St Leonard, Wallingford, Berkshire

Feature Sets (3)

Description

The present church consists of a nave with S aisle and W tower, and an aisleless chancel (with chancel arch) terminating in an apse (with apse arch). There is some herringbone masonry in the nave N wall, suggesting an 11thc. date for the earliest work. The church was used as a Parliamentary barracks during the siege of 1646, and was left in a ruinous state with only parts of the chancel and N wall still standing. There were repairs in 1656, 1695 and 1700, but the church owes its present appearance to Hakewill's restoration of 1849-50, which included the rebuilding of the apse, and the replacement of the S aisle, the W tower and the font.

Despite its heavily restored state, St Leonard's contains important 11thc. work in the chip-carved chancel and apse arches. The N doorway appears to be entirely 19thc., but Pevsner (1966) calls it Norman, and it is also described below.

History

Wallingford was destroyed by the Danes in 1006 (AS Chron.). In 1086 it was the chief town of Berkshire, with a castle, several churches, a market and a moneyer. No information has been found which would suggest a date or a patron for the 11thc. building. The church was presented by Henry I to the monastery of St Frideswide, Oxford, in whose possession it remained until the Dissolution.

Features

Exterior Features

Doorways

N doorway, nave

Round-headed with tympanum, one order. The tympanum is uncarved and has a narrow raised border and a narrow chamfered lintel. The order is of detached nook shafts with bases in the form of upturned cushion capitals with plain round neckings. The capitals are also plain cushions with plain neckings. There are plain chamfered imposts and a fat roll in the arch. The label is a plain chamfer set well outside the arch of the order. It has cubic label stops. The doorway is not protected by a porch, and its condition and the form of the cushion capitals suggest strongly that it is 19thc. work.

Dimensions
Height of opening 2.61m
Width of opening 1.26m

Interior Features

Arches

Chancel arch/Apse arches

Apse arch

Round-headed, of two orders on the W face, single order on E.

First order (shared).

Square jambs carved on W faces only with chip-carved saltire crosses. They are carved for the stones they are on, and the design is therefore not uniform over the jambs but varies between two columns of crosses and four. Some stones appear to be replacements, the original blocks having a distinctive chalky pink tinge which might indicate fire damage. The jambs are curiously supplied with bases of the upturned block capital type but with a continuous roll in place of separate neckings. There are four bases on each inner jamb face and one each to E and W.

N capital: bearded human head on W angle and a palmette on the E angle. Elsewhere the surface is asymmetrically decorated with foliage forms: heavy palmettes or lilies with hooked terminals, and on the S face a vertical twisted form of two stems spiralling around one another. Cable necking and chamfered impost with a row of billet on the chamfer and chip-carved saltires on the face.

S capital. beardless male head on W angle and palmette on E angle. Elsewhere, a series of vertical stems rising from the necking, with hooked terminals, and on the N face, a twisted form of two stems spiralling around one another. Necking and impost as on N side. Only the W face of the square-section arch is carved, and that with two rows of chip-carved saltire crosses.

Second order (W face only)

Nook shafts on bases as first order supporting basket capitals: that on the N of standard form, while in that on the S the pattern is less regular and terminates (to the R) in leaves and (to the L) in a dragon's head. Both capitals have cable neckings, and the imposts are of the same design as, and continuous with, those of the 1st order. On the W faces of the jambs outside the shafts is another single column of chip-carved saltires per side. In the arch, a fat roll above the capital, and another row of chip-carved saltires outside it.

Chancel arch

Round-headed, of two orders on the W face, single order on E.

First order (shared).

Square jambs carved on W and E faces only. Taking the W face first, the N jamb has two columns of chip-carved saltires, more elaborate than those on the apse arch jambs in having a pellet in each quadrant. The W face of the S jamb is similar, except that the three lowest rows of saltires, and another row six courses below the capital, are double-width (i.e. there is a single large saltire instead of two). These big saltires are further elaborated in having clusters of four pellets per quadrant.

The E faces of the jambs are also carved with the pelleted saltires, generally a double column on the S jamb and a single column on the N, but this scheme is not rigorously followed. Bases are similar to those on the apse arch.

Both block capitals are carved with an overall basketweave design with cable necking. This is continued on the S impost, while the N impost has a chain design of intersecting rings above a plain hollow chamfer. Only the SW angle of this impost is original.

The arch also has a square profile, and the soffit is uncarved. On the W face of the arch each voussoir is carved with a compartment containing a foliage motif of two stems twisted together towards the intrados to form a trunk, but separating halfway out and each terminating in a lily. Between the lilies rises a bud. The E face of the arch is carved with pelleted saltires, usually in a single row, but occasionally doubled. This at any rate seems to have been the idea, but one of the voussoirs, near the apex, has been reversed.

Second order (W face only)

Detached nook shafts (probably replacements) supporting basketweave block capitals with cable neckings. Imposts to N and S continue the line and the designs of the inner order, right out to the junction with the nave arcade wall. That on the N appears to be a replacement. The face of each jamb outside the nook shafts is carved with squares containing radiating star motifs or four-petalled flowers, many of which are replacements, largely following the originals. In the arch, a fat nook roll and outside it the face is carved with a band of basketweave.

Comments/Opinions

Tyack et. al. (2012) criticize Hakewill's work as uninspired, but fint the 11thc apse and chancel arches splendid, dating them to the 12thc. The list description places the chancel arch, the apse arch and the doorway in the 19thc.

Bibliography

  • Anon, Church guide (June 1997).

  • Historic England Listed Building¬†249293

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth, 1966, 248.

  • G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire.¬† New Haven and London 2010, 574-75.

  • Victoria County History: Berkshire III (1923), 539-46.

Location

Site Location
Wallingford
National Grid Reference
SU 609 891 
Boundaries
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Berkshire
now: Oxfordshire
Diocese
medieval: Salisbury
now: Oxford
Dedication
now: St Leonard
medieval: St Leonard (pre-Reformation)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
17 August 1998, 30 October 2013