About Saint Michael's, Woburn Sands

The Parish

It all began on Thursday 12th October 1865, when a meeting took place at St Botolph's Church in Aspley Guise. The proposition for the formation of a new District (out of the parishes of Aspley Guise and Wavendon), and for the building of a district church at Woburn Sands was passed. The Bishops of Ely and Oxford, from whose dioceses the new district was to be formed, gave their signed and sealed consent for the creation of the new Ecclesiastical District of Woburn Sands. The scheme was ratified by the Queen herself, at the Court at Windsor on the 4th Day of November 1867.

The Ecclesiastical Parish of Woburn Sands was originally created to serve the outlying districts of Wavendon and Aspley Guise, particularly the "almost lawless race" who lived on the Heath. This new St Michael's Parish included the present Woburn Sands civil parish, the whole of Aspley Heath with its woodlands, and part of Aspley Guise. The fact that Woburn Sands and Aspley Heath were in different counties has, over the years, caused considerable confusion.

The Church

The Duke of Bedford had undertaken to provide the land and finance the building of the church. He would become Patron of the new living. Thanks to a generous donation of £5000 from John Vaux Moore, Rector of Aspley Guise, work was able to start on the building. Building started in 1868, and in less than a year the work was Completed. Compared with the new church at Woburn, which was built in the same year, the church at Woburn Sands was confined within a very tight budget - just £5,000. There was no provision for an organ and had it not been for the generosity of Mr Stevens of Aspley Guise the church would have opened with no organ at all.

Our Church The church clock was given by one of the sisters of John Vaux Moore. A writer commented: "The clock is unfortunately in a bad position - but it formed no part of the original plan and is not convenient for sight, although the striking may be heard for miles around". It cost £100, a considerable sum in 1868. Over the years a great deal more has been spent on its repair and maintenance, but parishioners frequently complain when it goes wrong!

The Consecration Service for St Michael's took place on Tuesday September 22nd 1868, and the Bishop of Ely, The Right Reverend Edward Harold Browne officiated. The church was consecrated in the morning and the churchyard in the afternoon, and in between the two ceremonies the Vicar, the Rev'd Hay M Erskine, entertained a select party to luncheon in the Vicarage garden

The church was enlarged in 1889, thanks to donations from several parishioners and the Duke of Bedford. One of the most spectacular changes involved in the enlargement was the moving of the original East window, which is now in the Upper Room. The chancel was lengthened by 12 feet, choir stalls were added, and the beautiful stained glass East window was installed in memory of William Henry Denison, the first churchwarden. In 1968 - to celebrate the church's centenary - two new windows were formed in the south wall of the chancel, and the external brickwork completed with stone cladding.

In 1970 a new vicarage was built in Church Road. The old vicarage was sold, and retirement flats (Shelton Court) were built in the garden. The building was named in memory of Rev'd John Shelton, Vicar of St Michael's for 33 years. In 1983 the vestry was enlarged, by moving the organ to its present site on the south wall of the nave, and a new room was built above.


List of Vicars

The Rev'd Hay Macdowall Erskine 1868-1874
The Rev'd James Milne Hamilton 1875-1883
The Rev'd Edward Henry Mosse 1885-1899
The Rev'd Charles Dickinson 1899-1900
The Rev'd Douglas William Henry 1901 -1913
The Rev'd John Shelton 1913-1946
The Rev'd Frederick W Bowler 1846-1950
The Rev'd Michael T Meakin 1951-1968
The Rev'd Canon C Julian Cobern 1968-1979
The Rev'd Andrew E Pullin 1980-1985
The Rev'd Norman Jeffery 1986-2006
The Rev’d Graham Bradshaw 2007-2007
The Rev’d Christopher Beales 2008-2016

Adapted from ‘ST MICHAEL’S WOBURN SANDS – The Church, the Parish and the People’ by Evelyn Wright