White Hart Crest of the Royal County of Berkshire David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History

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St. Gregory's Church

We know that there has been a church on this site in Welford since Saxon times as the building was listed in the the Domesday Survey (1086). Until the Dissolution, it was in the hands of the Monks of Abingdon Abbey and they had a grange next door on the site of Welford House. The foundations of this ancient church, along with a coin from the reign of King Edward the Confessor, were uncovered when the church was 'restored' between 1852 and 1855.

This restoration basically amounted to a complete rebuilding of the whole church. Only the unusual Norman round tower and 13th century spire are original and even these were taken down stone by stone and carefully re-erected as they were previously thought to be unsafe. Large portions of good medieval architecture was shipped off to Wickham Rectory for reuse in its Vinery, but, unfortunately, this too has since been demolished.

Despite such a loss, the Victorian structure should not be dismissed. It is well proportioned and has a fine array of beautiful carvings in the nave and chancel, and especially around the pulpit. Of the carved heads in the nave, those at the west end are particularly interesting as the depict three Berkshire Saints and siblings, St. Edmund of Abingdon and his sisters, St. Alice and the Blessed Margaret Rich. The arch-decorated font and the foliate sedilia have been retained from the old church and are among the best in Berkshire.

The church also houses a good collection of monuments. The group below the tower make the room quite spooky, with Dame Elizabeth Mundy looking down on you with her hollow eyes! The finest is the Renaissance style monument by the south door. It commemorates, Anne, Lady Parry (1585) of Welford Park, a Lady of the Privy Chamber to Queen Elizabeth I and widow of both Sir Thomas Parry of Welford and Hamstead Marshal and the Blessed Adrian Fortescue who was executed during Henry VIII's reign. She kneels in prayer with her many children incised in a stone below. There are also two small brasses and some heraldic ledger stones in the chancel.

Thomas Sheafe, a 17th century rector, wrote & published ‘A Plea for Old Age’ shortly before his death at the age of eighty in 1639. Over two hundred years later, in the 1860s, it was the custom, at Welford Church, for the Rev. Nicholson to give the children, attending Sunday Service, a currant bun each. One day, the vicar said to young Tom Drewett (aged thirteen), “Now Tom, you are too old to want buns”. “No buns, no Church, Sir,” was the blunt reply. So, of course, he got his bun.

This is not the official Welford Church website. Please do NOT mail me about use of the church. Visit the C of E's Church Near You website instead.


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