East Claydon is a village towards the N of central Buckinghamshire, 6 miles S of Buckingham. It stands on Sion Hill, overlooking the Vale of Aylesbury to the SE. East Claydon is one of a group of villages with that suffix, indicating a clayey hill, of which the largest is Steeple Claydon, 2½ miles to the W, and the others are Botolph Claydon and Middle Claydon. To the N are Claydon Hill, and Claydon Brook, a tributary of the Great Ouse. The village is little more than a cluster of dwellings around a meeting of three minor roads, with the church just off to the E, on the lane to Sion Hill farm.
St Mary’s consists of a nave with a N aisle, a S chapel and a S porch; a chancel with a N vestry and a W tower. The tall narrow nave must date from the 12thc at the latest, and the chapel was added at the E end of its S side in the early years of the 13thc. The small chapel windows are plain pointed lancets, but the arch from the nave is decorated with frontal sawtooth, a 12thc motif, old fashioned by the time the chapel was built. In the NE angle of the chapel is a rood-stair, and in the chapel’s N wall, E of the arch to the nave, is an open arch cut through in the 14thc or 15thc to give a view to the main altar. Around 1500 a clerestory was added, the nave walls were heightened and a parapet added, and a new N doorway was installed. The clerestory now survives in the S wall only, and its absence from the N may be connected to the widening in the nave in that direction that leaves the chancel arch slightly off-centre. The church underwent a major restoration at the hands of Scott in 1871, when the N aisle was added and the N doorway moved to the new outer wall. The widening of the nave probably dates from this campaign. The chancel arch is 14thc, with big figural capitals depicting angels and a devil. The chancel itself is 14thc too, but partly rebuilt; all its windows are by Scott. The vestry is also 19thc. The W tower is work of c.1500, with simple Perpendicular windows and bell-openings, a W doorway with a 4-centred arch, diagonal buttresses and an embattled parapet. It is constructed of big, worn ashlar blocks, as are the rebuilt parts of the chancel, while the remainder of the church is of rubble blocks, roughly squared and approximately coursed. The arch from the nave to the N chapel is described below on account of its Romanesque vocabulary, although it almost certainly dates from the early 13thc.
The manor of East Claydon appears to have been held by Geoffrey from Miles Crispin in 1086. It was of 7 hides and 3 virgates with meadow for 3 plough-teams and woodland for 100 pigs. The overlordship was attached to the honour ofWallingford, later transferred to the honour of Ewelme. The tenancy had passed to Geoffrey de Claydon, who presented the first recorded rector, Richard Hanley, in 1218. Before 1234 it had passed to Peter de la Mare and it stayed in this family until the 14thc, when it passed to the Earl of Warwick.
The church, however, was mentioned in 1312 as appurtenant to Botolph Claydon manor. This manor was held by Geoffrey de Mandeville in 1086, and the overlordship was with the earls ofHerefordin the 13thc. In the mid-13thc the tenancy was held by Thomas de Valognes, and passed through the marriage of his daughter and heir, Joan, to Robert de Grey. In was still in this family in 1371, when John Lord Grey of Rotherfield granted the advowson of the church to Bisham priory.
In 1821 East and Middle Claydon were joined to the vicarage of Steeple Claydon, but in 1872 Steeple Claydon was again separated from them. The three parishes were reunited in 1972 to become the parish of The Claydons.
K. Kitchener, St Mary the Virgin East Claydon. Undated (post-1981) church guide.
A. D. Mills, A Dictionary of English Place-names.Oxford1991 (reprinted and corrected 1995).
N. Pevsner, Buildings ofEngland: Buckinghamshire.London1960, 113.
RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 2 (north). London1913.
Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. IV (1927), 28-32.