St Mary the Virgin


  • Church Street
  • Chipping Norton
  • OX7 5NT

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Brief Description

One of the great Cotswold churches, whose nave was rebuilt about 1485 by a local wool merchant, John Ashfield. The clerestory, which runs the length of the nave, bathes the church with light.

  • Main Description

    Church of St Mary , C12 foundation of which only a few fragments survive in the West wall of the nave. C13 and C14 rebuilding visible in the chancel and aisles, nave of c.1485, a W tower of 1823 by John Hudson and the whole restored by E G Bruton in 1878. 4-bay nave, 2-bay chancel, inner N aisle and outer N aisle (Over Norton Aisle) both of 6 bays, former Lady Chapel to NE with vestry attached, S aisle of 4 bays, W tower, S porch, NW Dawkins family vault of 1800.

    Built of rubble stone to chancel, squared and coursed rubble stone to the N aisles, ashlar to the remain- der and dressed stone for parapets, openings and buttresses. Slate roofs through- out. W tower dated 1823 on W face of 4 storeys with battering at the base, diagonal buttresses with set-offs to the 3rd stage, moulded string courses, that below the parapet with gargoyles from the original tower, and a moulded embattled parapet with crocketted corner pinnacles. The W face has a plain moulded surround under a pointed hood mould to the W door, a 2 cusped light window to the 2nd stage and a bell opening of cusped Y tracery under a pointed head with a hood mould. These are repeated on the other facades. The S face at 3rd stage level has a moulded blind roundel in a square surround with trefoiled mouchettes in the spandrels, obviously intended for a clock. The detail here makes a conscious and archaeological link with the Perpendicular work of the nave. The S aisle and chancel S windows are either of 2 or 3 Decorated lights, some original, others dating from the 1878 restoration. The E end window of the S aisle has a great Decorated window of 6 lights with a wheel in the head, traditionally brought from nearby Bruern Abbey, dissolved in 1535.

    The Perpendicular clerestory windows of the nave comprise 5 main cusped lights with 10 smaller lights above under flat heads. Although the chancel is C13, it has been refenestrated with Decorated and Perpendicular windows. The E window is Late Decorated with flowing tracery and there are further Decorated and Perpendicular windows to the chancel N and S walls. The N aisle has plain 3 and 4 light panel tracery Perpendicular windows to the N wall but its W end windows have more complex tracery and are later C17 examples of Gothic Survival. The S porch is a rare hexagonal structure of 2 storeys with a parvise above an octopartite vaulted entrance with bosses of grinning devils and green men leading to the inner S door which has an order of large ballflowers entwined in tendrils. Outside the porch has diagonal buttresses with set-offs, a parapet with gargoyles and a crenellated hexagonal chimney with a bellcote between the merlons. There is a sundial on the S face at parapet level. The parvise is lit by windows of 2 cusped lights with a quatrefoil above under a pointed head and the porch entrance has 2 cusped light openings under flat heads. On the N wall of the Over Norton Aisle, built of pink ashlar, projects the Dawkins family vault built by Henry Dawkins of Over Norton in 1800. It is Gothic with pasteboard parapets, corner pinnacles and central gables on 3 sides with crosses below. The family coat of arms, motto and date are recorded on the N face. Inside the nave arcading gives the effect of panelled curtain walling.

    The piers are clustered shafts on a lozenge plan with vestigial octagonal capitals and thin moulded arches which support the covering of blind tracery in the triforium and glazed panelled tracery in the clerestory. There are quatre- foils and mouchettes in the spandrels and these with the traceried upper storeys produce a feminine filagree effect. The piers have springing shafts which support a contemporary open rafter roof with arched tie beams whose carved span- drels echo those of the arcade. This decorative scheme is continued on the E wall above the chancel arch but here the window is set behind a skin of open cusping and quatrefoils. Flanking this are two crocketted niches and pedestals bereft of statues.

    On the North pier of the chancel arch are the remains of the Trinity Guild chantry: 3 crocketted niches and pedestals now transformed, with the 1878 addition of a lower reading desk, into a pulpit. The N arcade between the two N aisles is of 6 bays. The 5 from W to E have octagonal C14 piers with pointed arches of 2 chamfered orders and heads carved in the spandrels. The 6th pier is Early English with a stiff-leaf capital and from this projects on the E, a four-centred arch with a reset Early English window above. The two piers on the N side of the chancel are further survivors of the Early English period. There are several mural tablets on the S and N walls of the outer N aisle and two chest tombs in the SW angle of the aisle to Thomas Rickardes, died 1570, and his wife: two effigies in alabaster on a Renaissance chest with stripped-down strapwork and to the Rev E Redrobe, vicar 1683-1721, and his wife: a Purbeck marble top on a chest with swags and corner ball finials. On the S wall is a brass to Henry Cornish, died 1618, son of Henry Cornish who endowed the alms- houses. In the former Lady Chapel, E of the inner N aisle is an alabaster chest tomb to Richard Croft, died 1502 and his wife, died 1509: two complete effigies, still Gothic in line and detail, on a crocketted niched chest with angels and shields. Flanking the entrance to the Dawkins vault on the N wall of the outer N aisle is a marble urn to James Dawkins, died 1766, by Nicholas Revett, co-author of The Antiquities of Athens. Brasses, mostly C15, commemorating the wool merchants of the town are displayed on the N wall of the outer N aisle. The church has some good late C19 windows of stained glass, particularly the Bruern Abbey window.

    The font is C14, octagonal with blind traceried panels on each face. Outside the churchyard to the NE are earthworks marking the site of an Early Norman motte and bailey castle. This is scheduled Ancient Monument Oxfordshire No 40.

Church Grants

monuments; improvements to to west end

2010/2011 | £5000