St Oswald’s Church

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This is a small isolated church reached by walking across the fields. It is the only survivor of a village which was deserted after the Black Death. It is a lovely setting with views down to the River Windrush and across open grassland with trees, hedges and a few isolated buildings. Overhead, buzzards were calling.

It is a tiny church with nave chancel and bell cote, set in a walled rectangular graveyard. It was built on the site of a Roman building and the guide book refers to the remains of a tessellated floor under the flagstones. No-one is sure when the first church was built, but local legend says the bones of St Oswald rested here overnight while being taken to Gloucester Cathedral for burial.

The present church dates from the 12/13thC although the chancel arch, corbels and tub font are earlier than this.

Steps lead down into the church. Inside there are box pews and wall paintings. The double decker pulpit with a small reading desk, may have been made from the base panels of the rood screen. Above the chancel arch are boards with the Ten Commandments.

The altar rails are Jacobean, but the altar table is a modern copy of a Jacobean table given by the Secker Family.

The walls are painted a shade of dirty pink and have the remains of early 14thC wallpaintings. Facing the south door is St Christopher although little remains of the original painting as it was covered by a later Royal Coat of Arms. St Christopher’s staff can be seen but part of a lion masks St Christopher.

The paintings in the chancel have two panels, one above the other. There is little left of the top panel. The north wall of the chancel has the Three Living and the Three Dead with part of another picture above which may be the martyrdom of St Lawrence and possibly also of St Edmund. Figures on the window reveals.

The pictures on the south wall of the chancel are more difficult to decipher. On the bottom is St Martin of Tours dividing his cloak with a beggar.

On either side of the east window are pedestals which have lost their statues. These had remains of wall paintings behind them.

This is a lovely church and has been described as one of the most beautiful country churches in Oxfordshire. It was closed in 1859 and was used as a barn. It was restored in 1904 and is occasionally used for services.

The church is open daily. Cars have to be left on a minor road access is over a cattle grid and a 15minute walk across the fields. After a very wet winter, the ground around a small stream was wet and boggy and it was flooding across the footpath making it very muddy. This probably explains the scraper and sign by the south door “Please leave your mud outside”. Climb up to the churchyard and enter through the small gate. The footpath continues to Swinbrook.

On a sunny day this is a lovely walk. I was reminded of the quotation from Robert Browning God 's in His heaven.  All's right with the world!

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