St Faith, Shellingford, Berkshire

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Feature Sets (3)


A complete late 12thc. church of aisleless nave, chancel and W tower, the last with round-headed lower windows but lancets in its upper storeys. There was an internal restoration in 1850, when the chancel floor was raised to the level of the nave floor. More recently, a vestry has been built on the N side of the nave, enclosing the N nave doorway which now gives access to the vestry from inside the church, and which is therefore no longer visible from the exterior. Nevertheless it has here been treated as an external doorway (III 1.(iii)).

Late 12thc. sculptural work is found on the S and N doorways of the nave, the Priest's doorway on the S side of the chancel, and the chancel arch.


Shellingford was a possession of Abingdon Abbey before and after the Conquest. It was assessed at 12 hides in 1066 and in 1086. Two hides were held from the abbot by Gilbert and 1 hide by Wimund. The abbey's estate was known later as Shellingford Newbury and remained in their possession until the Dissolution. The later manor of Shellingford Blewbury probably represents the Domesday holdings of Gilbert and Wimund, which had passed to the Salmon family by the time of Henry II and remained in their possession until the 14thc. The advowson of the church remained with the abbey until it was surrendered to Henry VIII in 1538.


Exterior Features


N doorway, nave (now doorway from nave to vestry)

Round-headed, of two orders.

Height of opening 2.01m
Width of opening 0.86m
1st order

Continuous with angle roll.

2nd order

Engaged nook-shafts with damaged bases, perhaps attic originally, but only the lower torus survives. Waterleaf capitals with plain necking, similar to the Priest's doorway, but squatter.

Imposts with chamfer and an upright decorated with squarish beading. In the arch, 12 beakheads over a roll. The heads are all similar in type, with fringes, ears, drilled bulbous eyes and a central ridge along the beak with drill holes on either side.Uncarved label with a flat outside a chamfer.

S doorway, chancel

Round-headed, of two orders.

Height of opening 1.66m
Width of opening 0.845m
1st order

Nook-shafts with shaft rings of three rolls, the middle one fatter. Bases concealed by paving. Waterleaf capitals, that on L with corner leaves meeting at the centre of each face in a simple round notch; that on R with a small, vertical, lozenge-shaped leaf in the notch. Both show the rim of the bell running prominently around the upper edge of the capital, behind the leaf-tips. Plain necking. Imposts, cyma recta with a thin quirked roll above. In the arch, a flat order with an angle roll.

2nd order

Nook-shafts with shaft rings and concealed bases as first order, but with thicker shafts.

L capital: Plain lower bell. At the top, an irregular, twining stem forming a loop at the angle with foliage or fruit above (this area is damaged). The stem terminates at the W and N edges of the capital in fluted half-leaves with scalloped edges, attached to the stem at the top corners and pointing downwards. Plain necking.

R capital: Large flat fluted leaves on each angle. Upper rim of bell prominent behind their tips. Plain necking.

Imposts continuous from first order.

In the arch, one row of lateral chevrons on the face, centripetally carved and with tips resting on an angle roll. The triangular field of each unit is raised, and those on the R half of the arch have foliage designs related to those on the chancel arch capitals. The commonest design is of three fluted leaves with scalloped edges radiating from the midpoint of the long, outer edge of the triangular field, one pointing inwards, the other two following thecurve of the arch, with drilling at the leaf junctions. Other designs combine leaves and interlacing stems.

Outside the chevron, a simple roll resting on the ends of the imposts.

S doorway, nave

Round-headed, of two orders.

1st order

Engaged nook-shafts on attic bases. Capitals with plain necking, cylindrical and uncarved to half their height, then a nebule collar from which three flat leaves with central ridges flare out. Above their tips the block is squared off and decorated with an irregular undulating motif. Above this, an integral flat abacus. Complex imposts with a small roll at the bottom, then a hollow chamfer below a large roll and an upright. The arch is flat with an angle roll.

2nd order

Nook-shafts on attic bases with worn foliate spurs, and triple-roll shaft rings. Trumpet capitals with plain necking and uncarved lower halves. The upper halves are squared off, and carved with a deeply undercut foliage design, different on the two capitals.

L capital: S and E faces are identical. In the centre of each face is a lily with fluted leaves, the outer ones bifurcated at the tips, which terminate in two curls, one going up, the other down. Each lily stands on a bifurcated stem, like a W, with one end terminating at the edge of the block, and the other meeting its counterpart from the other face at the angle of the capital. Structurally, therefore, it is related to a double trumpet scallop capital. The stems are drilled out and undercut.

R capital: W and S faces are identical. Where the L capital was based on a double trumpet scallop, this is based on a triple one. In the centre top of each face, a small lily with fluted leaves rises from a double stem wich loops to L and R, forming the two outer scallops. These loops are interlaced with a third which runs in a U shape, forming the central scallop, and terminating in fluted leaves of three (at the edge of the block) or four (at the angle) lobes.

The imposts are continuous from the first order. In the arch, point-to-point chevron on face and soffit, meeting over an angle roll. Raised triangular fields on each unit of chevron, like the Priest's doorway but uncarved.

Chamfered label decorated with dogtooth on the chamfer and terminating in heads: a beast to the L,and a serpent to the R.

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel arch

Round-headed, of two orders.

First order

Half column responds with carved capitals (see below). Hollow-chamfered impost with a groove just above the lower angle. Plain arch of rectangular section.

N capital: At each of the four angles is a projecting crocket-like ballflower. Those at the SE and SW angles are broken off, and there are signs that there was another just above the centre of the main (S) face. From each of these five points descend two broad flat straps. At the NE and NW corners, one strap runs vertically down the edge of the capital at its junction with the wall, while the other runs down diagonally, meeting the necking immediately below the crockets on the SE and SW corners respectively. At these two points, each meets one of the two straps running diagonally down from the crocket in the centre of the main face, and at the junction is a round notch, as on a waterleaf. The straps from the SE and SW crockets also run down diagonally, one pair meeting in a round notch at the necking in the centre of the main face, the other pair terminating on the necking at the NE and NW corners respectively. Each strap thus crosses one other, and it is always the case that one strap from each crocket passes under, and the other over the strap it crosses.

The upper rim of the bell of the capital is clearly defined by a curved fillet, as on the Priest's doorway capitals.

S capital: Foliate with four spiral stems, two rising symmetrically from the necking at the centre of the N face, and one on each of the E and W faces, each of the latter pair spiralling in the same direction as the adjacent stem on the main face, and interlacing over and under it at the junction of major and minor faces. Each spiral stem terminates in a scalloped leaf with fluted surface, and stems branching off each main stem terminate similarly or with fruit.

Second order, W face

Nook-shafts with carved capitals (see below). Imposts continuous from first order, but shaved off on W face both sides. Plain arch of rectangular section. Plain label.

N capital: Volute, with three broad, flat leaves rising from the necking. The main leaf, on the angle, terminates in a crocket ballflower, as on the first order N capital. The half-leaves at the angles with the wall, in scalloped furls with a reeded surface. As on the first order, N capital, the rim of the bell is defined by a fillet passing behind the tips of the volutes.

S capital: Foliate as first order S capital, but with just one spiral stem on each face.


There is no reason to doubt that the same workshop was responsible for all three doorways and the chancel arch. The S nave and chancel doorways have similar inner and outer orders, and both have shaft rings. The inner order of the N doorway is a continuous version of that on the S nave doorway, and similar waterleaf capitals are found on the N doorway and S chancel doorway. It may not be too far-fetched to see the beakhead on the N doorway as a variant of the S chancel doorway chevron. The chancel arch is, of course, a different type of structure, so comparisons are limited to the capitals. The second order N capital of the chancel arch is of the same type as the second order E capital of the S chancel doorway, and emphasized bells are found both on the chancel arch and on this doorway.

The same workshop was responsible for the W doorway at Lambourn and probably the S doorway at Ashbury, which have close similarities with both S doorways here.


  • C.E. Keyser, 'The Norman doorways in the County of Berkshire, Berks, Bucks and Oxon Archaeological Journal 6 (1900), 8-18..

  • C. E. Keyser, 'Notes on the Churches of Stanford-in-the-Vale, Hatford and Shellingford, and the Chapels of Goosey and Baulking', Berks, Bucks and Oxon Archaeological Journal, 20 (1914-15), 1-9, 33-37, 65-72, 97-102.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth, 1966, 214-15.

  • J. Salmon, 'Beakhead Ornament in Norman Architecture', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 143 (1946), 349ff.

  • G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire.  New Haven and London 2010, 508-09.

  • Victoria History of the Counties of England: Berkshire. London. Vol. 4 (1924), 475-78.

Exterior from SE
Exterior from S
Interior to E


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SU 319 936 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Berkshire
now: Oxfordshire
medieval: Salisbury
now: Oxford
now: St Faith
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
07 May 1990, 02 December 2013