St Mary Magdalene

  • Wardington
  • OX17 1RS

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Brief Description

A large church built on a slight rise in the centre of an attractive ironstone village on the northernmost boundary of the county. The chancel contains some Norman remains but otherwise the church is largely 13th and 14th century with two arcades and some good Decorated windows. Unusual points to note are a large holy water stoup in the porch and an unusual round window over the chancel arch

  • Main Description

    One of the finest and the oldest building of Wardington. The earliest parts of St Mary's date from the 12th century.
    The churchyard has many interesting early 17th and 18th century chest tombs and headstones carved with cherubs and curlicues.

    The church consists of a chancel, nave, south and north aisles, vestry, lady chapel, and an embattled west tower.

    Entering the church through the south porch leads one into the late 13th century south aisle where, to the left, stands the font which bears the letters “RM RS” and the date “1666″. On the column nearby, a little above eye-level and facing the font, is the stone mask of a hare and one of a mitred head. The significance of these is not known, but it has been suggested they may signify that the name of the founder of the church was a Bishop Hare of Lincoln.

    The window nearest the font is one of the original 13th century triple-light lancets[i] to be found in the church. The window and stone-work surrounding it have been repaired. The window at the west end of the aisle was rebuilt in the 14th century and is a single light lancet of the “Decorated” period (1300-1350).

    Also in the south aisle, towards the lady chapel there is a recess in the wall containing an unusual tomb, its date and origin are unknown. An outline of the head and hands has been channelled out to a depth of about 2½inches (6.35 cm) leaving the uppermost edge of the nose, forehead and hands at precisely the same level as the upper face of the slab. Nearby there is a brass plate let into the floor and seldom noticed. The inscription, in Latin, reads as follows:

    The Wardington Chapel, at the east end of the south aisle, was originally built in the 14th century as an extension to the south aisle. It is divided from the aisle and chancel by original wooden screens of the same period. The chapel contains memorial plaques, inscribed plates and floor slabs to members of the families Chamberlain, Denton (George Denton was Lord of the (Wardington) Manor in the 18th century), Wallace (of Edgecote House), Warble, Lovday and Wardington.

    The east window of the chapel is in memory of the first Lord Wardington and portrays the history of the bible – the preaching of Christ, the printing of the Bible by Caxton in 1473, the pre-Reformation reformer, John Wycliffe, sending out his priests with copies of the Bible, and the authorisation by King James I in 1607. In addition to prophets and writers of the Bible, the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are depicted along with numerous emblems.

    Turning to the south wall of the chapel, the first and second windows on the left are dedicated to various members of the Lovely family which, for many generations, was associated with both Wardington and Williamscot. The last member to live in the parish was David Goodwin Lovday, Bishop of Dorchester and one time headmaster of Cranleigh School, who died in 1985, aged 88 and is buried in the churchyard.

    Entering the central aisle (the nave), the chancel is at the east end, while looking west one sees the splendid arch of the “Perpendicular” period (1350-1500) leading into the tower which was added to the nave in the late 14th/early 15th century. In the bell chamber of the tower there are six bells dating from 1669 to 1841. The high window of the tower is a “Perpendicular” triple-light of stained glass.

    The nave is 13th century having five low Early English arches on each side on circular columns opening on to the south and north aisles. The clerestory above, with six clear glass windows, is 15th century having been added to heighten the nave and to provide the interior with more light. The main transept which crosses the church separates the nave from the chancel.

    Before entering the chancel, there is, high above the chancel arch, an unusual 13th century sanctus bellcote built outwards. This can be seen from outside the church. The delightful, stained glass, circular window set below the bellcote in the last century depicts the head of the church’s patron saint, St. Mary of Magdala. Immediately inside the chancel, on the left (north) side, there is a two light “Perpendicular” window where St. Mary of Magdala is again portrayed, along with St. Mary the Virgin. Beneath the window is what was known as a leper’s squint which was always shuttered and unglazed. Today it is still shuttered, but glazed on the outside.

    The large, impressive, east window is, like the other two windows in the chancel, dedicated to members of the Hughes-Chamberlain family who lived in the parish during the 17th and 18th centuries. It portrays Mary and Martha, the Resurrection, the Ascension and the raising of Jairus’s daughter.

    Leaving the chancel via the nave we enter the north aisle which, it will be noticed, is much wider than the south aisle and is slightly later in date. The greater width of the north aisle was probably due, at the time of building, to the presence and length of the transept at its east end. On the north wall of the aisle, close to the north door, hangs the Royal Arms of George III, restored a few years ago through the generosity of the late Bishop Loveday in memory of the Reverend Dale John Welburn, Vicar of Wardington 1877-1913. Royal Arms were introduced into churches after the Reformation, the Sovereign having become the Supreme Head of the Church of England.