North Marston

In the year 1290 a rector came to take charge of the parish having previously been priest of the parish of Princes Risborough. This man, the now famous Sir John Schorne, was renowned for his extreme piety. He blessed the village well, known to this day as Schorne Well, thus giving it miraculous healing power to all sick people who drank the water. Much ado was made of this so that many came from far and wide to drink from this well. On the summit of Oving, about a mile away where five ways meet, there was until comparatively recent times a finger board pointing to the direction of the well for guidance of the pilgrims who came to the village to drink the water and visit Sir John Schorne's shrine in St Mary's Church. This finger board read 'To Sir John Schorne's Well'.
Sir John Schorne was incumbent of North Marston from 1290 to 1314 and it was during the years following his death until 1478 that the biggest influx of pilgrims was recorded. As well as increasing the population this also increased the value of the rector's stipend. The Dean of Windsor, Richard Beauchamp, became envious and being one of the patrons of the Church, he obtained permission from the Pope to remove the shrine containing John Schorne's bones and to place it in St George's Chapel, Windsor, where he thought that the pilgrims would come. This proved not to be the case however and so the pilgrimages ceased: the spell had been broken.

A story about the pious Rector, which is famous but ridiculous, is that he conjured the Devil into a long boot and imprisoned him there. However, the laces broke and the Devil escaped. Several well known inns, one at Winslow, have been named after this doubtful episode, 'The Devil in the Boot'.

'Sir John Schorne Gentleman borne Conjured the Devil into a Boot'
The remains of another famous personage are buried in the chancel of St Mary's church, those of John Camden Nield who was a miser and a bachelor. In his will he left a huge legacy to Queen Victoria who, in 1854 and in appreciation, restored the chancel of St Mary's church and filled the east window with stained glass, the subject of which is the Ascension of Christ. The Queen then commanded that Nield be buried beneath the altar steps.

Of the miserly ways of this eccentric, many stories are told. When walking to Winslow he once found that the road was deep in flood following heavy rain. He asked a labouring man to carry him through for payment of a penny, to be paid on reaching the other side. On reaching the half-way through point the man thought well to claim his wage, because he suspected that a haggle over the penny would take place after he had carried Nield through. Nield objected but the man insisted or he would drop his burden in mid-stream. Nield had no alternative but to pay!
The Enclosure Act of 1778 deprived the poor of the parish of their common grazing rights. In lieu of these rights two fields known as Clockland and Poors Piece were dedicated as allotments. AH 26 acres of these two fields were cultivated by hand, each man having the tenancy of about two roodes. What each man grew was a big part of a family's livelihood.

The rents of these allotments were collected annually and provided for coal and blankets to be given to the poorer families at Christmastime. Part of the rent of the field 'Clockland' went towards the payment of the winding of the church clock, hence its name.

This ancient charity still operates today, but instead of coal and blankets, groceries are given to the senior citizens at Christmas and a sum is donated towards their annual outing.

Article written by members of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes for the publication "The Buckinghamshire Village Book" (1987) and reproduced here with their permission

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