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St. Agatha, Brightwell, Oxon
Old North Berks branch of the ODG
St. Agatha, Brightwell
St. Agatha, Brightwell seen from the South İKMC 19 March 2005
The nearest window holds their millennium stained glass
Dedication: St. Agatha, Brightwell

Service Ringing: Sun 9.00

Practice night: Tue 8.00pm

The Bells (8) 10-2-25

Access to ringing chamber: Ground floor

The following information comes from F. Sharpe The Church Bells of Berkshire. He visited the tower in 1969. There are a few corrections from the framed certificate provided by the Whitechapel bell Foundry in 1969
Frame: oak.

A ring of 8, tenor 10-2-25, diameter 39½”, tuned to G#
Bell Weight
Founder Foundry
Treble 3-1-18 G 1968 Whitechapel Bellfoundry London IN MEMORY OF
BORN 1890 — DIED 1966
SEXTON 1947-1966
2 3-3-15 F# 1968 Whitechapel Bellfoundry London IN MEMORY OF
6TH JULY 1876
3 5-0-0# E 1808 Thomas Mears I Whitechapel THOMAS MEARS & SON OF LONDON FECIT 1808
4 5-2-0# D 1808 Thomas Mears I Whitechapel THOMAS MEARS & SON OF LONDON FECIT 1808
5 6-2-0# C 1808 Thomas Mears I Whitechapel THOMAS MEARS & SON OF LONDON FECIT 1808
6 7-0-0# B 1808 Thomas Mears I Whitechapel THOMAS MEARS & SON OF LONDON FECIT 1808
7 9-0-0# A 1808 Thomas Mears I Whitechapel THOMAS MEARS & SON OF LONDON FECIT 1808
Tenor 10-2-25 G 1908 Mears & Stainbank Whitechapel MEARS & STAINBANK, FOUNDERS, LONDON.

  1. [M] is the Whitechapel Founder’s mark
  2. The original six cast was in 1808; they were augmented to 8 in 1968.

Christianity in the village may well go back to 635 when St Birinus established his cathedral at Dorchester. A parish church in Brightwell was noted in the Domesday Book survey of 1087, but not this one dedicated to St. Agatha.

The dedication is unusual and historical ( see church guide ). Brightwell castle was one of a ring of castles in the area, built by Stephen to counterbalance the forces held by Matinda in Wallingford castle. T he church was probably founded in 1152-3; it stands inside the old castle moat.

The church seems to have developed as many others have, first with a nave and a south aisle was added about 40 years later. The earlier Norman walls probably remain under the paint and plaster. Fairly soon after this the arch into the tower was rebuilt and the tower remodelled and heightened.

In the early C 14th the north aisle was added. It is the first part of the church to be properly laid-out with right angles. Some of the original glass survives in the windows. After the ogee arch was invented, the chancel was again largely rebuilt.

In the C 15th the nave was heightened and the clerestory built - four windows over three arches. The chancel arch was removed and the present unusual arrangement of a wooden beam and lath and plaster tympanum substituted. The rood screen stood here as can be seen by the stairs behind the pulpit.

Little else was altered until the tower fell down in 1796 bringing the bells with it. The tower was rebuilt in brick and the new bells rehung in 1808.

At the first ringing of these bells William Jacob, a native and ringer of Cholsey, died the instant he took hold of a Bell Rope. (see Bodleian MS Church Notes 1812) At this time there were 6 bells.

The ceiling of the nave dates from 1819. From this ceiling is hung a very fine C 18th brass candelabrum, provided for by a rate levied for the purpose in 1728. The font has fine ironwork on its cover. Inside the tower are charity boards and peal boards, moved here from a western gallery taken down by Ferrey. Near the ceiling are stones recording the re-ceiling of the nave and the rebuilding of the tower 1797-1802.

The pulpit dates from the Victorian restoration by Benjamin Ferrey in 1858 as does all the furniture in the church except the Lady Altar. This restoration transformed the building into a text-book Camden Society church.

A major and rather uninspired restoration took place in 1884. In 1903 the organ chamber was built. The C 20th has added the Lady Altar in the South Aisle, installed two ramshackle vestries and has cleared the pews form the North aisle, making space for coffee after service and other activities. The tower contains 8 bells ( post 1924.)

From a very interesting and informative guide to the church by Mark Spurrell with drawings by Pat Owen.

The Millennium Window

The villagers of Brightwell decided their Millennium project would be to add a stained glass window to the church with a design based on Christ's words:

"I am the way, the truth and the life"

An Art Competition was held in 1998 to find a design. Emily Dugan, then aged 11, a daughter of a local ringer, was the winner. Richard Potter organised the fund raising of the £12,000 needed. The window was created by John Lawson of Goddard & Gibbs.

Millennium window
Complete Millennium Window
İKMC 19 March 2005
Top of window
Detail of Millennium Window with the
Britwell barrow shown above the open book.
İKMC 19 March 2005

Other features of the church yard: Dean Inge memorial and the Cob wall. Burials no longer take place around the church. The modern cemetery can be found by following the 'nature trail' from the end of the churchyard.
Dean Inge tomb
William Ralph Inge, Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral London 1911-1934 is buried in the new cemetery with his wife Mary Catharine.
İKMC 19 March 2005
Cob wall
Cob walls were built from local mud and then thatched to prevent them dissolving away when it rained as you can see at the left end of this partially restored wall.
İKMC 19 March 2005

Points of interest in church: a millennium window on the South side designed by the daughter of one of the local ringers.

Church facilities: None in the church but the toilet in the village hall opposite may be available

Travel Details: OS Grid Ref: SU578908. Park on road by the church or in the car park behind the village hall.

Public Transport: very little, what there is stops at the other end of the village from the church

Eating Places: The Red Lion is about 200 yards from the church

Local points of interest for non ringers:
  1. The Wittenham clumps are nearby, the Brightwell barrow is on top of the small hill near Brightwell, there is a pleasant grassy path from the churchyard. Start by going along past the cob wall to the new cemetery, then retrace your steps or come back along the road.
  2. There is a short section of restored 'cob wall' in the churchyard
  3. The Very Revd William Ralph Inge, (1860 - 1954), Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, 1911 - 1934, is buried in the new churchyard. He wrote many philosophical works.

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