Chalfont St. Giles Church, Buckinghamshire

Chalfont St. Giles, apart from being unfortunate in Cockney Rhyming Slang, is best known as the home of the poet John Milton who completed Paradise Lost in the Cottage (now a museum) just up the road from the church.

The Church, not surprisingly dedicated to St. Giles, dates from around 1150-1180, although little but pillars and some interior walling remains from this first church. Between 1200 and 1275 the chancel was enlarged and then between 1275 and 1350 the nave was extended, at which time the tower was demolished. So much of the church today is of the Early English style.

The tower was rebuilt around 1425 and, by and large, this is the church that we see today. It would also, largely, be the church Milton was familiar with. Milton was a staunch supporter of Cromwell and the church seems to have been used by the New Model Army for target practice after the Battle of Aylesbury (1642, one of Prince Rupert’s trademark defeats). Cannon balls were found embedded in the stones surrounding the east window during renovations in the Victorian period (they can now be found at Milton’s Cottage Museum).

The clock in the tower was made in Watford in 1711 and six of the eight bells date to 1724 and still hang from their original wooden frame. Electric light was provided to the church in 1925 – a very early occurrence of this – and stayed in place until after WWII.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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