remembered by many for the Sunday School she ran in the vicarage.

Nigel and Pauline retired in 2001.