The current Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fawley, designed in 1864 and built in 1865-6, replaced an earlier Medieval Church a short distance to the South-east. The church was commissioned from Church Architect George Edmund Street by Blanche Wroughton of Woolley Park, Chaddlesworth, as a Memorial to her husband Philip, who had employed Street at nearby Brightwalton in 1861. Street had built and added to a number of Churches in Berkshire during the 1850s, including adding a Chancel to the Church of St Andrew, Chaddleworth, for Bartholomew Wroughton, Philip’s brother, in 1854. The Manor of Fawley had belonged to the Wroughton Family and their ancestors since the late 18thC. The cost of the new Church at Fawley was about £3,500. The Old Church was pulled down in 1866; Street wrote that it had ‘no features of interest, save the old columns and arches which will be restored in the new church’, but it appears that only the Capitals of the Arcade’s Western Responds were re-used.
The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin consists of a Chancel measuring internally 20ft 6ins x 15ft, North Vestry, Nave 40ft X 20ft, North & South Transepts and a West Tower 20ft x 11ft.
The earliest part of the Building is the Nave, which dates from the 12thC; the West Tower, the Upper Stage of which was added c.1500, belongs to the latter part of the 13thC. Nothing of the Mediaeval Chancel remains, the walls having been entirely rebuilt in 1748. The Tower was restored in 1867, and in 1883 the Fabric was generally repaired, the Vestry and Transepts being added and the Nave walls raised. The materials are flint rubble with Stone Dressings and the Roofs are Tiled.
In the South wall of the Chancel is a blocked 16th-century Doorway with re-used moulded brick Jambs and a round head of the same material. The lower Stones of the square Jambs of the Chancel Arch are contemporary with the original Building of the Nave, but their upper portions, with the Arch itself, are modern. The Nave, which has 2 modern windows in each side wall, besides the openings to the Transept, has been completely modernised, but some of the Timbers of the Roof are Old.
The Tower, in its original state, was crowned by the Corbel Table, above which now rise the walls of the later Bell-chamber. Only the Bases of the angle Buttresses are Old, these, with the Crowning Parapet, having been renewed. The Tower Arch is of 2 Chamfered Orders and Springs from semi-octagonal Jambs with moulded Capitals and restored Bases. Upon the Responds, are Texts inscribed in black letters; these were probably Painted in the late 16thC, but the references to Chapter and Verse appear to have been added subsequently. In the West wall of the Ground Stage is a modern Doorway with an original, but much restored, 2-light window above it. On the North & South are contemporary Lancets, also much restored. Below the Corbel Table, on the West & South, and also probably in the ivy-covered North wall, are single Lights with 4-centred heads, inserted probably when the Bell-chamber, which is Lighted on all 4 sides by similar windows, was added.
On the Sanctuary Step is a Brass, with an inscription in French, to Richard de Aldwine (or Aldeborn), a former Rector, who died in 1347. On the West wall of the South Transept is an elaborate marble Monument with alabaster figures, commemorating Sir James Whitelocke, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, who died in 1632 and Elizabeth his wife, who died in 1631. In the Tower is a Floor Slab with Arms to Robert Weedon, who died in 1659.
Three 17thC Chairs are preserved in the Chancel, which has fine Oak Wainscot work of the early 18thC with fruit & flowers carved in high relief upon the panels, and an enriched Cornice. A Cornice of the same Period is preserved in the Nave worked up with modern panelling. The hexagonal Pulpit has been ascribed to Grinling Gibbons and, with the Reading Desk, forms an excellent example of his Period. Many of the Seats throughout the Church have elaborate carvings of the late 17thC. The interior was furnished from the Collegiate Chapel at Canons, the Duke of Chandos’ Palace at Stanmore, Middlesex, when it was pulled down in 1747. It includes the Pulpit, Lectern and the Chancel panelling.
There are 3 Bells: the Treble is by John Warner & Sons, 1866; the 2nd, probably by John Saunders of Reading, c.1550, is inscribed in black letters, ‘sanc ta mar gri ta ora pro no bis‘ (sic); while the Tenor, probably by Roger Landen of Wokingham, c.1450, is inscribed ‘Sancte Johannes Ora Pro Nobis.‘
The Plate consists of a large Silver Flagon and a silver Chalice with Cover and Silver Paten, all inscribed, ‘Ex dono Thomae Weedon arm: Apr. 5th 1705.‘
The Registers begin in 1573.
The Freeman Mausoleum, dated 1750, was designed by John Freeman in Memory of his father and as a Family Tomb. It is a simple neoclassical design, based on the Tomb of Cecilia Metella in Rome, and is of Ashlar (Portland Stone), with an Octagonal Base, and a rusticated drum above. There is an inscription on the South Face of the Base and further decoration by way of 4 panels on the Superstructure. It has recently been restored.
The Mackenzie Mausoleum is just beyond the Lychgate, on the Southside of the Churchyard. It is of massive Aberdeen Granite construction. It dates from 1862 and was constructed for the Mackenzie Family. Grecian in style it is Square, with a stepped Pyramidal Roof. The Entrance is on the Northside and has a projecting pediment on heavy Pilasters. The whole is surrounded by Wrought Iron Railings.
Fawley Church is a Rectory with 22 acres of Glebe and the earliest mention of it that has been found occurs in 1291 when it was valued at £11 6s 8d yearly. The Bishop of Lincoln issued a Licence for the Dedication of the Altars of St John Baptist & St Nicholas in it in 1297. The Descent of the Advowson is the same as that of Fawley Manor until 1853 when the Advowson was retained by Mr William Peere Williams-Freeman. It was sold by him about 5-years later to Mr Edward Mackenzie and his son, Mr William Dalziel Mackenzie, as the later owner.
The Benefice was sequestered for Debt between 4th April & 1st December 1845, and the Tithes had been commuted before 1862. In 1519 it was reported that there had been no Resident Rector for 30 years.
There do not appear to be any endowed Charities in this Parish.
The Rixon Families at Fawley
In Gone Rustic, Cecil Roberts describes a visit in 1934 to the last of the Chairmakers, Mr Rixon. ‘He was little old man of 81 with a bright eye and an impish face. His wife produced 6 Old Chairs. Some were made of Cherry Wood, some of Beech. The old Chairmaker explained how they had been made and took me out to a Shed at the bottom of his Orchard to show me the Lathe on which the work had been done.’ The Lathe in question was a homemade Pole Lathe, once common in the Chiltern Hills. A skilled user could turn out 48 Chair Legs an hour. Machine Operators in Wycombe were now replacing the traditional Chairmakers. This Mr Rixon was James Rixon, one of 3 brothers living with their families in Fawley since the 1880s. They were the sons of William Rixon & Hannah (nee West). The Families are recorded in the 1901 census. The 1st Family comprised George Rixon (aged 59, a Timber Dealer), his wife Elizabeth Rixon (56) and their children Alfred (27, Chair-turner), William (24, Railway Porter), Annie (22, Dressmaker) and Ernest (19, Chair-turner). They also had 2 daughters, Emily aged 33 & Sarah aged 30, no longer living at home. The Family of James Rixon comprised James (48, Chair-turner), his wife Elizabeth (46) and their children John (20, Plumbers Labourer), Amy (18, Domestic Maid) & Edwin James (6). The 3rd Family was Daniel Rixon (44, Wood-turner), his wife Charlotte (55) & their son William (17, Garden Boy). Edwin James Rixon joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment in WW1. He was awarded the Victory & British Medals for his Service. He was Killed in Action on April 4th 1917. His name is included on the War Memorial at Fawley Church. Other Rixon Family graves can also be found at Fawley Church. James Rixon died aged 88 in 1940 and his wife died in 1939, aged 84. Their daughter Amy Rixon died aged 93 in 1975.
The photograph above shows the members of Fawley Cricket Club in about 1895. At the time, Fawley had about 270 inhabitants to produce a Team. Among their number is at least one Rixon. (3rd from the Right in the Back Row is possibly James or Dan Rixon, aged about 40. The younger members, front right could be Alfred, John, William & Daniel Rixon, who were aged between 14 & 22 at the time.)