25 Nov 2013

Swyncombe, Oxfordshire

Thankfully it's been another quiet week, but I'm very conscious that we're coming to the end of November and December days will be rather busy with seasonal events and social occasions before the Christmas holiday period.

Today I'm looking back to when we went down to Berkshire a few months ago. 
When we drive down to my home town we usually take a break in one of the Oxfordshire villages on the border with Berkshire where the winding road takes us through the beech woods and the Chiltern Hills. At the hamlet of Cookley Green on this last trip we turned down a narrow track lined with lime trees which gave us access to Swyncombe Church.
The name Swyncombe means 'the valley or hollow in the flank of the hill' (cumb) and 'wild boar' (swin). There was a Saxon settlement and the pre-Roman Ridgeway track, part of the Icknield Way, runs past the church.

                                                                       Cookley Green

                                                         The Ridgeway track and Icknield Way

The church is early Norman with some Saxon parts and is dedicated to St. Botolph who lived in the 7th century AD. He was an Anglo-Saxon monk of the Benedictine order who made missionary journeys around East Anglia, Kent and Sussex, travelling on horseback or on foot and he was constantly exposed to danger from robbers who hid in the woods and forests.

It is thought that the church of flint and stone was built by Saxon builders under the direction of the Normans to a traditional design with one long nave terminating in an apse. The porch was added in the 19th century when the church was restored. The windows are Early English in style and only one in the  south side of the apse is original. Outside on the south side of the church can be seen a blocked Norman doorway and on the north side is another. Many of the grave headstones have inscriptions dating from the 18th century.

The stained glass of the lancet window depicts the three saints associated with the church, St. Botolph, St. Martin and St. Thomas Becket and the other shows the armorial bearings of the families who owned the estate of Swyncombe and the nearby Ewelme, including Thomas Chaucer, the son of the poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, and William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, who married Alice, the daughter of Thomas and Matilda Chaucer.  
Later on these estates were given to Charles Brandon, married to Mary Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII, who became the appointed Duke of Suffolk. Then a cousin of Queen Elizabeth I owned them and the manor was an important one with hundreds of acres of land.  

The farm buildings next to the church looked as if they were derelict, but there were sheep in the pastures and the surrounding land was being farmed.
Although the settlement is tucked away in a secluded valley there are views across the Downs towards Oxford and one can imagine the travellers through the ages who would have used the ancient track of the Icknield Way which passes Swyncombe.


  1. Able to stop by before heading out the door for work and see your once again beautiful photos. Gives my day a very serene and peaceful start to see such ancient beauty, lovely rolling hills, and leaves. Oh how I already miss the greenery. It is bitter cold here this morning, way down in the teens. Not sure what that is on your temperature gage, but rest assured it is more like January weather than November. We seem to be unseasonably warm or unseasonably cold this November. Not sure if that's an indicator of an upcoming warm winter or cold. Have a nice day and week Linda.

  2. Beautiful as always Linda, you tell such lovely stories about the places you visit, and I love how you find out all sorts of background information to share. Thank you for another lovely day trip out. xx

  3. A great post Linda! I always enjoy coming here. Thank you!

  4. 5, 7, 13 and 15 are my most favorite. these are all beautiful.... and of course I love the sheep... thanks for my early morning travel time across the big pond.

  5. How interesting! It's an area I don't know so I've really enjoyed reading about it. The church is wonderful both inside and out and you took some lovely photos:)

  6. The area and the church are seeped in history. I loved hearing about the translation and thought the church itself was hauntingly beautiful, especially the alter and that carved wooden angel. I did enjoy this post.xxx

  7. HI Linda,

    lovely to have you show us around some more of your trips out and about. Love how everything is so beautiful and green - the sheep grazing in the paddocks and the quaint houses. Great to see the old church and thanks for showing us inside.
    Have a great week

  8. Great series of photos and a fascinating post. I would love to take a walk around there!

  9. What a gorgeous village, I just love those cottages. The church is beautiful, it's fascinating how bits are added over time and this itself tells a story of the building.

  10. Not a part of Oxfordshire that I know, it looks delightful.

  11. Lovely! How I love visiting little churches when we traveled in England
    and seeing the sheep on the green grass. What lovely places you can

  12. Oh, I did enjoy this, Linda. Your photos are always super and I loved the visit to the church. An apsidal east end is very rare in Britain. Given the passion for renovating old buildings, it surprises me to see buildings with such potential looking as derelict.as those near the church.