St Thomas, East Shefford, Berkshire

Feature Sets (3)

Description

East Shefford is effectively just East Shefford house and this church, situated less than half a mile SE of the more substantial village of Great Shefford; itself 5 miles NE of Hungerford.  The church consists of a single nave and chancel of c.1100 (12thc. window in N wall, 12thc. paintings on chancel arch wall) with timber bell turret at W end of nave and S nave doorway. The chancel E wall was rebuilt 13thc., and the chancel arch enlarged and a S chancel chapel added, probably c.1463.

Regular worship at the church was discontinued in 1870, although it is still consecrated. The congregation transferred to the newly-built church of the Holy Innocents (now demolished). Plans to demolish St Thomas's in 1958 were halted by the Friends of Friendless Churches. In 1972 the church was taken over by the Redundant Churches Fund, renamed The Churches Conservation Trust in 1994. Romanesque sculpture comprises a font, a pillar piscina and a loose fragment elaborately carved with foliage.

History

In 1086 East Shefford was held by Aiulf the Sheriff and was assessed at 5 hides, but under the Confessor, when it was held by Beorhtic, it was assessed at 10 hides.  It had passed to the crown by the beginning of the 12thc, and was granted to Payn Peverell by Henry I. Payn gave the manor, along with his daughter Maud, to Hugh, son of Fulbert de Dover, but when Hugh died childless after 1170 East Shefford passed to Maud's sister Alice, wife of Hamon Peche, and subsequently to her son Gilbert about 1194.  He was to forfeit it under King John.

The church served the Manor House as well as the village, and the advowson is first mentioned in 1222-23 when Henry de Boxworth released it to the Prior of Barnwell.  It was subsequently to return to the Lords of the Manor, however, and in particular the Fettiplace family, first recorded at East Shefford in the person of Thomas Fettiplace in 1413. He m. Beatrice, a member of the royal family of Portugal, and their tomb is in the S chapel. The Fettiplace connection ended with Thomas's great-grandson John, and his wife Dorothy (also buried in the church). The Manor House was demolished in 1871.

Features

Furnishings

Fonts

Font

At W end of nave stands an almost cylindrical unlined tub font of oolitic limestone without base or plinth. According to notes made in 1911 and recorded in the church, it originally stood on 5 shafts, but none of these could be found. The bowl is plain except for a band around the bottom carved with simple arcading, now badly eroded.

Dimensions
ext. circumference 2.415m
ext. diameter 0.76m
h. of bowl 0.76m
int. diameter 0.54m

Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae

Pillar piscina

On S side of chancel, of oolitic limestone. Consists of a crudely-carved cushion capital with integrally carved half-shaft on a later, square base.

Dimensions
h. of capital 0.09m
h. of shaft and capital 0.35m
max. w. of capital 0.19m

Loose Sculpture

Fragment

Fragment of chalk with traces of red paint, carved in relief with an elaborate foliage motif consisting of a stem rising from a beaded collar and bifurcating into two scrolls to L and R, each having a reeded leaf with scalloped edge branching from it, and each terminating at the centre of the scroll, alongside the collar, in a similar leaf. The motif was originally enclosed in a square frame, the bottom of which remains.

Dimensions

max. h. of fragment 0.23m
max. thickness of fragment 0.11m
max. w. of fragment 0.215m
thickness of panel 0.075m
w. of panel 0.18m

Comments/Opinions

Geoffrey Tyack describes this as the best surviving example a small medieval church of a type once common in rural Berkshire. The foliage relief appears to be from furnishing, perhaps a screen, and to date from the mid-12thc.  Nothing else of this quality and date is found in the church, and it might well be a stowaway.

Bibliography

  • I. Bulmer-Thomas, East Shefford Church. Redundant Churches Fund, 1978.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth 1966, 168 (as Little Shefford Old Church).

  • H. Stapleton, St Thomas's Church, East Shefford, Berkshire. Churches Conservation Trust booklet 4th Series, No 13, Feb. 1995.

  • G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire.  New Haven and London 2010, 288-89.

  • Victoria County History: Berkshire IV (1924), 234-38.

Location

Site Location
East Shefford
National Grid Reference
SU 391 747 
Boundaries
now: West Berkshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Berkshire
Diocese
medieval: Salisbury
now: Oxford
Dedication
now: St Thomas
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Redundant parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
19 August 1998, 20 November 2013