St Mary, East Ilsley, Berkshire

Download as PDF

Feature Sets (2)


East Ilsley is in the west of the county, 7 miles SE of Wantage.  It lies close to the junction of the prehistoric Ridgway and the ancient route from Abingdon to Newbury, now followed by the A34 trunk road, a road so continuously noisy as to be audible at all times in the village. The church stands in the village centre.  It has a nave with early 13thc. S aisle, N aisle of 1844-45, 14thc. W tower, and large square 13thc. chancel. The S aisle was restored in 1881-82, and the tower refaced in 1885-86. A further restoration was made in the mid-1970s to the stonework of the tower and the S aisle roof, and in 1987 major repairs were made to the N aisle roof, the ringers' chamber and the nave floor. The only feature reported here is the font, which dates from c.1200 or slightly later.


A holding in East and West Ilsley was held  by Stephen from William fitzAnsculf in 1086, and by Baldwin in the time of the Confessor.  This was assessed at 6½ hides.  Another holding in both places was under the overlordship of Geoffrey de Mandeville, consisting of two manors held from him by Saswalo.  Both had been held bfore the Conquest by Ordwulf, and in total they were assessed at 11 hides. East Ilsley was held by Henry de Ferrers and by Roger from him.  This holding was assessed at 3½ hides in 1086, and the same before the Conquest when it was held by Algar. Finally there was a large holding of 20 hides held by Aubrey de Coucy in 1086, which belonged to the Bishop of Salisbury's manor of Sonning.  A church belonged to this manor, but it was in Wallingford.

The manor relevant to us was held by Saswalo (or Sewall de Osevill) from Geoffrey de Mandeville. It remained in the hands of this family, and in 1199 the advowson of the church was confirmed to the Kinghts Hospitaller, to whom it had been granted by him.

mentioned. This was given to the Knights Hospitallers in 1199.





In N aisle to W of N doorway, it was moved here from the ringing chamber in 1957. On a modern octagonal stemmed plinth sits a shallow tub-shaped bowl roughly carved with four large recessed panels, leaving four shallow vertical strips slightly proud of the surface. On top of this sits the font proper, an unlined octagonal tub, very much repaired, carved with a simple round-headed relief arcade, one bay on each face. The flat columns supporting the arches have boldly projecting rectangular capitals or imposts. Around the rim is a chamfer, and around the bottom of the bowl, a double roll on which the columns stand.

ext. circumference at top 2.56m
int. diameter 0.59m
max. diameter at top (ext) 0.79m
overall h 1.05m


Pevsner (1966) (followed by Tyack (2010)) describes the font as 'said to be Norman but very doubtful'. The EH list description does not commit itself on the date of the bowl, while the VCH boldly states that it is 'of the 12th century'.  This author prefers the assertiveness of the VCH, and agrees with the caveat that it might just be early 13thc.


  • Anon, The History of St Mary's Church, East Ilsley, East Ilsley PCC, 1997.

  • English Heritage listed building¬†39861

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth, 1966, 134-35.

  • G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire.¬† New Haven and London 2010, 287-88.

  • Victoria County History: Berkshire IV (1924), 24-31.

Exterior from SE
Exterior from SW


Site Location
East Ilsley
National Grid Reference
SU 493 809 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Berkshire
now: West Berkshire
medieval: Salisbury
now: Oxford
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Mary
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
18 August 1998, 20 November 2013