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St. Michael's Church

Warfield has a beautiful church with many fascinating features, architectural, monumental and appurtenancial.

The old Saxon church is known to have been the property of Queen Emma in the early 11th century, until she gave it to the Bishop of Winchester, with whom she was accused of having an affair! It was probably a wooden structure built on an old pagan site. Hence the dedication to St. Michael, the destroyer of the Devil (and the old religion).

The present North Aisle is the oldest part of the present church, probably built in the 12th century. It still retains the old 'Devil's Door', kept open during christenings to let out the banished evil spirits. The tower is 13th century and the nave, including the roof, are 14th century. The church had been the property of Hurley Priory since its foundation in 1086; and it used to be thought that they transferred themselves here , in 1391, and built the most beautiful chancel in all Berkshire, when flooding forced their removal from damp monastic buildings down by the Thames. There is, however, no evidence for this romantic tale and the chancel's true patron  appears to have been the local landowner, Sir William Trussell (Junior), whose arms survive in some of the original medieval glass scattered around a number of the windows. The quality of the carved foliage of his reredos (complete with relic chamber) and around the sedilia and piscina is incredible. Particularly of note are the two 'green men' hidden among the stone leaves and the remains of the Easter sepulchre. The work probably dates from the 1340s. The small angelus tower at the south-east corner is highly unusual. A prayer bell was sounded from here in order to call in the labourers from the surrounding fields. Trussell also erected a fine rood screen and loft across the entrances to both the chancel and St. Katherine's Chapel (also 14th century). The latter's portion of the screen is a rare survival for Berkshire. Its east window remembers King Richard II and his wife in whose reign the monks' chapel at Warfield became a proper church with its own vicar. The tomb recesses here may possibly be for other Trussells, though the chief family mausoleum was at Shottesbrooke

The 15th century saw the reworking of several windows and, most particularly, of the arches of the arcade and transept. Later times added the many fine monuments to local patrons. St. Katherine's Chapel is also known as the Staverton Chapel because this family, who were lords of the manor, were buried there. The colourful renaissance style memorials remember the last of the line. A similar one to Thomas Williamson (1611) is in the chancel. The Stavertons have a number of brasses too, but only one still has its figure of the deceased. The Armada Chest, as the name suggests, is 16th century. 

The 18th century monuments are largely to the Walshes of Warfield Park. The weeping lady is very elegant. The memorial to John Cox Hippisley's wife is also interesting for its small display of heraldry, granted by the King of Wurtemburg. At this time, the church would have been very dark and gloomy, filled as it was with private galleries and box pews. These were swept away in Victorian times.

Many thanks to Robert Entwistle MA (Oxon) for providing details of his recent work on the architectural development of Warfield Church.

    Nash Ford Publishing 2004. All Rights Reserved.