Saints' is mostly mid and late 14th century, but extensively added to in
Victorian times. There is no doubt that on this site there was once an earlier
Norman Church, the only relic from that particular time being the bowl of
the font, probably in its original position near the old North door (Devil's
Door, where supposedly the devil would fly out at the baptism of infants).
Having said that the font was in its original place, it was actually moved
slightly and its two-tier pedestal removed. During this move, a vault was
discovered, containing 7 coffins. It was found to be the vault of the Williamson
family of Popesfield in Binfield. Apparently, in 1747, Lady Elizabeth Williamson
applied for a faculty to build a vault under her pew (or seat) at the west
end of the church (Churchwardens' presentments, Bodleian Library, Oxford).
There was some evidence of a priest of Binfield, Walterus, Sacerdos de Benetfeld or Walterus, Presbiter de Benetfeld, pre-1162. Early records suggested the church then belonged to the Augustinian Abbey of Cirencester. Meaning that all monies due to the church were property of the Abbey.
In 1291 Edward 1st was granted by Pope Nicholas IV one-tenth of all ecclesiastical revenues for six years. Benetfeld was assess at £8, one-tenth being 16s., 8s of which was paid by the Abbey of Cirencester. In 1315, Thos. de Thorp was presented with the living by the Abbot of Cirencester, an injunction was issued in the King's Court prohibiting the Abbot from admitting a Parson to the Church of Benetfeld, said to be vacant, concerning the advowson of which a suit was commenced in the Court, between Queen Margaret and the Abbot of Cirencester. The Queen nominated Adam de Eglesford. By 1388, Rector John Staverton was presented to the living by the King, there was no Abbot of Cirenceter at that time.
The porch of the church is mid 14th century, constructed from timber. It once stood on the north side of the church. There are carvings in the timber. From the porch, you enter the south door, made of chalk stone, the arch has carvings of flowers and leaves.
The square tower, until quite recently, had a lead lining to the roof with the date 1775 with four initials added, the belfry arch is 15th century. Most of the pillars of the south aisle are underpinned, whilst others are in their original state. Restoration of the tower had been carried out, including the building of a new stair turret, donated by Mr. Charles Parker of The Grove. and was complete by 1862. Archdeacon Randall's children continued the restoration work in his memory, having Pemberton Leach as the architect, advised to them by Sir Arthur Blomfield.
The church clock was made by William Lawrence, Thame (middle 18th century) and still has its original wrought-iron frame.
From existing drawings, one can see at the east end of the Sanctuary and the St Catherine chapel were continuous (14th century), and before rebuilding work was done, the east end of the south aisle was used as a vestry with an organ loft above it, but before that it was a Chantry Chapel, founded by Robert Broke for the soul of his father Richard Broke and all Christian souls. Apparently money was paid by the Manor of Deepers for a priest to officiate (now Allanbay).
The windows of the church are from different times, the east window of St Catherine's Chapel is 15th century and was taken from the north wall. The architect's report of 1928 suggested that in about 1860 the glass of the east window of St Catherine's Chapel was taken out and given to a London church and replaced with German glass. The six tracery lights, which were not considered valuable, were stored in a Binfield barn, later found and put back in the southeast window of the south wall. The two largest panels represent the Annunciation, another two represent St Peter and St Paul and a smaller pair, St George and St John the Evangelist. The window at the east end is said to be the oldest window, 1350. The last medieval glass is situated by the south aisle. All the other windows appear to be Victorian.
The barrel-shaped timber roof of the Chancel is mid 14th century. Possibly the work of Walter de Anneford, for he was buried beneath the floor of the Chancel.
There were at one time, square pews located in the Chancel, which were removed by Archdeacon Randall (1831 - 1859), and during 1847 the roof was opened up. In 1847, Benjamin Ferrey, carhitect, made plans to remove the galleries, reseating the church and build a new north aisle. The first stone was laid on July 15th 1848 by Mr. Lowndes. The church was reopened on 19th December that year by Bishop Wilberforce of Oxford.
In 1859, Benjamin Ferrey was commissioned to pull down the present vestry also to take down and rebuild the south Arcade. The south aisle was shortened and St Catherine's Chapel was remade.
Other renovations were carried out over the years, and different companies were employed to do such works, ie. Messrs Heaton & Butler and Messrs Verity & Co. Various donations were made, particularly from people who did so in remembrance of a loved one. An example of this is the hourglass stand on the pulpit, a very rare example of hammered ironwork, bearing the arms of the Smiths & Farriers Company and an unidentified coat. It is beautifully decorated with oak leaves and acorns, showing a rising sun and 2 Tudor dragons, apparently there is a similar one at Hurst dating back to 1636, it is possible that the two were done by the same family. There were a number of families in Hurst at that time with the trade of blacksmith, so could this be related to the coat of arms? Another beautiful monument in the church is the half-length figure of a priest, Water de Anneford, Rector before 1361. The inscription is in Norman French "WATER DE ANNEFORDHE GIST ICY - DIEU DE SA ALME EIT MERCY". This particular brass monument is said to be the oldest in Berkshire, and a rubbing from it is held at Oxford University. Today, it is not allowed to take rubbings as over many years, the brass is beginning to wear. Another brass is the Turner Brass, a fragment of brass situated on the south wall of the church, believed to be in a position as near as possible to its original position, it was found and mounted by Canon Savory. It is a palimpsest brass, being fragments of three brasses. In his will of September 10th 1588, Richard Turner requested to be buried in the Chapel of Our Lady St Mary in the Parish Church of All Saints. On the reverse of the brass Mill Stephenson F.S.A. has dated it between 1400 and 1420.
There is a display case was on the north side of St Catherine's Chapel, now at the east end of the north aisle containing a Breeches Bible, donated by a former rector, and a Paraphrase of Erasmus. Before it was kept in the case, it was chained to a pillar in the west end of the church. On one of the pages is the name John Hathorne 1633. It seems he was an ancestor of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the American author. Also in the case there are two 17th century pewter flagons, one of these has the stamp of St Christopher. There are also two wooden alms boxes from the same period.
The 14th century wooden angle (The Billingbear Angel) can be seen over the doorway in the south porch. This angel became the operty of the church shortly after the first world war, when Billingbear Park was demolished. It was first used in the church as a leg to the credence table in St Catherine's Chapel. There is a strong case for supposing that this was originally a church ornament.
The church bells still ring out today for services and weddings. In 1822 the five original bells were made up to six. 1910, three of the old vier were recase and the bells were rehung in a new wrought-iron frame. The lettering on the 1910 bells shows the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Messrs Mears & Stainbank.
There are so many interesting items in the church and well worth a visit, more alterations and repairs are continually being carried out, but the church remains a major location of beauty and history. The Marriage and Burial register dates back to 1538. The Baptismal from 1551. It is noted that some pages are missing, those dates between 1618 and 1682, these pages were said to have been torn out by a former claimant to the Angell property.
The churchyard has become a wild flower sanctuary, there are at least 23 different species of flower. Birds too, sing happily in this tranquil garden. There are some interesting graves there, some of famous people, some of whom, have memorials in the church, such people as Catherine Macaulay, writer of eight volumes of history from the accession of James I to 1742. Also Henry Dyson Gabell, Headmaster of Winchester and Rector at Binfield in 1821.