A SPECIAL service took place at the end of June 2024, at Flaunden old church, when a new book was launched about its history. This is the story...

The old church

Flaunden village lay in the Chess valley, between Latimer and Chenies near Chesham. The first record of a church at Flaunden is from 1235, as a chapel-of-ease to Hemel Hempstead, dedicated to St Mary Madgalene. There is ground penetration evidence that the church may have been built upon an older building. Roman remains have been found nearby at Chenies and Latimer, and one theory is that is built over a Roman shrine.

The original church was built in a Greek-cross shape, which means all four sections were equally sized being 36 feet across. It was built of local flints, with Chiltern puddingstones in the foundations and walls. In 1475, a triple window was put into the south wall. The burial ground was started in 1477. Attached to it at the western end were some wooden dwellings, including a priest’s house with a wooden bell tower, with three bells dated 1578. Three adjoining cottages each had their own garden. The earliest surviving parish records date from 1604.


Over time the village of Flaunden was subject to flooding, and the inhabitants built new houses about a mile and a half away up the hill. By the late 1700s the old village was slowly abandoned. The church fell into disrepair, and services were held monthly.

Flaunden Baptist church

Meanwhile up on the hill, Joseph Sedwell started non-conformist services at his farm. A church started in 1831 and the chapel called Flaunden Union Chapel dates from 1836, which became Baptist in 1861. It closed in 1985.

Flaunden new church

The local Anglican vicar was the Revd Samuel King, rector of Latimer and Flaunden. In 1837, he arranged a grant for a new church at the top of the hill, and asked his wife’s nephew George Gilbert Scott to design it. This was the first church designed by Scott before he became famous.

The last weddings and christenings at the old church were held in 1837. On August 12, 1837 the foundation stone for the new church was laid. The church was built in Tudor style with local brick and flint, and completed in May 1838. The entrance porch was paved with tiles from the old church, and an original bell transferred to the new bell tower. The new church was consecrated on June 19, 1838, after which ceremonies could take place. Christenings took place using the original font transferred from the old church. The first wedding took place at the new church on July 5, 1838. The first burials took place at the new churchyard on June 30, 1838.

The Old Church

Meanwhile the old church was never deconsecrated, and some burials still took place in the churchyard into the 1870s. Over time, the old church, now disused and frequently flooded, fell into ruin. The wooden buildings fell into decay and rotted away, and the east wall fell down and the roof collapsed, leaving three sides exposed. The ruins became covered in ivy and trees grew up around it. However, much of the church was still visible in the 1920s. All that remained was the original west end with a low door still in its archway, and the north and south transept walls and some of the chancel walls. Local people still visited relative’s graves in the churchyard, and had picnics in the ruins.

Boundary changes

Flaunden was united with neighbouring Latimer into one ecclesiastical parish in 1876. In 1907, boundary changes meant that the area around the old church was transferred from Herts to Bucks, so that the old church and the new church were now in different counties.


The rector of Latimer and Flaunden from 1927 to 1930 was Revd Henry FitzHerbert, who took a great interest in the old church. He proposed making an annual service on the Sunday nearest the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (being 22 July). To mark the centenary of Flaunden new church, he held an open air service in the old church ruins on July 22, 1928. Services were held on July 28, 1929, and July 27, 1930, but after Revd H. FitzHerbert left in 1930, no more annual services were held. The last walls fell down in a hurricane in the 1940s.

Meanwhile since January 26, 1967, the old church has been a Grade II listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Another service was not held there until one was held for the 150th anniversary of Flaunden new church on June 14, 1988. There is now an information board about the site along the Chess Valley walk.

Recent Service

On Sunday 30, June 2024 at 2:30pm a service was held at the old church. It was introduced by the Rector, Revd David Whale, presided over by Revd Brian Ludlow, with a short sermon by his wife Revd Peggy Ludlow, in the presence of the Venerable Guy Elsmore, Archdeacon of Buckingham. After this Tim Leary spoke about his new book. Then folk drove, biked or walked to the new church at Flaunden, for tea and cake and to see a fascinating exhibition about the history of the old church.

New Book

The new book is the fourth in a series on local churches in the Chesham area, published by Hawkes Design of Chesham. It follows “The Church in the Woods” about St George’s at Tylers Hill; “The Chapel on the Green” about the life of Ley Hill Methodist church; “The Church by the Chess” an architectural book about Latimer Church; and now “The Church in the Valley” about Flaunden Old Church. The book has 44 pages of text, illustrations and photographs, telling the story up to the building of the new church in 1838. It is priced £10 and available from the Good Earth Gallery, Laceys Yard, Chesham, or from the website www.hawkesdesign.co.uk or from Andrea Norman at Flaunden church on andreanorman66@gmail.com