The village of Bladon, Oxfordshire, on the river Glyme, is about 6.5 miles north-west of Oxford and is notable as the burial place of Sir Winston Churchill.

St Martin’s Church

St Martin’s Church in Bladon is the Church of England parish church of Bladon-with-Woodstock. It is also the mother church of St Mary Magdalene at Woodstock.

St Martin’s Church, Bladon (Stephen Stratford 2022).

The first church on the current site was probably built in the 11th or 12th century. The earliest references to the church state that John de London, Henry III’s chaplain, obtained from the King a grant of the Manor of Bladon.

A print hung in the present St Martin’s shows the old church before its demolition in 1802. This print shows an ornate Norman doorway to the south porch, which suggests a 12th or late 11th century date for the building. It also shows a clerestory that would have increased the amount of natural light in the nave.

There is no record of the church being built until 1802, when the parish petitioned John Randolph, Bishop of Oxford, to grant them a new building as the old one was becoming dilapidated and dangerous. Permission was granted, the medieval church was demolished, the 4th Duke of Marlborough paid for building materials and the new church was opened in 1804.

In 1891 the architect A.W. Blomfield rebuilt the chancel, restored the nave, added new windows and added pinnacles on the tower. Unlike the medieval church, the new building has no clerestory and despite the windows that Blomfield added the interior remains relatively dark.

The work was carried out largely at the expense of the rector, Arthur Majendie, and resulted in the creation of the present church. Because of these efforts, three windows in the chancel are dedicated to his memory by his widow and children. Other feature windows in the church include a copy of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Choir of the Cherubs. In 1893, Majendie gave a lych gate in memory of his mother. In 1937, a statue of Saint Martin was placed in a niche over the porch.

A solitary war grave

St Martin’s Church grave yard contains one Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC): 1100770 Private Jesse Shayler, 273 Company, Pioneer Corps.

War grave of Private Jesse Shayler, Pioneer Corps (Stephen Stratford 2022).

Jesse Shayler was born on 29 January 1909 in Charlbury, Oxfordshire.

The 1911 England and Wales Census records the following information for the Shayler family, who lived at Hixet Wood, Charlbury. Apart from Matilda Shayler, who was born at High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, all the family were born at Charlbury, Oxfordshire.

Jesse ShaylerHead39Builders Labourer
Matilda ShaylerWife37
Albert ShaylerSon15Glovers Apprentice
Violet ShaylerDaughter14
Harry ShaylerSon12School
Gladys ShaylerDaughter10School
Frank ShaylerSon8School
Elsie ShaylerDaughter4School
John ShaylerSon3
Jesse ShaylerSon2
1911 England and Wales Census (National Archives).

Between the dates of the 1911 census (2 April 1911) and the 1921 census (19 June 1921), the elder Jesse Shayler died.

The 1921 England and Wales Census records the following information about the Shayler family.

Matilda ShaylerHead (Widow)47Home Duties
Elsie ShaylerDaughter14Assisting Home Duties
Jesse ShaylerSon12School
Christine ShaylerDaughter10School
1921 England and Wales Census (National Archives).

During the summer of 1939, Jesse Shayler (a casual labourer) married Ivy Phylis Smith (born 22 February 1909, Bladon). They lived together at Heath Road, Bladon.

On 1 May 1944, at York Military Hospital, 1100770 Private Jesse Shayler, 273 Company, Pioneer Corps, died from a fractured skull. “The injury was a result of being knocked down by a motor omnibus whilst walking on the highway.” (England and Wales Death Certificate). The certificate also states that the bus driver was convicted of “Driving in a manner dangerous to the public.”

On 4 May 1944, Jesse Shayler was buried in the graveyard at St. Martin’s Church, Bladon. He was 35 years old. The inscription on Jesse Shayler’s CWGC headstone, chosen by his widow, reads

In loving memory of my dear husband. Their names liveth for evermore.

Inscription on the Jesse Shayler’s CWGC headstone.

On 25 January 1998, at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, Ivy Phyllis Shayler (retied shop assistant) died of a heart attack. She was buried next to the grave of her husband.

Winston Churchill

St Martin’s Church, Bladon, is famous for the burial plot of the Churchill family, including the grave of the UK’s wartime leader Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill.

The Churchill family plot (Stephen Stratford 2022).

When Winston Churchill died on 24 January 1965, he was granted the rare privilege of a State Funeral, which took place at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on 30 January 1965. After the funeral service, Churchill’s coffin was borne by a train from London’s Waterloo rail station to Bladon rail station. From there, it was taken the short distance to St Martin’s church for a private family burial.

The grave of Winston and Clementine Churchill (Stephen Stratford 2022).