A very pretty Cotswold village high on a hill, the soaring tower of All Saints church (1827) is visible for miles around. The early Gothic Revival church is modelled after 3 Oxford colleges. Clustered near the church are an attractive pub, golden-toned cottages, and a neo-Gothic fountain described by architectural historian Nickolaus Pevsner as 'hideously ugly'. Poet John Betjeman liked it, though - you can make up your own mind!


You would think that the reason for the village name is obvious, given the impressive church and its location on a hilltop, visible for miles around. You'd be wrong. The first part of the name comes from Old English 'cyrc', which loosely translates as barrow, burial ground, or hill.

There are barrow mounds in the area of the village, so it would seem that there was a settlement here in pre-Roman times. An alternative linguistic theory is that the name is simply a combination of the Old English and Saxon terms for hill, giving us 'hill hill'. Churchill was mentioned in the Domesday Book.

All Saints Church, Churchill, Oxfordshire
All Saints Church, Churchill

The history of Churchill changed dramatically on 30 July 1684, when a devastating fire swept through the village. Twenty timber houses burned down and four people died. Blame for the fire fell on a baker who was trying to avoid the chimney tax.

The old village site was abandoned and the village moved to the crown of the hill. When the villagers rebuilt their homes, it was in stone rather than timber - a case of wisdom in hindsight! All that remains of the old church at Churchill is the chancel, which now serves as the Churchill and Sarsden Heritage Centre.

William Smith, the 'Father of English Geology', was born in Churchill in 1787. Smith was the first to create a geological map of the entire country. A memorial to Smith, erected in 1891, is at the top of Hastings Hill. The memorial is made of stones found in nearby Sarsgrove Wood.

Another native of Churchill was Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India and an associate of Clive of India. A commemorative tablet marks the house on Hastings Hill where he was born.

I've driven through Churchill more times than I can recall, and, honestly, every time I see the dominating tower looming into view I feel my heart lift, and I think, 'I could live here'. The church dominates the village like no other place I can recall. The combination of the ornate tower, the lovely Cotswold stone cottages, and the picture-postcard pub across the road is one of the most idyllic sights in the Cotswolds.