A brief history of St Mary's Church
The name Shinfield is most probably derived from the Saxon settlement Selingesfeld, recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) as Sellingefelle, although local lore has it that the name comes from the 'Shining Fields' that are still seen when the river Loddon floods. It is possible that a Saxon church existed before the Norman conquest.
After the conquest Shinfield was awarded to William Fitz Osbern, Lord of Breteuil, Seneschal of Normany and Earl of Hereford, a close companion of William the Conqueror. At that time the manor of Shinfield stretched from Reading in the north to the Berkshire/Hampshire boundary in the south and encompassed the present ecclesiastical parishes of Shinfield, Swallowfield, Grazeley and Spencers Wood; in total about 4126 acres. In 1069 Fitz Osbern ordered a church, dedicated to St Mary, to be built at Shinfield. It is uncertain how much of the original structure remains but it is possible that the lower walls of the nave and parts of the stone framing of the north door date from then. In common with all churches St Mary's is a working building and has changed with time to suit the needs of the people. At some time before about 1300 the original roof was replaced by the king post structure that we see today. The south aisle, with a Quenn post roof, and the Martyn Chapel (vestry), with a Tudor barrel-vaulted ceiling, were added in the early- and late-sixteenth century respectively.
The early church is recorded as having a steeple and bell, but by the early-seventeenth century it had become unstable and it is reputed to have been finished off by canon fire by Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War. A new, brick tower with three bells was built in 1664, with three other bells added in 1722, 1730 and 1803. In 1855 the church was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott, including replacement of a brick arcade between the nave and south aisle with stone arches, creating a gothic arch between the nave and chancel, a new chancel roof, covering the floor with red and black tiles, blocking up the south doorway and removing a minstrel's gallery from the west end of the nave. From 1807 until 1905 problems were experienced with cracking of the tower structure by belling ringing and the iron bands and tie rods still visible were installed over that time.
In 1906 the south wall of the church was found to be unstable and it was underpinned by infilling burial vaults in the south aisle. Further work to buttress the south wall was done in 1929. Gas lighting and heating was installed in 1927, but it was not until 1946 that electricity was introduced. In order that full circle ringing of the bells could resume a new bellframe was installed in 1976, sited lower in the tower than the original frame. The roof installed by Gilbert Scott in 1855 required relaying on new laths in 1931 with progressive relaying and partial replacement of the Victorian tiles carried out between 1997 and 2011.
To mark the start of the third millennium a stained glass window, depicting the history of St Mary's, was commissioned and installed at the west end of the south aisle. Re-ordering to create more open space within the church by the removal of some Victorian pews was undertaken in 2004 and in 2010. In 2005 Shinfield became part of the United Benefice of Loddon Reach, covering the parishes of Beech Hill, Shinfield, Spencers Wood with Grazeley, and Swallowfield with Farley Hill and Riseley.
Residential development continues around St Mary's and, although the people and forms of service evolve and change to meet new needs, St Mary's remains a constant place at which the people of Shinfield are welcome to meet in fellowship and worship God.
Thoughts and Theories - research by David Cox - December 2018
The information below is a result of my research into why or rather how a cartulary from Reading Abbey found its way into the home of The Earl of Fingal in Shinfield in the late eighteenth century.
Early in the twelfth century the church of Wargrave was granted to Reading Abbey. It belonged to the Abbey up until the time of the dissolution. A lease of the rectory was granted to Hugh Jones by Henry VIII in 1541. Four years later the fee simple was granted to Christopher Lytcote and his wife Katherine. In 1546 however Lycote sold it to George Kenesham1.
A vicarage was instituted in Wargrave Church before 1240, when William, the vicar of the church, granted an acre of the church land to Reading Abbey, the pension of 2s payable annually from the church being remitted in return. After the dissolution of Reading Abbey the king presented the vicarage in 1542, on the death of the incumbent. The advowson of the vicarage was granted in 1544 -5 with the rectory to Christopher Lytcote and his wife, it then passed to Sir Henry Neville in 15642.
A pension was payable to the Abbot of Reading from the vicarage of Wargrave in the 13th century of 18s, this was not tithable. Henry VIII granted an annual pension of 20s with the advowson to Christopher Lytcote and his wife and is mentioned in various transfers of the advowson in the 16th century3.
Christopher Lytcote as well as being one of the gentleman pensioners of the king and trainbearer to Queen Anne, also acted as agent for the king in selling confiscated church properties4. As a reward for service Henry VIII granted him a lease of the lodge of Swallowfield with meadows pastures woods and lowland of the park in this village in 15425. Then in 1553 Edward VI granted him the manor of Swallowfield as well as its park6 and though Christopher was not granted Shinfield he had some sort of rights to the manor7. When Christopher passed away in 1554 his widow Katherine married Edward Martyn8.
Edward Martyn became the bailiff to the manor of Shinfield in 15539 then moving into its respective property, subsequently being granted the manor of Shinfield by Queen Elizabeth in 156010. In 1567 Edward had for life the office of Surveyor for Berkshire11. His daughter Anne married William Wollascott12, the son in law taking over the position of Surveyor when Edward surrendered it in 160313. William subsequently took over Edward’s estates as well14. A descendent of William Wollascott, Henrietta Maria Wollascott married Arthur James Plunkett the seventh Earl of Fingal in 175515. The map or survey of the land or estate around Shinfield belonging to the Earl in 175616 is likely to reflect the land that Edward Martyn had in the Elizabethan period. As well as having a home at Shinfield, The Earl of Fingal had property at Woolhampton that became Douai17.
It is possible that the Reading Abbey cartulary could have come through Wargrave Church and its connection with Reading Abbey and therefore through Christopher Lytcote and his wife Katherine. Christopher however was allowed to sell confiscated church property by Henry VIII. The couple were also granted Swallowfield Park. Katherine subsequently married Edward Martyn when she was widowed. Edward was the bailiff to the manor of Shinfield subsequently moving there, he then had the position as the Surveyor of Berkshire. This position was then passed on to his son in law William Wollascott. If the cartulary was in the possession of the Lycotes’, Martyns’ or Wollascotts’ then it could have passed through the Wollascott line through to The Right Honourable Arthur James Plunkett the seventh Earl of Fingal.
(Note through my research Lycote has also been spelt Licott, Martyn as Martin and Marten and Wollascott as Woollascott and Wollascot).
Footnotes – bibliography:
1. Jamison, C., (Wargrave (Wargrave Hundred)) The Victoria History of the County of Berkshire Volume 3 (eds) Page, W., Ditchfield, P.H., (asst) Hautenville Cope, J., (The St Catherine Press, 1923) p.196
2. ibid., p.196 -197
3. ibid., p.197
4. Jefferies, P.J., A Short History of Shinfield (St Mary’s Parochial Church Council, 1971) p7
5. ibid., p.7
5. & 6. Brodie, R.H., Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Edward VI. Vol V, with appendices AD 1547 – 1553 (His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1926) p.21 *
6. Jefferies, P.J., A Short History of Shinfield (St Mary’s Parochial Church Council, 1971) p.7-8
7, 8, 9 &10 ibid., p.8
10. Ditchfield, P.H., (Shinfield (Charlton Hundred)) The Victoria History of the County of Berkshire Volume 3 (eds) Page, W., Ditchfield, P.H., (asst) Hautenville Cope, J., (The St Catherine Press, 1923) p.262
11. Lemon, R., (ed) Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the reigns of Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth 1547 – 1580, Preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty’s Public Record Office (Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts, 1856) p.295
12. Jefferies, P.J., A Short History of Shinfield (St Mary’s Parochial Church Council, 1971) p.8
12. Ditchfield, P.H., (Shinfield (Charlton Hundred)) The Victoria History of the County of Berkshire Volume 3 (eds) Page, W., Ditchfield, P.H., (asst) Hautenville Cope, J., (The St Catherine Press, 1923) p.262
13. Everett Green, M.A., (ed) Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the reign of James 1st. 1603 – 1610, Preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty’s Public Record Office (Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts, 1857) p.15
13. Jefferies, P.J., A Short History of Shinfield (St Mary’s Parochial Church Council, 1971) p.8
14. ibid., p.8
15. Peake, H. J. E., (Brimpton (Hundred of Faircross)) The Victoria History of the County of Berkshire Volume 4 (eds) Page, W., Ditchfield, P. H., (asst) Hautenville Cope, J., (The St Catherine Press, 1924) p.52-p53
16. Coloured map Earl of Fingal’s estate/land. 1756 - D/EX 1930/1.
17. Jefferies, P.J., A Short History of Shinfield (St Mary’s Parochial Church Council, 1971) p.12
17. Kemp, B. R., Reading Abbey Cartularies Volume 1 (Royal Historical Society, 1986)
*Where this book was accessed – read, the information on its editor was missing. Following on from a journey to the British Library to see the same published version, the COPAC service was used with the assistance of the British Library staff, where the necessary information on the editor was found.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff of the Berkshire Record Office and the British Library as well as the library staff of the University of Reading for their assistance. Equally I would like to thank our Rector the Revd Paul Willis for allowing me to continue my research into the history of St Mary’s Church Shinfield.