Close to home – Ibstone

Ibstone millennium stoneAs we are all still grounded, I had a look back through some of the photographs of past ventures into the landscape and came across those from a trip out to Ibstone a few years ago. The village sits right on the border of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire; indeed the boundary runs through the parlour of the Manor.

Ibstone, stone trough

I recall the day well; I had to go to High Wycombe, so the return home had started with a trip to Hawk Hill, the place where Stuart and I had first encountered the massed red kites. It was sort of a pilgrimage to retrace our steps to a rather special church. From there I had gone to the church we had called the Dark Virgin, given the feel of the place… and I had found it transformed. It became the Virgin of the Rainbows after that visit, and I was almost whooping with joy… but that’s another story.

Ibstone church - wondrous head

From there I had, inevitably, taken the longest way home I could find, stopping at several sites on the way. For some reason, I chose to turn off the main road back and see if I could find the church at Ibstone. It probably had something to do with the red kites… they had, after all, been reintroduced to England at the Wormsley Estate, just outside the village, back in 1989. Wormsley… which is such an interesting name… had been restored by the philanthropist, Sir Paul Getty. I had delivered there regularly, years ago, and knew about the kites. They had become extinct in England and Scotland and when a reintroduction was planned at Windsor fell through at the last minute, Getty had stepped in to save the project. To my everlasting delight, the kites have thrived and now live on my doorstep too.

red kite
On the other hand, I knew nothing at all about the history of the village itself. I remembered it chiefly from my delivering days, which had proved so useful in learning my way around the area. My memory for roads and places is good and, since Stuart and I began exploring, has been put to good use. Ibstone, I remembered chiefly for the long, single-sided street that runs through it, facing the common, and the lovely old houses. You could just tell it was a place with stories in its past.

light through stained glass, IbstoneI knew from the architecture that the inn must be about three hundred years old in parts. I was betting the village went right back beyond memory. What I didn’t remember was the huge, great standing stone in the middle of the common… and I was sure I would have noticed it! I pulled over, grabbed the camera, and went to investigate. ‘Ibstone’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon name ‘Hibestanes’… which would, after all, imply ancient stone had been involved somewhere along the line. But this one didn’t ‘feel’ right. Don’t ask me to elaborate… because I can’t. It just didn’t. Accosting the owner of a very friendly collie, I asked about its origins, and found I was right. It had been erected to mark the Millennium and was not of ancient origin at all. And the Church of St Nicholas was at the far end of the village, down a little lane, all on its own…

Interior, Ibstone churchWhich sounded good. For some reason the churches in the older places always seem to be slightly outside the village. Apparently the villagers had tried to rectify this by building a new church. Legends say the Devil objected and the church fell down. They named the spot Hell Corner. The other claim to fame in the village was the windmill. It had been used as Caractacus Potts’ workshop in the film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and actress Hayley Mills had lived there too. But I wasn’t after windmills. I headed for the church.

exterior, Ibstone churchI was glad of the directions too or I would never have found it, tucked away amid the lost traces of an ancient settlement, where a church has stood for over a thousand years. The tiny church stands on a mound, always a good sign, and is surrounded by trees that hide it from view. The present building was, at first glance, disappointing, in spite of the beautiful setting. Partly rendered now, it is far more modern, dating back largely to the twelfth century. Prior to this date, any church would have probably been made of wood, so I wasn’t going to complain at that. Traces of its history linger in the carved heads over the windows, the plain tub font, the chancel arch and the blocked doorway. I wondered if this was a Devil’s Door, prevalent in many old churches, left open to allow the demons to depart as was the custom, but it proved to be on the south side and such doorways were almost always to the north.

Tympanum, IbstoneI spent some time in the peaceful little place before wandering out into the sunshine which had broken through the clouds. There, in the green oasis of the churchyard, I found two things of particular interest. One, I noted and photographed… but it would be two years before I looked back at the image and began to realise its full significance…

hammer stone with celtic cross, Ibstone
The other, I could hardly miss. I have seldom met a tree with such presence, and not simply because of its size. Dwarfing the church tower, the Ibstone Yew was a surprise. It is thought to predate the present church and be over a thousand years old. With a girth of some eighteen and a half feet, the tree spreads its branches over the tower, as if sheltering the little church. It must have seen so much in its time, watching as a third of the village was lost to the Black Death in 1348, seeing the lords of the manor come and go and witnessing the marriages of the men and women of its land. Yew trees have such a place in our myths, lore and legends that it would need a whole book to tell them; somehow it seems fitting that the ancient magic of the sacred trees is preserved in our churchyards… a continuity of faith, in spite of its changing faces and doctrines over the years. As I turned for home I felt it had been well worth the trip.

The Ibstone Yew

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
This entry was posted in Ancient sites, Churches, Heart of Albion, History, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Close to home – Ibstone

  1. What a lovely place Sue, untouched by centuries and one of those hidden gems that are dotted around Britain. thanks for the tour..xx


  2. High interesting, as always. You have such a wonderful way of writing and making the reader feel as if they must see it for themselves. If only we could right now! Xx


  3. fransiweinstein says:

    What a lovely discovery Sue. Reading this post made me long to get out of here and feel free again. I wonder how long that will take. Not soon, I don’t think. Stay safe and healthy Sue.


  4. lydiaschoch says:

    What beautiful photos! Wow, the Ibstone Yew was massive. It looks like something out of a fairy tale. 🙂


  5. Jim Borden says:

    great post, Sue. I love taking the back roads and the longer way home sometimes because you discover things like this. Cool link to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!


  6. Jules says:

    Thank you for sharing this history. The old art is beautiful. I’d not heard of the ‘devil’s door’ before.
    “Many, if not most, mediæval churches have a north door into the nave. In church guides and other popular literature, this is frequently called ‘the Devil’s door’, as it was supposed to have been left open during the ceremony of baptism so that the Devil, when he left the child, could escape from the church.” It is interesting how different faiths deal with the ‘dark side’ of human nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When the restrictions are lifted, I’ll have to take a wander over there. Under ordinary circumstances, I seem to be in High Wycombe with little to do every few weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      There is plenty to do around High Wycombe… and if you are stuck…when we are allowed out to play… I’m only half an hour from there and one day there will be pubs open for lunch 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. noelleg44 says:

    That ancient tree is magnificent – almost better than the stone. Think what it has seen!

    Liked by 1 person

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