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Parish churches

A parish church is a building used for Christian worship by a community, who would gather in it on Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Parishioners brought and still bring their children for christening at the church's font and their dead for burial in an attached cemetery. Tithes and offerings were brought to the priest or his representative in the past.


The church and a surrounding graveyard are the principal features of a parish church. Other structures may include a lych gate (from Old English lic "a corpse"), churchyard cross, anchorage, free-standing tower or timber cage for the hanging of bells, school, and priest's house. Among associated outlying structures there may be a vicarage or rectory, tithe barn, and one or more parochial chapels.


After the Reformation of the mid sixteenth century further structures could be added, such as a hearse-house, mausoleum, graveyard monuments, school, and almshouses. The Reformation led to the abolition of chantries, the suppression of subsidiary altars which were the focus of secondary cults, and the removal of associated images and ritual features. Parish churches founded in the 19th century may be associated with buildings, such as a clergyhouse, school, meeting room, and stables for visitors' horses.


Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and generally divide into two main parts: the nave, which provided accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which was the domain of the priest and contained the principal altar. Aisles provided space for additional altars, and chapels for families of gentry or guilds. The main periods when parish churches were founded is in the 10th/11th and 19th centuries.


However, some churches were built at times between these, such as St Mary and All Saints at Beaconsfield, built in the fifteenth century. The use of the term "parish church" much before c. 1050-1100 is anachronistic. Even though most churches seem to have been founded in the period cAD 900-1100 their fabric is usually the result of rebuilding, which may be as recent as the 19th or 20th century. Buckingham's church was rebuilt in the eighteenth century. Here is a picture of Buckinghamshire parish church

Buckinghamshire parish church:

Churches which disappeared before the end of the Middle Ages may be of particular archaeological significance, as they are more likely to have evidence for internal layout, use, and cemetery structure than survives in buildings which have remained in use. One former parish church that fell into disuse and decayed after the medieval period was St Peter's at Quarrendon. The site of the old church in Buckingham is also known, though recent superficial investigation did not reveal any new information.