Wednesday, 19 January 2011

St Giles-in-the-Fields, London

Centre Point the 34 storey tower block above Tottenham Court Road tube station - I had the opportunity to walk round the viewing platform at the top today and looked down on St Giles-in-the-Fields.

To give an idea of scale the steeple is said to be about 160 feet tall.

The church can trace its past back to 1101, when Queen Matilda, wife of Henry I, founded a leper hospital here. The chapel probably became the church of a small village, which serviced the hospital, with the lepers screened off. In common with the other monasteries, the hospital was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539 and its lands sold. The hospital chapel became a parish church and the first Rector of St Giles was appointed in 1547. This was when the words "in-the-fields" were added to its name.

The current church was built in 1730-34 was designed by the architect Henry Flitcroft (Flitcroft went on to design Woburn Abbey, the seat of the Dukes of Bedford, one of the principal landowners in this part of London). The style of architecture is Palladian, based on the ideas of an Italian architect of the 16th century, Andrea Palladio and early Christian basilica. Sir Arthur Blomfield and Wiliam Butterfield made some alterations in 1875 and 1896. St Giles escaped the severe damage in the bombing in the Second World War, which merely removed most of the Victorian glass. The church underwent a major restoration in 1952-3 described by John Betjeman as

"One of the most successful post-war church restorations…"
'The Spectator' March 9th 1956.

The organ dates mainly from the 18th century. However much of the pipework from 1678 and 1699 was recycled during various re-building. It was extensively restored in 2006by WIlliam Drake.

The stained glass above the altar shows the Transfiguration (when the disciples saw the light of God shining from the human face of Christ).

The pulpit is from the West Street Chapel which was John and Charles Wesley's headquarters in the 18th century.

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 24 October 1951

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Lewknor, Oxfordshire

St Margaret’s Church, Lewknor

Lewknor is a small village at the foot of the Chiltern Hills close to the cutting which carries the M40 into the hills.You approach the church through the playground of the local primary school and a small lych gate.

The first documentary evidence for a church in Lewknor is in a grant confirmed by Pope Innocent III in 1200, of some tithes and a pension from it to Abingdon Abbey. The foundation of the church cannot have been later than 1146, since it contains some late Norman work. The church is built of local flint with stone dressings, and comprises a chancel, nave, south aisle, porch, a north transeptal chapel and a western tower. Until the beginning of the fourteenth century it appears to have consisted of chancel, nave and transeptal chapels all dating from the end of the twelfth century. Of this late Romanesque church there remains the chancel arch, portions of the nave, the northern transeptal chapel, and the eastern respond of the arch to the southern transeptal chapel, now incorporated in the arcade of the fourteenth century aisle.

The south porch is part of the expansion of the church which occurred in the first half of the fourteenth century when the chancel was rebuilt and the south aisle was added.

Near to the south porch entrance is a remarkable cylindrical font, carved with a pattern of linked roundels which dates from the early 12th Century, or possibly before.

The chancel was rebuilt on a larger scale in the 14th century. It is a fine example of 'Decorated' architecture with a five-light east window and three three-light windows on either side. In 1845 the chancel was completely restored at the charge of All Souls College, and was carried out with considerable care.

The priest's sedilia and Easter sepulchre are all framed by elaborately crocketted canopies, and the pointing hand carved on the arch of the Easter sepulchre is an unusual feature.

The view back down the nave from the chancel arch.

The North trancept chapel is known as the Jodrell chapel and is entered by wrought iron gates. In the chapel is an immense wall-monument commemorates the death of Sir Paul Jodrell in 1728. The inscription gives details of his life and enumerates all the members of the Rolles family buried in the church since 1536. Another inscription records that the chapel was repaired by his son Paul Jodrell in 1734.

A marble monument by P Bazzanti of Florence was erected in 1833 to Richard Paul Jodrell (d. 1831). The chapel was restored in 1914 by Sir Alfred Jodrell.

The church chest.

The church is Grade 1 listed with some interesting features. Overall a quite impressive and picturesque church in a relatively small village.

The above information in the main has been extracted from the Victoria History of the County of Oxford, O.U.P. Volume 8, pages 109-114

East Oxfordshire along the M40

Whilst driving back from Oxford I stayed on the old A40 calling in at a few villages:Waterstock, Tetsworth and South Weston (plus Lewknor but that is a seperate blog). It was a very grey damp day which didn't help the photography. First to Waterstock; a small village just off the road to Thame.

St Leonard's Church, Waterstock

The current Church of Saint Leonard was re-built from an early medieval church at the end of the 15th century by Thomas Danvers and his first wife. Note the clock that was added to the east face of the tower in 1888.

The church comprises a chancel, nave, north aisle, western tower, and north and south porches. The nave and chancel were rebuilt in 1790 by Sir W. H. Ashhurst. A thorough restoration was then carried out during 1857–8 under the direction of the Gothic Revival architect G. E. Street. The builder was George Wyatt of Oxford.

The church was tired looking (the dull day probably didn't help), but at least it was open however no guide book so no information about the font.

'Parishes: Waterstock', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 7: Dorchester and Thame hundreds (1962), pp. 220-230. URL:

Next down the A40 to Tetsworth which is cut off to the south by the M40. The spire of the church is a landmark easily seen from the Motorway especially in winter when the trees are bare.

St Giles Church, Tetsworth

The present church of St Giles, which was entirely rebuilt in 1855, is a stone building consisting of chancel, nave, south aisle with tower and spire rising over the south porch, and north vestry. It replaced a smaller medieval church dating from the early 12th century which is also stated to have contained some work of Anglo-Saxon date in the north-west corner.

The design of the new church was in the Early English style; it has been little altered since and remains a characteristic example of Victorian church building. The architect was John Billing of Reading. During the restoration many medieval and later memorial inscriptions and all the heraldic glass were destroyed - not that I would have been able to see this as the church was locked.

From: 'Parishes: Tetsworth', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 7: Dorchester and Thame hundreds (1962), pp. 147-160. URL:

Down the A40 a few more miles and a right turn under the motorway and you reach the small village of South Weston

St Lawrence’s Church, South Weston

The church comprises a chancel, nave, and south porch, and an open central turret with spirelet above. It was rebuilt of flint in 1860 in the Decorated Gothic style. The first stone of the new church was laid on 2 May 1860 and the church was completed and opened by the Bishop of Oxford on 22 May 1861. The architect was R. C. Hussey.

The original church was a very simple building of Norman origin. It had no tower and little external distinction between nave and chancel; there was a Decorated east window of three lights with a statue of St. Lawrence above it in a niche on the outside wall. The statue of St. Lawrence with his gridiron still in its original position was preserved from this old church.

The church was open but not particularly memorable inside. The oak font cover and copper ewer were in memory of John Holdsworth Hunt who is buried in the churchyard.

From: 'Parishes: South Weston', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 8: Lewknor and Pyrton hundreds (1964), pp. 253-262. URL: