An Ancient Downland Parish

St. Nicholas Parish Church
Listed Grade 1

Set high on the Berkshire downs, the beautiful church of St. Nicholas was erected in 1220 on the site of an earlier building dated from 1146 A.D. With its original flint walls, nearly three feet thick, it has endured, with some extension and alteration, for almost eight centuries.

The original church or chapel was probably the east end only - what is now vestry, altar and chancel area. This would account for marks of bell ropes on the masonry of the east side of the chancel arch. At some time, an extension was added and now forms the nave and bell tower areas.

During the fourteenth century, Perpendicular-style windows were inserted in place of three of the original lancet windows in the chancel. The three lancets above the altar are in the Early English style, having tall pointed arches with dogtooth decoration.

The chancel arch between chancel and nave is narrow and pointed, with the corbel shaft on the north side terminating in a serpent’s head, and that on the south side in a tail.

The north doorway, once used by the occupants of Beedon Manor, has been blocked up, but the priest’s door in the chancel remains.

The magnificent nave roof dates from the late fourteenth century, and is of plain oak with purlins stiffened by wind braces. Above the west end of the nave is the tiled bell-cote of 1882, with shingled spire, supported on huge pitch-point timbers rising from the floor. The belfry contains six bells, of which three date from the seventeenth century.

Major restoration of the church was carried out in 1882 with the support of Lord and Lady Wantage, whose heads are carved on the ends of the external corbels of the priest’s door.

Restoration and new work was carried out in 2002/03 to ceiling, walls (inside and outside) and floor, where decades of dampness had caused problems, and a sound and loop system was installed. The work cost over £60,000. and the money was raised through generous donations and grants, and fundraising undertaken by the small congregation (42 on the electoral roll). The wooden church gates were renewed and the porch restored in memory of local worshippers who had died during the restoration work.

The congregation is friendly and welcoming to all, and has a growing number of children worshipping with them. A 'granny' is on call at every service, as necessary, to look after any who would rather colour in Bible text pictures than listen to the sermon!