Swyncombe Church

Home / Places / Holy / Swyncombe Church

Small but perfectly formed

[ Panorama view of the chancel in St. Botolph's Church ]

St. Botolph's, Swyncombe is an early Norman church tucked away in an idyllic valley not far from the village of Ewelme near Wallingford in Oxfordshire. I visited the place first in March 2003 and was immediately enchanted, returning again in August 2004. The stunning interior is seen here lit by incandescent light giving a more yellowish glow than in reality, photographed with long exposures on an analogue film camera with tripod - it was actually still daytime outside! The geometric wall-paintings around the hemispherical altar end (click to enlarge this image or this panoramic view) look very old, and are somehow reminiscent of something one would be more likely to see on beautiful Islamic tiles or architecture than in an English church.

[ Looking west up the aisle towards the font from under the rood screen | Looking east down the aisle towards the rood screen from near the doorway | View of the chancel from behind the cross hung by invisible wires above the altar | Ancient wall paintings behind the altar | Candlestick in one window - you wouldn't guess it was daylight outside | Candles in another window - daylight can just be seen through this one | Central view of the altar | Rood screen and pews in St. Botolphs's Church ]

The outside of the building is a marked contrast to the lavish interior, appearing humble and simple, and also quite macabre on this dark March day (left); it could almost be a graveyard scene in a horror film! One might ponder this interesting duality as a metaphor for the harshness of our cruel external world, while within the mind(/Faith) one finds spiritual peace and beauty.

[ Eerie view of the graveyard looking quite scary on a bleak day ] [ Swyncombe Church from the southeast | Swyncombe Church seen from the south ]These newer exterior photos (right) date from my latter trip on a sunnier day that makes the building look a lot less gothic and terrifying.

If The Church ever gets any ideas about selling up, this building would make an absolutely wonderful studio space for me :-)

There are other churches dedicated to Saint Botolph, most notably Boston Stump in Lincolnshire which I also photographed.

© copyright Malcolm Smith 2007-08-17 - last updated 2011-12-29