Standing serenely to the immediate west of Dorney Court is the exquisite parish Church of St James the Less. The distinctive architecture and ancient origins of the church complement the House and the history of both is intertwined over the ages.
There has been a church on this yew fringed patch of ground north of the River Thames since at least the 12th century, meaning that today’s congregation continue a tradition of worship that can be traced back nearly 1000 years.
The current chancel dates from the 12th century church but there is archaeological evidence of a pre-Conquest building. In subsequent times the nave has been rebuilt and the floor level raised. At the west end of the nave is a Norman font with decorative designs carved into the stonework around the basin.
The font occupies a central spot beneath an ancient oak gallery which is home to the church organ and, further back even still, sits the massive Tudor tower, the summit of which is the highest point in Dorney.
The south porch, the day to day entrance to the church, is made of ancient red brick and dates to 1661 when it was built to commemorate the birth of Lady Anne Palmer, the child of Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine and Roger Palmer, Earl of Castlemaine.
A guided tour of St James the Less is a fascinating experience and is included for Dorney Court’s visitors or, alternatively, there is a regular Communion service at 09.30am every Sunday.