Church of St John the Baptist
Wiltshire SN6 7RD
The village of Inglesham has a precious gem - an exquisitely beautiful and fascinating church, set on a slight mound just above the surrounding water meadows and close to the River Thames.
Thanks to its remoteness and the active interest of Arts & Crafts Movement leader William Morris, St John’s escaped the attention of the Victorian restorers. Over 700 years of unbroken history are visible in the fabric and furnishings of St John’s.
It is an unusual looking church having no tower or spire, just a bellcote at one end. Based on a late Saxon church, the building is largely 13th century with 14th and 15th century windows.
Inside, the plaster walls are covered in over-lapping wall paintings ranging in date from the 13th to the 19th century. Some of the subjects are hard to recognize but an early 14th century Doom adorns the east wall of the north aisle.
The chancel is covered with a 13th century masonry pattern, over-painted with 19th century texts including the Ten Commandments forming a reredos behind the altar. Above the chancel arch are 15th century angels.
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Jacobean Pulpit & Box Pews
The woodwork of the roof, the 14th and 15th century screens and the Jacobean pulpit and box pews are all original to the church, their arrangement still much as it would have been in Oliver Cromwell’s time.
On the south wall is a very beautiful and powerful Saxon carving of the Mother and Child blessed by the hand of God. Until 1910 it was on the outside of the south wall, used as a sundial.
The solid medieval font retains some of its original painted decoration and is covered with a conical wooden lid.
The church was in a fragile state of repair in the 19th century and neither the rector, Oswald Birchall nor the parishioners had any money to effect repairs. Birchall contacted his friend William Morris (who lived locally at Kelmscot) for help.
Morris put Birchall in touch with the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings which raised the money and carried out the maintenance.
Morris anonymously contributed funds and oversaw a modest campaign of repairs in 1889, guarding against additions to the 13th century building.
The church is still consecrated but has been classified as ‘redundant’.
It is now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust which looks after churches of historical and architectural interest that are no longer needed for worship. The tiny ancient church is being conserved by the Trust which is currently working on the wall paintings.
The little churchyard surrounding St John’s contains the base and column of a 15th century cross and many interesting old graves.
Daily. However, hours may be restricted due to conservation work being undertaken.
Poor - Steps up from road, one step into church.
Churches Conservation Trust External Link
1 mile (1.6 km) south-west of Lechlade-upon-Thames, off the A361 road. No car park. Parking is on the side of the road which is a lane with farm traffic. Please, do not park across gateways.
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