South Downs Gateway Churches

A Brief History of Twyford

Taken from a framed notice in the Church

Twyford, the place of two fords, is noted in the Domesday Book (Twyforde). The Bishop of Winchester then held it in demesne, and it was declared to have been always a part of the possession of his See. And further within the demesne of Twyford was a manor, which possessed at that time a Church, six mills and pasturage for fifteen swine, the whole worth £15 a year.

This manor remained in the possession of the Bishops of Winchester until 1551 when bishop Poynet surrendered it to Edward VI. Perhaps subsequent events reveal why the Bishop parted with so ancient a possession of the See, for in the following year, the king bestowed the manor to Sir Henry Seymour Kt. who held an adjoining manor. Now he was the King’s uncle, being the brother of Lady Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII, and mother of Edward VI. It is probable that Sir Henry wished to extend his estates, and induced the young King to request this gift from the Bishop and then to hand it on to himself.

In the middle of the 17th Century, these manors passed into the possession of the Mildmay family by purchase from the Seymours. Sir Henry Mildmay Kt. descendent of the founder of Emmanuel College Cambridge, had been a great favourite of Charles I. He was appointed one of the judges when the King was brought to trial, and although he only sat for one day, and did not sign the warrant for the King’s execution, he was treated with great severity at the Restoration and banished from the kingdom. The property at Twyford was, however, his wife’s and therefore exempt from forfeiture and descended to his son who presented the benefice to Emmanuel College, but with the provision that the right of presenting the Vicar to the Bishop be retained by the holders of the manor of Twyford, as it is to this day.

The first known building on this site was the Saxon Church mentioned in the Domesday Book. About the year 1200 it was replaced by a Norman Church of which pillars and capitals are retained in the present building.

At the close of the 14th Century, extensive repairs had been necessary and John de Campeden, secretary and companion of William of Wykeham, contributed substantially to the renewal of the chancel which was re-consecrated in 1402 by Thomas, Bishop of Crispolitan. The East window, and priest’s doorway, which are the Lady Chapel window and vestry door respectively of the present Church, are part of that work and believed to be by Simon Membury, Clerk of Works to William of Wykeham. Restoration of the nave was undertaken in 1520 of which there now remains the beautiful square-headed window in the vestry.

In 1878, the old Church was taken down and the present Church built to the design of Mr. A. Waterhouse in which he retained the original Norman arcades and the best of the earlier work as already described.

Tradition maintains that a druidical temple stood here before the first Christian Church. When the old Church was taken down in 1878, twelve druid stones were found at the foundations of the Norman tower, and are still there.

The Church has been served by an unbroken succession of Vicars since 1301, and its interesting registers go back to 1627, while of particular interest is an Elizabethan seating plan. Two mural monuments are of exquisite workmanship, one by Flaxman to Georgiana Hare Naylor containing a most pleasing inscription, and the other by Nollikins to her father, Bishop Jonothan Shipley, friend and host to Benjamin Franklin, when he wrote part of his diary in Twyford.

A peal of eight bells hangs in the tower and is associated with the romantic story of William Davies who, with his horse, was saved from falling into a pit in the fog by hearing the sound of the bells. He endowed an annual dinner for the ringers’, which is held to this day.

Finally there is a noble yew tree which graces the Churchyard. It is reputed to be 1000 years old, though considered by experts to be somewhat less. Even so, it is the oldest and most magnificent clipped yew tree in the country.



Location Morestead, Owslebury, Twyford, Colden Common. Benefice Office: Holy Trinity Church Centre, 154 Main Road, Colden Common SO21 1TJ Phone 01962 715172
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