All Saints, Lathbury, Buckinghamshire

Feature Sets (3)


Lathbury is a small village inNorth Buckinghamshire(ancient hundred of Bunsty), a mile from the northern edge of Newport Pagnell.  It stands in fertile, low-lying farmland in a loop of the Great Ouse.  The village is on the road from Newport Pagnell toNorthampton, and the church with the hall alongside it is some 300 yards away from the village centre, alongside the river.  The present hall,LathburyPark, dates from 1801 and replaced a medieval manor house on the same site.

All Saints consists of an aisled and clerestoried nave, chancel and W tower. Remains of the original early-12thc structure can be seen in the form of a blocked window in the S wall of the nave, now partly removed by the later arcade, and a tympanum carved with lions now reset in the N nave arcade wall at the E end.  The S arcade dates from the end of the 12thc, as does the S nave doorway (the N doorway is 18thc).  The unbuttressed, thick-walled W tower is apparently slightly later (early 13thc according to RCHME).  The tower arch has been entirely remade but retains some 12thc features; and the tower windows, plain pointed and chamfered lancets on the first two levels and double pointed and chamfered bell-openings on the third, are early 13thc work.  The S porch also belongs to this period but was rebuilt in the 19thc. The N arcade dates from c1300, as do the clerestory and the aisle windows, which have intersecting or Y-tracery.  The chancel arch is contemporary with the N arcade, but the chancel windows are stylistically later, with reticulated tracery.  Battlements have been added to nave, aisles and tower, all in blocks of brown ironstone that contrast with the greyish yellow irregularly coursed limestone rubble of the rest of the building.  The tower battlement is recent; the rest possibly 15thc.  There was a restoration in 1869 and Lathbury received a grant for repairs, carried out by L. E. King ofLondonin 1962-65.


In 1086 William d’Orange held four hides here from Hugh de Beauchamp as a manor.  The holding also included meadow and woodland for 100 pigs.  Before the Conquest two thegns, Leofric and Wulfgeat, held it as two manors.  In addition, ploughland rated at one hide less five feet was held by the Bishop of Lisieux from the Bishop of Bayeux in 1086, having been held before the Conquest by Sigeric, a man of Earl Leofric. ThechurchofLathburywas part of the foundation endowment of the Premonstratensian abbey of Lavendon, which was founded by John de Bidun some time in the mid-12thc.  John was sheriff of the county in 1154.  The manor of Lathbury was also held, at least in part, by the abbey, and in 1284 the Abbot answered for half the vill.  At the Dissolution Lavendon’s possessions passed to the Crown, and Lathbury later passed toChristChurchCollege,Oxford.

The parish now belongs to the benefice of Newport Pagnell with Lathbury and Moulsoe.


Exterior Features


S nave doorway

Round headed, 2 orders

Height of opening 2.30
Width of opening 1.37
1st order

Plain chamfered jambs carrying badly eroded capitals of Totternhoe clunch, square in plan and decorated with vertical stiff-leaf rising from neckings that are cusped on the W capital and worn away on the E.  The clunch imposts have an angle roll below the vertical face, but that on the E is practically worn away.  The arch is chamfered with plain chamfer stops.

2nd order

En-delit nook-shafts, probably replacements, on replacement attic bases of a very tall profile.  The clunch W capital is of crocket-type with volutes on the angles; the central one practically worn away.  The roll necking is a replacement and the clunch impost is as the 1st order.  The E capital is a replacement as are its necking and impost, all in brown stone.  The capital is a cushion with an angle tuck containing a thin wedge and a beaded lower border to the shield; the necking is a plain roll and the impost copies the profile of the W impost.  This capital appears very crisp and unworn and may date from the 1962-65 restoration.  The arch is plain and chamfered and traces of a chamfer stop remain at the E end only.  There is an inserted repair to the chamfer of voussoir 4 from the W.  The label is chamfered with a row of heavy nailhead on the chamfer.  The voussoirs at either end and at the apex are replacements.  The ends of the label fall directly onto the imposts without stops, but to either side is a modern head, male to the W and female to the E.

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

W tower arch

2 orders. This is entirely rebuilt and untrustworthy, and has tall square-section plinths and above them a continuous 1st order with a thin angle roll.  The 2nd order jambs are set well outside those of the 1st order, but the arch is depressed so that its apex is only just above the apex of the 1st-order arch.  The order is continuous with a chamfer.. 



S arcade

2 bays, pointed arches. The central pier is cylindrical and the responds are simple pilasters with chamfered edges.  The respond bases are plain chamfered plinths, but the pier base has a cuboidal plinth with a chamfered step at the bottom, bases in the form of a flat roll on the top of the plinth surrounding a roll necking at the bottom of the pier, and spurs at the angles in the form of a lily flanked by furled leaves.  The best of these is at the SW, but it appears to be an inserted replacement.  The arches are single-order and square-sectioned with a slight chamfer and simple chamfer stops.

1. E respond capital

The E respond and its capital and impost are replacements. The frieze capital has a plain roll necking from which rise pairs of stiff-leaves that curve to cross on another.  Between each pair is a lily in low relief.  The thin impost has a lower angle roll and a vertical face above.

2. Pier capital

The capital is of Totternhoe clunch and is a low volute capital with fleshy stiff-leaf volutes unusually descending from the abacus rather than rising from the necking.  The necking is chamfered.  Each face is carved in bold relief with a pair of addorsed (and affronted) amphisbaenae; a kind of dragon with an extra head at the end of its tail.

3. Pier capital, E face

The amphisbaenae have long, snake-like necks forming an S-curve with their heads among the foliage of the angle volutes.  The necks broaden out to a fatter body with wings and a single front leg at the front of the body with three-toed claws resting on the necking.  The tails, shorter than the necks, curve upwards and each has a head at its tip, gripping a vertical fleshy leaf with a scalloped edge.  The creatures’ bodies are tooled in different ways.  That on the left has an overall surface pattern of fine scales and a notched ridge along the spine, and the wings have curved, unarticulated feathers.  That on the right is more elaborately tooled. The body has a band of scales along its length with bands of hatching above and below and a notched ridge spine.  The wings have scales at the root and along the upper edge, and reeded feathers decorated with hatching.

4. Pier capital, S face

Similar to the E face, but the amphisbaenae are wingless.  The necks, facing outwards, are decorated with spiral reeding and the bodies and tails with scale pattern, and the creatures have notched ridge spines.  Their tail heads grip the same leaf, and a pair of similar leaves descends from the abacus, one above each body.

5. Pier capital, W face

Similar to S face but with no leaves at all except the angle volutes, and the creatures facing forward, their tail heads side by side.  Both creatures have necks and tails decorated with spiral reeding, and bodies with fishscale pattern, but only the L amphisbaena has a spine ridge.

6. Pier capital, N face

Similar to the E face in that both creatures have wings.  Their necks and tails are decorated with spiral reeding and their bodies with fishscale while the wings have parallel feathers, that on the L creature with hatched decoration.  Their tails disappear into a lion mask at the top centre of the capital.

7. W respond capital

A frieze capital decorated with alternate large and small lilies; the small ones standard fleurs-de-lys, while the large ones consist of a pointed bud flanked by outcurving stiff-leaves that form volutes at the angles.  The SE angle is an inserted replacement.

Interior Decoration


Reset lion tympanum

The tympanum is set in the S face of the N arcade wall at the E end, above the pulpit.  It is approximately rectangular in shape and was originally a single block of fine sandstone but has apparently been broken into seven irregular pieces and repaired using an adhesive that has stained the stone.  The upper L corner piece has no carving and may be a replacement for a lost piece. Arcs at the top L and R suggest that the carved field was originally semicircular or segmental.

The stone is carved in low relief and is divided into two halves by a vertical band of three-strand guilloche decorated with beading.  To the L a dog-like quadruped fights a serpent.  The dog is shown walking to the R, its head turned back to bite the beaded body of the serpent.  Meanwhile the serpent bites the dog’s throat, and its long, strip-like body encircles the quadruped in its coils.  The dog’s tail descends between its back legs and rises behind its body to terminate in a furled leaf form above its back.  Above the dog’s head is a stem of grooved Winchester acanthus with clasped offshoots terminating in a trefoil, a spiral and a furled leaf.

In the R field stands a lion, facing L with one foreleg raised and its mouth open.  An ambiguous object, too large to be its tongue, projects from its mouth.  The luxuriant main consists of rows of Ringerike-like locks ending in spiral hooks.  The tail descends between its back legs and rises behind its body; its leafy tip mingling with a tangle of untidy acanthus foliage above it.

Height of block 0.385m
Max. width of block 0.92m


RCHME dates the tympanum to c1130, and the S doorway c1190.  Pevsner prefers a date of 1090-1100 for the tympanum (a date accepted by the present author), and dates the S arcade to the late 12thc and the S doorway to c.1200.  There seems no reason not to attribute the two last to the same campaign since they include similar stiff-leaf decoration.  The inventive treatment of the amphisbaena capital is one of the delights of latest 12thc sculpture in the county –certainly meriting more than Pevsner’s bland description of it as “capital with dragons”.  The same sculptors worked at Newton Longville and on the font at Old Linslade, both nearby.


  • N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings ofEngland: Buckinghamshire.London1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 424-25.

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 2 (north).London1913, 158-61.

  • Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. I (1905), 384-86 (on Lavendon).

  • Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. IV (1927) 372-79.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SP 875 450 
now: Milton Keynes
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Buckinghamshire
now: Oxford
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: All Saints
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
07 September 2006