St Swithins



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Prepare yourself for surprises when you go into this church. From the outside nothing looks untoward, except that the tower is clearly Saxon, and the whole of the rest of the building is obviously very much later. In fact, the body of the church was built in the 1840s by architect Benjamin Ferrey. It has a nave and north aisle, both with very high, dark roofs. And it is in the dimness of these roofs that the surprises lurk: there are carved angels in the nave, and eight enormous elephant heads in the aisle. They are here because the man paying for the new church, William Nicholson, saw four papier mâché elephant heads at an exhibition in Paris, thought they would look good in the church, and had four more specially made to go with them. The decor in the rest of the church is exuberant, but it’s the elephants that stay in the memory.

St Swithins


About The area

Discover Berkshire

Berkshire essentially consists of two distinct parts. The western half is predominantly rural, with the Lambourn Downs spilling down to the River Lambourn and the Berkshire Downs to the majestic Thames. The eastern half of Berkshire may be more urban but here, too, there is the opportunity to get out and savour open spaces. Windsor Great Park and Maidenhead Thicket are prime examples. Threading their way through the county are two of the South’s prettiest rivers – the Lambourn and the Pang. Beyond the tranquil tow paths of the Kennet and Avon Canal, Greenham Common’s famous airbase has been transformed to delight walkers of all ages.

Reading and Newbury are the county’s major towns, and the River Kennet flows through them both. Reading is a vibrant, multicultural centre with great shopping and plenty of history. Oscar Wilde was incarcerated in Reading prison in the late 19th century, and wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol about his experience. Newbury is probably best known for its race course, which opened in 1905, although the first recorded racing at Newbury was a century before that. Famous people born in the county include Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Winlset and Ricky Gervais.

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