Swyncombe, Henley-on-Thames RG9 6EA, England
The thousand year-old St Botolph’s church is a Grade II listed, originally Norman parish church in Swyncombe near Henley on Thames. It was extensively redeveloped in 1850 by the Gothic Revival architect Benjamin Ferrey. For such an idyllic and historic building, it is relatively little visited, adding substantially to the calm atmosphere reported by many. It has been popular with painters and photographers for centuries and its likeness can be found in many galleries throughout England.
Dedicated to a legendary 7th century missionary, who created a monastery at Ilkenhoe, it has a rich history, extensively restored medieval paintings and another-worldly sense of calm reported by many visitors. The graveyard and gardens are beautifully maintained with great sensitivity for the natural flora and fauna. The display of snowdrops is such that a visit in season is highly recommended.
The churches dedicated to St Botolph extend from East Anglia westward to Warwickshire, northward through Lincolnshire into Yorkshire, and southward through Essex and London into Kent and Sussex. Some churches are dedicated to St Botolphs actual presence, some associated with his remains, and some to Benedictine rivals.
The font has a beautifully carved wooden cover. The font itself is thought to predate the church itself, though the cover is early 20th century, as is the rood screen. There is a lovely pale blue wooden ceiling. Well worth venturing into the countryside to find this gem of mediaeval religious architecture.
The tiny village of Swycombe itself is beautiful and makes for a great base for a day out in the Oxfordshire countryside. The nearby Swyncombe House is grade two listed, and may be familiar to those who have watched Midsummer murders!
If there is one place in England to visit before you die, then make it this one. Delightful and beautiful, especially in the Snowdrop season. There is much inside the church of interest. Tranquillity and charm await you.