A Short History Of St Martin’s Church

Browne Willis, the founder of St Martin's church
Browne Willis, the founder of St 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.

Central 02 1957
The interior of St Martin’s church c. 1957

In the 1960s the current sacristy, vestry, kitchen and toilet facilities were added. These were recently refurbished to modern standards.

Saint Martin's is the parish church of Central Bletchley and Fenny Stratford.