This church sits in an idyllic spot overlooking the Thames and the old mill where parking can be difficult.
Sonning was the sight of an early Saxon minster which, in AD 909, was transformed into one of the twin cathedrals of the diocese of Ramsbury & Sonning. A few fragments of sculpted Saxon stonework are built into the fabric of the present building on the site. A Bishop's Palace, the home of saints, once stood alongside near the mansion of Holme Park. It later became the palace of the Bishops of Salisbury who promoted the church as a place of pilgrimage. It contained a south-eastern chapel dedicated to "St. Sarik" (on the site of the present organ) which probably contained a number of small relics from the body of this man. He should probably be identified with the Middle-Eastern St. Cyriacus, who may have been seen as something of a patron by the Saxon Bishop Sigeric. The superb 15th century sculpted arch on the northern side of the chancel is thought to have come from this chapel. It features Christ blessing the twelve apostles and the Virgin Mary flanked by biblical kings and queens. Sonning is one of only two Berkshire churches to have been the scene of an Episcopal consecration: that of William Scammel in 1284.
Despite the building's heavy restoration in 1852, St. Andrew's still houses an excellent collection of monuments to members of various landed families from the many great houses of the parish. Some of them were bailiffs and stewards to the Bishops of Salisbury. The best is the very fine brass to the armoured Laurence Fyton dating from 1434. Almost all the other brasses are to the widespread Barker family who have a large vault beneath the chancel. The great Blagrave family from Bulmershe Court seem to have had a rather grand effigial monument in the church at one time, but now only fragments remain, found in the family vault beneath the present vestry which was once their chapel. Across the chancel, the Rich family of Holme Park replaced St. Sarik's Chapel with their own. It was the home of the famous "Rich Monument" dedicated to Sir Thomas Rich who was buried in the vault below in 1667. This "vilest paganism imaginable" features weeping cherubs and vast urns, but no effigy. It has been removed to beneath the tower where it can be viewed through the curtained grill.
This is not the official Sonning Church website. Please do NOT mail me about use of the church. Visit the C of E's Church Near You website instead.
|© Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.