The History of Turnham Malpas
The death of this itinerant traveller is remembered annually and the village holds a ceremony on the last day of June every year commemorating the event. Everyone dresses in medieval style costume (handed down generation to generation) and the Rector of the day wears a devil’s costume complete with horned headdress, then is miraculously revealed wearing a white cassock, to represent the promise of new life and the defeat of the devil so that the villagers can look forward to another year of peace and plenty. This ceremony has been held without a break for almost seven hundred years.
The church was completed in twelve hundred and forty nine, with numerous additions over the centuries, and is the heart of a thriving community. Since the disintegration of the village of Derehams Magna and the lessening of the influence of Little Derehams and Ha’penny Forester (now called Penny Fawcett) it has been the only church for the three villages.
A visit to the Church of St Thomas a Becket is highly recommended. There is the tomb a Templeton knight with his ankles crossed on the back of a small terrier; the villagers claim the tomb to be haunted, though no evidence of this has been documented. Flags carried into battle by the regiment commanded by several Templetons over the centuries are displayed along the sides of the main body of the church. The regiment was disbanded in 1855 after the end of the Crimean War so the flags are very old.
There is a beautifully crafted board made of English oak listing all the rectors of the church since it first opened in twelve forty nine. The incumbent recorded for the years 1519-1540, is Geoffreye Le Sage who strongly resisted the decision to make Henry VIII head of the English Church in place of the Pope and, fearful that the rich silver plate belonging to his Church would be destroyed in the Protestant uprisings or stolen by the King’s own men, hid the church silver in the cellar in Turnham House, the large newly-built home of Sir Guy Templetonne.