Matthew de Burghfield, the Lord of the Manor in the early 13th century, was the first to have a bridge built at Burghfield. The villagers had previously had to wade through the marshes and ford the deep River Kennet, and there had been many accidents. The Abbey would not pay for a proper crossing, but moved by his vassals’ brave determination Matthew put his hand in his pocket for a narrow wooden structure, which he later widened for the use of carts and horses. By the reign of King Edward 1, this bridge had become an important river crossing, but overuse had left it in a bad state. The King ordered its repair and the builder’s grandson, Peter de Burghfield ( Abbas ) found himself presented with a large bill by the King’s agent, Theobald Le Carpenter. He protested in the strongest possible terms and refused to pay because the bridge had only been erected out of the goodness of his grandfather’s heart and he was therefore under no obligation to keep it in working order. In the end, Peter’s cousin, Sir Roger de Burghfield ( Regis ) stepped in and agreed to pay for repairs to the southern half of Burghfield Bridge if Peter paid for the northern half.
Sir Roger was the most prominent member of the de Burghfield family, a Knight of Berkshire and Member of Parliament for Berkshire in 1301 and twice for Oxfordshire, and the last to hold the manor. He died in 1327.His heir was his brother Peter de Burghfield who was incumbent at the church of Burghfield. His family commissioned a wooden effigy carved in London in 1340. The 1719 Antiquities of Berkshire by Elias Ashmore refers to the effigy as lying on the floor against the north wall of the Chancel.
A note initialled KCB dated 21/2/1928 states Mr F. E Howard of Boar’s Hill ( an expert from the Diocese?) visited the church and suggested the wooden effigy then under the stairs in the porch should be moved to the chancel, because of its beauty, and because such effigies were only generally made in memory of a benefactor of the church or locality. On his advice, then it was laid on a table in the chancel.
It was stolen on the 9th of January 1978, and was apparently sold in the Portobello road for £600, then bought by a dealer for £4000, before being discovered by an English art dealer for sale in an antiques fair in Ghent, priced £10000. Despite it having been stolen, the courts ruled that compensation would have to be paid to the person being in possession of the statue. Nearly £10,000 was raised through public appeals to recover the statue and in May 1982 the statue was restored to the church where it lies in a glass display case in the chancel.