Wing, Tring and Ivinghoe
Three churches in a row
I have known this couplet* since childhood, but have never actually visited any of the three churches until now.
My attempt to remedy this with the church of St Peter and St Paul at Tring got off to a slightly shaky start as we pushed open the door, only to find it full of aproned ladies wielding brooms and dusters. We were about to retire gracefully, but they beckoned us in, saying we were welcome to look round whilst they were cleaning.
The most immediately striking feature inside the church is the imposing baroque memorial to Sir William Gore and his wife Elizabeth on the north wall of the nave.Sir William was a city alderman and Lord Mayor of London (1701-2) who subsequently purchased Tring Park. He was a great benefactor of the church, contributing significantly to restoration of the church in the early eighteenth century. To the left of the Gore memorial, and easily missed if you are not looking for it, is a framed family tree commemorating some earlier residents of Tring and their famous descendant: Lawrence Washington, the great grandfather of US President George Washington lived in Tring between 1630 and 1650 and several members of the Washington family were baptized in the church.
Not wishing to disturb the cleaning ladies any more than necessary as they already had their hands full with a little girl who was ‘helping’ in the way only small children can, we decided to return later for a closer look at the rest of the church.
After a lunch with friends, we paid a brief visit to a favourite school trip destination of my youth. Now a branch of the Natural History Museum, the museum at Tring originated as a home for the zoological collections of Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild of Tring Park. I was pleased to find that our old favourites, the dressed fleas (yes, fleas with clothes on!) were still there. Walter Rothschild was a serious zoologist and a fascinating character. His habit of driving around in a zebra-drawn carriage is commemorated in a modern pavement maze in Church Square.
We returned later to the church only to find a choir practice in full swing, but managed to take a closer look at the nave without disturbing them. The church as it stands today dates mainly from the fifteenth century and among its most interesting features are the medieval corbels which top the columns in the nave, including a monkey dressed as a monk, a fox carrying a goose, a collared bear and a dragon.
Unlike most churches, there was no booklet about the history of the church on sale. Instead, there was series of colour leaflets about individual aspects of the church compiled by members of the Friends of Tring Church Heritage and students of schools in Tring. Each leaflet includes a paragraph with the thoughts of a school pupil – a really nice idea.
*I quoted the version of the couple that was current in my family, but there are a number of variations. A similar poem refers to a supposed quarrel between the Hampden family and the Black Prince which led to the three villages being confiscated:
Tring, Wing and Ivinghoe
Hampden of Hampden did foregoe
For striking of ye Prince a blow,
And glad he might escape it so.