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Stow part 2

July 7, 2012

I have now got around all the 29 churches of the old Stow Deanery – It has been an enjoyable exercise which has taken me to some really lovely out of way places. It has been a privilege to step inside some of these places. Anyway, this is today’s crop-

St Leonard’s, Bledington – a real gem of a church. There is a good welcome in the and even drinks for sale to help thirsty walkers. Inside it is a bright welcoming place with a locally produced cook book on sale a history leaflet and, most importantly, a welcome notice which invites the visitor to pray for those who worship here. There is also a Book of Honour which outlines the stories of all the WW1 and WW2 servicemen who gave their lives. We cannot comprehend the impact of the WW1 losses, in particular, on a small community such as this. Almost every family would have been affected. 22 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. I would rate this church as good from the point of view of a visitor.

St. Mary’s, Icomb – this is a very well cared for church which was full of flowers from a wedding yesterday. It is a bit let down as there are no external signs but there is a welcome in the porch. There are a few leaflets about the faith inside but they are very old! There are some cards for sale and tatty paddle boards giving a bit of history. Only 6 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. I would rate this as just about OK – it wouldn’t take much effort to make this good and it is well worth visiting.

St. Lawrence, Wyck Rissington. As you approach the church there is just a basic sign, but it is open. There is a history leaflet, some cards for sale and some information on Gustav Holst who was organist here at one time. For children there are some dogged eared colouring sheets – presumable left over from some produced for a Sunday. Overall it is all quite poor which is a shame as this again a church worth seeking out. There is a great memorial on the North wall to Canon Harry Cheales, the creator of the original maze. There are also some very unusual circular stations of the Cross. Could do better ( a comment often made on my school reports).

Maze memorial

Then on to St Mary, Lower Swell. The signs are basic and there were no leaflets, although the lady who was there cleaning and doing the flowers told me that there is usually one around. 6 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. This is an unusual church as the Victorians built a large nave and chancel on the side of the existing church – so there are effectively two churches joined together. The friendly lady told me that the regular congregation of 12 use the old bit, which is much nicer. This does show how important it is for those who do the jobs at the church to be friendly and welcoming. My friend even left the lights on for me so that I could look around better (and told me how to switch them off when I left). This is important as I was made to feel very welcome. Even despite that, I think I have to give it a poor.

St. Mary’s, Upper Swell. A small, plain and simple country church. The signs were basic and there was no literature available inside. 7 people had signed the book in the last 3 months. A Bible was left open which is a nice touch. I would have to say that this counts as very poor.

St Edward, Evenlode. Again a simple country church with another flower lady/cleaner. The signs are basic and there is just a little bit of history inside. It is a lovely little church but again I would have to rate it as poor.

St David’s, Moreton in the Marsh. A much bigger church but rather disappointing from the point of view of the visitor. The signs give clear details about who the vicar is and when the services are but no welcome. The church was open and a wedding was due to start in an hour – the groom and his entourage were already there. There are some good things here – a good bookstall but no history booklets/leaflets. There is a display about Christianity Explored – a course of Christian basics usually put on by churches who feel that Alpha is all a bit liberal or charismatic for them! This is a well cared for church which is spotlessly clean inside. There is no visitor book. Overall I would rate this as OK.

St. Mary’s, Batsford. The problem with this church is getting to it. The village of Batsford is in the middle of a private estate. You drive down a tree lined drive to find a locked gate – try another way – also barred. Eventually, I managed to get there and it is worth the effort. A lovely eccentric church which was built with no expense spared. There was a welcome notice on the door but no sign outside at all. There was no visitors book but there were some lights left on and a CD of classical music being played – just like many French churches do. There is an open Bible and quite a bit to see. I would have to rate it as poorish (all very scientific this classification system).

St Leonard’s, Lower Lemington – a real gem this one. A tiny church in an insignificant village yet they have made efforts to welcome the visitor (only 2 had signed the visitors book in the last month. There is no external sign but a nice welcome in the porch. Even better is a simple display of local history arranged as a timeline. A great idea and very easy to do. They had used cards – hand written so it is nothing fancy but does bring the place to life. A good effort. I would rate this as OK +

2 more to go!

St. Thomas of Canterbury, Todenham. The signs are basic and inside there are some simple guides and cards for sale. 5 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. There are lots of interesting features in here which make it well worth a visit. It has a lovely atmosphere. One thing that caught my eye was a notice over the modern organ which says that this organ was bought solely from the proceeds of a race horse – ‘Pass the Peace, which won 4 races in 1988! Isn’t the church wonderful in all it’s eccentricities. There is an open Bible. I would rate this poor +but this could be a really good one.

The last one in the Stow Deanery – St Mary the Virgin, Westcote. Once again a great little church. Very simple sign outside but it is open. I had visited this church before and found very little information available. It had been cleared away for a wedding. I called in again and found a simple church guide, which concludes with a nice prayer;


Who comes here to visit this church do not leave it without a prayer.

Give thanks

to God for His blessings, for those in past ages built this place, and for all who worshipping here have gone forth to serve God truly in Church and State.

Offer yourself

In the service of God’s will and for the furtherance of His purposes of righteousness, truth and beauty.


To what the Lord God will say concerning you:’The Lord bless your going out and your coming in.’

There is also an interesting leaflet about The Westcote Convent 1927 – 1969. This gives the story of the Sisters of the Community of Jesus of Nazareth and the devoted and very hard lives they lead here.There is a plaque on the nave wall and they obviously had an impact.

All in all a lovely church with an interesting story to tell. I rate it as good.

That is the Stow Deanery done – a real mixture. There will be lots to write about.

On the way home I called in 3 churches.

All Saints, Churchill. A distinctive church right on the road through the village.There is a good welcome here for the visitor. When you enter the porch the lights come on. Open the door and there is a surprise. A modern Narthex, with a gallery above, has been built across the back of the church. It is very well done. Inside the nave there has been some sensitive re ordering which must make this a very useable building. There are some leaflets about the christian faith and 14 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. A lovely, re ordered, Victorian building. I would rate this as good.

St. Mary the Virgin, Chipping Norton. Basic signs outside but a good welcome in the porch. They have made a real effort for visitors here. There are the usual range of Oxford Diocesan leaflets (and very good they are) + a guide + a rack of various other leaflets about faith. The creche is left set up for children to use – a good touch. There was a good display about the Jubilee by the local school, and about the last 60 years and how things had changed. This is a good use of the church’s space. There is also a discipleship display and one on the many memorials in the church. Also an extensive history folder. As if this wasn’t enough there is a prayer corner with a ‘Prayer Tree’ and some small crosses to take away. All very good and shows that a lot of thought has gone into making this historic building accessible. But I think that the best thing is the photo you can see opposite. It is a simple, hand written, message which says;

‘Welcome Visitor

Even if you do not share the faith which has been celebrated on this site for nearly 1000 years…We welcome you to enjoy the beauty of this place and the quietness and peace which we hope will be a reward for your time here.’

Welcome Gerald Forse

One of the Churchwardens 2.7.12

Says it all really. Anybody could do this, you don’t need a computor or a laminator. It costs nothing but speaks volumes. Gerald, I salute you sir! I would rate this church as very good. It is certainly the best I have so far come across.

St. Mary’s, North Leigh. Famous for it’s ‘Doom’ painting on the chancel arch. Signage OK, welcome in the porch. Inside are the usual Oxford Diocesan leaflets, a history and a children’s worksheet – at last, some acknowledgement that people bring children along on their church visits. 10 people had signed the book in the last month. There is a prayer corner in the Wilcote Chapel and even a toilet! This is an interesting church to visit. I would rate it as good to very good, or good + or very good – if you prefer.


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