A Short History of All Saints’
In 1256 Sir John Le Despencer, owner of Swallowfield at the time, obtained authority from Pope Alexander IV to build a chapel and keep a chaplain at Swallowfield. Although this appears to have implied a new building, evidence from the church itself leads to the conclusion that a building at least partly Romanesque in style had existed there previously.
Whether it had been built over a previous Saxon church remains speculative. Some of the stonework of the north and south doors and the east windows including the “bull’s eye” are indeed of an earlier date. Sir John’s presumed stone coffin is now a feature at the west end of the church, although it has not been positively identified.
There were later additions: the south wall windows date from 1380, the south porch was added in 1450, a vault was constructed in 1649 and extended in 1836 when the Russell chapel or Tribune was added above it on the north side. Three bells replaced the single original bell in 1660, three more being added in 1771, 1788 and 1973.
With the encouragement of Charles Kingsley, Sir Charles Russell 4th Baronet (who then owned Swallowfield Park) was persuaded to finance a major restoration of the church in 1871. A new organ was installed in 1978, and it was restored in 2009. The church is well maintained and has a vibrant community, being now part of a united benefice of the area.
If you would like more information about the history of our church or would like to arrange a visit please contact one of our churchwardens.
St John the Evangelist, Farley Hill (closed 31st December 2012)
The former chapel of St John the Evangelist is located on Church Road, Farley Hill, RG7 1TS.
In April 2012 the Church Commissioners issued a draft closure scheme inviting comments or objections from interested parties with a closing date of the end of May. After 120 years of worship at St John the Evangelist, Farley Hill, St John’s closed on 31st December 2012 with a final Benefice service and was a sad event for many people. The decision was not reached without a great deal of discussion and it was hoped a community use could be found for this much-loved building. This was not to be and in 2016 St John's, Farley Hill was sold and permission granted for conversion into a private residence.