Long before the Old Church was built, the site was occupied by a prehistoric fort covering approximately seven acres, shaped like a pear and surrounded by a rampart. There are traces of a ditch between the church and the present vicarage.
Later, according to the Domesday Book (1086) ‘The Lee’ – “a clearing in woodland” – was a wooded swine pasture belonging to Weston Turville Manor. In 1146 Geoffrey de Turville, owner of the Manor and mother church, passed the chapel on the site to the Cistercian Monks at Missenden Abbey. It is thought that a timber structure existed at this time, but no traces remain.
The building’s earlier foundation and its transfer are referred to in the Latin records of Missenden Abbey.
1. An agreement was made of old between the Rector of the Church of Weston (Turville) and Ralf de Halton concerning the Chapel of The Lee (de la leia) whereby Ralf should pay 5 shillings each year on the altar of Weston at the feast of St Thomas for all tithes on the land of the Lee, which agreement I Geoffrey de Turville have confirmed in favour of the Canons of St Mary of Missenden, to whom I have given the same land as I gave to the Rector of Weston (Date about 1146).
2. Settlement of a dispute between the Abbey and William de Turville and his brother Geoffrey, the clerk, concerning the Church of Weston. The Abbey shall continue to posses the Chapel of The Lee (de la leia) on payment of an annual pension of 6 shilllings to the Mother Church of Weston. The parties swore to observe the agreement in the presence of Richard, Archbishop of Canterbury. (He was Archbishop 1174-1185).
3. Settlement of a dispute between the Abbey and Ingram of The Lee (de la leia) concerning the land of the Lee through arbitration of Gilbert, Bishop of London (1163-1189) and Bartholomew, Bishop of Exeter (1164 – 1185), appointed for the purpose by the Pope (Dominus Papa). The Abbey conceded the land over which the dispute had arisen to Ingram. He on his part undertook to feed and clothe the two Canons living with him. On the death of Ingram the land is to revert to the Abbey, and his wife shall have no residence there or access thereto except to the Chapel like other honest women.
4. Confirmation by Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln (1186-1203) of the appropriation of certain Churches to Missenden Abbey, among them the Chapel of The Lee (leia) under an annual payment of 6 shillings to be paid year by year to the Mother Church of Weston. (The Lee was then in the diocese of Lincoln).
In the 12th Century, the Cistercian Monks had laid eight foundations in the South and West of England and in Wales. They ran self supporting communities with much lay labour and the monks wore white. Pope Innocent III ruled at the Vatican and the monastic Orders begun by Benedict 800 years before, were omnipresent in Europe.
Against this background, in around 1220 AD the Old Church was built.
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