St Michael, Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire

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Feature Sets (3)


Waddesdon is a good-sized village 5 miles NW of Aylesbury on the Roman road ofAkeman Street.  The village is dominated by Waddesdon Manor, on a Lodge Hill to the W, but there was no medieval manor house here; the present house, built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild from 1874-80, was the first on the site, and Rothschild built the present village to the E of the old village centre at the same time.  Nevertheless evidence of continuous settlement here goes back to the bronze age.  The church stands in the centre of the old village, opposite the gates to the manor, on the N side of the A41 which approximately follows the line ofAkeman Streetthrough the village.  St Michael’s is a large church with an aisled nave with S porch, chancel and W tower.   The nave is late-12thc, with an elaborate S doorway under a 14thc porch, rebuilt in 1902.  The nave aisles are of six bays with clerestory windows above the piers.  The N arcade is uniform, with the octagonal piers, finely moulded capitals and convex chamfered arch orders typical of the first years of the 14thc, and the use of forms of Y-tracery in most of the aisle windows confirms this dating.  The S arcade, however, reveals a more complex history.  The two E bays, including pier 1 but not pier 2, have the same design as the N arcade.  The next three bays also have pointed arches, but with late-12thc details, the piers are cylindrical and the capitals are scalloped.  Then pier 5 has a roughly moulded capital of a mid-13thc type, and the arch of bay 6 has deep double chamfers, also diagnostically mid-13thc.  Finally the W respond returns to the scalloped design of piers 2-4.  What this suggests is that a 12thc arcade of four bays (the present bays 2-5) was extended westwards by a bay in the 13thc; the W respond being reused n the new W wall, a new being pier inserted (pier 5) on the line of the old E wall and a new arch built (bay 6).  Then in the early 14thc the aisle was extended by a bay to the E, the original pier 1 being retained as the new pier 2, and the arch of the old bay 1 being rebuilt in the new style.  Piers 2, 3 and 4 have (or had) slim shafts rising from the impost blocks on the nave face, terminating in small scallop capitals, but carrying nothing.  Small statues are a possibility, or transverse arches or, perhaps likeliest, roof trusses.  The clerestory is 15thc, and its insertion, together with the raising of the nave walls and flattening of the roofline, was presumably responsible for the loss of the original trusses, supported by the shafts above the pier capitals.

The chancel dates from the early 14thc campaign, being rebuilt a bay further east than the 12thc chancel.  The tower is of the late 14thc, with Perpendicular bell-openings, a polygonal SE stair with a battlemented turret rising higher than the main parapet, and angle buttresses at the W.  It was taken down and rebuilt in 1891-92.  A sign of an early restoration is given by the rainwater heads, dated 1736, and the church was completely restored during the incumbency of Richard Burges (1859-67).  The nave and chancel are mortar rendered, and the tower is of irregular ashlar blocks.  Romanesque sculpture is found on the S doorway and S nave arcade.


The manor of Waddesdon was held by Beorhtric, a thegn of Edward the Confessor, before the Conquest.  He was dispossessed by the Conqueror’s queen Maud, and by 1087 it had passed to Miles Crispin, who had a manor house here but whose main dwelling was atWallingford(Berks).  The overlordship of Waddesdon manor descended with the honour ofWallingford.  Henry II granted the tenancy of Waddesdon manor to Henry of Oxford, and after Henry’s death (before 1167) to Reynold Courtenay.  Reynold married Hawise, coheir of the Earl of Devon, between 1173 and 1178, and settled Waddesdon on his wife’s half-sister Maud as a dowry when she married a relative of his.  After Maud’s death, c.1224, Waddesdon reverted to Robert Courtenay (d.1242), heir of Reynold and Hawise.

By the early 13thc Waddesdon rectory was a prebend in Lincoln cathedral, held in three portions, the advowson of each descending with the manor of Waddesdon.  This situation lasted until 1874.  The parish is now part of the Schorne team benefice, i.e. Dunton, Granborough, Hardwick, Hoggeston, North Marston, Oving with Pitchcott, Waddesdon with Over Winchendon and Fleet Marston, and Whitchurch with Creslow.


Exterior Features


S nave doorway

Pointed, 2 orders.

Height of opening (ignoring modern step) 2.42m
Width of opening 1.42m
1st order

Coursed, heavy angle rolls on the jambs, their bases absent or obscured by the later step, carrying completely plain hollow chamfered imposts.  The arch also has a heavy angle roll.

2nd order

Coursed nook-shafts on worn bases; the W with three slim rolls below a thicker roll necking; the E with a roll and hollow chamfer and a roll necking.  The bases stand on tall chamfered plinths.  Both capitals are variants of the trumpet hyphenated double-scallop type.  The W has plain shields drilled at their centres, and sinuous double leaves rising from the necking between the cones on each face.  The E has deeply hollowed shields, with slender cylinders between the cones.  Both have plain neckings, the W with a major loss to it.  Imposts are as the 1st order.  The arch is carved with frontal chevron of roll, fillet, step profile.  The triangular fields on the soffit are left plain or have concentric triangle decoration.  The label has short returns at either end, and is flat with an angle roll to the extrados and an undercut hollow towards the intrados.

Interior Features



S arcade

The architecture of the arcade has been described and analysed in the description above.  Here I am concerned only with the late-12thc sections: piers 2, 3, 4 and the W respond, and the arches of bays 3, 4 and 5.  The piers are cylindrical and the W respond semi-cylindrical, with bases consisting of a low chamfered drum, a vertical hollow and a roll necking.  The pier capitals are of hyphenated multi-trumpet scallop form and square in plan, with a small projection of capital and impost in the centre of the nave (N) face of each, in the form of a capital of the same design as the main one with 2 scallops on the front face and one on each side face.  These minor capitals are carried on short, coursed, cylindrical corbels with decorated lower terminals.  Imposts have a hollow chamfer below a face with an angle roll and a slender horizontal roll immediately above it.  The imposts above the corbelled minor capitals of piers 3 and 4 carry a slender en-delit shaft with a bulbous roll and hollow chamfer base with a roll necking.  Presumably there was originally a similar shaft on pier 2 too.  These shafts carry plain double-scallop capitals with wedges between the cones, roll neckings and quirked hollow chamfered impost blocks, positioned approximately halfway to the apex of the arch.  The ends of the arch labels rest on their imposts, but they are big enough for heavier work than this.  The treatment of the W respond is different, and described below.  The arches of bays 3 and 4 are of two orders: the 1st double chamfered with a triple step on the nave and aisle faces and a plain soffit; the 2nd double chamfered with a quirk and a step on each face.  The label towards the nave is hollow chamfered with units of nailhead evenly spaced around the chamfer, and a roll edge to the extrados.  That on the aisle face is a plain roll.  The arch of bay 5 is slightly different and stylistically slightly earlier; again of two orders, the first with a fat soffit roll and quadrant hollows to either side, the second double chamfered with double steps on the faces.  The nave side label is hollow chamfered with round pellets evenly spaced at either side of the arch, but not in the central section towards the apex, where the inner order also shows signs of rebuilding, suggesting the possibility that this arch was originally round-headed.

Pier 2 capitals & corbel

The main capital is hyphenated multi-trumpet scalloped, the shields outlined by a row of nailhead, and their central fields divided in two horizontally, the upper parts left plain and the lower decorated with pellets in relief, either two or three large ones or eight small ones.  There are sharp wedges between the trumpets, except at the angles which have ball-shaped volutes, and those to either side of the angles, with smaller but similar volutes.  The trumpets on the face towards the nave are sheathed, as are those of the sub-capital projecting towards the nave.  This rests on a cylindrical corbel with a lower terminal in the form of a small, round trumpet scallop capital with conical wedges between the trumpets, pellets in the dished shields and a roll necking.

Pier 3 capitals & corbel

The main capital is as that of pier 2, except that none of the trumpets is sheathed, and the motifs between the trumpets are all sharp wedges except at the angles, where there are keeled tongues with pointed tips carved with single cable moulding.  The sub-capital projecting towards the nave has large sheathes on the angles of the bell, outlined with rows of drill holes.  This rests on a cylindrical corbel with a lower terminal in the form of a tapering fluted tip with a ring of pellets below it and a rounded end.

Pier 4 capitals & corbel

The main capital is as that of pier 2, except that all of the trumpets are sheathed, and the motifs between the trumpets are all sharp wedges except at the angles, where there are sheathed tongues with pointed tips.  The decoration of the shields includes no large pellets, only multiple small ones.  The sub-capital projecting towards the nave is treated as on pier 3, with an extra tongue or sheath between the trumpets on the main face, also drilled. This rests on a cylindrical corbel with a double roll and an ogee bud termination.

West respond capitals

The west respond capital is as that of pier 2, except that all shields are either plain within their beaded borders or decorated with multiple small pellets in their lower parts. Wedges between the trumpets are conical, except at the angles where they splay outwards towards the shields.  In the angle between the pier and the west nave wall, on the nave side, is a nook-shaft carrying a single-trumpet scallop capital whose impost and necking are continuous with those of the main capital.  Its shields are bordered with rows of beading, and the inner field is filled with small pellets.  The trumpets have large sheathes, and the spine of the sheath on the angle is decorated with nested chevron.  Presumably this minor capital originally supported a shaft, like those surviving on piers 3 and 4.


The nave arcade of Waddesdon contains the finest display of elaborate trumpet-scallop capitals in the county.  Those on the south doorway appear to be simpler products of the same workshop, and their drilled shields relate them to capitals on the chancel arch at Ickford, and in the nave arcades at Cuddington.  A date in the last two decades of the 12thc is suggested.


  • A. E. Hawkins, Waddesdon and the Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels. Church guide, Waddesdon 1989, 3rd ed. 2002.

  • C. O. Moreton, History of Waddesdon and Over Winchendon.London 1929.

  • N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire.London 1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 707-08.

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 1 (south).London 1912, 301-04.

  • Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. IV (1927), 107-18.

Exterior from S
Interior to E


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SP 740 170 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Buckinghamshire
now: Buckinghamshire
now: Oxford
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Michael and All Angels
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
28 February 2008