St James, Finchampstead, Berkshire

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Feature Sets (2)


Finchampstead is in the south of the county, 7 miles SE of Reading and under a mile from the Hampshire border. It lies on the Roman road from London to Bath (the eastern part, from London to Silchester is known as the Devil's Highway). It is a good sized village, and the church stands in the old centre on a prominent hill. St James's has a rectangular 12thc. nave (two N windows visible inside) and apsidal chancel, with a square red brick W tower of 1720. On the N side is a chapel running the length of the chancel and most of the nave with arches from both. This addition is dated 1590 TH (above the outer door). Nave, chancel and N chapel are all rendered. Romanesque sculpture is confined to a font and a pillar piscina.


Finchampstead was held by Earl Harold in the Confessor's reign, and at his death at the Battle of Hastings it passed to William I. It remained in royal hands until Henry I granted it to Robert Achard, along with the lordship of Aldermaston. Later in the 12thc it was sublet to the Banisters, and it remained in this family until the late 13thc.  The advowson of the church was vested in the lords of the manor.





Inside the N nave doorway stands a tub font on a later cylindrical pedestal. The bowl is carved with a design of diagonal alternating flat rolls and rows of beading. Below this is a roll, and then a row of sawtooth around the lower rim. Below the modern pedestal, the base may be original. It has a lower cylindrical plinth with and angle roll, and above it a ring of complex chevron ornament: a row of lateral chevron with a cogwheel edge above it, and a row of frontal pyramidal wedges above that. The basin is unlined and carved in a shelly limestone.

ext. diam. of bowl at top 0.72 m
h. of bowl 0.44 m
int. diam. of bowl at top 0.55 m

Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae

Pillar piscina

The pillar piscina, carved in a shelly limestone, is set in a niche in the S wall of the apse, its upper surface against the top of the niche so that it is unusable. It consists of shaft and capital carved from a single block and set on an octagonal base with an integral square plinth. The shaft is circular, but with regular vertical rolls carved all the way round it, corresponding to the angles of the octagonal base. The capital has flat, spade-shaped leaves on the angles, outlined by pairs of ridges. At the top centre of the main face is a pellet. The necking is octagonal, the angles matching the ridges on the shaft and the angles of the base. It has a roll profile with a central groove. The abacus is hollow chamfered. The base is carved with a quirked hollow above a roll.

circumference of shaft 0.53 m
h. of base and plinth 0.14 m
h. of capital including abacus and necking 0.21 m
h. of shaft 0.26 m
overall h. 0.61 m
w. at abacus 0.24 m


Stylistically the piscina is of a later date than the font. Its flat-leaf capital and especially the profile of the necking suggest that it was made in the last years of the 12thc. The font, on the other hand, is most comfortably dated in the second quarter of the century.


  • W. Lyon, Chronicles of Finchampstead, London 1895.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth 1966, 143-44.

  • G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire.  New Haven and London 2010, 306-07.

  • Victoria County History: Berkshire III (1923), 241-47

Exterior from S.
Exterior from E.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SU 793 638 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Berkshire
now: Wokingham
medieval: Salisbury
now: Oxford
medieval: not confirmed
now: St James
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
07 November 2003