St. Nicolas' church is one of the few remaining parts of the great Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary at Abingdon, and was the final part of the rebuilding, of the abbey in the twelfth century, largely associated with Abbot Faritius (1100 - 1117) and his successor Abbot Vincent (1121 - 30). The rebuilding was completed towards the end of the century, and this small church was built by the gate, partly within and partly outside the abbey precincts for the numerous lay officials and servants attached to the abbey, and for visitors. The earliest reference to the church, or chapel, of St Nicholas is in a ruling by Pope Alexander III to the prior and brothers of Abingdon in 1177 that the yearly income from the chapel be assigned to the care of the poor.
The original church had no tower and the only parts of it now remaining are the lower part of the west wall with its magnificent Norman doorway, and the north wall of the nave. The church is on a constricted site and when, in the fifteenth century, a tower was added it had to be built inside the nave. For the same reason there was no churchyard or burial ground until 1797. The Stert stream then, as now, passed under the nave.