It seems odd to us, in an age where it is accepted that the super rich spend all their money on themselves, that it was not at all unusual for wealthy medieval people to spend some of their own fortunes on such things as churches.
According to local legend, the present church of St Mary's Shaw cum Donnington came to replace a Saxon church building after it's rector Rev Sloecock, fed up with the cold draughts inside, spotted a newly purpose-build church of his liking while holidaying on the Isle of Wright and decided to blow up the current the structure. The nave was consecrated in 1842, and 45 years later, under Rev John Horatio Nelson, nephew of Admiral Nelson, a rather spectacular chapel was added, designed by the famous Victorian architect William Butterfield in the Oxford, or Trectarian, style, featuring beautiful murals telling the story of the New Testament. William Butterfield, who became renowned for designing Keble College in Oxford, also designed the local Church School.
St Mary's Shaw cum Donnington is located in the former grounds of Shaw House, an impressive Jacobean mansion once occupied by the Dolman family and the Duke of Chandos, and the house, now owned by West Berkshire Council, can be visited throughout holidays and on the weekends in conjunction with the church. There is a cafe and a souvenir shop in Shaw House which also sells a historical guide to the church.
Other parts of the original Shaw House estate are a beautiful local park either side of the river Lambourne opposite the church, which makes a lovely place for a stroll and a picnic, offering a beautiful view onto the church spire from across the river and through the trees. The church congregation currently conducts a natural history study of the flora and fauna surrounding the church as well as a social history study of its parishioners throughout time; please inquire for further information if interested.