Holy Rood, Rodbourne, Wiltshire

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Feature Sets (3)


The church has a Norman nave with surviving narrow windows with deep splays and a chancel that was built in the 13thc. In the nave the north and south doors date from the 12thc. while the church contains an unusual stone chair that may belong to the 13thc.


Rodbourne is a village whose lands formed a long and narrow tithing and chapelry in the southeast corner of Malmesbury parish. Until a vicarage of Malmesbury was ordained between 1191 and the mid 13thc., the chapel may have been served from Malmesbury abbey.


Exterior Features


N doorway to nave

The tympanum of this doorway is decorated with an incised cross 0.32 m wide and 0.34 m high, the full height of the rather squashed semicircular tympanum. It is 0.84 m wide. The plain square hoodmould around it is 0.11 m wide and was terminated by carved stops. Both are too damaged to be identified, though the left (eastern) has the remains of ears. The imposts are 0.16 m high and are decorated with a hollow chamfer. Buckler illustrated this door in the early 19thc.

Height of opening 1.69 m
Width of opening 0.76 m

S doorway to nave

The tympanum consists of three stones. Although the foliate pattern carved on it looks as if it could have been carved in the 19thc., it appears in Buckler's illustration in the early 19thc. The arch around the tympanum is 0.21 m wide and the hoodmould is decorated with a hollow chamfer 0.14 m wide. This doorway has a 0.16 m high impost decorated with a hollow chamfer.

Height of opening 1.92 m
Height of tympanum 0.46 m
Width of opening 1.02 m
Width of tympanum 1.18 m



Stone seat

A stone seat, with the rounded back carved from a single piece of stone, is now in the liturgical position of a sedile on the S side of the chancel. The arms end in knops, of which the left has been broken off. It is difficult to date but is very tenatively placed in the 13thc. by Pevsner. The right foot is missing, suggesting it has been moved.


The stone chair is very unusual, as most examples of stone chairs in parish churches are formed of two stone uprights that probably originally enclosed longer benches. However here the back is carved out of a single piece of stone that means it was always a single seat. The curved back finds comparison with the unique late-13thc. sedilia at Isle Abbotts (Somerset), but as a single stone chair, a closer association can be made with the pre-Conquest frith-stools at Hexham Abbey and Beverley Minster. The only comparison in a village church is that in Sprotborough (West Yorkshire), which has figural decoration of the 14thc. To suggest that the chair's presence is related to the church being served by visiting staff from a monastery may be tempting but has no grounding in serious evidence.


  • J. Buckler, Unpublished album of drawings. Devizes Museum, Vol. 8, pl. 66.

  • N. Pevsner and B. Cherry, Buildings of England: Wiltshire. Harmondsworth 1975, 2nd edition, 382.

  • A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 14, Malmesbury Hundred. Victoria County History, London 1991, 165-8.

View from NW.
Nave from W.
Nave, N side.
Exterior, N wall, window.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
ST 934 834 
now: Wiltshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Wiltshire
medieval: Salisbury
now: Bristol
now: Holy Rood
medieval: Holy Rood
Type of building/monument
Parish church, formerly chapelry  
Report authors
Allan Brodie, James Cameron 
Visit Date
26 October 1991