St James the Great, West Hanney, Berkshire

Feature Sets (4)


West Hanney is a village in the Vale of White Horse district of the county, 3 miles N of Wantage. Along with East Hanney it forms a settlement alongside the Roman road linking Oxford and Wantage, now the A338. The church is in the village centre and consists of a 12thc nave with a short tower on its N side, added in the later 12thc. The S transept dates from the 13thc, and in the 14thc the nave was lengthened westwards and a S arcade and aisle were added. The chancel was rebuilt in the 15thc. In the 19thc the church was restored, the nave was heightened and a clerstory added, and a S porch was built. Romanesque sculpture is found on the N nave doorway, the respond capitals of the arch linking the nave to the N tower, and the font. The church also has an impressive, but completely plain altar, illustrated here but not treated as a feature. It was described as being under the Jacobean communion table  - i.e. the nave altar- by VCH (1924), 291-92.


The Domesday Survey records two manors, both held by Walter Giffard with a church on the larger held from Walter by Thorold the priest. The larger holding was assessed at 7 hides and contained the church and a mill. Walter Giffard founded the priory of Newton Longville (Bucks) and gave the vill of Hanney to it; a grant confirmed by his on Walter.  The priory held a manor here until its property was confiscated, as an alien monastery, in the reign of Henry V.


Exterior Features


N doorway, nave

Round-headed, of two orders.

Height of opening 2.81m
Width of opening 1.45m
1st order

Plain, except for hollow-chamfered imposts, decorated on the upright with a row of chip-carved saltires.

2nd order

Spiral nook-shafts carrying palmette capitals, different on L and R (see below) with plain roll necking. Imposts continuous from first order.

L capital: on the angle, a large palmette of five fluted leaves with a scalloped edge, the central leaf broader than the rest, and similar half-palmettes on the E and S edges of the block. From the base of the central palmette, two fluted stems curve right around it, one in each direction, tapering to points either side of the tip of the central leaf. Each half-palmette has a similar single stem. There are thus two stems rising up each face of the capital, and in the centre of each face they join and separate, like a cursive x.

R capital: on the angle, a large palmette similar to that on the L capital. From its base emerge four fluted stems, two to each face of the capital. The two faces are symmetrical. On each, one of the two stems forms a flat U-shape in the lower half of the face, and is crossed at its nadir by a short vertical strap of beading between rolls, which runs from the centre of the face down to the necking. The other stem forms an inverted V with, at its apex, a symmetrical leaf-form of two ivy-leaves flanking a small vertical fluted bud. The two stems rejoin and terminate in a furled, fluted leaf with a scalloped edge.

In the arch, an angle roll over the capital and outside this, a quadrant moulding and a band of hollow horse-shoe cusping with bifurcated tips (see section VIII for comparisons). On the label, a chamfer with single chevron inside a band of semicircular cusping, beaded, with a double leaf motif in the spandrels.

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

N tower arch

The arch is pointed and of three orders; all chamfered in the arch, and the two outer orders chamfred in the jambs.  The only Romanesque fabric is in the 1st order (see below). 

1st order

Half-round responds carryring capitals, round in plan, with roll neckings and later chamfered imposts. The W capital is multi-fluted with triangular shields emphasized by a groove outlining the scalloped upper edge of the fluting. It has damage to the N and S sides. The E capital is of a multi trumpet scallop design with shields depressed and damage to the N and S sides. The respond bases have been largely overbuilt, although traces of a roll necking are visible on the E base.




In the nave, just inside the N doorway. Tub-shaped, and decorated with 16 incised vertical bands, running from the bottom of the tub, but finishing short of the top. Each band carries a column of rosettes in relief. The surface shows signs of retooling and several inserted repairs.The base is modern.

Circumference at bottom of bowl 2.42 m
Circumference at rim 2.615 m
External diam. at rim 0.83 m
Internal diam. at rim 0.63 m
Height of bowl 0.685 m


There seems no workshop connection between the three groups of sculpture at West Hanney. The doorway, with its simple chevron, chip-carved imposts and tall bases, is good-quality work of c.1130-50. The distinctive inner order of cusping is similar to that on the S doorway of Stanford-in-the-Vale, and to cusping shown in an 1808 print of the W doorway of St Nicholas, Abingdon, drawn before it was heavily restored, which could point to an Abingdon origin for the workshop. The font could be this early or considerably later. In any case it is certainly not a product of the same workshop. The transept tower arch capitals are probably in their original location, and the trumpet scallops date them c.1170-90. The pointed arch and outer orders are later, as indicated by the overbuilding of the 12thc bases.


  • Historic England Listed Building¬†250200

  • C.E. Keyser, 'Notes on the Churches of Hanney, Lyford, Denchworth and Charney Bassett,' Berks, Bucks and Oxon Archaeological Journal 19 (1913), 2-10, 33-37, 65-70, 97-105.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth, 1966, 263.

  • G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire.¬† New Haven and London 2010, 609-10.

  • Victoria History of the Counties of England: Berkshire. London. Vol. 4 (1924), 285-94.


Site Location
West Hanney
National Grid Reference
SU 406 928 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Berkshire
now: Oxfordshire
medieval: Salisbury
now: Oxford
now: St James the Great
medieval: St James (pre-Reformation)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
06 May 1990, 26 June 2017