St Michael, Lambourn, Berkshire

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Feature Sets (4)


Lambourn is a large village (with a population of around 3,000) in west Berkshire, two miles from the Wiltshire border. The river Lambourn rises here, and runs SE through the village. Lambourn is in the heart of the chalk downs of Berkshire and is famous for its association with horse racing. There are more than 50 racing yards in the Lambourn valley, with more than 2,000 horses in training. The church, surrounded by its spacious churchyard, stands in the centre of the village. It is a cruciform building with an aisled and clerestoried nave, crossing tower, transepts and a chancel with one N and two S chapels. Of this the nave, aisles and crossing arches are all late-12thc, the N transept (now housing the organ) is 13thc and the S transept 14thc. The inner chapels are both 14thc in origin, and the outer S chapel, with its battlements and elaborate pinnacles, is 15thc. The chancel, with its spectacular E window, is largely Perpendicular in style. The tower is largely 15thc, while the W front was originally a fine 12thc composition divided into four storeys by stringcourses, with large round-headed windows above the central doorway, an oculus in the gable, and plain round headed windows in the W aisle walls, but a three-light reticulated window introduced in the 14thc has rather disrupted the design. The church was repaired and reseated by T. L. Donaldson in 1849-50, and repairs were carried out by L.E. King of London in 1949-51. Features recorded here are the W doorway and oculus, the nave arcades, the crossing arches and a pillar piscina used as a stoup in the N aisle.

St Michael, Lambourn, groundplan by T. L. Domaldson, 1850. Image courtesy of Church Plans Online <http://www.churchplansonline.org> (Published by the NOF Digitise Architecture England Consortium)


The town was referred to as Chipping Lambourn until the 19thc., and the use of this name in 1227 indicates that a market (Chepying) was in existence by then, although the description of it as a "byri" or borough in a charter of Cnut suggests that its commercial status is much older than that. A fair to be held on St Matthew's Day (21 Sept.) at the manor was granted to Fulk FitzWarin in 1219. The earliest mention of a manor here is in the will of King Alfred, who left it, with Wantage, to his wife Ealswith. It subsequently reverted to the Crown. Before the Conquest Lambourn was held by Edward the Confessor, and in 1086 King William held it in demesne. This large manor was assessed at 20 hides, and was home to 44 villans, 60 bordars and 6 slaves. A church was recorded, with 1 hide belonging to it, and there were two mills and woodland sufficient for 10 pigs. A second manor of 2 hides and 1 virgate was held in 1086 by Hascoit. The same manor had been held by Beorhtheath from King Edward before the Conquest, when it was assessed at 8 hides. A third manor, assessed at 4 hides both before and after the Conquest, was held in 1086 by Matthew of Mortagne. A large holding in Chipping Lambourn was granted before 1155 to Joce de Dinan. He had died by 1166, leaving two daughters as coheirs; Sibyl and Hawise. Sibyl was married to Hugh de Plukenet, who was holding land in Lambourn at that date. The Plukenets retained their holding until well into the 14thc., when the male line failed. Meanwhile the second part of Joce de Dinan's land passed to his daughter Hawise and her husband Fulk FitzWarin in 1190. The FitzWarins retained the overlordship but a 13thc. FitzWarin granted the tenancy to a daughter as her dowry when she married John Tregoz, who was recorded as holding a manor in Lambourn in 1272. For the later history of the manors, see VCH. The church was known to exist in 1032, when Cnut granted one hide of glebe land to it, and gave the church to the Dean of St Paul's for his maintenance. Although it is recorded in Domesday as a possession of the king, successive Deans of St Paul's remained in possession and presented to it until 1832. At the end of the 12thc., Hugh and Sibyl de Plukenet granted land in Lambourn to Gloucester Abbey for the purpose of funding a lamp in the chapel of St Mary at Lambourn, and this chapel was still in existence in 1291. Details of later chantries are given in VCH.


Exterior Features


W doorway

Two orders, round headed.

h. of opening 2.46 m
w. of opening 1.41 m
First order

Small pseudo-colonnettes recessed into the angles, with worn bases and capitals with fleshy flat leaves, the N one with a worn head under the tip of the central leaf. Imposts are hollow chamfered, with rolls at the top and bottom of the chamfer. The arch has a keeled angle roll with a hollow and two more rolls outside it on the face, and a soffit hollow.

Second order

En-delit nook-shafts with triple-roll shaft-rings at the midpoint. Capitals are worn but similar to the first order; bases are worn and apparently bulbous or attic. The imposts are continuous from the firstst order, and continue as a frieze to N and S until reaching the facade buttresses. In the arch is point-to-point centripetal chevron with rolled edges to the units and face and soffit chevrons meeting over an angle roll. The label is of the same hollow-chamfered profile as the imposts, and has beast-head terminals. At the apex of the label a corbel is set, described in section III.3.c below.


W window, round oculus, two orders

First order

An inner angle roll.

Second order

Chamfered on the intrados like a label, and decorated with triangular billet on the chamfer.

Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels


At apex of W doorway, a corbel with a composite human/beast head set as a decoration. It has a long face with eyes slanted upwards to the outside and drilled pupils; a humanoid nose, catlike ears and an open mouth turned down at the ends.

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

E crossing arch

First order (shared)

As W arch except for capital forms. Both capitals are double trumpet scallops with each shield carved in relief with an addorsed pair of fluted furled leaves, except that the N capital has no leaves in the shields on its E face.

Second order E face

As W arch except for capital forms. The N capital is of crocket type; the S waterleaf.

Second order W face

As W arch except for capital forms. Both capitals are of the waterleaf type, with trefoil leaves (N) or palmettes (S) in the lower notches. The N capital has half-daisies at the top centre of each face.

Third order E face

As W arch except for capital forms. On the N is a volute capital with multilobed volutes with fluted lobes. The S capital is as the N arch, 2nd order S face W capital.

Third order W face

As W arch except for capital forms. The N capital is the same as the N crossing arch, 2nd order N face W capital, except that the motifs on the scallop shields are inverted lilies. The S capital is as the W arch, 2nd order E face S capital.

N crossing arch

First order (shared)

As W arch except for capital forms. The W capital is a trumpet scallop with three scallops on the main face, the central one oversized, and two on the side faces. The E capital is of single trumpet scallop form with small angle volutes between the large shields, and symmetrical foliage designs in the shields. The carving of the main angle shield and the N shield is unfinished.

Second order N face

As W arch except for capital forms. The W capital has a scallop shield in the centre of each face, carved in relief with pair of furled leaves, below this, the capital is of flat-leaf form with very fleshy leaves. The E capital is a volute type, with very fleshy, reeded overhanging ends to the leaves.

Second order S face

The W capital has a large palmette on the lower main angle, flanked by a pair of beaded stems that rise from the necking and curve around the palmette, then outwards to the upper angles where they terminate in hatched leaves with scalloped edges. The E capital is a volute capital with double scallops with beaded borders to the recessed shields carved above the volutes.

Third order N face

As W arch except for capital forms. The W capital is of the flat leaf type, with a row of heavy beading at the top of each face and trefoils in the notches between the leaves. The E capital is a flat-leaf type with fleshy leaves, and above the leaf tips is a pair of scallop shields on each face, their lower edges bordered with beading, and above the scallops a row of heavier beading at the top of each face.

Third order S face

As W arch except for capital forms. The W capital is a simple volute type with square notches between the leaves; the E capital is a palmette capital with fluted lobes and scalloped edges to the leaves.

S crossing arch

First order (shared)

As W arch except for capital forms. The E capital is a plain trumpet scallop with three shields on the main face; the central one keeled and lower than the others, and two on each side face. Scribed lines on the N face indicate the abandoned plan to carve a trefoil form. The W capital is of an unusual form, and also unfinished. The front face is conceived as a double trumpet trefoil, and the side faces as double trumpet scallops. The shields of the front and S faces are undecorated, but the N face shields are carved in relief with elaborate foliage designs.

Second order N face

As W arch except for capital forms. The E capital is block-shaped with a small angle volute. Otherwise each face of the upper part of the bell is decorated with a symmetrical design of thin, intersecting stems with short side-shoots terminating in spirals. The W capital is as the W crossing arch, 3rd order, E face capital.

Second order S face

As W arch except for capital forms. Both capitals are flat-leaf types with palmettes (E) or trefoils (W) in the notches between the leaves.

Third order N face

As W arch except for capital forms. The E capital is distantly based on the Corinthian form. Above the necking is a ring of simple, half-round vertical leaves, and at the top of the bell is a double row of small crockets with flat front face like scallop shields. The W capital is a crocket with ball-shaped terminals.

Third order S face

As W arch except for capital forms. The E capital is a volute type with tall angle volutes terminating in complex multilobed leaves with fluted lobes and scalloped edges. The W capital is a trefoil trumpet scallop with a row of beading at the top and below, on each face, a lily design. The carving of the S face is incomplete.

W crossing arch

First order (shared). Keeled engaged half-column supporting capitals with hollow chamfered imposts with a grooved towards the bottom of the face. The N capital has angle volutes and spade-shaped leaves at the bottom centre of each face, while at the top centre of each face is a single trumpet scallop with recessed shield and a pair of furled leaves carved on relief in each shield. The S capital is a double trumpet scallop with recessed shields and trefoil leaves at the junctions between the shields. Neckings are plain and chamfered.

Second order E face

As 2nd order W face except for capital forms. The N capital is a plain triple trumpet scallop, with the side shields on each face smaller than the central one, and an angle tuck. The S is a double trumpet scallop with recessed shields, each pair carved in relief with a mirror pair of trilobed leaves.

Second order W face

Slender engaged keeled nook-shafts on attic bases. The N capital with flat leaves at the angles and small upright cinquefoils in the notches between them. The bell of the capital is clearly displayed. The S capital has a large human angle mask with a pair of stems emerging from its mouth, curling and intersecting to terminate in a pair of furled leaves at the outer angles of the faces. Both capitals have plain chamfered neckings and imposts as the first order.

Third order E face

As second order except for the capital forms. The N capital is a trefoil scallop with beaded lower rim to the shields. This emerges from a volute capital with ball-shaped terminals to the volutes. The S capital is the same as the 3rd order W face S capital.

Third order W face

As 2nd order except for the capital forms. The N capital is triple-fluted with scalloped upper edges to the fluting; the S capital is as the 1st order S capital.


N arcade

Round headed, four bays

The piers are cylindrical with a half-round respond at the W end and no respond at the E. Piers carry clunch capitals with large, square-plan hollow-chamfered impost blocks and plain roll neckings. Bases have large, flat waterleaf-shaped spurs. The arches are of two chamfered orders to each face with chamfer stops and double-chamfered labels.

E respond capital: a flat, frieze capital of six scallops with plain shields, sheathed cones with notches on the sheath and pyramid wedges between the cones.

Pier 1 capital: multi-fluted capital with scalloped upper edge to the leaves.

Pier 2 capital: volute capital with crocket-like angle volutes decorated with rows of nailhead, and a row of three connected palmettes decorating each face.

Pier 3 capital: multi-scallop capital with 6 scallops per face, each with a plain recessed shield and sheathed cone.

W respond capital (on half-column): multi-scallop with 7 scallops on the main face and 3 on each side. Shields are plain and cones sheathed with notched sheaths.

S arcade

Round headed, four bays

As N arcade except for capital details.

E respond capital. As N arcade, E respond capital.

Pier 1 capital: contains inserted repairs.

Pier 2 capital: volute type, with undercut volutes, and each face a row of three mirror pairs of furled leaves with fluting and scalloped edges. The capital is heavily restored.

Pier 3 capital: as N arcade, pier 2 capital.

W respond capital (on half-column): mlti-scallop with 7 scallops on the main face and 3 on each side. The main face shields are recessed, with triangular recesses between the shields. Side face shields are plain. All cones are sheathed with notched sheaths.


Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae

Pillar piscina

In N nave aisle, to E of N doorway. It consists of a semi-hexagonal shaft against the wall with base and capital of similar form: the capital with spade-shaped flat leaves on each angle linked to small trilobed leaves between them on the faces, and a plain roll necking; the base a slightly bulbous type, badly worn. Above the hollowed out capital is a pointed-arched niche with a chamfered edge.

h of capital (bowl) including necking) 0.20 m
Overall h. of piscina 1.01 m

Pillar piscina

Set in the E wall of the nave, in the S spandrel of the W crossing arch, is a waterleaf capital with a palmette between the angle leaves and an integral hollow chamfered abacus with a roll at the top of the chamfer but no necking, and above it a pointed arched niche with chamfered edge, as on the pillar piscina described at V.3.(i) above. Measurements were not possible.


Lambourn contains the most spectacular late-Romanesque carving in Berkshire, probably dating from the 1180s. Comparisons may be made with Shellingford, ten miles N of Lambourn, which has two doorways decorated with point-to-point chevron as well as using waterleaf and crocket capital forms. Ashbury, six miles NW of Lambourn, may be a product of the same workshop. A striking feature of the work at Lambourn is the extensive use of trumpet scallop capitals on the chancel arch. Shellingford S nave doorway has these too, and simpler comparisons can be seen on the pillar piscina at Marlston, the damaged N doorway at Fyfield and the S doorway at East Garston. Those at St Mary's Reading are not closely comparable. Of interest is the incomplete carving on the crossing arches, e.g. the S crossing arch first order capitals, pointing to a pressing need to erect the tower before the capitals were finished.


  • Victoria County History: Berkshire, IV, 1924, 251-66.

  • Anon, A Short Guide to the Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels Lambourn, undated church guide (post 1975)

  • J. Footman, History of the Parish Church of Saint Michael and All Angels, Chipping Lambourn, London 1894 (reprinted Charleston SC 2009)

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth, 1966, 163-65.

  • G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire.  New Haven and London 2010, 350-51

Exterior from SE.
W front, general view.
Exterior, nave and W front from SW.
Exterior from W.
Image courtesy of Church Plans Online (see below).
Interior to E.
Nave, general view to SW.
Nave, general view to NW.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SU 326 790 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Berkshire
now: West Berkshire
medieval: not confirmed
now: Oxford
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Michael and All Angels
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
27 August 1990, 09 March 2010