We use cookies to improve your experience, some are essential for the operation of this site.

St James the Great, Sotwell, Berkshire

(51°36′40″N, 1°9′13″W)
SU 587 906
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Berkshire
now Oxfordshire
medieval Salisbury
now Oxford
  • Ron Baxter
25 August 1991, 30 October 2013, 26 June 2017

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=2337.

Find out how to cite the CRSBI website here.


Sotwell is a village in the Thames valley between Didcot to the W and Wallingford to the E. The present church has an aisleless nave and chancel with timber bell-turret capped by a short broach spire, all of 1883-84 by S.R.Stevenson. It incorporates several features from the church demolished in 1883: two reset window heads on the exterior of the chancel, that in the S wall decorated with chip-carving; two snmall heads reset in the interior N and S walls of the nave, and a respond or nook-shaft capital reset in the interior N nave wall.


Sotwell was held by Hugh of Port from the Abbot of Winchester before 1066, the abbey holding it in lordship for the supplies of the monks. The chapel is first mentioned in 1158 as a dependency of the church of St Lucian, Wallingford (which belonged to the Priory of St Frideswide, Oxford). St Lucian's disappeared after Wallingford was decimated by the plague of 1348, and the chapelry passed to St Leonard's, Wallingford. In 1868 it was separated from St Leonard's and attached to Brightwell, and in 1948 Brightwell and Sotwell were united as a civil parish.


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


All of the reset pieces described here may be late-11thc or 12thc work, although the chip-carved window head is the only pievce that can be confidently so dated. The reset heads in the nave are puzzling; they are too small for corbels and are suspiciously similar in size to the surrounding coursed rubble of the wall. They may be 19thc pastiches, although Tyack et al call them 'two crude carved heads... from the old church.' A view of the exterior of the church demolished in 1883 shows a simple box with no separate chancel which has a round-headed S doorway and one round-headed window on the S wall. This could well have been the late 11thc. chapel.


N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth 1966, 221.

T. Twentyman, St James, Sotwell 1884-1984 (church guide), Brightwell 1984.

G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. New Haven and London 2010, 210.

Victoria History of the Counties of England: Berkshire. London, vol. 3 (1923), 507-11.