St Mary, Glympton, Oxfordshire

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Feature Sets (4)


The small village of Glympton lies in the valley of the river Glyme, 10 miles NW of Oxford. The church is hidden within the Glympton estate, accessible by public footpath from the village or by road via the N Lodge. A church was in existence on this site by the early 12thc, presumably consisting of a nave and chancel. The nave was rebuilt during the later Middle Ages. The W tower was largely rebuilt in the 16thc or 17thc, but the original internal Transitional tower arches were retained and its external walls include fragments of decorated Romanesque stone. The chancel arch was replaced and widened in 1849, re-using the original responds and probably simulating the Romanesque arch. In 1872 there was a thorough restoration by George Edmund Street, who rebuilt the chancel and its roof, and also added a S doorway, porch, vestry and new nave windows. The Romanesque features are fragments of zigzag and a possible corbel re-used in the tower, the chancel arch responds and capitals, part of the nave walls with internal corbels, and the decorated font. An inscription mounted in the chancel may also be Romanesque.


Glympton is presumed to have been held by Edward, whose boundary touched the neighbouring parish of Wootton in 958, and later by Aegelric of Glympton who witnessed a charter c.1050. In 1066 Glympton, together with estates in Wootton, Finmere and Hethe, was held freely of Edward the Confessor by Wulfward the White, who survived the Conquest, but by 1086 it was part of the fee of Geoffrey, Bishop of Coutances. It presumably passed with Geoffrey's other lands to his nephew Robert de Mowbray, earl of Northumberland, and was forfeited to the Crown on his rebellion in 1095. The Bishop's tenant in 1086 was William, perhaps the ancestor of the next recorded lord, Sir Geoffrey de Clinton (Henry I's chamberlain), who first appears c.1110, and certainly held Glympton by 1122. He gave Glympton to his brother William, who was succeeded by his son Ralph. From Ralph it went to his brother Jordan de Clinton (d.1189), who had exchanged it with Geoffrey's grandson, Henry de Clinton.

The church was in existence by the early 12thc when Manasser Arsic gave it 1.5 hides in Ludwell (Ledwell, nearby). Geoffrey de Clinton gave Glympton church to his new foundation, Kenilworth priory, in 1122. The Priory’s right to it was challenged twice, unsuccessfully (VCH).

The original dedication was to St Laurence, but it was changed to St Mary by the early 18thc, although the parish wake was still kept on or near St Laurence’s day (VCH). However, Frances Arnold-Forster (1899) does not recognise the early dedication to St Laurence. The church is now in the United Benefice of Wootton, Glympton and Kiddington.


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration


Re-set fragments of stone on W tower

Decorative stone fragments are visible on all faces of the tower except for the E.

N face, 3 stones, average height 0.11m
N face, 3 stones, total length 0.84m
Tower, N face

At a height of 1.52m above ground level, and approximately 2m from the NW corner, there are three contiguous stones, each featuring triple zigzags. An isolated stone, further E at the same height, also bears triple zigzags, and a higher one shows two and a half.

Tower, S face

Above the porch roof there are two single stones, each bearing three raised zigzags. Each stone is very slightly curved downwards.

Tower, W face

Between the W window and the bell opening, six single pieces of re-used stone are inserted in the wall. Two stones each carry two zigzags, and three carry triple zigzags (one is mounted with the curve facing upwards). One square stone bears two eyes, with eyebrow-like double ridges, and has a straight sill at the top as on a corbel.

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel arch

The arch has been widened, probably using the original design on the W face. The responds are largely original. Two round-headed orders on the W face.

First order

E face: plain, decorated only by the continuous imposts that wrap around from the W face, hollow-chamfered below a vertical face with saltire-in-square above. Probably original on S side, restored on N.

W face: L nookshaft engaged, plain. Base obscured by stone steps to pulpit. Necking plain, damaged. The capital is probably recut and features three scallops with tucks on E and S faces. Each face has two plain shields above, with a central lower one for the central scallop. Continuous imposts as E face. The wide respond on the N side has continuous imposts as E face, otherwise is plain except for a stone plaque with an inscription (see below). R nookshaft, as L. Base below floor level. The capital shows a design only on the upper half: W and N faces bear two upright leaves and a small central one between them, with a shared corner volute. The continuous impost is similar to L nookshaft, and looks original.

Second order

W face: L nookshaft as first order, but capital damaged by having most of the scallops on the W side sliced off. R nookshaft, base, shaft and neck as first order. Capital, W and N faces bear three scallops with tucks, the corner scallop being shared.

The archivolt was largely restored in the 19thc; it consists of four wide roll mouldings, and a narrow band of rectangle-in-square, followed by a stepped chamfered edge to the flat plain label.

Tower/Transept arches

Tower arch

The high organ loft, now directly E of the tower, obscures the view from the E, hence the W view is shown. Two plain chamfered orders, the inner resting on modern chamfered corbels and the outer continuous.

Interior Decoration


Inscription, N respond of chancel arch

Inscription mounted on a rectangular block of stone on the wide N respond of the chancel arch.

Depth of stone 0.23m
Height of stone 0.22m
Width of stone 0.30m
Inscription details

The letters are uneven, incised 1-2mm deep, in three lines that fill the entire field, reading as follows:




This translates as ‘THIS CHURCH WAS DEDICATED ON THE IDES OF MARCH’. The second ‘D’ of ‘DEDICATION’, and the ‘D’ of ‘IDES’, are manifest as ‘O’s. The ‘T’s both have tails pointing to the right, like a reverse of ‘J’. The ‘M’ of ‘TEMPLII’ is written normally, but that of ‘MARTII’ is written with two upturned conjoined ‘U’ shapes. The letters vary in height from 19 to 40mm, the upper row being largest. None of the letters, nor the stone, is damaged.

Nave corbels

On the nave walls, three corbels on S and N walls.

Corbels, N nave wall

Reading E to W:

N1: A grotesque head with oval eyes and three vertical ridges that run down to possible lips at mouth level.

N2: A human head with eyes, eyebrow ridges, nose, and a wide upturned moustache, with a mouth below it.

N3: A human head with eyes, nose, a large downturned moustache and a small pursed mouth below it.

Corbels, S nave wall

Reading E to W:

S1: A man, his arms akimbo, wears a garment with sleeves hanging in reeded folds over his forearms, and trousers. His head, a simple triangle, has eyes, nose, mouth and a small chin.

S2: Possibly a ram’s head with round horns at the sides.

S3: A grotesque head with eyes, nose and a mouth with teeth. Flaps like ears beside the cheeks.



Bucket-shaped font

Located in the nave aisle at the W end, E of the tower arch. Bucket-shaped, of oolitic limestone, it is supported by a modern base consisting of a succession of layers. The middle layer has a zigzag carved into it. The lead lining is cut into a zigzag at its upper edge. The font appears undamaged.

Font sides divided into three registers of different forms of zigzag. In the basal two registers, the zigzag is formed by chiselling out every alternate triangle so that it is c.5mm lower than its neighbours. The line separating the registers is skewed upwards on the NE face so there are taller triangles at this point. There are seventeen triangles on the basal and eighteen shorter ones on the middle register, one large lower triangle being opposite two smaller ones on the middle row. The shallow top register is decorated with incised zigzag, but the incisions along the rim become crosses around the S half of the circumference.

External diameter of bowl 0.74m
Height of bowl 0.50m
Internal diameter of bowl 0.59m


Chancel arch

Besides being responsible for Glympton, Geoffrey de Clinton built St Peter’s church at Cassington, where he resided, and it was consecrated in 1122; eight miles S of Glympton, this early Romanesque church is still relatively intact (see separate site report). Cassington’s chancel arch is comparable, decorated with a series of heavy roll mouldings of different widths, but it has zigzag on the outer order, in contrast to Glympton’s star-in-rectangle. Both villages were close to the royal hunting forest at Woodstock, then much favoured by King Henry I.


The lettering on the N respond of the chancel arch is of Romanesque character, and could have a 12thc origin. It is suggested that only part of the inscription is present as the year is missing (VCH). Bertram (1993, 37-39) believes that it is 13thc, and interprets the message as meaning that the church’s dedication feast is to be kept on March 15th. The date does not accord with St Laurence’s feast day, which is August 8th. The stone plaque is not mentioned in 17thc to 19thc accounts of the church, so it is presumed that it was removed from its original position in the medieval building, and was discovered and remounted during the mid-19thc rebuilding. It looks undamaged and the inscription now completely fills the block.

W tower re-set fragments

The reused decorative stonework on the tower is mostly simple zigzag, with three zigzags predominating on each slightly curved stone. The shallowness of the stones (only 0.11 m), and their slight curvature, suggests a wide arch, or, more likely, the hoodmould to one. It is likely that the early church would have had an embellished doorway. The square stone on the W face, with a straight sill above, might be part of a corbel.


  • F. E. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications: Or, England's Patron Saints, London, 1899, 3 vols.

  • J. Bertram, Medieval Inscriptions in Oxfordshire, Oxoniensia, 68, 2003, 37-39.

  • J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, Harmondsworth, 1974, 612-3.

  • Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, 11 (1983), 128-130.

Exterior view from SE


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SP 423 217 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Oxfordshire
now: Oxfordshire
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Oxford
medieval: St Laurence
now: St Mary (By early 18thc.)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Janet Newson 
Visit Date
30 September 2010