The Village of Asthall was a Roman settlement on the military road between Cirencester and Bicester where the road crossed the river Windrush and was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as having two mills which showed its relatively large size and importance. ” Esthale” was held for the King by Roger D’Ivery and from 1443 until the end of the 19th Century, Eton College was the patron of the living.
There is still a pub in the village ” The Maytime ” run by May and Tim who have been welcoming their guests for 20 years or so and the Manor was the one time home of the Mitford Sisters of 1930’s fame and notoriety – the last remaining sister, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire having given one of the new bells in memory of her brother and sisters who are all buried in Swinbrook churchyard.
The church is of great architectural interest and beauty, retaining portions from each notable building period and dates from the early 1100s. It is classified as a grade 2* monument. In the North Chapel there is an effigy of Lady Joan Cornwall, wife of Edward Cornwall, grandson of King John. The Tower was later added in C15th and a ring of three Medieval Bells cast at Wokingham hung early in the century. We think one of the bells was recast in 1859 by John Taylor of Loughborough after fire damage which destoyed the rood loft and re-hung when the church was “Victorianised” in 1884 with pine pews and encaustic floor tiles. Much of the medieval glass was also sacrificed to add to the memorials of local families. The old clock was taken out of the tower 20 years ago and placed on display in the nave after being restored. It is of great horological significance having been built by a local blacksmith in the 1670’s and served the church for 250 years. It had neither hands or dial but chimed the hours on the tenor bell and had to be wound every day by climbing the 70 stairs to the clock chamber The organ was built by Walker in 1848 and is a rare example ( a Sopwith Camel of the organ world !) – restored by Boggis of Diss, Norfolk in 1973 and re-sited to its present position so that the incumbent vicar at that time could play both the organ and conduct the service ! Badly needs re-siting now that the ringing floor and ringers are visible to the congregation behind a glass screen but it would be an expensive task.
The ringing floor is built above the vestry with an access via a steep oak staircase in the vestry and through a trapdoor into the ringing chamber. There is not much room for extra ringers.
This is ring of six light bells installed in January 2006 and dedicated by the Bishop of Dorchester in March 2006.
(Cwt-Qrs-Lbs) Tenor 6-0-10 C15th Wokingham Foundry A 5th 4-1-0 C15th Wokingham Foundry B 4th 3-2-20 1859 John Taylor, Loughborough C# 3rd 3-3-12 2005 Whitchapel Bellfoundry D 2nd 3-0-21 2005 Whitechapel Bellfoundry E Treble 2-3-21 2005 Whitechapel Bellfoundry F# Sanctus c 1/2 cwt 1640 James Keene - Woodstock F