St Nicholas, Kiddington, Oxfordshire

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Feature Sets (3)


The hamlet of Kiddington is 4 miles NW of Woodstock. It is likely that the original Romanesque church was a small two-cell structure of nave and chancel, perhaps no bigger than the present enlarged chancel. The original chancel had an apsidal E end with an exterior decorated corbel table. The rest of the church is decorated and thought to be all one build. The chancel was extended westwards with a second chancel arch, together with the nave, a large S chapel, a S porch and a W tower. It was probably at this time that the original apse was taken down, as its large blocked arch held a 14thc. window, as shown by J.C. Buckler in a drawing of 1821. In 1845, G.G. Scott rebuilt the apsidal chancel on its original foundations, inserting three narrow round-headed windows. It is presumed that parts of the original Romanesque chancel arch were re-used for the new apse arch, and also the Romanesque corbels. In 1879 a vestry was added on the N side, requiring some of the corbels to be remounted within it.



Kiddington, along with Heythrop 7 miles to the N, was given c. 780 by Offa, king of the Mercians, to Worcester Priory. It was reputedly lost by the priory in the 9thc., and in 1086 was held, as was Heythrop, by Hasculf  Musard. Assessed at 5 hides and held as knight’s fee, the manor descended in the Musard family, but, as with their other Oxfordshire estates, the connection became tenuous in the late 13thc.

The church is situated next to Kiddington Hall, whose origins date back to 1673. It is now in the Benefice of Wootton, Glympton and Kiddington.



Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Corbel table

The corbel table extends along S and N walls of the chancel, with the easternmost corbel on each side just on the curve of the apse.


1) S wall. Eight corbels, reading from W to E.

S1 A dragon-like beast with a scaly body, and two legs with claws visible. Its huge head is turned back with its mouth open.

S2 A lion-like head with little ears, eyes, nose and an open mouth with a tongue.

S3 A grotesque head with three flutes on its forehead, frilly brows, bulging pierced eyes, a nose and big teeth on the soffit.

S4 A ram’s head probably, with curled lateral horns.

S5 Probably an eroded human head.

S6 As S2.

S7 Grotesque beast head with horizontal wavy lines on its brow, bulging pierced eyes, nose and an open mouth with tongue.

S8 Grotesque beast, similar to S7.


2) N wall. Three corbels E of the vestry, reading from E to W.

N1 Possibly a bear’s head with a nose band.

N2 A grotesque beast head with ears, eyes, nose and gaping mouth with many teeth.

N3 A squatting female form with arms round her shins, probably an exhibitionist, only partly visible as the corbel is concealed by the vestry roof.


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Apse arch

Round headed, one order.

First order

E face, plain.

W face. L nookshaft engaged, octagonal, plain. Base with three torus mouldings separated by vertical steps. Plain necking. Plain cushion capitals on S and W faces. Impost hollow-chamfered below a convex element, with a quirk and a vertical face above. Impost continuous on W and S faces.

R nookshaft engaged, round, plain. Base with one roll moulding over a torus moulding. Plain necking. Capital with three scallops on W and N faces with a wedge at the inner corner. Above, a shield on both faces, each decorated with two 6-petalled flowers in circles. Impost as L side.

Archivolt. Rows of centrifugal chevron of varying width, lateral to the face, separated by a hollow, thus: thick, thin, hollow, thin, thin, thick. Label stepped over the first order. Raised zigzags on the inner edge, the width of the zigzags varying, with the outer band plain.


Interior Decoration


Vestry, remounted corbels

Five remounted corbels inside the vestry, on the N side of the chancel.

Vestry corbels, from W to E, clockwise.

1: A human head with eyes, nose, mouth and lateral flaps of hair.

2: A male exhibitionist squatting with arms and legs bent (forearms missing), with testicles and a damaged phallus.

3: A wider stone bearing a grotesque beast with eyes, nose, open jaws with teeth, and a spiral on the L side of the head (R side not visible).

4: A human face with eyes, nose and mouth, and a headcloth or hat.

5: An eroded beast head with pricked ears, eyes, above a possible beak.



J.C. Buckler’s drawing of 1821 depicts a flat E end where the apse had been, with a clear outline of its arch, almost the full width of the space, blocked up and containing a 14thc. window. The present apse arch, restored by G.G. Scott appears Romanesque and in good condition, and there must have been several W-facing elements left in position, undamaged, on the inside. The new E face is plain. Viewing the chancel externally today leaves no doubt that both parts were rebuilt integrally in 1845, and the corbels would have been reinstated too. It is not known whether the present ordering or number of the corbels is the same as the original, especially as the apse now bears seven blank stones. Their ordering was changed again when the vestry was built in 1879. The two exhibitionists are now placed where they are difficult to view, the female figure hidden behind the vestry roof and the male within the vestry.



  •  J.C. Buckler, Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS.Top.Oxon.a.67, 354. Kiddington Church, S view, drawing 1821. 

  • J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, Harmondsworth 1974, 668-9.

Exterior view from SE
Interior view from W, chancel and apse arches


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SP 411 229 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Oxfordshire
now: Oxfordshire
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Oxford
now: St Nicholas
medieval: St Nicholas (pre-Reformation)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Janet Newson 
Visit Date
11 October 2010