English Churches - Oxfordshire

St Mary’s Church, Swinbrook


Splendid Fettiplace tombs and medieval stained glass


Swinbrook is an attractive small village around the green, with the church set on higher ground to the west. The church is C12th with a very narrow battlemented square tower at the west end. This is Georgian and was built in six weeks in 1822. It doesn’t quite go with the rest of the church. Two supporting buttresses were needed at the west end which frame the west window in a tall arch.

Swinbrook Church

The nave is very tall with the clerestory windows partially blocked by the side aisles.

Entry is through the south porch. Inside it is an attractive church with a transitional Chancel arch and arcade with round pillars with carved capitals and pointed arches separating nave and side aisles.

Swinbrook Church


Swinbrook Church

On one of the pillars is a splendid memorial to Edward Goddard who died aged 70 in 1633.

Swinbrook Church

The church feels very light as windows are plain glass apart from the east window in the south aisle. A German land mine with parachute attached was dropped in the field between the river and the church in September 1940. The explosion shattered the glass in the church, displaced roof tiles and shook down plaster. Other houses in the village were damaged but fortunately no one was hurt.

Swinbrook Church

The fragments of glass were collected and replaced in the east window. There is an inscription at the base of the window commemorating the event and William Grenville who was Vicar from 1938-1941 and was responsible for rescuing the glass.  It is a lovely window. Images are  predominantly shades of white or brown. The angels have hair and wings picked out in gold. 

The pews are C20th having been donated by Lord Redesdale. The chandeliers hanging from the roof are C18th and came from the bedroom of Lady Redesdale, when the family moved from Asthall Hall to Swinbrook Manor.  There is a memorial to Lord Redesdale at the back of the church.

At the back of the north aisle is a benefactors board with names of many Fettiplaces. The last name in 1748 is  'Mrs Susannah Warren of Swinbrook, who gave £10, the interest of which to be given to the Poor. This money is now lost'.

The choir stalls have Medieval misericords from Burford Priory. The carved ends include faces, fish, and a double headed monster.

Swinbrook Church

In the floor in front of the altar are two memorial brasses. One commemorates John Croston d1740 with his three wives and two children. The other is Anthony Fettiplace d1520 and the first of the Fettiplace family.

The chancel is dominated by the Fettiplace tombs on the north wall.

Swinbrook Church

The Fettiplaces  were Lords of the Manor and one of the biggest landowning families in Oxfordshire. The two monuments reflect their importance and status. Each has three effigies lying on shelves.

Swinbrook Church

The monument on the left was erected by Sir Edmund d1613 for himself, his father and grandfather. The figures are identical with stylised hair, moustaches and beards and are wearing Tudor armour with swords. On either side,  fluted Corinthian columns support small obelisks and a carved arch with an angel holding a shield at the top.

On the right is the monument to Edmund Fettiplace d1686 and his father and uncle. They are wearing full Stuart armour, picked out in gold. They are much more casually posed, holding gauntlets and with their helmets by their feet. At the sides, grey stone pillars with gold carved bases and tops support a marble arch with painted coat of arms.

On the wall opposite is a marble bust with drapes above with cherub heads. This is set between two columns with a coat of arms above, and commemorates Sir George Fettiplace d 1734 and the last baronet in the direct male line.

Swinbrook Church

In the churchyard are many old graves with carved roll tops. 

Swinbrook Church
Nancy and Unity Mitford are also buried here.

The church is open daily. There is parking on the road around the village green or else down the side turning to the north of the church which has a grassy parking area for the church. The post code is OX18 4DY and the grid reference is SP 280121.

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