The earliest lych gates date back to medieval times and it was at the lych gate that the coffin was rested for a while before being taken into the church for the funeral service. In some older gates the lych stone, or coffin stone, still exists although most were removed in the eighteenth century as a hindrance to worshippers making their way onto church.
The lych gate at Englefield, despite being of the design common four or five hundred years ago is relatively recent; as the Tomkins engraving shows there was only a simple field gate at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was, in fact, erected as part of the later Victorian restoration and paid for by Mr Benyon (although Betjeman and Piper in the 1949 edition of Murray’s Berkshire call it “Edwardian”) and was designed by E Swinfen Harris who also decorated the walls inside the church. The inscription "Let it be your care to go down humbly to your grave" on the lintel over the gate provides a reminder of the original function of a lych gate in words taken from the service of dedication on Sunday 4 November 1894.
The Churchyard Cross
The churchyard cross was erected, in the words of the Rector, to “commemorate the outbreak of illness last year which caused the school to be closed for 3 months, to commemorate the memory of some called to rest, as well as our thankfulness to God for many merciful recoveries and spared lives.” The illness was measles, which developed into scarlatina, and the school was closed from 12 October 1893 until January 1894. All the victims except one were children; the only adult to succumb being James Winchcomb. The inscription on the cross also mentions an outbreak of influenza in 1890. The cross was dedicated at the same time as the lych gate.
Special collections were taken at both services in church on Sunday 4 March 1894 and these raised a total of £131-10-2½. After paying £110 for the cross and £16-14-2 to Mr Harris for the design, the balance of £4-16-1 was handed to Mr Benyon who used it in part payment for a new oak gate for the west entrance to the churchyard; the remaining cost he met himself.