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An Unknown Knight

Ashendon is eight miles from Aylesbury. Lipscomb declares it to be the Essendene of Alfred the Great’s battle with the Danes in 872, and right gladly would we associate our county with the most heroic and picturesque figure in the early history of our island. [Other sources place this battle in Ashdown in Wessex] But certainly the Danes committed great depredations here in the tenth century. In the fourteenth century Ashendon was held by Richard Earle of Arundel, whose execution for high treason took place in 1397, and whose death was accompanied by the additional scandal and tragedy that his son-in-law, Thomas Mowbray, Earl Marshal of England, assisted in binding up his eyes. The church is delightfully situated on a hill. It is evidently old, and has not been “churchwardenised” to use a favourite word for “restoration” that I find in an old county history. We note the squire’s high pew, and the battered figure of a knight in armour, near the altar, which has been whitewashed with the rest of the church. There has been much speculation as to the knight’s identity. It has been assigned to one of the family of Cressy, ancient Lords here. We shall never know. There were formerly many brasses in this church, but all have gone. The theft of brasses in the past might half excuse the locking-up of churches, so common in this county, and so irritating to the traveller, did we not know that many were disposed of by the vicars. The guide-books make very little of Ashendon - one of them does not mention the place - but its elevated structure, the cluster of thatched cottages, and the time-worn church, make it worth a visit.

'Highways & Byways in Buckinghamshire' by Clement Shorter

The Knight in Armour

Ashendon. Crowning a hill in the Vale of Aylesbury, it is set in a delightful pastoral scene, with the Chilterns looking romantic on the horizon. Below and around the Norman church cluster thatched cottages shaded by trees. The church tower, its little windows shuttered with old oak, is 15th century, but a deeply splayed window and a doorway which no longer opens are Norman. So is the font, with a 17th century cover. There is a handsome arcade 700 years old, and an exceptionally wide chancel arch. Five big corbel heads of varied features hold up the medieval roof of the aisle. In a medieval recess, over which are two oak shields from the old rood screen, lies a 13th century knight clad in chain armour, still about to draw his sword. He is believed to have been one of the Cheyndutt family. The pulpit with its raised panels, the altar table, a high chair in the chancel, and a long oak chest are all Jacobean, and in the vestry is a carved stand at which parsons have washed their hands for 300 years.

'The King's England' by Arthur Mee