Two Churches on the River Windrush

The March photo on the Slow Europe Home Page, taken last summer in the Cotswolds (England), is a Norman doorway in the church in Windrush. The day I took that photo, we visited two villages with exceptional churches – Swinbrook and Windrush.


Swinbrook, a small village on the River Windrush east of Burford, was made famous by the Mitford sisters who grew up in nearby Asthall in the early part of the 20th century and are buried in the Swinbrook church (all but one who is still with us). The photo shows the graves of Nancy, Unity and Diana near the entrance to the church.

Nancy Mitford wrote the novels “The Pursuit of Love” (1945) and  “Love in a Cold Climate” (1949).

Mitford graves at Swinbrook, England
Mitford graves at Swinbrook, England

The Swinbrook church is well worth a visit. It has a large Perpendicular window on the east side which floods the church with light. Inside is the exceptional Fettiplace Monument with two 17th century three-decker wall tombs. The tombs have statues of the persons within, showing them laying on their side looking out to the church, instead of the traditional laying on their back on top of the tomb, looking towards heaven. There are also medieval chancel stalls. See my photos of the Swinbrook Church.

“A delectable village, whose rough sloping green is enlivened by a small stream, and whose church must on no account be passed by.”
The Complete Cotswolds, a Jarrold White Horse Guide

The Swan Inn is an excellent pub in Swinbrook, on the river and near the church. We had a wonderful lunch there last year on a rainy Friday in May. The food and service are very good and the atmosphere is casual. This is a beautiful pub in an historic building (it was once the Swinbrook mill) and is still owned by one of the Mitford sisters. The Swan also offers rooms in a nearby renovated farm building. When we were there in 2009 they were putting the finishing touches on the rooms and we got to look at them – lovely!


Further up the river, going west and a few miles past Burford, is the small village of Windrush. In the center of the village is a triangular village green and the church. There is not much beside houses in this village – you have to go to the next village to find a pub. Windrush is well worth a visit just to see the Norman doorway on the church.

Windrush Church
Windrush Church

The church has a Perpendicular tower, a Jacobean pulpit (when Kings James I ruled from 1603 – 1625), and a 15th century font. See my photos of the Windrush Church.

“Its outstanding treasure is the beautiful Norman south doorway, with its double row of grotesque beakheads, one of the best in the Cotswolds.”
The Complete Cotswolds, a Jarrold White Horse Guide

Short History and Architecture Lesson

The Norman period in England went from 1066 to 1154. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, won by the Duke of Normandy (France), four Norman kings ruled the country – William I and II, Henry I, Stephen. The Domesday Book, a record of English land-holding, was published in 1086. Many Cotswolds churchs have Norman origins and some of these parts remain (St John in Elkstone, Malmesbury Abbey, St Peter in Windrush). Norman architecture is also called Romanesque.

The style of Gothic Architecture started in the Middle Ages and went into the Tudor era (1180 – 1520). It is broken down into three eras: Early English 1180 – 1275, Decorated 1275 – 1380 and Perpendicular 1380 – 1520. Many of the Cotswold Wool Churches are in the Perpendicular style (Cirencester, Chipping Campden).

From Cotswolder – British History and Architecture Timeline.


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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

4 thoughts on “Two Churches on the River Windrush”

  1. Great post Pauline! I’ve also been very intrigued by the Mitford sisters and the village of Swinbrook, and we visited there again this summer. It’s such a tiny, quiet place. I recently re-read the book “The Sisters” about the Mitford sisters, partly because I like the connection to the Cotswolds but I also find the family story fascinating. Before moving to Asthall, the family lived at Batsford in Moreton-on-Marsh.

    (The first interaction I ever had with you, years ago, was on a Slow Travel post about the Mitford sisters!)

  2. I ordered “Love in a Cold Climate” from Netflix – will be interesting to see if they filmed it in the area.

    Kathy, I have not read “The Sisters” but did read the two Nancy Mitford novels. Our mutual friend Wendy knows everything about the Mitfords and when we all had lunch in The Swan Inn we were pleased to see a lot of old photos of the Mitfords.

    Colleen, they are not creepy in person – they are really beautiful. And they are hidden away on a small door. That is one of the things I love about the Cotswolds – there are many wonderful historic things but you have to hunt to find them (and read the great local guidebooks). An Historical Treasure Hunt.

    We will be in the Cotswolds for five months this summer and I am excited beyond belief about this trip!!

  3. Pauline, I have always wanted to visit England! This was a great post helping me to refresh the so many reasons I want to visit along with several more new one’s! I love people that can motivate life and travel through their words and photos. Thanks so much for the lesson and inspiration. Keep it up!

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