St Martin, Sandford St Martin, Oxfordshire

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Feature Sets (4)


Sandford St Martin is a remote village in N Oxfordshire, 6 miles SE of Chipping Norton. It is in the area of the iron-rich Hornton limestone that extends NE from there. The church is thought to date from the late C12th, when it was a chapel of Steeple Barton nearby, and probably consisted of nave and chancel. The narrow N aisle of three bays was added to the nave c. 1200. Extensive alterations in the mid-C13th are believed to have prompted its dedication in 1273. The S aisle was added, the chancel was remodelled and the present chancel arch added, making decorative use of the varying colours of the Horton stone. There is a Decorated S doorway and porch, and a Perpendicular clerestory and W tower. The chancel arch was retained when the chancel was demolished and rebuilt in the C19th. Romanesque features include the Transitional N aisle with two short octagonal piers, the S chancel doorway and a decorated tub font.


The manor was held by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux in 1086, and by Adam, son of Hubert de Ryes, from him. It was rated at 14 hides less one virgate, with 100 acres of meadow, pasture 4 furlongs by 3, and a furlong of spinney. There was also a mill. Later it was held as part of the Steeple Barton manor by the St John family, and remained in their possession until the mid C16th. The church was a chapelry of Steeple Barton throughout the Middle Ages, although it was often called a church because it had a dependent chapelry in Ledwell, and an endowed vicarage. In 1977 it became part of the United Benefice of Westcote Barton with Duns Tew, Sandford St Martin and Steeple Barton.


Exterior Features


Chancel, S doorway

Restored. Round-headed, blocked. Located at the W end of the S chancel wall. One continuous order, plain and chamfered. The later plain string-course runs around the arch acting as a hoodmould.

h. of opening 1.52 m
w. of opening 0.61 m

Interior Features



N arcade

Three bays with Transitional pointed arches. 

1st order. Arches plain, double-chamfered with a plain hood to S and N. All bays similar.

Responds and piers.

E respond absent, as the E end of the 1st arcade is embedded in the chancel W wall.

Pier 1. Octagonal base, with two convex chamfers at the top. Shaft octagonal, short and sturdy. Neck plain. Capital/impost a plain projecting irregular octagon with a vertical above a deep hollow chamfer. To E, S, W, and N the sides of the octagon are shorter than those on the alternate sides, forming a deeply scooped lip.

Pier 2. Base deeper than Pier 1, with a single deep plain chamfer with a shallow convex one above. Shaft and neck as Pier 1. Capital octagonal with a deep hollow chamfer, the same on all sides. Impost plain and vertical with a chamfer below.

W respond, an engaged column of three octagonal sides, largely obscured by fixed pews. Base, shaft, neck and capital as for Pier 2.




Located on the N side of the nave, close to pier 2 and almost opposite the S door, a font of oolitic limestone, originally tub-shaped. The bottom half of the tub has been roughly chamfered into an octagonal shape to fit a small octagonal base that sits on a larger modern square block of two layers. Lead lining present, extending over the top edge. Lock damage on the N face.

external diam. of bowl 0.72 m
h. of bowl 0.46 m
internal diam. of bowl 0.53 m
Decoration of faces

Decorated with a continuous band of ten chevrons, formed of three parallel deeply incised grooves. The ten spaces between the upper points contain different motifs, but most are incomplete at the top. From the E face, clockwise:

1. E, the three lower diamond-shaped lobes of a four-lobed pattern.    

2. SE, blank or illegible.

3. SE, a star shape with four or five radiating arms.    

4. S, a crucifix with incised arms, the vertical incomplete at top.

5, 6. SW, incised variants of scroll patterns, incomplete at top.

7. W, a chip-carved star or flower with six rays.    

8. NW, incised scroll patterns like 5 and 6, incomplete at top.

9. N, an upright tree with scroll-like leaves, incomplete above and damaged at upper left (probably lock damage).

10. NE, the base and two lateral arms of an incomplete crucifix or Maltese cross.


Sherwood and Pevsner (1974) suggest that the nave piers of the N aisle were originally round and were recut into their octagonal shape. Their sturdy character does contrast with the slimmer ones of the S aisle, erected in the second half of the C13th, but as they have large octagonal capitals to match, this seems unlikely. The eccentric nature of the capital of the first pier, particularly, makes it more likely that this was an original feature, c. 1200.

Most of the motifs on the font that occupy the chevron spaces are incomplete. It seems that the font top must have been trimmed, as noted by CRSBI for the arcaded font at All Saints Church, Sutton Courtenay, Berkshire.


  • Sandford St Martin P.C.C., St Martin's Church, Sandford St Martin. A Guide to the Church and the Churchyard (Sandford, 2009).

  • J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire (Harmondsworth, 1974), pp. 750-1.

  • Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, 11 (London, 1983), p. 178.

Exterior view from NW
Interior view from W


Site Location
Sandford St Martin
National Grid Reference
SP 420 267 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Oxfordshire
now: Oxfordshire
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Oxford
medieval: St Martin
now: St Martin
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Janet Newson 
Visit Date
25 June 2011