By the 12thC Newington had both a Parish Church and a dependent Chapel at Britwell Prior, and during the Middle Ages, there were also Chapels at Berrick Prior & Brookhampton. The Parish formed a Peculiar attached to Canterbury Diocese until 1846, reflecting the Manor’s Ownership by Canterbury Cathedral Priory, and the Living (a well-endowed Rectory) frequently attracted non-resident Careerists, who usually appointed Chaplains or Curates. Roman Catholic recusancy persisted beyond the Reformation, particularly in Britwell Prior where, in the 17th & 18thCs, the Simeon & Weld Families supported a Mission with its own Chapel & Priest. The Anglican Chapel there suffered long neglect and was pulled down in 1865 2 years before Britwell Prior was transferred to Britwell Salome Parish. Protestant Nonconformity, though surfacing occasionally in the 18th & 19thCs, never became firmly established.
Church Origins Parochial Organisation & Chapels
Canterbury Cathedral Priory may have established Newington Church and Britwell Prior Chapel soon after acquiring the Estate in the early 11thC, although if so the buildings were rebuilt in Stone in the early to mid-12thC. By 1270 Chapels also existed at Brookhampton & Berrick Prior: the former was not mentioned again, but the latter may have been the ‘Cottage once used as a Chapel’ noted in 1577, together with 7a of Glebe and a ‘Chapel Yard’. By 1294 the Newington Living was a Rectory, and the Church, apparently dedicated in 1505 to All Saints, bore its current dedication to St Giles by the early 18thC Britwell Prior Chapel claimed rights of baptism, burial, & marriage by 1610 and probably much earlier, and in the 19thC briefly had separate registers.
By the early 14thC, the Parish (as a Peculiar of the Archbishop of Canterbury) belonged to the Bucks Deanery of Risborough (dissolved in 1841), becoming part of Cuddesdon Deanery in Oxford Diocese in 1846. Britwell Prior was transferred to Aston Deanery in 1867 when it was detached from Newington Parish and amalgamated with Britwell Salome. From 1938 Newington Rectory was held in plurality with Chalgrove & Berrick Salome, and in 1977 it was included in the new United Benefice & Team Ministry of Dorchester.
Advowson, Glebe & Tithes
Until 1852 Patronage belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Crown Presented during Vacancies of the See in 1349, 1559, 1660, & 1737, in the last instance following the outgoing Rector’s election as Archbishop. In 1852 the Advowson was transferred to the Bishop of Oxford, who remained Joint Patron in 2014.
In the Medieval Period the Rectory was among the wealthiest in Ewelme Hundred, valued at £27 13s 4d in 1291 (including a £1 portion of Wallingford Priory), and £23 6s 8d in 1340, when Glebe, Hay & small Tithes were worth £5. By 1535 its value had reportedly fallen to £18 13s. 4d., but in the early 18th century Glebe & Tithes yielded c.£300 including £40 from Britwell Prior, rising to £488 gross (with £66 from Britwell Prior) by 1795. The Glebe’s original size is unclear, but in 1489/90 it included several Open-field Strips across the Parish, and in 1595 the Rector commissioned a Map showing various scattered parcels which he proposed to exchange with the Lord of Newington for Land in a single Close. Around 1686 the Glebe Farmhouse (probably part of the Rectory House Complex) was Let with at least 25a, and in 1728 the Lord of Britwell Prior gave the Rector an additional 7a in exchange for Common Rights in 35a of recently Inclosed Land. In 1771 the Glebe Farm was let for £43, and by 1795 the Glebe totalled 56a, including 15a in Britwell Prior. The Curate, however, occupied only 2½a, comprising a Garden, Orchard, & small Meadow. Tithe collection in Britwell Prior prompted frequent disputes owing to the intermingling of Britwell Prior’s & Britwell Salome’s Lands, and in 1694 the Rector George Royse undertook Legal proceedings to recover Tithes Leased out by his predecessors.
In 1800 around 7a of Glebe were Sold to George White of Newington House, and from 1815 to 1843 Inclosure and Tithe commutation radically altered the Rectory Endowment, leaving (by 1863) a net income of £380 including £150 from Britwell Prior, and a Glebe of 238a including 20a. in Britwell Prior and Britwell Salome. The Lands included 182a. (Lane End Farm) awarded for Tithes and 22a. awarded for Glebe at Newington and Berrick Prior’s Inclosure in 1815, together with 20a of Glebe awarded at the Britwells’ Inclosure in 1845, and 3a awarded in Watlington. Rent charges included £228 for Holcombe & Brookhampton Tithes (awarded in 1839), and £132 5s 9d for Britwell Prior’s (awarded in 1843). On the Britwells’ Unification in 1867 the Rector retained his Britwell Glebe & Tithe Rent-charge, but agreed to pay £25 a year to the Rector of Britwell Salome; the latter Petitioned the Bishop to increase the contribution in the 1890s, seemingly without success. A small piece of Glebe provided a Churchyard extension in 1896, and in 1919–20 the Britwell Glebe & Lane End Farm (c.179a) were Sold. In 1932, when 31a of Glebe remained, the Rector’s net income was £600, falling to £537 in 1947.
The former Rectory house (renamed Beauforest House following its Sale in the 1950s) stands immediately North of the Parish Church, within a 3a plot bounded on the West by the River Thame. Its Medieval predecessor almost certainly occupied the same Site. The existing House incorporates part of a once much larger 2-Storey Timber-framed Range of c.1500, encased in later brick & rubble. A Map of 1595 shows it as a part of a larger Complex grouped around 2 Courtyards, the outer one entered from the Road through an Arched Gateway, with a Circular Dovecot to the North and possible Fishponds by the River. In 1665 it had 10 hearths, making it the 2nd largest House in the Parish. The Rector William Brabourne provided a wooden table & 2 benches for the Hall in 1674, and a Roundel of Heraldic window glass bearing the Arms of William Juxon as Bishop of London (1633–60) was present by the late 18thC.
Improvements under George Stinton (Rector 1771-81) presumably included the addition of a 2-Storeyed Bay of coursed clunch with tripartite sash windows, which bears the date 1774. Nevertheless, the House was in ‘indifferent repair’ in 1795, when it was partly of brick & partly of whitewashed Stone. The following year the Rector Charles Moss partially demolished it along with its Dovecot and dilapidated Farm Buildings, adding a stylish Neo-classical Block of Limestone Ashlar with 2 full Storeys and a Cellar. The hipped Roof is hidden by a Parapet topped with Urns, while the symmetrical 5-Bayed North Front has a central Pedimented doorway with Pilasters and a Fanlight, and the 3-Bayed West Front is Bowed its entire width and height. Minor alterations in the late 19th & early-20thCs included the erection of a wooden Bellcot atop the House’s oldest part. Both House & Grounds were sold in 1951 when the Rector lived in Chalgrove.
Rectory, now House. c.1500, late 18thC & c.1800. Limestone Ashlar & Clunch rubble with some rendering; old plain-tile Roofs with brick Stacks. L-Plan. 2-Storeys. Symmetrical 5-window ashlar Front, with Storey Band, Cornice & Parapet has a central Doorway with Pilasters, a triangular Pediment and a delicate Fanlight. 12-pane sashes contain much original glass. Hipped Roof. The right end is Bowed with 3 Sashes at each Floor, the Lower windows 5 panes deep. Coursed Clunch Bay to rear has tripartite sashes with “C M Clozier 1774” on a flat Arch. Lower Range to the extreme rear is partly rubble with brick Dressings and partly early 20thC brick probably replacing Timber-framing; there is a wooden Bell-cote on the Roof. A subsidiary Range extends to right & Timber-framed Range formerly extended to left.
Interior: Main Rooms have delicate plaster Cornices and early 19thC Fireplaces. Central Stair Hall has an open-well Stair with ramped handrail. Ground Floor of earlier rear Range has intersecting moulded Beams of triangular Section and broad chamfered & stopped Joists, probably of about 1500.
Endowments for Church & Chapel Fabric
An acre in Benson given for the repair of Newington Church was mentioned in the early 16thC when it yielded 4d a year. By 1813 (when reckoned at ¾-a) it raised 30s a year and at Benson’s Inclosure in 1863 a ¾-acre Allotment was awarded at Hollandtide Bottom. In 1970 the Land was Vested in the Diocesan Trustees.
Two ½-acres in Britwell Salome, given for the upkeep of Britwell Prior Chapel, were mentioned in 1618 and from 1681 to 1797 raised 6s a year. By the early 19thC the income was 10s, which was used to pay the Parish Clerk. By 1939 the Land belonged to Britwell Salome Church.
A 4-Bayed Church House in Britwell Prior or Britwell Salome was also mentioned in 1618 when it was occupied by 2 Tenants. The Rent had been used ‘time out of mind’ to maintain both Britwell Prior Chapel & Britwell Salome Church. By the early-19thC the House had apparently fallen down and the income had ceased.
Pastoral Care & Religous Life
The Middle Ages
Newington’s 1st recorded Rector was John of Wigmore (d. c.1310), in Post by 1294 when the Prior of Canterbury petitioned the Bishop of Lincoln to reconsecrate the Churchyard after blood was shed there. Some of his successors were Graduates, but few stayed longer than a few years, and many were apparently assisted by Chaplains, of whom one was assaulted in 1318. In the Plague year of 1349, the Parish may have had as many as 5 Rectors, of whom Richard of Retford exchanged the Benefice for a Canonry & Prebend in Hereford Cathedral. Longer incumbencies included that of Thomas Brigham (1357–c.1391), who was Licenced to Study in 1382. More eminent was Brigham’s probable successor Robert Hallum (1391–c.1397), a Pluralist closely involved with the administration of Canterbury Diocese, and who subsequently became Chancellor of Oxford University & Bishop of Salisbury.
The next 6 Rectors seem not to have been University-educated and may have resided, Richard Parker (1421–5) leaving a Service Book to Britwell Prior Chapel and requesting Burial before Newington’s High Altar. His Medieval successors were Graduate Careerists, however, amongst them John White or Wright (Rector 1446–62), who was Confessor General of the King’s Household in 1450, and John Marshall (1462–78), who vacated Newington on becoming Bishop of Llandaff. Stephen Barworth (1478–82) or Richard Salter (1482–1519) may have donated the painted glass in Newington Chancel’s North-East window, but both were Pluralists, and Salter possibly lived at Standlake or (after 1505) at Lichfield Cathedral, where he was Precentor.
A richly-moulded Tomb Recess of c.1300 in the Chancel’s South wall was possibly constructed for a Lay Benefactor involved with the Church’s remodelling, and in the 15th century, 2 female members of the Skirmot Family were buried in the North Transept, commemorated by a now-lost Brass. A Bell of c.1450, cast by Roger Lauden and bearing the inscription Sancta Maria Ora Pro Nobis, may also reflect Lay Patronage. Two early 16thC Parishioners left small Bequests for Church Lights or Chantry Masses, one of them seeking burial before an image of St Margaret in the ‘Aisle’ (probably Transept) of Newington Church.
Reformation to Restoration
Newington’s Rector at the Reformation was the President of Magdalen College Owen Oglethorpe, appointed in 1537 9-yrs before his relative John Oglethorpe acquired Newington Manor. A firm Catholic, he became Bishop of Carlisle under Mary in 1556 and resigned as Rector the following year. His Roman Catholic successor Seth Holland, Warden of All Souls College & Dean of Worcester, refused to take the Oath of Supremacy on Elizabeth I’s accession and was deprived soon afterwards, to be succeeded by the Antiquary Thomas Key (or Caius). Key’s resignation in 1561 was evidently also forced, prompting disputes with his replacement Clemens Parrett (1561–72). The next few Rectors were prominent Oxford Academics and Anglican Conformists: Robert Hovenden (1572–1614), Richard Mockett (1614–18) & Gilbert Sheldon (1639–46) were each Warden of All Souls College, while John Parkhurst (1619–39) was Master of Balliol. Sheldon was also Chaplain to the King and was deprived in 1646, to be replaced during the Interregnum by Daniel Greenwood (1646–50), Principal of Brasenose College & Edward Archer (1650–60). Curates of varying ability were recorded regularly from the 1570s.
Parishioners’ Wills contain little evidence of strong Sectarian beliefs, though several left small Bequests for the Church & its Bells. Leading Landowners, however, included several prominent Catholics, and recusancy became firmly established particularly at Britwell Prior. John Oglethorpe (d.1579) was a recusant in 1577 and requested that 5 Paupers in Procession should carry Tapers at his Funeral. His son Owen had apparently conformed by 1580, but the Carleton’s at Holcombe & the Simeon’s at Britwell Prior continued their Recusancy, and a long-lived Roman Catholic Mission in Britwell Prior, established probably by John Simeon (d.1618), was served in 1620 by the Jesuit Richard Blount. Three Parishioners were Presented for absence from Newington Church in 1605, and though one claimed to attend Services in Stadhampton, another was alleged to have erected a painted Cross in the Highway.
Catholicism in Britwell Prior may have been encouraged by neglect of the Anglican Chapel, which in 1605 lacked a Bible, Paten Cover, & Table of the Commandments, and was served scarcely once a month, with infrequent Communions & no Catechism. In 1610 there had reportedly been no sermon for 6 years, what Services there were being generally held by the Rector of Britwell Salome. Newington Church fared better, its Ring of 3-Bells (recorded in 1553) being increased to 4 probably in 1592, and a Tenor added in 1608. A Sanctus Bell was given in 1639 by Mary Dunch, Lady of Newington Manor, who in 1650 erected an elaborate wall Monument in the Chancel to her late husband Walter (d.1645). A Parishioner left money for a Pulpit Cushion in 1622, perhaps for the surviving 17th-century Pulpit, and in 1637 the Church owned 14 Religious Books, 2 of them the recent Gift of an outgoing Curate.
At the Restoration, the Living (despite a Petition by Gilbert Sheldon) went to John Dolben (1660–3), later Archbishop of York, and over the following decades, the Rectory continued to be held by eminent Careerists. The High Churchman John Potter (Rector 1708–37) became Bishop of Oxford in 1715 and, as Regius Professor of Divinity, was also Rector of Ewelme. He ordained 3 Priests in Newington in 1716 but resigned the living on becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. William Brabourne (1663–85) & Henry Maurice (1685–91) apparently resided occasionally, but Curates were regularly employed. One in 1677 was Unlicensed, causing the Churchwardens to bar him from Officiating.
John Billingsley (1737–53) and his son Philip (1754–71) resided, the latter also serving Swyncombe, but thereafter the pattern of eminent Absentees continued. Charles Moss (1794–1802), a future Bishop of Oxford, rebuilt the Rectory House and presumably lived there at least occasionally, but each Rector employed a Curate, of whom some resided and received a Stipend of £40–£63. The longest-serving included Francis Lernoult (1771–95), who lived in Newington until his death in 1806 despite being Vicar of Towcester (Northants). Phineas Pett (Rector 1802–30), Principal of St Mary Hall & Archdeacon of Oxford, raised the Stipend to £80 in 1820, when the Curate was the antiquary & Book Collector Philip Bliss. Both Pett and his successor James Edwards (1830–45) resided and died in Office, Pett being commemorated by a Memorial Plaque in the Chancel, & Edwards by a Silver Flagon & Paten presented to the Church in 1845.
By 1758 there were 2 regular Sunday Services at Newington (the former with a Sermon), and & annual communions attracted c.30 Communicants. The Rector described his Parishioners as ‘orderly & sober’, although those in Brookhampton & Berrick Prior often attended closer Churches at Stadhampton & Berrick Salome. Similar provision continued in 1807 when the number of Communicants was only 14. In 1818 the Rector instructed 40 children in the catechism weekly in summer, and by 1835 a Sunday School with a Lending Library taught 34 girls. Prominent Parishioners continued to place Memorials in the Chancel, while gifts included a Silver Chalice given by Mary Dunch in 1669, and a velvet Pulpit cushion & Hanging given by Diana Wroughton of Newington House in 1820 (removed c.1880). Nonetheless, in the 3rd Bell was cracked and the Tower Clock (otherwise unrecorded) Out of Order.
More serious neglect continued at Britwell Prior Chapel, which was in disrepair with its Bell down in 1674, and lacked a Surplice, Chalice, & Registers in 1686. In 1685 Britwell Salome’s Rector reported that there was ‘seldom (sometimes not in 3 years together) any Prayers or Sermons’ at the Chapel, where he occasionally Ministered ‘out of Charity & Honour to the Government’. The following year the Rector of Newington ordered his Curate to provide a monthly Service with a Sermon, but though the arrangement continued in 1738 & 1758, by the early 19thC it was ‘immemorial’ practice for the Rector of Britwell Salome to provide the monthly Service for £12-12s a year paid by the Rector of Newington. ) Otherwise Britwell Prior Parishioners attended Britwell Salome Church, where they comprised a 3rd of the Congregation. Unspecified Chapel repairs were made in 1711 & 1841, and in the 1780s the Rector of Newington paid members of the Stopes Family to maintain the Chancel on his behalf. In 1812 the Bell was broken and the seats & reading desk ‘extremely decayed’.
Catholicism continued to flourish in Britwell Prior, which Britwell Salome’s Rector in 1685 considered ‘a great shelter to the Dissenters’. Under the Catholic Lord Sir Edward Simeon (resident from 1729). Britwell House accommodated both the Mission’s Chapel and its Chaplains, including several Jesuits. Registers of Baptisms, Confirmations, & Burials were kept from 1765 to 1788, and in 1769 the Congregation numbered 64, drawn from Towns & Villages across South Oxfordshire & from Wallingford. At its core were 15 Newington Parishioners returned as Papists in 1767, of whom 11 belonged to Simeon’s Household Staff.
A new Oval Chapel in Britwell House (inset) was completed in 1769, and Simeon’s heir, the Catholic Benefactor Thomas Weld (d.1810), continued the Mission until c.1796 when it merged with that at Waterperry. A Catholic Labourer ran an Evening School in Britwell Prior in 1808, and a community of Poor Clare Nuns occupied Britwell House at Weld’s invitation from 1799 to 1813, appointing their own Chaplains and receiving an Organ from Weld’s son Cardinal Thomas Weld. During their residency, the elder Thomas often visited Britwell House on retreat. Roman Catholics elsewhere in the Parish included the Lady of Newington Elizabeth Bisshopp (née Dunch, d. 1751), reportedly a Convert, while Edward Wallis of Berrick Prior was registered in 1717.
Protestant Nonconformity was mentioned occasionally but never became firmly established. Two or 3 Farmers attended Baptist Meetings in Wallingford in 1807, and houses in Brookhampton & Berrick Prior were Licensed in 1811 & 1830 respectively, the latter for Baptists. A Methodist Community in Britwell Salome possibly included some Britwell Prior people.
The lengthy incumbency of Septimus Cotes (1845– 92), who resided without a curate, saw the end of Newington’s Ecclesiastical link with Britwell Prior. Regular Services in the Chapel (which were initially fortnightly with a Congregation of 60–70) lapsed in the early 1860s, and in 1865 the building was Demolished pending the rebuilding of Britwell Salome Church and Britwell Prior’s transfer to Britwell Salome Parish in 1867. Separate Registration of Baptisms ended in 1847, though the Chapel’s Graveyard received burials until 1919.
At Newington, the pattern of 2 Sunday Services and 4 annual Communions continued throughout Cotes’ incumbency, although attendance (of which he refused to keep any record) remained ‘exceedingly small’, drawn from ‘a dozen cottages’ in Holcombe. The Congregation’s small size and Poverty meant that he paid for most Church repairs himself, including ‘considerable’ work in 1884 involving the Chancel, Nave, & Tower. Protestant Dissent remained negligible, and in 1890 Cotes reported a marked shift in Parishioners’ attitudes ‘from great hostility to decided friendliness’, perhaps partly reflecting his commitment to Parish Education. Cotes supported both a flourishing Sunday School and a mixed Day School, and for several years family members ran a winter Evening Class for young men.
Under Cotes’ successor Alfred Pott (1893–1900) provision increased, with weekly Communions and 3 Sunday Services by 1899, and an additional afternoon children’s Service once a month. Pott also oversaw the church’s restoration in 1898, funded by voluntary subscription. J R Pendlebury (1900–33) introduced daily matins & evensong, running a Sunday School, winter evening Class, and Sunday afternoon Bible Class, and in 1901 preaching a St Giles’s Day Sermon on Newington’s History. By 1945 a weekday Communion Service was held each Thursday, and ‘for the 1st time in living memory,’ a small Church Choir was formed. Albert Liddon (1950–77) lived in Chalgrove (where he was Vicar), and from 1977 Newington formed part of the Dorchester Team Ministry, the Vicar living in Warborough in 2014. There were then no regular Church Services in Newington, although there was a monthly Home Communion.
Newington Church, conspicuous by its octagonal Broach Spire, dates largely from the 12th to 14th centuries, and in the 19th century saw only minor structural alterations. Built of Limestone rubble with Ashlar Dressings and plain-tile Roofs, it comprises a 2-Bay Chancel with a North Priest’s Door, a surviving North Transept (a contemporary Southern one having been removed), an Aisleless Nave with North & South Doorways, windowless on the North, and an added South Porch. Its buttressed West Tower is of 3-Stages, surmounted by a plain Parapet crowned by the Spire.
The 12thC Church comprised a Nave & Chancel of similar or equal width, whose North & South Nave walls survive almost intact. 12thC roll-mouldings are visible on the external western angles of both walls, with traces of one or more Lancet windows on the South. The Nave Doorways (each containing a Medieval Plank Door) are also Norman, the Northern one featuring a moulded outer Arch supported on detached Shafts with flat-leaf Capitals. The large plain tub Font is probably of similar date. The South Doorway’s Arch was rebuilt perhaps in the 14thC when its 2 large Head-stops were re-carved. Both original Jambs are missing, and fragments of the original moulding (a band of Lozenge) have been re-used to create a heavy Hood-mould.
Around 1200 Chapels were built North & South of the Chancel, which soon afterwards was replaced by a new Chancel further East, lengthening the Nave and turning the Chapels into Transepts. Abortive plans for a contemporary North Aisle are suggested by the Capital & Base of a Respond for an intended Arch, which survives within the wall at the junction of the Nave & North Transept. Further survivals from this phase are the North Transept Arch (pointed, with 2 unchamfered Orders) and the Chancel’s North-West Lancet window.
The Church owes much of its present appearance to a remodelling c.1300 when the Chancel was extended Eastwards with a simple Priest’s Door on the North, and 2-light Decorated windows with geometric Tracery on the South. A cinquefoiled Tomb Recess in the South wall (containing glazed Medieval floor tiles) was perhaps constructed for a Benefactor. The Chancel Arch was rebuilt, a 2-light window similar to those in the Chancel was inserted in the Nave’s South wall, and the North Transept was probably re-fenestrated. The most significant addition was the West Tower & Spire, the Belfry featuring openings with Y-tracery, while the 1st & 2nd Stages have cusped Lancets. The Tower Archway into the Nave closely resembles the Chancel Arch.
Later Medieval work includes the late 14thC wooden Rood Screen & 3-light Chancel East window, together with 2 15thC square-headed 2-light windows in the Nave’s South & Chancel’s North walls. Both contain Medieval glass, the former a fragment from an Annunciation of c.1450, and the latter (perhaps given by the Rectors Stephen Barworth or Richard Salter) depicting 2 Donor Priests wearing Doctor’s Robes, beneath inscribed Scrolls & Scenes of the Assumption & Trinity. Also, 15thC are massive Buttresses added to the Tower, and a cinquefoiled Piscina South of the High Altar. A plainer Piscina survives in the North Transept, which was possibly the Chapel of St Margaret mentioned before the Reformation.
The South Transept was apparently removed in the 17thC when the Nave wall was rebuilt to include a plain 3-light Stone-mullioned window. The black & white Marble Floor in the Chancel may be of similar date. The Church Exterior was repaired in roughcast in 1776, and repairs were made to Nave seating and Communion Rails in 1811, to the Tower & its Stair in 1818/19, and to the Chancel Floor in 1836. The Rector Septimus Cotes (1845–92) made further improvements over several years, including reroofing & retiling the Porch in 1884. The glass in the Chancel’s East window was restored by E Turner Powell in 1896.
Restoration in 1898 (costing over £1,200) was overseen by the Diocesan Architect John Oldrid Scott. The Altar Rails were renewed, the Royal Arms placed over the South Door, and a new Timber-framed Porch erected while reseating included removal from the North Transept of a Private Pew belonging to Newington House. A 19thC window at the Nave’s South-west end dates probably from the same restoration, and a further £80 was spent on restoring and enlarging the Organ. Electric light & heating were installed in 1938 & 1954 respectively, and urgent Roof repairs were carried out in the late 1980s. Conservation work on the Tower & Spire followed in the early 1990s, though the Bells remained un-ringable.
Britwell Prior Chapel
The Medieval Chapel at Britwell Prior (Demolished in 1865) was a simple Nave-&-Chancel structure, built of Limestone rubble with Ashlar Dressings and a tiled Roof. A tiled South Porch of unknown date was fashioned from wooden boards. The Nave was apparently 12thC, incorporating a Norman moulded South Doorway and at least one round-headed window, while the Chancel Arch (described as semi-circular in 1812) had ‘good Norman Jambs’. The North Door was apparently a later insertion. The Chancel was remodelled c.1200, with lancet windows and a plain Piscina. Later additions included 2 Perpendicular square-headed windows in the Nave (probably 15thC), a cupshaped octagonal Font, and a single Bell under the West Gable. Work by the Rector James Edwards in 1841 included rebuilding of the Chancel Arch and replacement of the East window and some Nave windows, which were ‘modern’ in 1848.
Materials from the Chapel’s Demolition were to be re-used in the new Britwell Salome Church, but most if not all of its Monuments were lost, amongst them Brasses to Richard Crook (d.1569) and his son Richard (d.1580), commissioned by one Robert Halley, a Memorial to John Richardson (d.1765) in the Nave Floor, and another to John Stopes (d. 1798) on the Chancel’s South wall. Some Gravestones survived around the Chapel Site in the 1960s.
At one time there was a Castle in Britwell which was held for King Steven against the son of Empress Matilda, Henry Plantagenet in 1153. After Steven’s death in 1154 Henry Plantagenet, (by then Henry II), had the multitude of Castles which had been built in the time of Steven, including that at Britwell, razed to the ground. The only signs of it now are the names “Castle Hill“, “Castle Church” (for the Britwell Prior Chapel) and a tree covered mound “2½ chains from the Road leading to the Present Church.” In 1235 it is recorded that Almaric de Suleham (one of the spellings of Salome) was Lord of the Manor of Brutewell (a spelling of Britwell). This appears to be the 1st time that the 2 names came together.
Charities & Poor Relief
Small Bequests to the Poor were common in the 16th & 17thCs, usually in money or grain, while John Oglethorpe (d.1579), Lord of Newington, gave a Black Gown to each of 5 Poor men who participated in his Funeral. Offertory money was disbursed to Paupers in 1758, and in 1803 the Rector purchased blankets for the Poor using Mortuary Fees.
Endowed Charities were established from c.1600, when Owen Oglethorpe gave Berrick Prior’s Poor c.12a of Woods near Nettlebed, in a detached part of Ewelme known later as Berrick Trench. In the early 19thC 21 Cottagers had the Right to gather Fuel there, although the distance & inadequate management made the Land of ‘little benefit’. From 1845 the Rector Leased it, using the Rent to distribute Coal at Christmas, and in 1857 the Land was sold and the proceeds invested. By then the Charity was administered with 2a at Hollandtide Bottom, awarded to Berrick Prior’s Poor at Inclosure in 1815 in lieu of furze-cutting Rights. The combined Income continued to provide Coal, benefiting 31 Berrick Prior householders in 1877, 23 in 1895, & 9 in 1947, when the Charity was generally given in money. The Land was sold in 1985.
Britwell Prior’s Poor benefited from the Charity of Joan Chibnall (d. c.1649), which is discussed elsewhere. A Charity benefiting Poor Widows in Holcombe was established by Thomas Gilbert White of Newington House, who left £40 (c.£36 after Legacy Duty) for investment by his Will proved 1878. A Scheme of 1915 established a Body of 4 Trustees, the Charity’s c.£1 yearly Income being generally divided amongst 1–5 Widows. In 1979 it was merged with the 2 Berrick Prior Charities to form the Newington Relief in Need Charity, which in 2011-12 spent £975 from an Income of £1,121.
A Church House at Britwell Prior was occupied in 1618 by 2 Paupers, and the Parish later used various Cottages to house the Poor, including one at Britwell Prior in 1772, 4 on Newington Manor in 1832, & 2 at Holcombe in 1839. In 1755 an Overseer incurred expenses of £2 18s 3d in treating a Family with Smallpox. The Parish’s total annual spending on the Poor more than doubled over the period 1765/6, rising from £100 to £210. By 1803 it was £390 (including £104 in Britwell Prior), supporting 41 adults, 57 children permanently & 49 occasionally, over half the Population. Expenditure reached £849 by 1814 when 39 were relieved permanently & 52 occasionally; thereafter it fluctuated widely between £853 in 1820, £379 in 1823, and £888 in 1832. From 1835 Britwell Prior belonged to Henley Poor Law Union and the rest of the Parish to the Wallingford Union, whose Guardians were permitted to sell a Cottage in the Parish in 1847. In addition, the Rector Let 3a of Roadside Glebe at Lane End as Allotments for the Poor for much of the 19thC, 19 Tenants holding 10 Gardens there in 1850.