Church of St Stephen


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
SE corner of the cross-roads in Shefford Woodlands, RG17 7AS


Ordnance survey map of Church of St Stephen
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
SE corner of the cross-roads in Shefford Woodlands, RG17 7AS
West Berkshire (Unitary Authority)
Great Shefford
National Grid Reference:


Former Wesleyan Methodist chapel of 1837, consecrated as an Anglican church in 1910-11, with post-First World War commemorative timber decoration and stained glass windows to the nave.

Reasons for Designation

The church of St Stephen, built in 1837, altered in 1911 and embellished after the First World War, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Interior fixtures and fittings: for the bespoke ensemble of carved woodwork, stained glass windows and memorials commemorating the fallen of the First World War from this community, and the font of Saxon origin; * Historic interest: as an act of commemoration of the tragic events of the First World War and the impact on this small hamlet; * Rarity: as a highly unusual set of commemorative pieces commissioned and executed by local people to meet their needs.


The church was built in 1837 as a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. It fell into disuse by the end of the C19 and in 1910 was acquired by local resident and benefactor, Captain Burmester, to convert into a church for the inhabitants of Shefford Woodlands to save them the walk to and from the parish church in the valley below.

It was consecrated for use by the Church of England in 1911 at which time two short transepts and a north porch and entrance were added, the latter replacing the chapel entrance at the west end. The stained glass windows at the east end are a memorial to the Carden family and that at the west end was donated by Mr Stephen Waldron; both date to the consecration. The dedication stone states ‘To the glory of God and in loving memory of Caroline Mary, wife of Major-General A. E. Burmester, C.B., and youngest daughter of the Rev. Charles Batson Coxe, sometime Rector of Avington and East Shefford, this House of God was dedicated 28th February, 1911.’

In the years after the First World War, the interior was converted into a memorial to men from Shefford Woodlands, or closely associated with it, who had died during the conflict. Stained glass memorial windows on the south wall of the nave and carved pews and wall panelling were installed, much of it by Captain Burmester, perhaps to designs by his wife Alicia, with carving on the main door and Tree of Life by Joan Dewe, a daughter of the Revd Dewe, rector between 1923 and 1935. A date of 1935 on the wall panelling near to the pulpit suggests that this work continued over a period of time.

The benefactor who purchased the church for the hamlet and his wife are commemorated by stained glass and memorials of 1946 and 1948.


Formerly a Methodist chapel of 1837, converted into a Church of England church in 1910-11.

MATERIALS: brick with a rough-cast render and stone dressings, and a slate covering to the roof.

PLAN: nave with a sanctuary at the east end; short transepts to the north and south and a porch to the north elevation were added in 1910-11.

EXTERIOR: the church has a gabled roof with a cross finial at the east end and coped parapets to the east and west; the latter angular with a raised centre. The principal north elevation has a gabled entrance porch with arched opening, surmounted by a cross finial. Attached to the wall to the right (west) of the porch is a bell protected by a bracketed timber hood. On the north and south elevations of the nave are two, single round-headed windows with stone surrounds and stained glass. The west elevation has a central, round-headed window; the east end has three windows, all with stained glass. Both the north and south transepts have pent roofs, lit by a single occuli and two pairs of round-headed windows with diamond leaded-lights.

INTERIOR: the church interior is plainly embellished, with quarry tile and timber floor coverings and a timber-clad ceiling supported on stone corbels, with carved bosses over the sanctuary.

At the east end, the sanctuary has a raised floor of encaustic tiles, generally red with interspersed tiles with yellow Fleur de Llys. Carved wall panels depicting linen-fold in relief with a red-painted background have an intricate carved frieze above, topped by finials. There are carved menorah on either side of the sanctuary opening. The east end windows depict Christ in Majesty centrally flanked by Saints and are dedicated to members of the Carden family. The altar is said to be Elizabethan, brought here from Great Shefford church; the altar rails are probably late C20. To the rear of the choir pews is coffered panelling; the pews have simple carving.

The nave has distinctive half-height panelling with carved friezes with lettering in relief on a red-painted background, thought to be created by Captain Burmester to commemorate the community’s fallen soldiers. On the north side, the carved frieze reads ‘Herewithall shall a young man cleanse his way even by ruling himself after thy word’ continuing on the south side ‘and take heed unto the thing that is right for that shall bring a man peace at the last’. Next to the pulpit on the north side are the symbols of alpha, omega and the Chi-Rho. The date of the panelling is given as 1935. At the west end it reads ‘All things come to an end but thy commandments are exceeding broad’ beneath which is a carved Tree of Life, by Joan Dewe.

Each fixed pew bears the carved name of each of the fallen, the location, date and age at their death. The main door carved by Joan Drewe has the three magi and carved jambs topped by figures of wise men and kings.

The manufacturers of the stained glass are unknown but the pieces are bespoke. The windows on the south wall of the nave depict war and peace; the war window includes an illustration of the ruins of Ypres, while the peace window shows the village crossroads, including St Stephen's itself. On the north wall are memorial windows to Captain Burmester, showing his local residence, Lovelocks, and his wife Alicia installed in 1946 and 1948 respectively.

The stained glass memorials are accompanied by memorial plaques. Between the windows to War and Peace is a memorial listing the names of the fallen soldiers of the hamlet. This tiled memorial reads ‘These windows are dedicated to those who being dwellers in this hamlet or worshippers in this church gave their lives for their country in the cause of mercy, truth, righteousness and peace in the years 1914-1918. Clifford Coxe/Arthur Coxe/Cecil Coxe/Frank Davis/Tom Goodall/Thomas Hudson/Arthur Hudson/Stewart Langford/Edwd Pike/Stanley Robinson/George Udny. Their name liveth for evermore.’ There are carved stone plaques to Captain Burmester, recording that he gave this church to the parish and beautified it, and his wife Alicia; the latter reads ‘In loving memory of Alicia wife of Arnold Charles Burmester. She loved to design for her husbands wood carving and to play the Organ in this Church for the Choir she trained. Born 1857 Died 1946.’ There is a tiled memorial to Charles Van Milligen M.C and Bar and a brass plaque to Elizabeth Green.

Other fixtures of note include the font, of Saxon origin, brought to this church from the parish church at Avington, where it may have been a holy water stoup, set upon a shaft depicting carved, interlacing animals. The timber pulpit, from the church at Stockcross, on a raised base takes the form of an arcade with carved columns. In the south transept is the organ by Atterton of Leighton Buzzard, built 1881.


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, Bradley, S, Tyack, G, The Buildings of England: Berkshire, (2010), 508
West Berkshire Historic Environment Record MWB 16762


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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