A short history of saint martin's church.
In the early 1700s Fenny Stratford had no Anglican church, so the local inhabitants had to trudge the mile or so along poorly maintained, muddy roads to the church of St Mary’s in Bletchley. Browne Willis (local Lord of the Manor, antiquarian, author and politician) purchased land that had previously been the site of a chantry chapel in order to provide a place of worship. The foundation stone was laid in 1724 and the original building (which now forms the Browne Willis Chapel) was consecrated in 1730. St Martin of Tours was chosen as the patron saint by Browne Willis in honour of his grandfather, Thomas Willis, a notable physician, who lived in the London parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields and died on St Martin’s day.
The chapel ceiling has panels painted with the coats of arms of families who contributed to the building costs. Browne Willis died in 1760 and his tombstone is affixed to the wall of the chapel near the altar.
As the congregation grew, a faculty for an extension to the church was obtained in 1822 and a new south aisle was completed the following year. However, following later building works, nothing of this now remains.
In the 1860s the current nave and chancel were added in the Gothic style by well-known architect William White. By 1901, the church was again overcrowded and money was raised for a new south aisle to be built and the nave extended. These works were completed in 1908.
Little change has been made to the church since then, although many of the furnishings in the church, including the pulpit, altar rail, Blessed Sacrament altar screen and rood, were presented as gifts in the 1940s. The organ was moved to its current position in the early 1980s.
Who is Saint Martin?
A Roman by birth
St. Martin, was born in 316 the son of a pagan, and was from an early age attracted by the faith and way of life of the early Christian Church. Yet when he became a Catechumen on his journey towards baptism, his pagan father had him press-ganged into the Roman army.
A Convert to the faith
He remained in the army for about twenty years until, after an encounter with a freezing beggar at the gate of Amenes, to which he gave half his cloak, a vision of Christ impelled him finally to receive baptism and to leave the army for the life of a monk. In 360 Martin joined St. Hilary at Poitiers and founded a monastery at Ligugé, the first in France.
Saint Martin of Tours, Patron of our Parish
"Lord, if your people need me, I will not refuse the work.
Your will be done." - St. Martin of Tours
A person of holiness
Visiting Tours in 372, the people were so impressed with his holiness, that they made him their new bishop, much against his will. He refused, however, to live in the bishop's house and instead founded another monastery at Marmoutier on the outskirts of the City from where he encouraged the growing monastic movement, he introduced the Western Church's parochial system and died in 397.
The example of Saint Martin's faith was so enthusiastically embraced by Christians that he begun to be honoured by thousands of pilgrims who acknowledged him as a patron saint of France and of soldiers and beggars.