Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Cotswolds - Swinbrook

Swinbrook village cricket green in the Cotswolds by Martyn Ferry Photography

Swinbrook is a small village on the River Windrush, about two miles east of Burford. Apparently untouched for generations, it is the quintessential English village with its stone walls, pretty church, cricket pitch with wooden pavilion (above), and an old stone pub next to the historic bridge across the River Windrush, the architecture is typically Cotswolds with cottages of warm-toned stone.

The Oxfordshire Cotswold village of Swinbrook by Martyn Ferry Photography
The centre of the village, with a tiny village green on the right and a pathway that leads to the church.

The picturesque little village of Swinbrook (or "pig brook") at one time would have been on the edge of the Wychwood Forest, and no doubt swine, grazing in the forest, would have used the brook for water. The 'brook' is the little Swine Brook which flows down a narrow valley from the Seven Springs a couple of miles to the north, collecting water from a number of other springs on its way down to meet the Windrush.

It is easy to overlook Swinbrook while touring Oxfordshire, it is set in a quiet dell, and very tucked away. Apart from a village pub, it has very little in the way of 'attractions' which is no bad thing. The village has a timeless quality about it, and the lack of tourists only adds to that.

St Mary's church in the Cotswold village of Swinbrook by Martyn Ferry Photography
The church of Saint Mary the Virgin. 

The Church of England parish church of Saint Mary the Virgin dates from about 1200. Its unusual open-sided Georgian bell-tower was added in 1822, and was built in a mere six weeks.

David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale had Swinbrook House built 1.5 miles north of the village. Four of his six famous daughters are buried in the parish churchyard: Nancy, Unity, and Diana are buried side by side, while Pamela is buried northwest of the tower.

The interior of St Mary's church in the Cotswold village of Swinbrook by Martyn Ferry Photography
The interior of the church.

St. Mary's overlooks the village from a vantage point reached by climbing some steps opposite the village hall. The church is noted for the 17th century monuments to members of the Fettiplace family which are reclining in three tiers near the alter. 

Memorials to the Fettiplace family at Swinbrook church by Martyn Ferry Photography
Grand memorials to the Fettiplace family.

The Fettiplace family, who were of Norman descent, were one of the biggest landowning families in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and were reputed to own property in 15 counties. No trace now remains of their manor house, but the monuments are a striking reminder of just how powerful and wealthy the family once was. Each tomb shows three male Fettiplaces, recumbent - and looking anything but comfortable - upon stone or marble shelves.

Many of the medieval windows were destroyed through the reverberations from a World War II bomb. What remains, however, is interesting. There are the images of angels, which are notable for their distinctive facial expressions, unique in Oxfordshire.

The Swan Inn at the Cotswold village of Swinbrook by Martyn Ferry Photography
The Swan Inn.

At the southern edge of the village, on the banks of the River Windrush, is The Swan. It is owned by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire’s estate, the last of the Mitford sisters, and along with the neighbouring cottage, forms the residual part of the estate inherited by the family at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Photographs around the pub celebrate the connections to the Mitfords and village life. The Swan made an appearance in the popular television series Downton Abbey. 

Oxfordshire Cotswold landscape around the village of Swinbrook by Martyn Ferry Photography
Oxfordshire countryside just outside Swinbrook.

Cotswold stone wall and Cotswold signpost under a blue sky by Martyn Ferry Photography
Cotswolds signpost next to a Cotswold stone wall,
it doesn't get much quainter than that!

There are more explorations of cotswold villages to come, and you can see images from the beautiful Cotswolds countryside on my website.

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