Wootton

A 13th Century church in the centre of the village with both traditional and contemporary, family-friendly services. The church building is open every day and visitors are very welcome!

Wootton Like many English country churches, there is no record of the earliest days of the Church of St. Mary. What we do know is that the building and its contents have been regularly altered and modified according to the fashions and needs of the time. When looking round the church, there are many clues. The earliest parts of the present building, the porch, doorway, nave and lower tower are in the Early English style of architecture, used between 1189 and 1272. The Early English piers and arches were probably constructed when a narrow north aisle was built on to the nave. The chancel, being in the Decorated style of architecture, must have been constructed later, some time between 1272 and 1377. The north aisle was rebuilt in this style, in the 14th century. The upper parts of the tower, the internal tower arch, the clerestory and roof were constructed in the Perpendicular style, between 1377 and 1546. Replacing benches, the box pews were built around 1855, in a surprisingly old-fashioned design for the time.

church photo 3

The chancel was extensively restored and remodelled at the end of the 19th century and the delightful window (by the well-known designer C.E. Kempe) and the striking reredos were both installed at this time. Rush lights and candles were superseded in 1890 by pendant oil lamps. The suspension chains were retained in 1944 to support the new chandeliers (still in place) when electric lighting was installed. Prior to the introduction of the organ in 1876, (originally placed where the side altar is now), a band of musicians played in the West Gallery, evidence of which can still be seen in front of the vestry screen. The old vestry, now demolished, was accessed through what is now a blocked door in the north wall of the chancel. In 1911 the organ was moved to its present position, blocking the ancient north door, and the present vestry was created.

church photo 1

The earliest parish registers date from 1564. All records are stored in the Oxfordshire County Archives. The well-known 19th century diarist, Robert Francis Kilvert, was married in Wootton church to Elizabeth Anne Rowland , of Hollybank, Wootton. Sadly, he died very soon afterwards, of peritonitis. The Kilvert Society has installed a commemorative plaque at the back of the church. The poignant memorials in the side chapel and at the front of the nave tell the story of the loss of parishioners in both world wars. In the belfry, five of the six bells date from the 18th century and one more was added in 1923. They are rung regularly for services and on practice nights – Thursdays at 7.30 pm. New ringers are always welcome! More information can be found in the booklet: “The Church of St. Mary the Virgin Wootton, A Short History”, on sale in the church.

Altar, St Mary Wootton

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