Welcome to the Churchill & Sarsden Heritage Centre

'Small, but perfectly formed' Country Life

Possibly the smallest museum in Oxfordshire, the Heritage Centre is placed in a stunning setting overlooking
the site of the ‘lost’ village of Churchill, destroyed by fire in 1684.

Following the latest guidance from the government on limiting the spread of Coronavirus, we plan to re-open on Saturday 22 May.  Meanwhile, we remain closed.
However, we would be very happy to try and answer any queries you might have in relation to family history (or anything else connected to the Heritage Centre).
There is a link below to more information about family history, and from there you can send us an email.

 
ADMISSION FREE

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A case of tax avoidance in Churchill 

A new exhibition curated by local historian, Christine Gowing

A new exhibition curated by local historian, Christine Gowing

There is nothing new. The hearth tax imposed in 1662 by Charles II’s government (always short of funds) put pressure on the villagers of Churchill, just as taxation vexes us now. But for one woman in 1684, the temptation to avoid the tax in order to light her fire to bake bread became just too strong.

At some stage she had made a funnel to join chimneys with that of her neighbour and on Wednesday 30th July 1684, she was found out when her house was set ablaze and fire spread throughout the village. It resulted in the loss of four Churchill lives and twenty dwellings. And the event led to the creation of the village we now know - with the rebuilding of stone houses at the top of the hill.

We look forward to sharing what happened to the serial tax evader (this was not her first offence) and how the local communities at the time reacted and supported the ravaged village of Churchill.

The story of our feckless baker and the devastating result of her irresponsible actions will be the theme of this brand new exhibition in the Centre.

HISTORY OF THE HERITAGE CENTRE

THE EARTH AND THE EMPIRE: WHAT A COTSWOLD VILLAGE GAVE TO THE WORLD

The building may be only 15' by 30' but its ancient walls contain state of the art technology, with touch screens telling the remarkable stories of two eminent sons of the village, Warren Hastings (1732-1818) and William Smith (1769-1839). 
The part played in the community by the village squire, James Langston (1796-1863), is also displayed on a new touch screen unit.
 
The old medieval village church fell into disrepair after the new All Saints' Church was built in 1826 in the centre of the village. Although the chancel was retained and used as a mortuary chapel and to house the memorials, its condition deteriorated and demolition was threatened in the 1980s. 
A Preservation Society was formed in 1988 to fight for its survival as the last medieval building in Churchill and, thanks to fund-raising and grants, over £30,000 was spent to restore the roof and building. 
The Heritage Centre opened in 2001 in the restored chancel.  In 2010, it was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to enable work on the maintenance of the building, enhance the displays and extend the projects of the centre.  The Centre is also being supported by grants from West Oxfordshire District Council and Friends of the Cotswolds, for which the management committee is extremely grateful.
The Centre re-opened in April 2011 with touch screen displays, new exhibits and exciting plans for wider public engagement.  The 2012 season attracted a record number of visitors and these numbers have gone up every year  as we continue to work on our audience strategy.  Our profile was boosted during 2015 as we worked in conjunction with the Oxford Museum of Natural History to celebrate the bicentenary of the publication of William Smith’s famous map.

From Our Guest Book

  • "Very good new interactive displays, very comprehensive."

  • "Why haven't we been here earlier? We shall certainly return!"

  • "Such a wonderful enterprise. The locality should be proud of it."

  • "Excellent to have this centre as a focus for Churchill's history - especially in relation to William Smith."

  • "Lovely spot, so grateful this part of the old church was saved."

  • "A fascinating visit. William Smith was a wonderful man! "

  • "A fascinating display in a very beautiful setting."

  • "What a lovely treat to stumble upon. Thank you for preserving a part of our Heritage"

  • "Great building, well restored. Charming!"

  • "Congratulations to all on this initiative.  So well-organised and user-friendly."

  • "Fantastic, absolutely first class. Most interesting and informative."

  • "A fine chance discovery"

  • "Beautiful setting, very peaceful & informative"

  • "Beautiful restoration, very nicely done! Unexpected hive of information."

  • "A little gem I didn't know existed."

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