However, for unknown reasons neither market ever prospered, and both Buckland and Chipping remain tiny today (their combined population is less than three hundred). So the former is named after a 'book' that in fact had very little influence on or importance to it. In 1360 Elizabeth de Burgh, the lady of the manor, started a new market a few miles further to the south on some land she owned in Buntingford; this proved to be a success, and eventually became the focus of a thriving town.
Buntingford didn't have a church of its own until 1614 (before then it relied on Layston for worship, a place which has in the intervening centuries dribbled away to become not much more than a name). Buckland, on the other hand, despite its size and lack of commercial success, has a church seemingly intended for a substantial congregation. How often its pews were packed I don't know. (Chipping has never been a parish and thus has no parish church.)
Buckland church is relatively rare in that we have an exact date for its construction. The historian of Hertfordshire, Nathaniel Salmon, who published his work in 1728, states that there was a stained glass inscription in the church, now lost, recording that 'Nicholai de Bakeland' (Nicholas of Buckland) built it in 1348. This is doubly interesting as we know that the chancel of Sandon was built in that same year, and trebly so because of course that was the year the Black Death reached England, which over the course of about 18 months killed something like half the population. It is strange that at least two Hertfordshire churches were under construction at the time and apparently unaffected by the devastation. Is it possible that rural Hertfordshire escaped the worst of the plague?
The mid-14th century origins of the church are best seen on the north side of the nave, where there are three standard Decorated windows, and on the south of the chancel. (The east window, with four rather inelegant daggers arranged in an X, could be a Decorated design but is a Victorian insertion.) The tower with its pyramidal roof was built half a century or so later, and the south aisle and porch added in the late 15th century. Evidently the failure of Buckland's market did nothing to stop the architectural ambitions of its inhabitants.
Inside, the absence of pews and abundance of clear glass means that the interior feels light, spacious and cordial. Entry is normally through the west door, so at once we have a vista of tower, tower arch, nave (with a promise of the south aisle off to the right), chancel arch and chancel. I'm normally as keen to extol 14th century Decorated work as I am to knock 15th century Perpendicular, but here I have to admit that the prettiest part of the church is the south aisle of c.1480.
|East window by Alexander Gibbs, 1883|
|Stained glass in the lowside window by Hemming, 1880s; Jesus with the cleansed leper|
|Alarming notice on the back of the organ|
|Stained glass by Hemming, 1886|