A Parish among the Gallops


It is believed that a church has stood here since the twelfth century. The main body of the present building is probably seventeenth century, with Victorian restoration and additions.

The pulpit is made from oak panels dating from the Jacobean period. On the west wall, there was originally a singers’ gallery where the village band used to play.

The Italian Archbishop, Marco Antonio de Dominis fled to England in 1616 upon becoming a Protestant. He was appointed Dean of Windsor and Rector of West Ilsley by James I. He was also a scientist and his thesis on rainbows was a work of some prominence. De Dominis was unpopular with local tenants as he extracted large rents until the villagers complained to the Church. In 1622, he recanted all his writing against the papacy and fled to Rome. He was imprisoned by the Inquisition and, after his death, his body was dug up and publicly burned together with all his writings.

His successor, Dr. Geoffrey Goodman, was chaplain to Queen Anne (wife of James I) and later Bishop of Gloucester. He entertained Charles I at West Ilsley Rectory during the Civil War. Charles I was on his way to the relief of Donnington Castle.

West Ilsley

The Ilsleys have a claim to be the site of King Alfred’s famous defeat of the Danes in 878. ‘Ilsley’ comes from the Saxon ‘ Hildeslaeg’, meaning battle or the site of or clearing where a battle was fought.

When not clearing the Highlands of rebel clans after the Jacobite rising, the Duke of Cumberland, or ‘the Butcher’, trained horses in West Ilsley. His eminent successors include Major Dick Hern, who trained horses for the Queen, and Mick Channon, the England football star and now a successful trainer in the village. There are benches in the village commemorating Dick Hern’s Derby winners.

Farmer John Morland set up a brewery in 1711, and the local ale and porter was sought after in London pubs, until the operation relocated to Abingdon in 1887. The Brewery now lives on only in the brands of beer (Morland Original and Old Speckled Hen) that are brewed by Green King plc.