Our photograph shows the square brick tower and the west door of St.
Mary's parish church in the small village of Shinfield near Reading.
The original church was built in 1069 by the Lord of the Manor, a
Norman knight who was installed by William the Conqueror. It was rebuilt
in 1170 and the present north doorway survives from that time. The
tower was built in 1630. During the English Civil War, in 1643, it
was badly damaged by cannon balls fired by the Roundheads; soldiers
supporting the King were sheltering inside. The bells were destroyed
and the terrible damage caused, still visible in the brickwork, meant
it was rebuilt in 1664.
Writing in 1806, Daniel Lysons said that part of the parish of Shinfield
is "an insulated district of Wiltshire". ... "Richard
Pigot founded a school at Shinfield, in 1707, and endowed it with
42l [£] per annum, for the education of 20 poor children"
("Magna Britannica of Berkshire").
In 1854 the village was descibed thus:
"Shinfield is a large village and parish 4 miles south-east of
Reading, in the hundred of Charlton. ... The church is an ancient
edifice, with low tower, nave, south aisle and chancel; the interior
is plain and contains several monuments. Here is a Wesleyan chapel,
and a National School, also a Free school, endowed by Mr. William
Piggott, a citizen of London, for the education of 29 boys, who are
clothed on the 30th of May annually ..."(Kelly's Directory).
We visited Shinfield on one of those late
Spring days that is a mixture of sunshine and showers
so the photo on the left is rather darker than we'd hoped.
It shows the tower from another angle and includes the
lovely church porch.
Several generations of the Exell family, descending
from the children of Thomas Exell, were baptised here.
The Exell's moved to nearby Reading at the beginning
of the 19th century. The Shinfield parish registers also
record members of the Hawksworth family living in the
There is more information on this website:
notes on the text:
 Lysons Daniel, "Magna
Britannica of Berkshire", reprinted 1978, EP Publishing
Ltd., East Ardsley, Wakefield, West Yorkshire ISBN 0 71588 1313 ,
 "Post Office Directory
of Berkshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire ... " (1854),
Kelly and Co., 19 and 20 Old Boswell Court, Temple Bar, London, p361