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St Mary's church is a 12th century, nestled in a village in the Windrush valley, is known for its monuments to the Fettiplace family. These include two remarkable 17th century tombs, in which stone figures recline on shelves and gaze at the spectator. The novelist Nancy Mitford is buried here.

The holders of the manor of Swinbrook during the 17th century were the Fettiplace family, who were at that time one of the biggest landowning families in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and were reputed to own property in 15 counties. No trace now remains of their manor house, but the Fettiplaces left another reminder of their presence here; a set of two striking wall tombs. Each tomb shows three male Fettiplaces, recumbent upon stone or marble shelves. Both tombs date to the 17th century.

As you walk up the nave to the choir, the first tomb that you come to is the earliest, and much the simpler of the two. The second tomb, which dominates the north wall of the sanctuary, was built later, and gives the distinct impression that those responsible were determined to outshine the makers of the first tomb. It is also far more ornate, with fanciful gilding of the effigies and a colourful family crest being the most obvious examples.

When you turn your attention from the Fettiplace extravagances, look down. The row of seats which line the choir possess some striking, and humourous, medieval misericords. Also notice the ornate memorial built onto the nave pillar nearest the south door.

Near the porch are headstones to three of the Mitford sisters, Nancy, Unity and Diana Mitford. Their parents, and a fourth sister Pamela, are buried elsewhere in the churchyard. There is a plaque to their brother. Tom, inside the church.

If you fancy a scenic drive when travelling to or from Swibrook, pass the church on your left, and carry on up the road. Turn left onto the signposted single track road which takes you over the hills to Fulbrook. The views from the top of the hill are lovely.

St Mary
Swinbrook

  • Pebble Court
  • Swinbrook
  • OX18 4DY
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Detail of the Fettiplace monuments in the chancel
The Fettiplace monuments in the chancel
Scalloped nave capital
The Fettiplace monuments in the chancel
Memorial window in south aisle
Detail of the Fettiplace monuments in the chancel
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