St James the Great, Hanslope, Buckinghamshire

Feature Sets (4)


The church has an aisled nave with a clerestorey and N and S porches, a very tall W tower of five storeys with angle buttresses and a spire supported by flying buttresses.  The chancel has the Watts funerary chapel on its N side, with a crypt below, and E of the chapel is a vestry formed by enclosing the remainder of the N chancel wall.  The 12thc chancel is a remarkable survival. In addition to the Norman chancel arch, its exterior side walls divided into five bays by half-columns with capitals at the level of a finely carved corbel table with heads, and the bays themselves formed a giant order arcade. This survives on the S side (along with a fine priest's doorway), and in the 2 bays of the vestry on the N.  There is a 12thc piscina in the S wall of the vestry. For the rest, the nave aisles are 13thc, but the clerestory and arcades were rebuilt later, in the 14thc and 15thc. The tower was built in 1409, but rebuilt after its spire was struck by lightning in 1804.


Edward the Confessor's housecarl Alden held Hanslop before the Conquest, and in 1086 it was held by Winemar the Fleming and assessed at 10 hides. Winemar's lands passed at his death to Michael de Hanslope, and when he died the Honour of Hanslope and the manor passed to William Mauduit, married to Hanslope's daughter Maud.  The manor largely remained in the possession of the Mauduits until 1215, when Robert Mauduit joined the wrong side in the war against King John. The manor was eventually returned to Robert and passed to his son William , whose own son, also William succeeded to the earldom of Warwick through his mother. Hanslope remained in this line throughout the medieval period.

The church was originally a chapel of Castle Thorpe, but following the grant of a licence by Bishop Grosseteste the positions were reversed.  Advowson passed with the manor until 1522, when it was granted by the crown to the Dean and canons of Newark College, Leicester.


Exterior Features


S doorway, chancel

Two orders, round-headed.

Height of opening (above steps) 1.75m
Height of opening (ignoring later steps) 1.86m
Width of opening 0.64m
1st order

Continuous with an angle roll and beaker clasps on the face, their tips resting on it.  The clasps are triangular with concave sides bounded by beaded bands and have foliage designs in low relief on their faces.

2nd order

Originally with detached nook shafts supporting inhabited foliage block capitals.  Both shafts and their bases are lost.  Both capitals are similar in design, with a vertical tree on the angle and branches spreading onto each face, with mounds on the ground in the centre of each face.  The capitals are badly worn, but it is clear that each has at least one lion entangled in the branches: on the E face of the W capital and the S face of the E capital.  The impost of the E capital is better preserved, and is hollow chamfered with a low roll at the bottom of the face.  The arch has centripetal chevron on the face; a single quirked roll at the inner edge, and a label with a flat face an inside it a row of elongated beading.


Plain and continuous with a double chamfered label formed by taking the stringcourse over the doorway.

Exterior Decoration

String courses

Chancel stringcourse

On both sides of the chancel, at window sill level, the stringcourse takes the form of a double chamfered quirked roll.


Chancel N wall arcading

Only one bay survives, and half of a second, now at the W end of the chancel N vestry. As on the S, the arcade arch is a continuous giant order, with an angle roll.  The respond between the arcade arches is gone, excepty for a short section at the top and the capital - a multi-scallop with sheathed cones and a row of zigzag on the abacus.  This is original.

Chancel S wall arcading

The wall is divided into 7 bays: bay 1 (W) is a short bay containing a 13thc window; the arcade takes up bays 2-6, and bay 7 (W) is another short bay containing the angle buttresses of the chancel. The 5-bay arcade arches are of giant order form, enclosing the chancel windows, except for bay 2, where the doorway occupies the lower storey of the wall and there is no window, and bay 4 where a window of c.1300 has been inserted. Arches are continuous with a heavy angle roll carried on tall attic bases.  At the ends of the wall arcade and between each pair of arches is a half-column respond also with an attic base, and with capitals that are all apparently 19thc replacements and briefly described below. A stringcouse, describe below, runs over all features horizontally at window sill level.

Respond 1 capital

Multi scallop with sheathed cones and a row of cusping at the top.

Respond 2 capital

Volute capital with uncarved cushion volutes and vertical reeding on the face between them.

Respond 3 capital

A cat mask in the top centre of the main face with symmetrical beaded stems emerging from its mouth to left and right.

Respond 4 capital

As respond 1 capital.

Respond 5 capital

A two-level capital with upright naturalistic leaves in the upper part, divided by a thin grooved fillet that steps geometrically around them. The dividing line is an inverted battlement and below it is stiff-leaf. The necking is decorated by a row of drilled beads. This is totally unconvincing as 12thc work.

Respond 6 capital

Another two-level capital with a sinusoidal stem at the top with 5-lobed leaves in the fields, an inverted battlement dividing line and multi-scallops below.

Corbel tables, corbels

Chancel N wall corbel table

There are four corbels remaining, 1 in the E bay and 3 in the W.  They are numbered continuously from L to R

Corbel 1

Two bearded male heads

Corbel 2

Cat's head

Corbel 3

Bearded male head with upturned nose

Corbel 4

Two bearded male heads

Chancel S wall corbel table

There are 2 corbels in each of the short end bays and 3 in each of the 5 full-width bays - 19 in all, numbered continuously from L to R.

Corbel 1

Lion's head

Corbel 10

Lion's head

Corbel 11

Composite human/ beast head with mouth open to show tongue and fringe of hair

Corbel 12

Cat's head with protruding tongue

Corbel 13

Round human head with long stylised beard and moustache

Corbel 14

Horizontal cylingder with square clasp

Corbel 15

Man's head with beard and no moustache

Corbel 16

Pair of chamfered discs at right angles to the plane of the wall

Corbel 17

Pair of bearded male heads

Corbel 18

Man's head with long stylised beard

Corbel 19

Beast head with very large open mouth

Corbel 2

Beast head with broad snout

Corbel 3

Similar to corbel 2

Corbel 4

Bird beakhead

Corbel 5

Horse's head with bridle

Corbel 6

Man's head with long moustache

Corbel 7

Beardless man's head

Corbel 8

Dog's head

Corbel 9

Man's head with moustache and beard

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel arch

Round headed, 4 orders to W and 1 to E. All arch orders are plain and unmoulded. Imposts have a carved quadrant below the face, with a zigzag or a truncated zigzag grooved fillet enclosing five-lobed leaves with hollow lobes and scalloped edges. Bases are attic and generally plain but two on the N side have decoration as described.

1st order (shared)

Twin attached half-columns each with quadruple scallop capitals, similar on N and S. Shields are depressed with raised, cusped lower frames. The sheathed cones are grooved as are the cylinders between them. The necking is decorated with a row of zigzag. or a double row of half beading. Both capitals on each jamb have been cut away, probably to accommodate a screen. The E face has a double chamfered label resting on square blocks at the termini of the stringcourse to either side.

2nd order, W face

The N capital is a form of multi scallop with cylindrical cones and dished shields, Triangular palmettes rise from the plain necking at the angles, overlapping the scallops.  The abacus is flat and the necking carved with a row of zigzag. The S capital is a simplified version of the 1st order capitals (similar to the 3rd order N capital with flat shields grooved below for emphasis and the necking carved with a double row of half beading.

3rd order, W face

The N side capital is carved on the angle with a vertical arris with four short fluted lobes rising obliquely from it on either side, like an inverted fir tree.  The two faces are each carved with a bundle of three vertical grooved cylinders cut off obliquely at the top to form shields. Plain necking and abacus. The S side capital has a lion mask on the angle with hatched stems issuing from its mouth onto the two faces where they curl, branch and sprout leaves. The necking is carved with a row of zigzag and the vertical abacus is uncarved. The N side base has a row of zigzag in the hollow.

4th order W face

The N side capital resembles those of the 1st order N side, without the cylinders between the shields. The necking is carved with a row of zigzag, and the impost block has been cut back flush with the wall. The S capital has two rows of vertical fluted leaves that curved to leave a central flat shield at the top of each fave.  Ther is a major loss to the W face and the necking is carved with a row of beading. The N side base has a double row of fluted leaves on the lower roll. The label of the arch has been cut back to the wall plane.


Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae

Wall piscina

Reset in the S wall of the N vestry, a round-arched piscina, its head carved from an irregular slab like a tympanum with an arched lower edge. The main features are a symmetrical pair of fanlike leaves made up of fluted lobes with hooked ends, in each of the arch spandrels.  Below these above the arch springing on each side is a daisy on a patera - a quatrefoil on the L and perhaps a worn octofoil on the R. The inner edge of the arch is carved with a row of half-bosses in a hollow.


The giant order respond capitals of the S wall arcade are totally unconvincing as 12thc  work but clearly copy and adapt forms found on the chancel arch capitals, and might be of interest to students of the Romanesque revival.  Pevsner and Williamson (1994), 369 note the round-headed chancel windows, which are neo-Romanesque and are compared with work of the 1790s at Tickencote (Rutland). They make no mention of the piscina.


  • N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire. London 1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 369.

  • Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. IV (1927), 348-62.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SP 804 467 
now: Milton Keynes
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Buckinghamshire
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Oxford
now: St James the Great
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
01 November 2011