St Peter, Cassington, Oxfordshire

Feature Sets (4)

Description

The village of Cassington is 4 miles NW of Oxford. St Peter’s Church has a known consecration date of 1123 and it remains a relatively unspoilt example of early Romanesque architecture. It is built of limestone rubble, with ashlar quoins, and shows areas of herring-bone masonry high on the nave walls. It comprises a chancel and aisleless nave with a central tower. It retains two original nave doorways and a tower doorway, most of its round-headed windows, and complete external corbel tables on chancel and nave. In 1318, when an upper stage and spire were added to the tower, the original corbel stones of the second stage were reused. Interiorly, there are two decorated tower arches and a sanctuary with quadripartite rib vaulting. There is also a Romanesque font.

History

The Domesday Book records that in 1086 Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and King William's half-brother, was the overlord of the manor of Cassington; he designated as mesne lords Wadard of Cogges and Ilbert of Lacy.

The church was founded in 1122 by the elder Geoffrey de Clinton, Chamberlain to King Henry I, who held one of the manors in Cassington and built it as a chapel attached to his residence; it was dedicated to St Peter and consecrated by 1123. Sir Geoffrey de Clinton laid the church under the jurisdiction of Eynsham Abbey. It was called a chapel as late as 1406, and Eynsham retained the advowson until the Dissolution.

Cassington is now part of a joint benefice with Eynsham.

Features

Exterior Features

Doorways

N nave doorway

The N doorway, although 'mutilated' (Sherwood and Pevsner, 1974), is now the main access facing the village. It is directly opposite the S nave doorway, and originally probably paired with it. Its dimensions are now higher and narrower than the S doorway. 

Dimensions
Height of opening 2.46m
Width of opening 1.08m

N tower priest's doorway

A round-headed narrow doorway, located on the NE corner of the tower at ground level, next to the buttress or corner stair. Jambstones of rubble and arch of restored dressed stone.

Dimensions
Height of doorway 1.89m
Width of doorway 0.64m

S nave doorway

This doorway is no longer used, but it can be viewed from within the locked porch. It features two orders with a lintel and tympanum within the arch.

Dimensions
Height of lintel 0.47m
Height of opening 2.19m
Height of tympanum 0.56m
Width of lintel 1.51m
Width of opening 1.27m
Width of tympanum 1.27m
Arch with lintel and tympanum

Monolithic and plain lintel, a little wider than the doorway, with upper edge chamfered.

The tympanum is made up of probably seven plain stones in two rows, and is surrouinded by an arch of twelve radial plain voussoirs, those at the ends being wider.

The arch features a plain thick roll moulding, followed by two concave mouldings with a narrow fillet in between. Hood of raised zigzag with a plain outer fillet.

First order and second order.

First order: plain jambstones and voussoirs.

Second order: both sides the same. Nookshaft engaged, round and plain, with a damaged torus standing on a worn square plinth. Capital with plain cushion shields on front and side faces. Impost with a hollow chamfer below a quirk and a vertical.

Windows

Nave windows

Round-headed nave windows of similar structure and size are located to the E of the S porch and to both sides of the N porch

N nave windows

Two N nave windows of similar structure and size are located at each side of the N porch. They are not recessed, and are surrounded by plain dressed stones. Both windows show cylindrical billet below their sills, but on the westerly window it is damaged on the left side.

S nave window

Located E of the S porch, opposite the more easterly N nave window. Window recessed and surrounded by stones bearing a roll moulding on their inner side. Outside this, stepped jambstones and voussoirs. The lower edge of the sill bears a row of cylindrical billet.

N chancel window

Located at the centre of the N wall of the chancel. The window is narrow and recessed, surrounded by a roll moulding and a row of flat stones, and followed by stepped jambstones and voussoirs. Worn billet on the sill.

Tower windows

Two lancet windows are visible on the N face of the tower. A larger round-headed one, formerly external on the W face, is now visible only internally from the nave.

N face, lancet windows

The two lancets on the N face are located on the E side. The lower one is on the buttress at the NE corner of the tower, just below the edge of the nave roof. Round-headed, it is bordered by large dressed stones with a monolithic one over the arch. The lower part of the opening is partially blocked inside by a large stone. A rectangular lancet, at the base of the second stage of the tower, is similarly surrounded by large dressed stones.

W face, blocked window

A round-headed blocked window is visible from inside the nave, on the wall above the W tower arch. It was originally external, as shown by the former roofline that it cuts.  

Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Chancel and nave corbel tables

Continuous corbel tables extend along the entire length of the S and N chancel and nave walls, omitting the tower walls. Each corbel is right-angled, fitting into the roof overhang.

N corbel table, chancel and nave

N corbel table of 34 corbels, reading from L to R (E to W):

 N1: Human head, round with eyes, nose and mouth.

 N2: A long head, probably human, with brow lines, eyes, nose, mouth and beard.

 N3: A grotesque beast, with a wide head across the eyes, but with a long narrow snout with nostrils, and two human hands reaching to it on each side.

 N4: A wide, possibly human, head with hands across its mouth, as N3.

 N5: Blank.

 N6: AS S23, with a double tau-shape and a little round head on each side.

 N7, N8: Blank.

 N9: A cusp with two bulges, damaged below.

 N10: A tapered human head.

 N11: Probably a wide human head.

 N12: As N6, with two small heads facing in opposite directions.

 N13: Four stepped squares with a central knob.           

 N14: A pointed beast head with a cusp on its brow, eyes and a snout.

 N15: As N13.

 N16: Eroded human head.

 N17: Eroded four stepped square, as N13.

 N18: Eroded human head with side-burns.

 N19: Eroded double head.

 N20: A ram-like head with horns and a narrow snout.

 N21: A grotesque beast, possibly a wolf.

 N22: Eroded man with his tongue out.

 N23: Probably a beast with a very pointed nose.

 N24: Two stepped squares above with a central dog-like beast below with droopy ears and an open mouth.

 N25: Beast, with base eroded.

 N26: A cusped structure with no head.

 N27: Eroded man, as N22, with his mouth open.

 N28: A small human with a huge round head on the upper angle, with a tiny body on the vertical. His long arms reach from the angle up around the top of his head. At the base, little feet extend from a skirt-like garment.

 N29: Beast with a nose strap, snout broken.

 N30: As S7, but broken on the L.

 N31: A beast with ears and a tapering head and nostrils, possibly a bear.

 N32: Grotesque man with a round head, eroded.

 N33: Damaged.

 N34: Three heads, as S1 and also on the W corner. Perhaps L head features a man with an open mouth; the central one as S8, a beast with wide upper head across eyes and a narrow snout with nostrils; R head shows a beast with a nose strap.

S corbel table, chancel and nave

S corbel table of 34 corbels, reading from L to R (W to E):

 S1: A corbel bearing three long heads, perhaps of horses, worn at the muzzle end, that on the R having a horizontal strap across its nose.

 S2: A beast with a wide head at eye level, narrowing to two nostrils at the end.

 S3: A human head with double cusps on the brow, eyes, nose and a small mouth.

 S4: Three stepped squares, like a pyramid, with a knob in the centre.

 S5, S6: Eroded humans or beasts, with eyes, noses and mouth holes.

 S7: A three-sided cylindrical form of laminated stone, open below.

 S8: A beast head, triangular above with eyes, narrowing to a long snout with nostrils, with a vertical row of holes beside it on the L.

 S9: Possibly a human head with brow ridges, eyes, nose, nostrils, and lower part damaged/missing.

 S10: Beast-like triangular head with rounded ears and a frill round it.

 S11: Head missing on L, body and three legs of a hare are visible.

 S12: Small round human head with bulgy eyes, nose and mouth.

 S13: Bottom one-third missing, a long vertical shape.

 S14: An upturned cylindrical U-shape, as S7.

 S15: A pointed human head with a long nose, small eyes and tiny mouth, with curved cylindrical side pieces.

 S16: Three stepped squares, as S4, with a small head with nostrils.

 S17: Double-headed with a wedge between the lower muzzles. Each three-quarter face, turned away from each other, with eyes, brows and nostrils. The L head has a row of four holes down its outer edge.

 S18: Grotesque human head with eyes, nose and open mouth.

 S19: Beast with ears at top corners, eyes, worn nose and snout broken.

 S20: Two stepped squares with a worn small, long face below.

 S21: As S8, but with a cylindrical shape, possibly a snake, coiled round the head.

 S22: Double cusps form a long nose, eyes, with a possible moustache above, the lower jaw missing.

 S23: A tau-shape, flared at the base, enclosing two bulging eyes or two little faces.

 S24: An eroded grotesque beast with eyes and nose.

 S25: Upper part of head only, with horizontal eyes.

 S26: Human head with eyes, nose and mouth.

 S27: Blank.

 S28: Human head with small eyes, nose, mouth, and side pieces.

 S29: Eroded top, bottom half missing.

 S30: Top with eyes only, bottom half missing.

 S31: Two worn heads looking outwards on the angles, as S17.

 S32: Human head with hair.

 S33 As S8, but big eyes and without the holes.

 S34: Eroded, half missing.

Tower corbels

Nine reused corbels, located on each face of the second stage of the tower, just below the quatrefoils of the upper stage. Structure as chancel and nave corbels. The corner corbels are common to two faces and of probable 14thc origin. Of the seven reused corbels on each face, many are worn and unreadable. Tower corbel table (T), each face reading L to R:

Tower corbels, E face

TE1: Possibly a beast head, with a hole below perhaps with a tongue.

TE2: A human head with two eyes and a central inversed Y-shape, looking as if it represents a conjoined nose and moustache.

TE3: A raised X-shape.

TE4: A smooth quarter cylinder shape, lying horizontally.

TE5: Horizontal striations, unreadable.

TE6: As TE2.

TE7: As TE3.

Tower corbels, N face

TN1: Human head with horizontal lines on forehead, eyes, long nose extending to base.

TN2: Probably beast head but snout broken off.

TN3: Probably human as TE2, but lower jaw missing.

TN4:  As TE4.

TN5: As TE2.

TN6: Eroded human with eyes, nose and open mouth.

TN7: Beast with a brow and nose band, eyes and a mouth on the flat snout.

Tower corbels, S face

TS1  As TE2.

TS2: Probably as TE2, but eroded.

TS3: As TE4.

TS4: Eroded head of a human or beast.

TS5: As TE4.

TS6: An eroded round head.

TS7: Unreadable.

Tower corbels, W face

TW1: As TE2.

TW2: A human head with eyes, nose and a large, grinning mouth.

TW3: As TE2, but lower part missing.

TW4: Blank horizontal cylinder.

TW5: Human head with round eyes and drilled pupils, small mouth, and inversed Y as in TE2.

TW6: As TE2, but eroded.

TW7: As TE2, in good condition.

Interior Features

Arches

Tower/Transept arches

Tower arches

Of the E and W arches of the central tower, the E arch acts as the arch to the sanctuary. Both arches are similar, completely plain on the E face and with two orders on the W face.

E faces

A single course of plain facing stone is present on the W arch, absent from the E arch. Continuous imposts, with a hollow chamfer below and a quirk on the vertical, wrap around from the W face on to the E.

W faces

L and R sides the same.

First order

Bases with a lower convex moulding and a hollow chamfered one above stand on two square plinths. Engaged cylindrical and plain nookshafts. Plain neckingCapital featuring a single plain cushion to the W and the inner face. Impost as E face. Arch with one wide roll moulding and a hollow.

Second order

Nookshafts and capitals as first orderArch stepped over first order, with one wide angle roll followed by a hollow, a narrow roll and a fillet. Label, slightly stepped, a band of raised zigzag.

Vaulting/Roof Supports

Chancel

Sanctuary rib vaulting

The sanctuary is rib-vaulted, supported at each corner by slim nookshafts, with bases and cushion capitals as for the tower arches. The ribs consist of a plain 3/4 roll sitting on a plain base. At the apex of the ribs is a slight crest, running SE/NW, superimposed on that rib. Both nookshafts and ribs are of the same diameter.

Furnishings

Fonts

Tub font

Located in the nave, just W of the cross passage between the nave doorways. Font slightly tapered and plain, standing on an old base with a vertical and two convex mouldings above. Repaired damage on S face. No lead lining is present, but there is a single small drainage hole.

Dimensions
Height of bowl 0.69m
Inner diameter of bowl 0.73m
Outer diameter of bowl 0.90m

Comments/Opinions

The church was restored between 1841-1842 by vicar Thomas Forster. In 1876 a second restoration took place under the direction of George Frederick Bodley. The nave roof, the windows and the N porch were restored in 1901; a vestry was built on the S side of the chancel.

S and N doorways

The plain tympana are similar to those in the crypt of St Peter-in-the-East, Oxford, and of comparable date. In 1970, the roof of the N bay of the S porch was raised to reveal the chevron moulding of the hood of the S doorway (VCH). In Romanesque times the more richly decorated S doorway then faced the village and would have provided the main access to the church.

Corbels

Many of the corbels are comparable to those at the church of St Peter and St Paul, King’s Sutton (Northamptonshire), only 15 miles away, E of Adderbury, near Banbury. Two motifs in particular show a close resemblance: those with two (addorsed) heads facing away from each other on the same corbel (S17,S31 and N19), and those with a series of stepped squares with a central boss (S4, S16, S20, N13, N17 and N24) (Baxter, 2008). As these motifs are unusual, they might have been carved by the same mason, and probably with the patronage of wealthy patrons at both churches. Dating at King’s Sutton is not certain, but it could be as early as the 1120s.

Bibliography

  • J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire.¬†Harmondsworth, 1974, 522.¬†

  • R. Baxter, 'St Peter and St Paul, King's Sutton, Northamptonshire.' www.crsbi.ac.uk/search/county/site/ed-nh-kisut.html (2008).

  • Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, 12 (1990), 49-52.

Location

Site Location
Cassington
National Grid Reference
SP 454 106 
Boundaries
now: Oxfordshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Oxfordshire
Diocese
now: Oxford
medieval: Lincoln
Dedication
now: St Peter
medieval: St Peter
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Janet Newson 
Visit Date
22 September 2011, 24 May 2012