History of St Mark's

Ethelred of Wessex defeated the Danes in a skirmish at Englefield in AD871. The Englefield family however lived here before then, as mention is made of them in the reign of King Egbert in 803. It is also recorded that an Oratory or Chantry was then in existence in the Parish. This might have been sited further down the village where there is still a Chantry Lane.

 

The Church at Englefield is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey but there are records of a church in the second half of the twelfth century. William Englefield, the patron, granted the advowson to Reading Abbey but repented of his gift which took place in the time of Abbot Joseph (1173-80). In 1239 there was a lawsuit which arose from a dispute between the Rector of Englefield and the Abbey. We know no more, except that Sir William Englefield intervened and finally a settlement was reached under which the Abbey gave up all right of presentation, which was afterwards held by the Englefields.

 

The Parish Church, dedicated to St Mark, consists of a tower and a spire, nave, south aisle, chancel and north aisle (or Englefield Chapel). It was extensively restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1857. In 1868, the tower was added in thirteenth century style, surmounted by a stone broach spire. The earliest part of the church, the nave, dates from about the year 1190, when the Norman was giving way to the Early English style of architecture.

 

The arcade, between the nave and the south aisle, the eastern triple window of the south aisle, the several doorways and the older of the two fonts are good examples of this transitional period. The south doorway within the porch has been renewed. The older parts are early thirteenth century and the hinges are perhaps especially interesting. The hammered iron, curving like the 'C' is thought to stand for St Clement, the patron saint of smiths.

 

Between the nave and the south aisle are three early English arches, the fourth one at the west end is modern. The arches are obtusely pointed and rest on half-round responds and two large circular columns with circular abacus and capitals. The carving is very good and the date is about 1190. The bracket in the east wall of the south aisle is of the same date and style. Nearby is a small squint which was blocked up when the chancel was rebuilt. Some authorities consider that a squint was to enable the priest at the side altar to see the high altar so that he could keep in touch with the priest when saying Mass.

 

The east window in the south aisle is a very fine example of the early thirteenth century with three lancets having a continuous hood mould to the containing arch, with heads between each lancet and at its terminals. This window and the arcade are considered to be the finest examples of this period of architecture in Berkshire.

 

The roofs have been reconstructed, though apparently on the same lines as the original, many of the old timbers having been reused.

 

There are two effigies under modern arches in the south wall. One represents a cross-legged knight in full armour, plain link mail, leather surcoat and feet resting against a lion. He is in the act of drawing or sheathing his sword. He has the left leg crossed over the right above the knee, but this is not counted now as giving proof that he took part in two crusades, though he may have done so. The date of the effigy appears to be late thirteenth or fourteenth century and we may assume that he was the chief representative of the Englefield family of that period. The round hole in the left elbow may indicate that a shield was attached. Under the second arch is the wooden effigy of a lady. She has a curious head-dress fitting close to the head, and the wimple, the sign of widowhood, under the chin. She has a gown down to the feet and her hands are clasped on her breast. It is thought that she represents a lady of the Englefield family and dates from about the year 1340.

 

The font dates from the 13th century and was discovered buried in the churchyard about 50 years ago. It was brought back into the church and has recently been restored and reinstated. The later font is Victorian.

 

In the floor of the south aisle in front of the side altar is the sepulchral slab of John Paulet, fifth Marquess of Winchester. He was called the 'loyal marquess' for his defence of Basing in the Civil War and married as his second wife, Honora, granddaughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, by whom he had four sons and three daughters. Next to this is a slab in the memory of Honora who died in 1660. It is through this family that Englefield passed to the Benyons.

 

In the north wall of the nave, near the vestry door, is a monument to the Marquess. The inscription is by John Dryden.

 

The chancel was rebuilt in 1857. Between the chancel and the north aisle (or Englefield Chapel) is an early sixteenth century arcade of two arches. Under one arch is a portion of the old rood screen, a fine piece of mid fifteenth century woodwork.

 

The organ was installed in 1985 but incorporates many parts of the old Victorian instrument.

 

Under the eastern arch of the arcade in the north wall of the sanctuary is an elaborate early sixteenth century canopied tomb of unpolished Purbeck marble in memory of Sir Thomas Englefield who died in 1514. Ashmole, on 12th July 1665, described it as follows: 'On the north side of the Chancel, is a fair grey marble monument arched at the head where (in plates of brass) is the kneeling portraiture of a knight in complete armour, over which a surcoat and thereon these arms quartered. Behind him are the figures of his five sons kneeling. His wife was also drawn kneeling before another fold stool, placed over against him, but the brass is now torn away. Above both is a shield of arms and crest'. Sir Thomas Englefield was Speaker of the House of Commons in 1496.

 

The Englefield Chapel was for many years the burial place of that family. Of particular note is the memorial for John Englefield and his family on the north side. He died in 1567. Against the east wall of the chapel is preserved a Norman pillar piscine found in the south wall the chancel during the rebuilding. The Chapel was restored in 1985 in memory of Vice Admiral Richard Benyon and his wife, Eve.

 

The two lances in the north wall of the aisle were designed by M.C.Farrar Bell in 1967 in memory of Sir Henry and Lady Benyon and illustrate their many interests and activities. Sir Henry was Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire.

 

Permission was recently given to remove five pews at the entrance to the church to allow for space to have coffee after services and for school visits.