The present church dates from the 15th century when it was restored and partly rebuilt from materials used in the earlier structures. The north door still remains with its continuous moulding dating from the 15th century, while the Norman font, with its beautifully preserved moulded arches, dates from the 12th century.
In the chancel will be found two fine brasses of 1368 and 1374 engraved by Waller and remarkable for richness of detail. The more elaborate is a portrait of Thomas Cheyne, shieldbearer to Edward III and grantee of the Manor, and the other is of his brother, William. A smaller brass, though damaged, clearly shows the beautiful vestments worn by a priest of this church, Sir Henry Fazakerley who died in 1531.
The east window, with ten of the Apostles in beautiful stained glass of the 15th century, is greatly prized. Each Apostle carries his emblem and over each is a portion of the Apostles’ Creed in Latin. There are further fragments of 15th century glass in the windows of the north and south walls of the chancel. The west window is also largely 15th century. In the chancel on the south side is a blocked-up hagioscope or squint, and high above is hung a black breastplate dating from the wars between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers. In the south wall are also two sedilia and a piscine, trefoiled and quatrefoiled, both 15th century.
On the north side of the chancel is a large marble monument to the memory of William, Lord Cheyne, Viscount Newhaven – the last of his ancient and noble family, who died in 1728. There is also a statue of the Viscountess Cheyne. From an inscription we learn that she erected this monument in memory of her husband; that she herself died in 1732, that her kinswoman, Mrs. Tolhurst, caused the statue of the Viscountess to be added to the monument and that the said Mrs Tolhurst, through grief for the loss of her ‘benefactress, her relation, her friend’, put an end to her life in ‘five weeks after the death of my lady’, and is also buried here.
This masterpiece of monumental statuary is the work of William Woodman the Elder b.c.1654, d.1731 (?) and is regarded as one of the most outstanding monuments in England.
In the south aisle are boards with the names of the rectors of this church for over 700 years. Among them will be found that of Richard Hooker, the celebrated author of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, who was presented to the living in 1584. According to Hooker’s biography written by Izaak Walton, it was during Hooker’s short stay here that he was visited by his two pupils, Edwin Sandys and George Cranmer, a visit which had important results, not only in regard to the career of Hooker but for English literature and English philosophical thought. They found him with the Odes of Horace in his hand, tending the sheep while the servant was at dinner, after which, when they, on the return of the servant, accompanied him to the house ‘Richard was called to rock the cradle’. Finding him so engrossed by worldly cares, ‘they stayed but till the next morning’, and greatly grieved at his narrow circumstances and unhappy domestic condition ‘left him to the company of his wife Joan’. Sandys prevailed on his father, the Archbishop of York, to recommend Hooker for presentation to the mastership of the Temple, which, after some hesitation, Hooker accepted. The stained glass window in the south wall and the carved pulpit were erected in memory of Hooker by the Benchers of the Middle Temple.
Several mural tablets to the history of this church and parish, and one in the chancel was erected in memory of two men of Drayton Beauchamp who gave their lives in the Great War.
In the south aisle facing east will be seen the remains of a reredos of a 15th century altar tomb with quatrefoil panels; this is presumed to have belonged to the Cheyne family who held the Manor at the time. It was here that the hagioscope – an oblique opening to afford a glimpse of the altar – was constructed, to have its outlet in the south side of the chancel.
In the centre of the south wall on the outside can be seen a blocked doorway of the 15th century, having in its spandrels the arms of the Cheynes.
The nave, like the rest of the church, was rebuilt in the 15th century from materials of the two previous centuries though the pointed arch of the chancel dates from about 1250; this, however, has probably been reset as it contains many new stones. The porch was added in 1500 and, shortly afterwards, the clerestory.
At the back of the church will be seen five open wooden pews of the 16th century; a sixth seat incorporates old work. All the other pews are later but are fashioned in the same manner.
There are three bells. The treble is by an unknown founder and is inscribed ‘Come and pray, 1621’. The second, ‘1773’ is by Pack and Chapman who were the founders of seven of the eight inscribed bells of Aylesbury. The tenor is by Chandler, 1704.
The register of baptisms goes back to 1538, that of burials to 1567, and marriages to 1541. These are now in the County Record Office.
Charities dating from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I were distributed every Whit Monday to ‘the pious poor professing the Gospel’ and to ‘sixe of ye mostly godly and impotent poore people of Draitone Beauchampe, being no newe comers to ye towne, nor dwelling in newe erected cottages’. It is not known when this tradition was discontinued. There was formerly a custom in this parish called ‘Stephening’. All the parishioners used to go to the Rectory on St. Stephen’s Day and there eat as much bread and cheese and drink as much ale as they chose, at the expense of the Rector. To the parishioners’ regret this pleasing custom was discontinued in 1827 as the Charity Commissioners were unable to find the origin of the usage or any legal obligation on the part of the Rector why he should continue it. The church possesses three pewter plates and a pewter flagon with lid, of the 17th century, presumably used in connection with the charities.
In 1867 the church was again restored and enlarged and we find mention, in 1862 of the tower arch being hidden by a gallery and small organ, these have now been removed.
Photographs of the church at different times can be seen on the north wall, including a plate of the church and parsonage in Hooker’s time.
As we see it today, the church appears to be of two styles; Decorated and Late Perpendicular; to the former may be assigned the nave, arches and the chancel arch, to the latter the chancel, the clerestory of the nave, the aisles and the tower. The tower is embattled, has a square stair-turret at its south-east angle and a door in its west front with pointed arch under a square moulding.
The first record we find of Drayton Beauchamp is in connection with Robert, Earl of Morton, one of the most powerful barons who, in 1066, accompanied the Conqueror from Normandy. Either this Earl or his son founded the Church of Drayton; in any case, it is certain that the son was owner of the advowson. Early in the 13th century, William de Beauchamp (or de Bello Campo) held the Manor of Drayton and was patron of the Rectory, and although the Beauchamps held a portion of the Parish for only two generations, it was from them that it received its present name of Drayton Beauchamp. In 1377 the Manor came into the possession of the Cheyne family and continued with them until 1728. It was then sold to John Gumby Esq. of Isleworth and passed through his wife to the Manners family and was left by the Hon. Isobel Manners to her Goddaughter, Mrs. Caroline Jenney in 1837. It was held by the Jenney family until the death in 1999 of Miss Airmyne Harpur-Crewe, grand-daughter of the late Sir Vauncey Harpur-Crewe (died 1924) of Calke Abbey Bt., one of the largest landowners in Derbyshire in his day. Airmyne was born into the Jenney family in 1919 and like her brothers before her assumed the surname of Harpur-Crewe when she became the ultimate heiress of Sir Vauncey. The current patrons are the Bishop of Oxford and Mr A R Pegg of Ticknell, Derbyshire.