St Mary the Virgin


  • Church Street
  • Kidlington
  • OX5 2AZ

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Brief Description

There has been a church here for about 900 years. The present building dates from 1220 when a new church was built in the Early English style on the foundations of an earlier church. The church is cruciform, and if you look towards the high altar you will see that the chancel is inclined to the south. It is just sixteen inches off centre but looks more. This is quite common in cruciform churches and represents the leaning head of Christ on the cross.

  • Main Description

    The Nave was the part of the church used by the villagers and a screen separated it from the eastern part of the church used by the monastic community. The roof of the nave was raised in 1450 when the clerestory windows were added. The old height can be seen from the stone corbels. The long north wall dates from the Early English church of 1220. The doorway leading to the modern refectory was always known as the Bachelors Doorway and was probably used by the monks and led to their house or cells to the north of the church. The window in this wall between the doorway and the pulpit is of the decorated period, around 1330, although the stonework of the tracery seems to have been renewed in Victorian times when the stained glass was added. The window was copied from Sir Joshua Reynold's famous window in New College Chapel, and shows Faith, Hope and Charity. Between the window and the doorway is a good perpendicular niche, which rests on a branch corbel of a man's head. It has inset in the apex a Tudor Rose which dates it later than other Perpendicular work in the church. Also on this wall are three large painted coats of arms. These are hatchments wich were displayed outside the home of prominent residents who had recently died. These hatchtments belong to the Smith family who were chief Lords of the Manor of Kidlington in the 18th century. Tombstones belonging to the family are inset in the Nave floor and a wall tablet will be seen in the pier opposite the font.

    Turning west you can see traces of two early lancet windows of the Early English Church on either side of the large 16th century late perpendicular window. The glass (and most likely the tracery) of this windows is Victorian - 1857. The font is also of the decorated period and is thought to have been placed in the church by Thomas of Kidlington, Abbot of Oseney. A plain round bowl on an octagonal base, it was moved to its present position in about 1846. The oaken font cover dates from 1885.

    Some of the mechanism and pipework of the organ date from an 11 stop Father Willis instrument built in north transept and opened with a recital by C H Lloyd in July 1888. It was rebuilt to a design of Paul Hale and Richard Vendome in 1976. The seating in the nave is also new and replaces very uncomfortable Victorian pews. Many of the chairs have been given by parishioners and local organisations.

    Above the four sturdy Early English arches supported by the massive piers rises the Perpendicular tower with its octagonal spire rising 171 feet above ground level. The spire, a familiar landmark in the Cherwell valley, is know locally as `Our Lady's Needle'. Before 1837 the bells were rung from floor level, but now the ringing chamber is reached by a staircase.
    On your left as you face the high altar is the North Transept, occupied until the late 1970's by the organ. The new screen encloses the Children's Chapel. The three walls are Early English with Perpendicular windows replacing original lancet windows in the north and east walls. In the west wall two lancets remain. The perpendicular clerestory and fine oak roof were added about 1450. Remains of extensive wall paintings can be seen. Notice the elegant Perpendicular piscina with crocketed canopy and pinnacles.

    Move through the Chancel where the monks sang their daily offices. The east window is one of the most important features of the church. Medieval glass was collected from all over the church and assembled here in 1831 in the time of Edward Field. For just over 100 years the window presented a kaleidoscope of colour, the delicate medieval colours arranged in a series of haphazard pictures with brilliant crimson and blue 19th century glass used where pieces were missing. Then in 1951, the glass was expertly re-sorted, the lead renewed, and the out of place Victorian glass removed.

    The Chancel was once terminated with the east window level with those of the North and South Chapels. Notice the defaced Decorated piscina on the south-east side that shows where the high altar once stood. The Chancel is rich in medieval woodwork. The screens separating the Chancel from the side chapels and tower-crossing date from about 1450. The ten monks' stalls are particularly noteworthy because they are among the earliest stalls in England and date from about 1250. Look at the stalls, and notice the Misericords, the hinged seats with a carved bracket on the underside. When the seat was raised the monks could half sit and half stand during the long services. The beautifully carved oak bench-ends were once in the Nave but in early Victorian times were made into four long desks in front of the monks' stalls and the bench seats. They date from about 1420 and contain many interesting designs. The fourth panel is of a Bassett hound, the badge of an old Kidlington family, the Bassetts. One of the original village inns was named The Dog and the name was carried on by the public house in the Oxford Road, but has since been renamed ``The Squire Bassett''. The second and third carvings are rebuses on the name of Kid-ling-ton. One has a Kid, a Ling (a fish) and a Ton of wool, and the other a Kid ( a basket of wool), a Ling (a plant similar to heather) and a Tun (a large pitcher). Another medieval rebus can be seen in the south window of the Chancel.

    This South Chapel contains some outstanding Decorated period windows. The east window is notable for its four fine cinque foiled lights and flamboyant tracery. Notice the great rose in the top centre containing in its centre the head of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Follow the window mould down each side and notice the man and woman leaning forward to hear the words of the Mass. The two south windows are also of the Decorated Period but the tracery differs from the east window and is of a net-pattern known as reticulated. Notice also the piscina and the stone bench or sedilia. The Mothers Union banner has a design worked by Gladys Laughton in 1956 and is based on the 15th century mural paintings to be seen in the North Transept.

Church Treasurers

Medieval bench ends in the choir

Reticulated window

Church Grants

repairs to misericords and screens

2010/2011 | £4001