St Mary’s Uffington The Cathedral of the Vale

Map of the Route : Click on the link below for an annotated map of the route


The Route

1. Start: Thomas Hughes Memorial Hall, SU306894. Walk left from the car park, cross the road and follow Broad Street towards the church, passing the current primary school

2. St Mary’s Church, SU302892. Walk through the church gates and take time to enjoy the exterior and interior of this ecclesiastical gem. Retrace your steps to the gate, turn right and walk to the museum

Tom Brown’s School Museum,  SU302892.  Learn about the history and archaeology of the local area and see the mementoes of Hughes, Betjeman and others. Go back to the church gates and follow the tarmac path to go through the burial ground and head for a stile


3. SU300893. With the allotments front right negotiate the wire fence and cross the footbridge to reach the road to Fernham

4. SU300894. Cross the road and walk through the driveway of The Craven, cross the ditch to reach the field. Follow the path across the field, aiming to the right of the main farm buildings and to the left of the barn. Continue past the farm and after about a further 200 yards look for a gap in the hedge to the left which takes you to the road

5.SU297891. Cross the road and follow the footpath sign across the field  towards the field boundary, with the White Horse in the distance.


6.  A gap in the trees takes you across a footbridge. Cross this and follow the path through the field

7. SU295886. Cross the footbridge and follow the stream. Cross the stile, follow the field boundary to another stile, another field and a stile and footbridge and then across a large field to a gate onto the road – Marsh Way. It is here that we diverge from the planned route.

8. SU290885. Turn left on Marsh Way and follow the road into Woolstone, which after a left bend eventually reaches The White Horse Inn

9. White Horse Inn: Walk past the pub and turn right. Notice the large unusual house on the left – there’s a story! Follow the signs to the church and enjoy! Retrace your steps, past the unusual house and turn right

10. SU295879. Walk past some very old and attractive houses and, as the road bends to the left take the marked footpath to the right and follow it across three fields to meet the road, Broadway.

11. SU304881. Cross the road and follow the path across the field to a crossing of paths

12. SU 308880. Turn left and follow the path across four fields. Take a left fork to reach the road – Broadway – again.

13. SU305890. Look at the houses on the left to notice a Blue Plaque – a former home of John Betjeman. Now make for the pub!


Historical Notes

A   The Village: Appears in mid 10th century boundary charters, and had strong connections with Abingdon Abbey, owners of the Manor through the Middle Ages. The Uffington estate was bought by Elizabeth Craven  in 1630, starting a 300 year connection between the village, the family and nearby Ashdown House (NT). The common lands of Uffington, Baulking (east) and Woolstone (west) were enclosed in 1776

B   The Church: St Mary’s:             “The Cathedral of the Vale”. Early English/Gothic, 13th century – little altered since it was built around 1250, most probably as an outpost of Abingdon Abbey.  “Oh Uffington, poor people – got a church without a steeple! But what’s more, to its disgrace, got a clock without a face!”

Architectural features: Large overall size, side chapels, richly decorated chancel/plain nave, Early English windows, narrow and often in threes, pointed arches, Hexagonal tower – which replaced the steeple lost in an 18th century storm. “There was Uffington Steeple, beat down by a tempas wind, thunder and liten”

Look out for:

Internal                                Memorial to, and effigy of, Thomas Saunders, founder of the village school in 1617. The Saunders family were responsible for extensive restorations in the 17th century. Monument to Thomas Hughes. Old oil lamps, saved by John Betjeman – a churchwarden –  who also paid for the cleaning of the painting of the Royal Arms by Angel Lockey (1761).

External                               The South Porch – carving of Cathedral quality, carvings of Alfred the Great and St George (1975, Heidi Lloyd) in the niches, and the Thatcher memorials – with more to come! The clock – with a face! The workings of the original “faceless” clock are on display in the south transept

External                               The South Porch – carving of Cathedral quality, carvings of Alfred the Great and St George (1975, Heidi Lloyd) in the niches, and the Thatcher memorials – with more to come! The clock – with a face! The workings of the original “faceless” clock are on display in the south transept

C  The School: Tom Brown’s Museum: Where Thomas Hughes began his educational journey – the school was the model for Tom Brown’s first school. The museum explains the history and the archaeology of the area, and has mementoes of Hughes and Betjeman, as well as a large collection of old photographs and computer presentations.

D  The Roman Villa: In 1884 a Roman Villa was discovered during Steam Ploughing and excavations undertaken by the Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society found a 34 metre wall and two separate rooms with mosaic floors. Little was recorded and further excavations took place in 1955, but again no permanent marker was left.

E  Hardwell Lane: An ancient track to the east of Hardwell Farm, which has been documented since Domesday. Records suggest that little has changed in terms of boundaries and pathways since the 10th century. The lane leads up to Icknield Way (B4507) and then to

F  Hardwell Camp: an Iron Age Fort, now planted with mixed woodland.

G  The White Horse Inn:  16th Century Inn – one of the oldest in the country, thatched roof and oak beams. Thomas Hughes is said to have done much of his writing here.

H  All Saints Church: The other end of the scale to St Mary’s, All Saints is a tiny late Norman church, built in 1195 for St Swithun’s Priory, Winchester. Much of the basic structure remains unchanged. Look out for the lead font (possibly part of the original building), the stone grotesques either side of the chancel arch and the piscine on the south side of the chancel

I  A Blue Plaque to mark the one-time home of Sir John Betjeman


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