The text below is from ‘Clewer Parish Church – Windsor’s Oldest Building’ written by Denis Shaw.  The printed booklet is available in church. It is 14 pages so this is quite a long read! (But worth it).

The major sections are:

How old is it?

Fact or fiction

The churchyard

A guided walk round Clewer church

The churchyard plants

A selection of some of the interesting graves


The question which everybody asks about Clewer Church is “How old is it?” No precise answer is possible.

Rector William Elwell, writing in the 192Os, wrote that the nave of the present church was built around 1100, the north aisle and the tower being added at the end of the century, but we do not know how he came to this conclusion.

We do know however, that the arches and pillars are Norman (though those on the north aisle were substantially restored in the 19th century) and the font has been identified as Saxon.

This means that the font stood in an earlier building which was probably a wooden one. Elwell thought that this stood on the site of the present south aisle. There are grounds for supposing that he was wrong. Until the 1850s, the font stood in a most improbable place (as a print in our museum shows) surrounded by pews at the west end of the north aisle. In ancient churches fonts are invariably by the entrance. It is possible, therefore that the original church stood on the site of the north aisle, with the font just inside its door, and that when the present church was built the font was left standing in the same position.

Rector Elwell records as a fact the local tradition that William the Conquerer “was accustomed to hear Mass in Clewer Church” – and certainly there would have been no chapel in the simple wooden fortification which he built on Castle Hill. Reconstructions of William’s “castle” done in 1986 (for the 900th anniversary of Domesday Book) showed the church enclosed in the castle’s outer palisade.

Clewer existed as a small settlement by the river long before Windsor came into being, with its church, mill (mentioned in Domesday Book) and fisheries. The Mill Stream provided a safe harbour with access to the Thames. The name Clewer, which appears in old documents as Clyfware and Clyvore, is said be mean “people of the cliff”, the reference being to the bluff on which Windsor Castle stands which was in the manor of Clewer. The bluff consists of chalk, and this was the building material used for Clewer Church.


From time to time enthusiastic visitors assure us that Clewer Church is built on a ley line, and two men once “proved” this to their own satisfaction by carrying out a pendulum test inside the church. Ley lines are said to be lines of cosmic energy which join up ancient sites.

Whatever the truth of the “ley line” theory, something else which has been pointed out to us is fact. If you draw a north/south line through Clewer Church on a map the line goes through a tumulus to the north – west of Beaconsfield – and another to the south – by Chobham Common. The suggestion is that Clewer Church is on the site of a third tumulus. Two facts lend circumstantial support to this idea. The first is that it was the policy of the early Church in this country (under instructions from Rome) to build churches wherever possible on pagan sites so as to “disinfect” them. The second is that in an area of total flatness Clewer church stands on a rise in the ground level. This is scarcely noticeable but it was enough, in 1947 when Windsor was flooded, to keep the church dry even though boats were going up and down Mill Lane.

It is certainly true that everyone who enters Clewer Church is immediately aware of its special atmosphere of tranquillity, but this, we believe, is because for a thousand years or more prayer and worship have been offered on this spot.


That part of the Churchyard from the Churchyard Cross to Mill Lane is a 19th century extension. The oldest graves have long ago been lost, having had wooden markers. Their sites have been re-opened and re-used over a period of many years. Elias Ashmole (1617 – 1692) visited Clewer churchyard and recorded some of the graves which are now lost, such as that of James Durdant (died 1661) whose daughter, Mrs. Martha Fuller, gave Clewer Church its handsome silver-gilt wine flagon. now on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Part of the Churchyard is devoted to providing sanctuary to many wild flowers which are becoming scarce in the countryside.

Many of the graves are of great interest such those of Sir Daniel Gooch, Great Western Railway pioneer, Mrs. Mary Anne Hull, nurse to all Queen Victoria’s children (whose names are on the stone), Owen Alum, the Windsor boy who was drowned in the Titanic disaster, Lord and Lady Otho Fitzgerald (who built Oakley court), and the Kellners, the last lineal descendants of the English branch of Martin Luther’s family.


THE WALK: Start in the porch. Enter the church and proceed along the west end of the church going towards the Library Corner, pausing halfway to look into the belltower. From the Library Corner proceed down the north aisle to the altar of the Lady Chapel. Then pass in front of the pulpit and enter the chancel, then the sanctuary. Next go down the steps into the Brocas Chapel. Finally proceed along the south aisle back to the entrance.

THE PORCH was converted into a “wayside shrine” in 1985 to compensate for the fact that the church now has to be locked between services. A mural was painted on the west wall, by the Rector, and furnishings and books were introduced. A light is left on day and night. A book is left on the prayer desk so that visitors may write down their requests for prayer. Since the “shrine” was established it has had hundreds of visitors and to date seven books have been filled with requests for prayers.

THE SAXON FONT is circular in shape and is ornamented with eight panels of semi-circular arches with various designs for the capitals of the pillars. One of these is not a religious symbol but depicts a bursting pea-pod: perhaps a reference to a local agricultural interest as in “Peascod Street”. There is a cockle-shell fossil in the stone near the top of the font. The steps on which the font stands are a memorial to Rector Gerald Payne-Cook (Rector from 1932 to 1943) and his wife. They were designed in 1967 by architect Roderick Gradidge.

Note the fine Victorian brass candlestick which is used for the Easter Candle.

The Stations of the Cross (which start in the north east corner of the church) are modern, having been installed in 1944 but they were designed to harmonise with their setting. Round the font can be seen Stations 8, 9, 10 and 11.

THE WOODEN BENCH with trefoil ends is the church’s oldest wooden furnishing being 15th century.

THE BELLTOWER There are six bells, recast from older bells in the 19th century. One has again been re-cast in recent years. A board on the west wall gives their weights. other boards give details of local charitable bequests. A glance at the three round-headed windows will show the thickness of the walls. The window on the west wall, depicting St. Andrew is considerably older than the other two which are Victorian. The handsome table in the belltower is actually a container for our set of handbells. The “table-top” opens to form two music stands. It was made by Mr. J. Brooks, Captain of the Belltower.

On leaving the belltower pause to look down the centre aisle. The fine brass chandeliers have, in recent years, been adapted to take electric lights as well as candles.

Rector Elwell wrote that this aisle was altered in the 14th century by having the height of the roof raised and the clerestory windows installed. The glass in the clerestory windows bear some signs of having come from elsewhere. For example, the westernmost window on the north side depicts the Marriage Feast of Cana, but if you examine it carefully you will see that the three sections of the table, in the three parts of the window, do not appear to fit together.

THE NORTH-WEST CORNER On the west wall is a small marble memorial to Mrs. Ann Woods who died in 1837. For 37 years she was in the service of Elizabeth Sophia, Marquise d’Harcourt, of St. Leonard’s Hill. Ann Woods is buried in the north east corner of the Churchyard.

The window on the west wall depicts scenes from the Old Testament. The first scene, on the left shows Abel offering his acceptable sacrifice to God. It is pleasing to note that Abel appears to have had two pet white rabbits!

The hatchment which hangs on the west wall is that of Sir Francis Tress-Barry, M.P. for Windsor, 1890 -1906. There is a memorial to him on the north wall and he is buried in the Churchyard. On the north wall is a fine marble memorial by Sievier to William, Earl Harcourt vho was Deputy Ranger, Windsor Great Park, and who died in 1830. His wife, Mary, is also commemorated. Lord and Lady Harcourt founded Clewer Green School (for years known as the Harcourt Schools) at the beginning of the 19th century, and in 1815, with others drew up a deed ensuring the school’s continuance and guaranteeing an income. Also on the north wall is a memorial to Gerald Francis Henson of “The Hermitage” who died in 1918. This is the work of architect Sir Thomas Graham Jackson.

This aisle is lighted by three pretty brass “electroliers”. They are believed to date from about 1895.

The roof of this aisle is flood-lit on the recommendation of our architect who tells up that it is “a fine example of an arch-braced and collar roof with separate tie beams”.

In the floor are slabs to commemorate those who are buried beneath. One of these marks the last resting place of Thomas and Barbara Duck. Thomas, who died in 1704. was a goldsmith and was Mayor of Windsor. His second wife Barbara, is buried with him.

The date of her death appears as 1732


This would be more usually written 1732/3.

The significance of this is that before the Calendar Act of 1852 firmly ruled that January 1st was New Year’s Day, the year was sometimes reckoned to start on March 25th. Mrs. Duck died in the year which we would call 1733 but those who counted the New Year from March 25th would have said it was 1732. The stonemason therefore gives us a choice.

The slab at the east end of the aisle commemorates Daniel Paterson (1739-1825) who was Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec from 1812 until his death. His chief claim to fame is a book known to specialists as “Paterson’s roads”. Its full title is “A New and Accurate Description of all the Direct and Principal Cross Roads in Great Britain”. The book went into 18 editions. It was used by the army “as by its use all the distances of military marches were calculated and charged in the public accounts”.

Elias Ashmole in “Antiquities of Berkshire” says that in this aisle is a tomb with the following inscription in Saxon characters; “Merci. William Mane de Southcas. passants part ici priez pour l’ame a Dieu”. No trace of this can now be seen: perhaps it is hidden by the pews and floorboards.

THE LADY CHAPEL Until 1975 there was a nondescript altar backed by a curtain and framed print of the Virgin and Child. We were fortunate to obtain the present altar and reredos simply for the cost of transport and installation. Long ago, in Hawley, Hampshire, there was an orphanage, founded in 188l, under the aegis of the Clewer Sisters. When the orphanage closed and was demolished the Chapel remained to serve as a daughter-church for Hawley Parish. However, new development in Hawley took place on the other side of the town and the Chapel was in the wrong place. It was put up for sale, but the vicar of Hawley decided that the altar and reredos should come to Clewer. In the niches along the front of the altar, flanking the Virgin and Child, are the four “Latin Doctors of the Church”: Saints Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory. Step right up to the altar to see the fine marble top, inset with five crosses of lighter coloured marble.

The Communion rail and the bookstand are in memory of Magdalen Wellesley Queen Victoria’s “dearest Lily”. She was the widow of Dean Wellesley of Windsor. Magdalen Wellesley is buried in the Churchyard with her father, Lord Rokeby, and her son.

The statue of the Virgin and Child in the corner is carved wood and was acquired in the l920s. Over the credence table (which came from Hawley with the altar) may be seen a fine old silver Russian icon of the Virgin and Child. Nobody knows how it came to Clewer Church.

A large handsome carved chair will be seen behind the pulpit. This came from St. Stephen’s High School for Girls which stood on Oxford Road and Vansittart Road and which was under the Convent aegis. The School was founded in 1882 and its Golden Jubilee in 1932 the chair was presented to the Head Mistress, Muriel Joan Porcher. The school closed in 1934 and she gave the chair to Clewer Church. The school’s badge was a daffodil; hence the carving on the chair.

THE CHANCEL SCREEN The screen was designed by Henry Woodyer in the 1850’s. It was painted in medieval patterns and colours in 1967 under the direction of Roderick Gradidge. The painting above the screen was done at the same time. It is the work of artist Anthony Ballantine. The mural depicts the risen Christ flanked by St. Andrew (depicted as a Bishop), the Virgin Mary, St. Agnes (holding a lamb) and St. George. There are also tiny kneeling figures of Sir Bernard Brocas, 14th Century Lord of Clewer Manor, and Thomas Thellusson Carter, Rector of Clewer from 1844 to 1880.

IN THE CHANCEL On the pillars on the north side may be seen some stone carvings by a 19th century sculptor, Nicholls, of lilies, vines and wheat, and on the south side are representations of St. Frideswide, patron of Oxford Diocese, and St. Andrew (again depicted as a Bishop), patron of Clewer Church. The carved wooded processional cross which is kept in the chancel is modern and depicts Christ reigning in majesty from the Cross.

From the chancel the organ may be glimpsed. It is a 3 manual organ by Walker’s of London. It was installed in l9l4 in memory of Henrietta Cecil Henderson, a local resident who had died in childbirth. Her statuette, in bronze, by Sir George Frampton, may be seen in Clewer’s Museum.

IN THE SANCTUARY The east window ls 19th century. It depicts the crucifixion with Mary (curiously, wearing a wedding ring) on one side and St. John on the other. These are flanked by St. Agnes, St. Catherine (with her wheel), St. Stephen, and St. Alban. The shield by St. Alban bears the eagle standard of the Roman legions.

The reredos is by Nicholls to a design by Woodyer. The central figure of Christ reigning in Heaven, has the body made of alabaster and the head of white marble.

The twelve figures at the back of the reredos represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve in front represent the twelve Apostles, or the New Israel, the Church.

On the north side of the sanctuary is an aumbry, or cupboard for the reservation of the blessed Sacrament. This is no longer used as the Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle on the gradine, or stone shelf, behind the altar.

Also on the north wall is a bronze memorial to Thomas Thellusson Carter, Rector 1844 to 1880. This is by sculptor W. Bainbridge Reynolds. It depicts Carter lying in state, with an angel at his feet and there is a Latin inscription which, translated, reads “In affectionate memory of Thomas T. Carter, who formerly as parish priest adorned this chancel: fell asleep in Christ October 28th 1901; and in the neighbouring Churchyard he awaits the Resurrection”.

On the south wall may be seen a small brass memorial to Mrs. Lucie Hobson who died May 28th 1657. The inscription is worth studying: it is redolent of the attitudes of Puritanism, and is one of several pieces of circumstantial evidence that Cromwell’s men took charge of Clewer Church when they held Windsor Castle. We know as fact that Colonel Christopher Whichcote, Cromwell’s Governor of Windsor Castle, made an appointment here, as we have the document bearing his signature, and it is probable that a Puritan layman had charge of Clewer Church. Look up at the painting on the ceiling. We are informed by our architect that it is pre-Victorian.

Under the high altar is buried Henry Justel, Rector from 1720 to 1729, with his infant daughter Henriette. He was the son of a distinguished French protestant divine, Henri Justel, who was Secretary to Louis IV but came to England in 1681, anticipating the persecution of non-Catholics. Charles II appointed him Keeper of the King’s Library at St. James.

THE BROCAS CHAPEL This Chapel bears the name of Sir Bernard Brocas, Lord of Clewer Manor, who in 1385 gave land, in trust, to Clewer Church in order that a Chantry Priest might be maintained to say daily Masses in this Chapel for the repose of Lady Mary Brocas’s soul. The Chantry Priest had his own entrance and the door may be seen on the outside of the church. Inside, it provides an alcove for the fine modern carving of St. Andrew.

The reredos in this Chapel is a memorial to the Clewer dead of World War I and is carved from limewood. It is the work of F.E. Howard, an Oxford architect. Flanking the Crucifixion scene, which includes the Virgin Mary and St. John, are St. Joan of Arc, St. George, St. Michael and Archangel and St. Nicholas. As Patron Saint of Sailors, St. Nicholas holds a small ship.

The modern Communion rails is in memory of Monica Carter, who died in 1977 and it was made by her brother, Michael Barker.

The “hole in the wall” on the south side was thought by Rector Elwell to be for an “Eastern Sepulchre’. Another view is that it marks the tomb of Lady Mary Brocas and that it originally held a recumbent statue of her which would have been vandalized by the Puritans who disapproved of “graven images”. It seems unlikely that a Chapel dedicated to her memory and to the welfare of her soul, would not contain some memorial. The “hole” now houses our Book of Remembrance.

The beautiful angel lectern is carved in limewood and dates from the days of Charles II. It required restoration in recent times and the desk and base are modern.

The window at the eastern end of the south wall is the work of Sir Ninian Comper. The two medallions depict a young, beardless Christ in two scenes from the Gospels: the feeding of the five thousand and the calling of St. Andrew.

On the south wall may be seen a brass commemorating the victory of a local archer, Martyne Expence. Lieut. Col. Cooper in his History of Berkshire has this to say:

“Archery meetings were held at Bray in Elizabeth’s time (i.e. Elizabeth I). The Volunteers of Bray challenged the Company of Clewer and Martyne Expence carried off the laurels of the day as appears by the inscription on his tomb in Clewer Church”

High up on the south wall is a handsome marble memorial by Peter Scheemakers. This commemorates Roger Jenyns and his wives Dorothy and Elizabeth. Puzzlingly, Elizabeth’s death has been recorded twice on the slab though in the second case the dates have been left blank.

Below the window at the west end of the south wall is a brass plate in memory of John Macdonald, “direct descendant in the male line of the Lords of the Isles”, who died in 1876. Beside it is another brass recording the death of his sister, Lleila Flora who was the wife of Marechal Francois de Canrobert of France.

On the west wall of the Chapel, to the right of the arch are two brasses of pre-Raphaelite design. one commemorates Mariana Margaret Browning and the other her daughter Mariana Alice. These two kept a school for young ladies in Windsor, in the latter half of the 19th century, known as “The Beehive”. Mrs. Browning’s son, Oscar, was an Eton master but was sacked in 1875 having brought his dismissal upon himself, it is said, “by his injudicious talk, his favouritism, and his anarchic spirit”. He retired to a Fellowship at King’s College Cambridge where he achieved a reputation as a wit being universally known as “O.B.”

Below the Browning memorials is another brass plate which is matched by one on the wall to the left of the arch. These commemorate the twin daughters of Admiral Sir Edward Codrington. Codrington was involved in the Battle of Navarino in 1827, after which he got the Order of the Garter. However, King George IV disapproved of Codrington’s involvement in the battle, without sufficient authority, and is said to have remarked “I gave him the ribbon but he should have had the rope”.

On the upper part of the wall on the left of the arch is a board recording the names of Clewer men who fell in World War I.

THE SOUTH AISLE Through the arch – which is of Saxon-style construction we come to the south aisle. On the left is a fine window by Kempe and it bears his “trade-mark” – a tiny sheaf of wheat in one corner. The window depicts St. Ambrose and St. Augustine composing the Te Deum. Unfortunately it has been moved from another site (hence the narrow strip of plain glass with which it is surrounded) and in the course of the move the names of the saints have been transposed. St. Augustine’s traditional cymbal is a burning heart and this may be seen on the end of the lectern in front of the saint labelled Ambrose. Also, Augustine tells us in His “Confessions” that when he was converted he heard a voice say “Take up and read”. He read a verse from the Epistles, then closed the book with his finger in the page. The saint labelled Ambrose holds a closed book and has his finger in it. The window commemorates William Glover, Tapissier to Queen Victoria.

Over the arch is a work of modern sculpture. The Winged Victory Crucifix in memory of Simon Dymoke-Marr son of Cyprian Dymoke-Marr, Rector from 1943 to 1971. Simon was drowned while on holiday in Spain. The sculpture is by Josephina de Vasconsellas, who has work in St. Paul’s Cathedral and Gloucester Cathedral. She also sculpted a War Memorial at Aldershot. when the Winged Victory Crucifix was installed in 1967, it was shown on television and provoked much discussion.

This aisle has Victorian chandeliers which although not matching those in the centre aisle, harmonise with them satisfactorily.

On the wall near the church entrance is a board recording the names of known Rectors of Clewer. The board was installed in 1905, having been carved by Mr. Parkyn, a member of Clewer Church choir. It was paid for by Miss Mariana Alice Browning. Names of earlier Rectors have since come to light, such as Richard de la Rye, Rector in 1273, and Waren, “Vicar of Clifware” who in 1251 was given the additional appointment of Warden of “the hospital for the leprous girls of Windlesore”.

It will be noted that Jacob Jones appears to have been Rector for 36 years, from 1625 to 1661. This is possible but not very likely and as this was the Cromwellian period, it may be that Jones died and was replaced by a Cromwellian layman whose name is not recorded.

Set in the floor at this point is a black slab marking the vault where Henry Proctor is buried. It has a Latin inscription. Proctor, who died aged 63 in 1774 had been a judge in the South Wales courts.

Proctor was a member of a family which had local associations with the parish for hundreds of years. Their home was the mansion known as Clewer Park. Rector T.T. Carter’s mother was a Proctor and he records that a Proctor ancestor watched Charles I being taken from Windsor Castle to go to London to be executed. He bowed and doffed his hat to the king, and Cromwell’s soldiers pushed him into the ditch.

So ends our “guided walk round Clewer Church. The Churchyard is worth a visit as there are many graves of great interest. And, of course, our Local History Museum, housed in the Lodge by the Church’s lychgate, is a treasure house of local lore.



A “census” of the plants in our churchard – probably incomplete – reveals the following. Some, of course, may be classed as common weeds but others are now scarce in the countryside. The plants which are in our “conservation area” are in heavy type.

Red valeriansweet violet (two varieties), lesser bindweed, primrosesoapwortevening primrosetree mallow,meadow cranesbillcut-leaved cranesbillherb Robert, rosebay willowherb, cow parsley, rough chervil, ground elder, wall pepperdog rose (white and pink), corn poppy, opium poppy, lesser celandinemeadow buttercup, camomile, shepherd’s purse, teasel, goose grass, white bryony, cinquefoil, lady’s smock, milk thistle, greater knapweed, chicory, dandelion, rough hawk’s-beard, feverfew (two varieties), daisyox-eye daisy, groundsel, ragwort, common mallow, giant bell-flower, wood vetch, upright vetch, black medick, yellow trefoil, sickle medick, tuberous vetchling, woody nightshade, scarlet pimpernel, periwinkle, bluebell, snowdrop, clover (white and red), clarymelilotcorn marigoldwild candytuft, flax, toadflax, pink purselane, childing pink, cheddar pink, red campion, white campion, pignut, salad burnet, seal-heal, sheep’s sorrel, corn chamomile, lungwort, lords-and-ladies, chives, wild daffodil, lily-of-the-valley, ground ivygermander speedwell, stinging nettle, dead nettle, spurge (several varieties), plantain (several varieties), wild strawberry, persicaria, tufted vetch,common vetchtuberous vetchlingwild pea, turnip, green hellebore, stinking hellebore, columbine (three colours),alkanet, foxglove, honeysuckle, Herb Bennett, lesser bindweed, bugle, lady’s bedstraw, field scabious, coltsfoot, forget-me-not, (some of which are pink), dock, comfrey, hogweed, common burdock, chickweed, periwinkle, lesser yellow trefoil, wild balsam (touch-me-not), Indian balsam, St. John’s wort, yellow corydalis, prickly sowthistle, wall lettuce.


A selection of some of the interesting graves

Sir Daniel Gooch Bart born 1816, died 1889. Railway pioneer. Partner of lsambard Kingdom Brunell. Laid the transatlantic cable. Lived at Clewer Park. The grave is towards the south-west corner.

The Magdalens Dotted about in the churchyard are the graves of women who appear to have a surname in common: Magdalen. These were the “fallen women” rescued first by Mrs. Mariquita Tennant of The Limes, and later by Rector T.T.Carter. If they remained rescued their name became Magdalen – a reference to “the woman which was a sinner” in the Gospels. Gladstone sent a supply of “fallen women” from London.

Lord and Lady Otho Fitzgerald Lord Otho died in 1882, his wife a year later. She was the Dowager Lady Londesborough and when Lord Otho married her, Lord Stanley wrote to Lady Stanley: “He is a mercenary little fortune hunter.” Queen Victorla described him as “a penniless mauvais subject”. He built the mansion which is now the Oakley Court Hotel. The grave, a recumbent cross on stubby granite pillars on the south side of the churchyard path, a few rows in from the Mill Lane wall.

Mrs. Mary Anne Hull died 1888. Mrs. Hull was nurse to all Queen Victoria’s children. She married late: her maiden name was Cripps, and the Royal family called her “dearest May’. Her impressive gravestone – not far from the west end of the church and close against the boatyard wall – was paid for by the Royal children and all their names are carved on it.

Owen George Allum was a 17 year old Windsor telegraph boy who was drowned in the Titanic disaster. He was going to stay with his father in the United States. His body was recovered and brought to Clewer for burial. The grave is between the north wall of the church and the boatyard wall.

John McDonald died 1891. We know nothing about him, but his grave is marked by a huge Celtic cross in granite, only a few yards from the Lodge. It was carved all over with Celtic symbols. Local tradition has it that the cross was brought from Scotland by traction engine. Another Celtic cross commemorates John McDonald in Garlochead Churchyard in Scotland. It records that he “died at St. Leonards, Windsor …….. aged 40 years, and rests in Clewer Churchyard”. On both memorials he is described as being “of Belmore and Torlochan”.

Sir Thomas Myddleton Biddulph died 1878. At the time of his death he was Keeper of the Privy Purse, having also been Master of the Queen’s Household. His grave is on the south-west side of the churchyard.

The Kellner family appear to have been court musicians in the early part of the 19th century. The grave is on the west side of the path to the bridle- gate. It records that Elizabeth, the last of them, was “the last lineal descendant of the English branch of Martin Luther’s family”.