Balscote, formerly Balscott, is a hamlet in NE Oxfordshire, 4.5 miles NW of Banbury. The small ironstone church of St Mary Magdalene is now a 14thc. building, comprising a chancel, nave and S aisle with a slender S tower over the porch. Repairs and restorations were carried out in 1800-23, 1873 and 1921-7 (VCH). However, it retains a few features from its 12thc. origins: a fragment of a tympanum re-used in the N nave wall, some re-used internal nave corbels and a plain tub font.
In 1086 Balscote, assessed at 5 hides, was part of the fief of Bishop Odo of Bayeux and was held by Wadard, one of his most influential and wealthy tenants. Like Wadard's other lands, Balscote afterwards formed part of the barony of Arsic, of which Cogges was the head. The overlordship was held by the Arsic family in the 12thc. and 13thc.
Balscote was originally a dependent chapel of Wroxton Priory. It now belongs to the Ironstone Benefice that comprises Alkerton, Balscote, Drayton, Hanwell, Horley, Hornton, Shenington and Wroxton.
The nave has three corbels on each side supporting the roof beams but only two are identifiable as probable re-used Romanesque ones.
Nave corbels, numbered from E to W, N wall N1-3:
N1, at NE corner, a beast head, perhaps a bear, with a nose harness, drilled small round eyes, and slightly open mouth.
N2, a later 13thc. or 14thc. head.
Nave corbels, numbered from E to W, S wall S1-S3:
S1, at SE corner, damaged and unidentifiable.
S2, a human or monkey-like face on a square block of stone framed by striations on three sides, vertical carved striations at the top and diagonal on both sides. Ears placed high on the head like a monkey, with eyes (and lids), nose and mouth.
Mounted on the N nave wall, decorating a round-headed recess, is an arched stone, possibly part of a tympanum. The apex of the arch carries two petals of what was probably a 4-petalled, perhaps compass-drawn, flower design. The lower edge is chamfered and a small notch has been cut into the soffit to give the arch a slight ogee shape. The recess itself now houses a memorial tablet.
Located W of the S doorway, against the S nave wall. Tub font, tapered with a lower double roll moulding, standing on a later chamfered base. It has a lead lining which extends on to the exterior (and is edged with a zigzag pattern).
|external diameter||0.76 m|
|h. of bowl||0.57 m|
|internal diameter||0.58 m|
|overall height||0.72 m|
J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 428.
Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, 9 (1969), 171-188 (under Wroxton).