The church of St. John the Baptist was originally a chapel-of-ease for St. Peter’s at nearby Wootton Wawen, because Henley was originally part of the parish and manor of Wootton Wawen. Henley only became a separate ecclesiastical parish when it joined with Beaudesert in 1915.
The first record of a chapel being built in Henley was in 1367 when it was confirmed by an entry in the Register of Bishop Wittlesey. In 1369, William Fifhide, a draper, obtained a licence to build a chantry chapel, presumably within the new parochial chapel. During the 1440’s the chapel was rebuilt in the new perpendicular style with almost triangular arches and window heads, and housed the chapel of the Guild of St. John, which was situated in the north aisle. The confined nature of the location of the church explains why the entrance porch is placed in the west wall of the nave just south of the tower. The doorway inside the porch meanwhile has an arch and two good head stops of a king and queen.
The church was restored in 1856, 1900 and 1912. Tall corner pinnacles were added onto the tower in 1856 but were later removed in 1912. The clock replaced an earlier version in 1868 and an electronic carillon, installed in 2012, enables the clock to chime every quarter and ring out tunes, including Christmas carols. The oak choir stalls were completed in 1926 while the oak tower screen is inscribed to the memory of the writer Keble Howard (1875-1928). The present north aisle was developed into a memorial chapel, housing the town’s war memorials. Originally the stained-glass windows in the church depicted various coats-of-arms of the lords of the manor of Henley. All the present stained glass is from the 19th century except the third window on the south wall, which dates to 2000. This is known as the Millennium window and depicts Jesus as a carpenter in Henley surrounded by people of the town.
More information: www.henleychurch.co.uk