The History of
St Andrews Clewer

Windsor’s Oldest Building

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).

Clewer Parish - Windsors Oldest Building


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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.

A Guided Walk Round Clewer Church

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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.


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 valerian, sweet violet (two varieties), lesser bindweed, primrose, soapwort, evening primrose, tree mallow,meadow cranesbill, cut-leaved cranesbill, herb Robert, rosebay willowherb, cow parsley, rough chervil, ground elder, wall pepper, dog rose (white and pink), corn poppy, opium poppy, lesser celandine, meadow 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), daisy, ox-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), clary, melilot, corn marigold, wild 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 ivy, germander speedwell, stinging nettle, dead nettle, spurge (several varieties), plantain (several varieties), wild strawberry, persicaria, tufted vetch,common vetch, tuberous vetchling, wild 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.

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