St Cecilia, Adstock, Buckinghamshire

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Feature Sets (2)


Adstock is a village towards the N of central Buckinghamshire, 4 miles SE of Buckingham to the N of the main road to Aylesbury.  The compact village clusters around a junction of minor roads with the church at its SW edge.

St Cecilia’s consists of a nave with a S porch, chancel and W tower.  The aisleless nave is 12thc with its N and S doorways in place; the former blocked and the latter covered by a porch bearing the date 1581 on a sundial in the gable.  The chancel dates from the 14thc, and has a chancel arch on corbels decorated with naturalistic foliage, trefoil-headed piscina and windows with reticulated or flowing tracery.  The N priest’s doorway has been blocked.  The 15thc tower has an embattled parapet and the tower arch is tall and narrow with the arch orders dying into the jambs.  Its construction may have been part of a major 15thc reconstruction, when the nave walls were rebuilt with two big three-light windows in each and an embattled parapet added.  The church is of coursed rubble with ironstone blocks decoratively used on the quoins and buttresses.  Romanesque sculpture is found on the two nave doorways.


The manor of Adstock was held by Gytha, wife of Earl Ralph, in 1066, and by 1086 it had passed to Ambrose, who held it from William Peverel.  It was assessed at 10 hides with meadow for 7 plough-teams.  After 1086 the manor was held by the overlords in demesne.  Another William Peverel, a son or grandson of the Domesday lord, was stripped of his lands in 1153 by Henry of Anjou (later Henry II) for his support of Stephen in the Civil War.  Adstock was granted to William Avenel, who passed it to his two sons-in-law, with the one part going to Richard Vernon, married to Avis and the other to Simon Basset, married toElizabeth.   Richard Vernon was dead by 1195, and the manor passed to his son William, who granted it to his half-brother, Robert while retaining rights over it.  It remained in theVernonfamily until the death of George Vernon in 1566.  Simon Basset died around 1205, and his portion of Adstock remained in the Basset family until the mid-13thc, but in 1280 the manor appeared as the property of Robert Bardolf who died in 1305 leaving his daughter Avis as heir.  From her it passed to John de Hausted, and later by marriage to John Cope (1393), staying in this family until after 1489.

The church and a carucate of land were granted by William Avenel to the abbot and convent of St Mary de Pre, Leicester, in the later 12thc, and the abbot continued to present to the church despite an attempt by the Bardolfs in 1283 to wrest the right from him, until 1427, after which the right of advowson passed to the lords of the manor.


Exterior Features


Nave N doorway

Single order, round headed with tympanum.

Plain chamfered jambs with quarter-sphere chamfer stops set low down, the W chamfer stop lost through erosion of the block.  These carry hollow-chamfered imposts with a lower roll necking and a row of sawtooth at the bottom of the face.  The tympanum was cut away in the 14thc to leave an ogee-headed, chamfered opening.  While the tympanum itself was originally approximately semicircular, the space for it (defined by the label) is taller than a half-circle and the gap at the top has been filled with rubble in mortar.  The tympanum is carved in low relief with foliage designs.  What remains are parts of two vertical palmettes at the lower L and R, each framed by a semicircular border with a row of nailhead ornament.  At the upper left is the lower part of a round, scalloped-edged boss and radiating from it is a triangular multilobed leaf with reeded lobes.  At the top of the L section of the tympanum is part of a large furled leaf, and the upper R part of the field is occupied by a multilobed leaf with the lobe spines marked by pairs of parallel grooves. The upper edge of the tympanum is bounded by a broad, flat fillet.  The tympanum appears to be carved from a single stone, now cracked into two pieces at the apex.  There is a double-chamfered label with large human head label stops.

Height of opening (ignoring later brick step) 2.06 m
Height to top of imposts (ignoring step) 1.70 m
Width of opening 0.76 m

Nave S doorway

2 orders, pointed. The doorway was remodelled in the 14thc, retaining its 12thc capitals and imposts and the 2nd-order bases, and receiving a new 2-order pointed arch and 1st-order jambs.  

Height of opening 2.56m
Width of opening 1.15m
1st order

Plain chamfered jambs with the simplest kind of upper chamfer-stops.  Imposts are heavy with the chamfers much larger than the faces.  Faces are plain but generally very worn.  The W impost chamfer has a lion or cat-mask in the centre of each face, with beaded stems bearing fanlike fluted leaves issuing from each side of its mouth.  As it is at present installed, the mask on the front face is well to the W of centre, and the block has been trimmed at this edge.  This face is generally more worn than the other, with a major loss to the cat-mask.  On the E impost chamfer is a row of palmettes, two to each face, enclosed in beaded rings that issue from the bases of the palmettes.  In the upper spandrels between the beaded rings are the worn remains of foliage motifs.   The 14thc arch has a deep chamfer with large pyramid chamfer-stops.

2nd order

En-delit nook-shafts, the W on two sections of which only the lower is original; the E in one piece.  They are carried on worn bases consisting of a thin roll below a quadrant hollow on worn square plinths.  The W capital is best considered as a block capital with chamfers; the chamfers defined by sinuous stems that meet at the upper main angle where an inverted palmette emerges from their junction.  At the outer angles the equivalent stems terminate in tight spirals.  On the chamfered parts of the bell are fan-shaped, fluted leaves with scalloped outer edges bordered by rows of nailhead.  In the triangular shields in the upper parts of the capital are carved mirror-symmetrical designs of curving stems decorated with nailhead and terminating in multilobed leaves that emerge from clasps towards the main angle of the capital.  The necking of this capital is a heavy roll, clearly a replacement.  The design of the impost is similar to that of the 1st-order impost, but the inner (E) face has been cut back so that the fan of fluted leaves is lost on that side.  The E capital is low and bell-shaped with a frieze-like design consisting of a palmette on the main angle linked by nailhead-decorated stems that curve to L and R to the mouth of a cat-mask in the centre of each face.  Similar stems emerge from the other side of each mouth, terminating in furled leaves alongside the outer edges of the block.  The necking is thin and squared in section.  The impost is similar to that of the 1st order, but not identical.  On the chamfer of the W face is a row of two half-paterae, each surrounded by a circular band decorated with a row of nailhead, and in the upper spandrel between the two motifs is a fluted trefoil.  Only half of the inner (N) motif survives, the rest having been cut back when the impost was remodelled.  On the chamfer of the S face is a row of two almost-complete daisies (incomplete at the bottom) each framed by a half-round nailhead-decorated band.   In the upper spandrel between the two motifs is a trefoil with ridges spines to the lobes.  The 14thc arch is carved with a set-in angle roll.  the label is chamfered on the intrados and extrados.


There are some similarities with the font at Maids’ Moreton, here identified as a product of the Northamptonshire School, active in the 1140s and ‘50s.  The obvious motifs are the use of nailhead strapwork and palmettes, and these also occur in carvings by the school at sites within Northamptonshire, including Dodford and St Peter’s Northampton.


  • Anon, St Cecilia’s Church, Adstock: History.  Undated

  • N. Pevsner, Buildings ofEngland: Buckinghamshire.London1960, 45.

  • N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire. London1960, 2nd ed. 1994.

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 2 (north). London 1913

  • Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. IV (1927), 140-44.

Exterior from SE.
Interior to E
Nave N wall from NE
Chancel N wall from NW


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SP 735 301 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Buckinghamshire
now: Buckinghamshire
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Oxford
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Cecilia
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
18 June 2008